A Guide to Fashion Museums

Sian Brett

Examining the history of fashion can tell us a lot about the way that people lived and the society around them. Looking back at outfits of years past can also tell us about how people chose to express themselves through the years and the times they were living in. These fashion museums are the best of the best.

Fashion Museum Bath
The Fashion Museum in Bath has been going since 1963, and has an extensive range of collections to show for it. A History of Fashion in 100 Objects showcases the key pieces since the 1600s which have shaped our wardrobes, and uses these as a lens through which to look at history. Similarly, Royal Women focuses on the women who were never monarchs but whose roles in royal life influenced the British crown. There’s also the chance to dress up in replica Victorian and Georgian dress for both adults and children, so get those cameras at the ready.

Image Credit: The Fashion Museum Bath

Fashion Museum Bath is located at Assembly Rooms, Bennett St, Bath, BA1 2QH.
The world’s leading museum of art and design, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s fashion collections spans five centuries and includes rare 17th century gowns, 18th century ‘mantua’ dress, and 19th century dress for the elite in India, China and Japan. There’s also a huge collection of wedding attire throughout history, and a series of live events titled Fashion in Motion, which aim to bring the catwalk and couture to wider audiences. There are tons of informative articles on their website about the history and sociology behind what is on display, so you can get clued up before your visit.

Image Credit: V&A Museum

The V&A is located at Cromwell Road, Knightsbridge, London, SW7 2RL.
Brighton Museum & Gallery
The collections in this museum reflect life in Brighton & Hove through history, and if you know anything about Brighton you’ll know that fashion is key to this. From items associated with George IV, who opened the Pavilion and made Brighton fashionable, to the Renegade display which focuses on alternative styles of clothing, the collection spans from the 16th century to the present day and features over 10,000 items. From European national costumes to bridal wear, bathing costumes to 20th century designer couture, it’s an impressively sprawling collection.

Image Credit: Brighton Museum & Gallery

Brighton Museum & Gallery is located at 12A Pavilion Parade, Brighton, BN1 1EE
Totnes Fashion and Textiles Museum
This Devonshire collection of period costume focuses on the 18th century to the 21st, with an annually changing themed exhibition. Featuring accessories, hats, parasols, bags and fans, there’s also a collection of printed textiles made by Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher before WWII. You’ll know it’s open ‘when the marionettes are dancing’ states their website.

Image Credit: Totnes Fashion and Textiles Museum via Facebook

Totnes Fashion and Textiles Museum is located at 43 High St, Totnes, TQ9 5NP.
Chertsey Museum
The museum of Runnymede, Chertsey houses the Olive Matthews Collections of dress and textiles, which spans from 1700 to the present day, featuring over 4000 pieces of clothing. It’s incredibly detailed, including small decorative items such as shoe buckles and lace work as well as decorative art items including silver and horology. This year’s exhibition focuses on female clothing from the 1840s to the 1980s, examining how this fed into the fight for female emancipation and how it relates to women’s roles socially, politically, and culturally.

Image Credit: Pinterest

Chertsey Museum is located at The Cedars, 33 Windsor St, Chertsey, KT16 8AT.

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