The Costume Collection at Tullie House boasts two stunning new galleries dedicated to the display of the Museum’s amazing fashion and textile collection.

Planned to be open to the public January 2021, the brand-new galleries celebrate a remarkable yet previously hidden fashion collection. From the rare and beautiful to the practical and familiar with each outfit giving an insight into the life and identity of the person they belonged to. The galleries also include an innovative digital art installation inspired by the history of Carlisle as a ‘textile city’.

Featuring over forty outfits and accessories the new galleries tell the stories of some of the women who have lived, loved and worked in Carlisle over the past 350 years. From the infamous Carlisle ‘miser’ Margery Jackson to lesser known stories of Land Army girls, factory workers, nurses, radicals, homemakers and artists.

Director of Tullie House Andrew Mackay says: “Through beautiful architectural design and innovative displays, these stunning new galleries will provide a brand-new visitor experience. The Costume Collection at Tullie House will be one of the largest dedicated costume galleries in the North of England, celebrating a remarkable and rarely seen fashion collection that features items of national significance.”.

Some of the amazing outfits on display include:

  • The Court Mantua, a very rare survivor and one of the most extreme dresses ever worn
  • Two stunning dresses from the 1700s, both are made of beautifully vibrant and colourful fabric
  • A beautiful ‘Arts and Crafts’ style dress from the 1900s belonging to Dorothy Howard, daughter of George Howard the 9th Early of Carlisle
  • A ‘fancy dress’ outfit made of silk woven in Spitalfields in London in the 1740s

Image: Yellow dress from 1700s

Melanie Gardner, Curator says: “Many of the outfits on display in these new galleries have undergone extensive conservation to prepare them for display. We are very pleased to have been able to work with the Bowes Museum on this process, who have been instrumental in bringing these stunning pieces to life using cutting edge techniques.”

The collections on display in the galleries are split into four key themes. ‘Identity’ tells the stories of five Carlisle residents, past and present, and explores how they used fashion and clothing to express their creativity and beliefs. In ‘Moments in Time’, the magic of occasion dressing is shared through outfits belonging to local people commemorating birth, marriage and death. Day-to-day life is explored in ‘Clothes for Living’, in a display celebrating the beauty to be found in ‘ordinary’ clothes. Lastly, ‘Where Clothes Come From’ gives an insight into the materials and processes behind some of the historic pieces in the collection – from the use of whale bone, feathers, plastic and glass to the link between Carlisle and the transatlantic slave trade. Alongside the physical display the Museum has created five ‘audio tours’ covering themes as diverse as conservation and makers to hidden histories and Carlisle’s global fashion connections.

The new galleries also mark an important first step in a major capital development programme to transform the museum, revealing more of the original Victorian architecture and increasing the collections on display, creating more spaces and opportunities for community engagement.

The Costume Collection at Tullie House has been generously supported by funding from the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and the Northern Powerhouse, the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund and the Garfield Weston Foundation. Exhibition and Architectural Design by Carmody Groarke.