Costume Society Ambassadors, News  |  June 12, 2014

Lesser known Costume Collections: South West England & the Channel Islands

As a costume student we were always told how important primary research is to informing our own work, we were encouraged to visit as many different costume collections and exhibitions as possible. Other than the big worldwide known collections such as The Victoria & Albert Museum, Bath Fashion Museum and the likes of the Metropolitan Fashion Museum; I struggled to find collections that were local to me and different to everyone else’s research. Thus I started a search for lesser known costume collections within the United Kingdom and Ireland, the following series of posts will highlight a selection of collections I have found. I hope I can introduce you to some collections you didn't already know about.

Allhallows Museum
High Street
EX14 1PG
01404 44966
- Most comprehensive collection of Honiton Lace in the world, this hand made bobbin lace has been made locally since the seventeenth century. Traditional lace making classes are run at the museum for a small fee, further details are on their website. Free entry.

Arlington Court
Arlington near Barnstaple
EX31 4LP
01271 850296
- A small collection of costume, accessories and textiles, many of which were donanted along with the house by Miss Chichester. A selection of pieces are on display in the house and its Carriage museum, however most of the items are currently being preserved in storage with a detailed inventory of the collection being made. The museum hope to have a few more pieces on display for exhibitions in the near future. Please enquire about study visits. Paid entry, free to National Trust members.

Blandford Fashion Museum
Lime Tree House
The Plocks
Blandford Forum
DT11 7AA
01258 453006
- Costume collection of Mrs. Betty Penny, from the eighteenth century to the 1970s, also holds a collection of British designer fashion including John Bates and Bruce Oldfield. Study facilities are available for further research. Paid entry.

Guernsey Folk & Costume Museum
Saumarez Park
01481 255384
- The collection has over 8000 items dating from 1746 to the Twentieth Century including;  the Eighteenth Century Lord Mayor of London, Paul Le Mesurier's coat, an extensive lace collection, a Dior couture dress, and traditional Guernsian Costumes. This years exhibitions include a look at Costume just before the outbreak of the first World War and a collection of Lace Costumes. Events take place at the museum throughout the year, look out for the stall holders wearing traditional costume at Le Viaër Marchi every July. Out of hours study visits can be arranged in advance. Paid entry, free to Guernsey National Trust members.

Killerton House
01392 881345
- Home to some of the National Trust's costume and accessories collection, Killerton holds items from the 1690s to the 1970s. The main exhibition changes annually so as to show off more items from their collection. Visiting exhibits and artist's work are displayed in the house. Paid entry, free to National Trust members.

Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
The King’s House
65 The Close
01722 332151
Costume collection with clothing relating to the lives of people in and around Salisbury from the eighteenth century to the present day. Highlights include wedding dresses, uniforms and lace samples produced by the Downton Lace Industry. Paid entry.

Totnes Costume Museum
Bogan House
43 High Street
01803 862857
- Home to the Devonshire Collection of Period Costume, which features clothing for men, women and children from the Eighteenth Century up to the Twenty First century. The museum's collection of Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century clothing is particularly detailed. The museum is only open for the Summer season with a different themed exhibition each year.  I have personally attended study visits to this museum, where they have been very helpful to arrange study sessions in the Spring, Autumn and Winter months. Paid entry.

  • Boys dress from 1860. Killerton House. Image credit to National Trust Online Collecions
  • Detail of the embroidery on the coat of Paul Le Mesurier, Eighteenth Century Lord Mayor of London. Image credit to Guernsey Folk and Costum
  • Examples of mourning Lace from Allhallows Museum of Lace, Honiton. Image credit to Allhallows Museum
  • Mid Nineteenth Century ladies costumes and bonnets. Devonshire Costume Collection. Image credit to Totnes Fashion Museum
  • Nineteenth Century Dress being prepared for storage at Arlington Court. Image credit to Paula Martin