Bedales Historic Dress Collection

The former head of drama at Bedales School near Petersfield developed this rare collection of historic dress over decades to be used in theatre productions. In 2007 the best pieces, around 1,000 items of dress, shoes and accessories, were donated to the museum.

The collection spans the time period from the late 18th century to the present day. It includes female, male and children’s garments and is particularly strong in 19th century dress.

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 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!) which are all available to view in annual changing displays and for researchers.

It contains several dresses that were made or worn locally, but the collection has a wider significance. Among its rare items are men’s waistcoats from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a racing silk from 1800, a silk aesthetic dress and several designer pieces.

The oldest pieces are women’s dresses from the 1720s. 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.

Submit a review

We would love to hear about your experience visiting Petersfield Museum. Click below to leave us a review.

Write Review