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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.

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