Bedales School, near Petersfield, began collecting historic clothes in the 1940s (before they were seen as valuable collectors’ items) and then used them as costumes in school plays. The school donated 1000 pieces of this collection to Petersfield Museum in 2007 and it is now available to view on display and for researchers in the Flora Twort Gallery.
The collection is varied and includes crinolines, ball gowns, hunting coats, hats, mourning wear, swimwear, underwear, debutante gowns, and an elegant England First XI ladies’ hockey dress from the 1890s (with lace cuffs!)
The oldest pieces are women’s dresses from the 1720s; the oldest male costume is a coat and long waistcoat, beautifully hand-embroidered in silk, from the 1770s. English chintz dresses from the Regency and Victorian periods are matched by more modern examples, including an immensely thick and heavy ruched ball gown from the 1950s in the fashionable and expensive material of the time – nylon.
The Museum holds this as a static collection, so we are not actively collecting more historic costume unless it has a significant link to the area.