Queen Victoria’s dress on display at costume exhibition

Costume 5 SUS-160927-115117001
Costume 5 SUS-160927-115117001
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The first of many visitors to last weekend’s Costume and Textile Extravaganza at Bexhill Museum came bearing a gift.

The visitor was at the head of the queue when the independent, voluntarily-run, museum’s doors opened last Saturday. She had come to donate an exquisite Twenties beaded purse.

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Costume 3 SUS-160927-115048001

Both the gesture and the public’s response to the two-day event delighted organiser Georgina Bradley.

She and her Costume and Social History Gallery team of volunteers had staged the event to give the public an insight into the wealth of artefacts held by the museum.

Like all museums, the Egerton Road enterprise lacks the space to put all its treasures on view at once.

Gowns by such fashion icons as Norman Hartnell and Alexander McQueen had been brought out of storage for the occasion.

The dress Queen Victoria wore to the funeral in 1892 of her son the Duke of Clarence was displayed in its tissue-lined box to illustrate the museum’s care and conservation processes.

A brightly-coloured Mary Quant poncho caught the eye of many. Volunteer Karen Smith said: “I think it has stirred up a lot of people’s memories. They are all telling me how they had a Mary Quant dress in the Sixties...”

A flower-bedecked display in the stair-well bore a selection of wedding photographs down the decades.

Lace-makers were at work in a special display section in the Education Room where dolls “modelled” delightful dresses. But these were not dolls’ clothes but quarter-scale reproductions of adult wear, made to make lighter work of the task of travelling sales representatives.

Gold leaf and beetles’ wings adorned a section of pure silk. A ladies’ ball gown in the Sargent Gallery complemented a man’s dress suit from the ‘Thirties. A full length dress with bustle illustrated the extremes to which women in the late Victorian era went to keep in fashion while a lace-up corset, platform-soles and winkle-picker shoes demonstrated other eras of self-imposed discomfort.

A whole section was devoted to the vexed issue of feather headware. It included a hat fashioned from an entire bird.

A hand-made satin blouse dating from 1938 was displayed alongside the original magazine from which the pattern was taken.

Georgina Bradley spent her London career in fashion. She said of the exhibition: “There has been a constant flow of people since we opened. There is a sense of excitement and wonder to see it all. I don’t think people realised how much we have here or of what quality.”

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