Draped in the past – the museum’s costume archive

Monday, October 27, 2014

As a volunteer working in the costume archive at the museum, I love the variety of clothes and other items that I frequently come across. I have been checking the contents of the storage boxes, to make sure that the items inside match the description on the outside of the box, as well as checking the condition of the items for any damage, etc. and then carefully repacking them away. It’s fascinating to open a box and find a delicate silk and lace Edwardian blouse, and then the next box I open contains a pair of heavy leather farmer boot gaiters. Here are some photos to give you a quick idea of the diversity of items in the archive.

Edwardian baby gown from the collection
Edwardian baby gown from the collection

There are quite a few of these baby’s long dresses in the collection. Some are like this one, fine cotton with lots of detail probably used for christenings and special occasions, while others are made of heavier cotton with less fancy detail and were probably used for everyday wear. When I find something like this it’s fun to imagine the background story of the item: was it a treasured item that was worn once and then packed away, what sort of family owned it, how many children did they have, did they live in the town and if so where, etc?

Silk stole in the Museum's collection
Silk stole in the Museum’s collection

This delicate cream silk stole was probably worn over an evening dress and one can easily imagine a young lady throwing it over her shoulders as she excitedly joins her friends for an evening of dancing at one of the town’s dance halls. Perhaps I’ll check the records to see if there’s an evening dress to go with the stole.

Now we come into the 1970s or 1980s with some “groovy” fashion items…..

Pink leather driving gloves
Pink leather driving gloves

I just love these shocking pink driving gloves! Wonder who wore these and what type of car they drove? They take me back to when the roads weren’t quite so busy and I can just picture someone wearing these gloves as they whizzed down a nearly empty M11 in a nifty little sports car with the wind in their hair.

Gold sandals in the collection
Gold sandals in the collection

These gold strappy sandals were just what you needed for that 1980s fondue party with a glass of Blue Nun, pineapple and cheese on cocktail sticks, vol au vents, listening to the songs of Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Cher, Hall & Oates, etc.

I hope that you have found this little preview of some of the items in the museum’s costume archive interesting. As I go through the storage boxes hopefully I’ll find some other fascinating clothing and objects to share with you.


Museum Volunteer

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