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Some of the NADFAS ( National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) ladies were in, as usual, this Tuesday, working on the cataloguing of the museum’s impressive, massive and delicate collection of historical costume.

Selina, Pam and Caroline (and, usually, Sarah in this group) are amongst a number who work tirelessly on this project. Every box is a bit like Pandora’s, and may contain a number of items – anything from babies’ bonnets and Victorian underwear to military greatcoats and lavish evening gowns. Each item must be checked against any pre-existing references, combed for bugs (moth, carpet beetle…), identified, measured, assessed for condition, and any background details noted

All this is then recorded on a carefully designed form.

Sue Allenby and Muriel Redding, two more of our ‘costume ladies’, processed this gorgeous Edwardian black skirt:


With this 1912 item was some information about the dressmaker (a firm in Bradford), and the owner, a Fanny Garnett, and we are also told a little of the history of it. Apparently Fanny wore it on her Golden Wedding Anniversary day.  It came to the museum with a matching bodice and is described by the costume ladies thus:

“Asymmetrical black satin skirt with gold gauze overskirt. Deep border black silk tulle with Regency design motifs in gold thread…Petersham waistband reads Gibson Boyce and Co, Bradford. Nineeen groups of five yellow glass beads, eleven missing. Overlay fringed in black. Back fastening with hooks and eyes.  Loops inside waistband to retain fastenings on bodice. Gold saltire cross embroidered centre front on waistband (for alignment?). Overlay is black gauze over gold satin silk.”

In addition to this ‘long description’ further details of the material, weave, colour and so on are recorded on the form.

This form is then passed to another volunteer who matches it with photos that are taken, records the photos on a data base and then passes the form to yet more volunteers who bring all the information and photos together and record it all on our famous MODES database from where members of the public, including researchers, can eventually access the information.




A dress from the 1730- 1750s with detail of embroidery





This is an item labelled Women’s Home Industries.

WHI was a company founded in 1947 in London in order to earn export revenue for the UK in the post war period by harnessing women’s craft skills, such as knitting and needlework.

Originally seen as part of the effort to rebuild the economy – and a way to give women practical work they could do from home – between the 1950s and 1970s its reputation as a retailer and supplier of hand-made knits and traditional crafts grew, with exports to match.

Christening robes, evening gloves, uniforms, shepherds smocks, vests – it is an endlessly fascinating collection, much enjoyed by those who work on it. Thanks to all concerned.