Costume and textiles
The museum’s dress collection reflects the fashionable reputation the town maintained during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Some items are similar to those you would find in other fashionable regional towns, others are unique to Cheltenham. Most of the collection would have been worn by fairly well-off people; poorer people continued to wear their clothing until it wore out.
The museum holds costume dating from the 17th century to the late 20th century, the collection’s strength is in the 19th century, particularly women’s dress. The collection has some unique examples of dress with local importance; some are nationally significant as well. These include a small group of clothes worn by the Whinyates family who lived in Cheltenham and India in the early 19th century. The clothes are European in style but made from Indian fabrics, for example muslins embroidered with silver and gold thread work or beetle wings.
The textile collection includes a small but interesting collection of patchwork quilts from the early 19th century to the early 20th century. There is a large collection of lace, mostly 19th century, and a mixture of machine, bobbin and needle laces. Embroidery is represented by samplers ranging from mid 17th-century hand samplers to those from the 18th-20th centuries and other hand and machine embroideries.
Woman's dress made of ivory cotton with hand painted floral pattern in colours, about 1790. The fabric was made in India, of fashionable Indian cotton, and is stamped with the East India Company mark.
Man's waistcoat, about 1750 to 1760. Cream linen with applique flowers, with gold metal thread decoration.
Man's coat, part of a suit. Black wool, double breasted, 1815 to 1820. Worn by Thomas Coutts, a banker who was a frequent visitor to Cheltenham.
Wedding dress made up of a separate bodice and skirt, made of broad striped plain and watered cream silk trimmed with lace and artificial flowers. Made by Mrs Hailing, who was based in Montpellier, Cheltenham, and worn at St Laurence's, Bourton-on-the-Water, 20 February 1883.
Woman's hooded cloak, about 1900 to 1905. Made of pale pink cashmere, lined in cream silk, with velvet applique decoration. The cloak was designed and made by Liberty & Co. The designs of applique and embroidery show the influence of Art Nouveau.
Cotton child's dress, about 1920. It has applique animals on the bodice, pockets and cuffs. Made for Liberty and Co.
Wedding dress by Spaghetti, 1989. Made of purple silk velvet. Neck and sleeves trimmed with decoration made of gold threadwork, coloured stones and beads, and pearls. Worn by fashion expert and magazine editor Isabella Blow at her marriage to Detmar Blow.