Worthing Museum & Art Gallery

Costume and Textiles

 Jim Pike 

The Museum's costume and textiles collection is one of the largest in the country with somewhere in the region of 30,000 objects at present. Garments date from the 17th century up to the present day. Since the opening of the museum in 1908 the staff have always collected examples of costume and textiles, which increased dramatically in the 1960s and has continued to grow in size every year.

The collection is extremely diverse and encompasses all areas of costume and textiles - men's, women's and children's clothing and accessories of any class - couture, dressmaker made, home-made, High Street or market stall.

Despite being very strong in most of these areas, the collection does have some real strengths such as 19th century women's dress, underwear, swimwear, accessories, smocks and quilts.

The collection also covers a comprehensive collection of ephemera and associated material including fashion plates, paper patterns, magazines and photographs.


The textile collection is very varied with pieces dating from the 17th century to the present day. It is divided into decorative and domestic textiles.

  • A collection of fancy embroidery includes beadwork, woolwork, and whitework.
  • Samplers date from 1664 and embroidered pictures, worked in wools and silks, from 1650.
  • Two suffragette banners carried by local groups illustrate how needlework communicates as well as decorates.
  • There are also fabric samples, apprentices' miniature garments and darning specimens.
  • A large lace collection features both hand-made and machine-made lace.
  • Domestic textiles include pillowcases, tea towels, dusters, and table cloths.
  • An interesting collection of decorative and functional quilts date from 1800.