Our Historic Clothing Project was started in 2007 by the then Head of Interpretation, Hannah Tiplady, with supervision from historian Ruth Goodman and historical costumier Barbara Painter.
A Museum needlework group was formed to work on making replica historic clothing (in as authentic a way as possible), which could be worn on site at certain times:
- as part of the interpretation of our domestic buildings; and
- as a tool to discover more about how textiles and clothing were used and worn in the past.
The process of making the clothes and learning about the history and techniques is fundamental to the project. We felt it would be useful and instructive to make them at the Museum under the research and guidance of professionals as a learning experience, keeping as many of the processes as possible in-house.
The Historic Clothing Project
The idea is to work with materials and techniques in as historically accurate a way as possible. For example we buy in good quality linens, wools and cottons and vegetable-dye the wools and linens on site as required. The Tudor and Stuart clothing is hand sewn, in contrast to our Victorian clothing which is chemically dyed and machine sewn.
The clothing made during this project is for wearing, not just looking at. The garments can be seen on display in Gonville Cottage (on certain days), but they are mainly meant to be used for wearing and working in at the Museum. As the garments move through their lifecycle, the ways in which they are used leave an impression upon the clothing. These patterns of wear become part of the history and meaning of the garments.
Darns and repairs chart those areas which receive the brunt of people’s work activities. Fading patterns of the natural dyes speak of hours in the sunlight. Scorch marks and stains recall past meals and working with open fires. The mud stains record the reality of living and working in the countryside.
If you are visiting particularly to see our historic clothing please email firstname.lastname@example.org to check the opening times for access.