The Henfield Museum Costume Collection
Henfield Museum with its eclectic costume collection sits right in the heart of the village. The stories contained within the museum walls and the costume boxes tell of life in the village and help bring its inhabitants, both past and present, to life.
Museums are full of old things. Once upon a time the old things were new things. Costume is a case in point. One day all the dresses, shoes, hats and bags were new, clean and up to the minute fashionable. Some of our local costume can be used to start you on a voyage of discovery. You can follow a trail from the lace decorating Miss Tobitts nightgown, past a photograph of her family’s shop and then walk up Henfield High Street to her house.
The magic of a museum lets you see things that were thought important enough to keep and pass on. But also things that were found hidden in attics or kept in the dressing up box and therefore they survived more by accident than design. Amateur theatricals have always been popular in Henfield and some of our items have survived because they were used as stage costumes before being passed to the museum.
Important occasions call for important clothes and ‘occasion’ clothes are often kept and treasured and sometimes worn again by later generations. This trend means that we are fortunate to have fine examples of christening robes, wedding dresses and mourning articles.
Not all our costume originates in Henfield but all were donated by people who came to live here. This broadens the scope of the collection considerably and means that our collection ranges from field bonnets worn by farm workers (early part of the 19th century); some stunning examples of Hannington’s of Brighton Victorian splendour; a beaded 1920s dress (Bourne & Hollingsworth of London), and an elegant cocktail ensemble of the 1960s from Barrance & Ford, also late of Brighton.
Clothes help to tell stories; what Victorians wore to earn a living, or how your grandparents managed in a war. Pictures (or in this instance costumes) are indeed worth a thousand words.
Stephanie Richards, Costume Curator
This is a fine example of an evening dress from the 1920s.
- Lavish silver bead embroidery decorates the whole dress
- Possibly machine or tambour beading
- Material is heavy crêpe
- It is not lined.
- The dress weighs a kilo.
- Labelled on waistband;
‘Bourne and Hollingsworth Ltd Oxford St, W.1.’
Our Costume Curator