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Textiles and Costume

(Below): Embroidered hat and dress panel, I7th century

Embroidered hat and dress panel, I7th century

The collections of textiles and costume date from c. 1600 to the present day. They include some very fine examples of seventeenth-century embroidery and eighteenth-century embroidered waistcoats as well as a variety of nineteenth-century women's and children's wear.

The museum has more recently acquired the Irene Barnes Collection of women's beaded and sequinned evening wear, c. 1919-1939, which includes costume accessories of the period as well as provincial, court and wedding attire. The emphasis is on the glamorous evening wear which epitomises the high fashion styles of the jazz Age. This particular vogue was influenced by Parisian designers, especially 'Coco' Chanel, one of the outstanding talents of the 1920s who introduced the new straight tubular look. Although cut in simple shapes, these dresses were extravagantly decorated with embroidery, beads and sequins; this surface decoration being influenced by Leon Bakst's Arabian designs for Diaghilev's Ballet Russes who performed in Paris in 1909.

(Below): Tambour beaded dresses, Paris label, mid-1920s.

The introduction of Tambour 'beading' into the Paris fashion houses in the early 1920s enabled the beads and sequins to he applied much faster than was possible by hand. This led to a marked increase in lavishly decorated evening wear, In addition, trade embroidery machines were becoming available. The versatile Cornely machine produced chain stitch, cording and ribbon work, the Irish '107' produced an even satin stitch with variation in length and the Schiffli multi-needled machine was able to simulate lace and embroidery. Examples of all these types of embroidery and beading are represented in the collection.