Gloucester's Long-Hidden Costume Collection Takes Centre Stage in New Exhibition

A new exhibition aims to explore the fascinating histories behind the uniforms worn by the people of Gloucester and opens up the museum’s extensive costume collection for the first time.
18th Century Coachman’s uniform. Copyright 2023 Paul Nicholls Photography

Buttons, Badges and Blazers, on display at the Museum of Gloucester until January 2024, has been curated from the city's costume collection of over 4,500 items, not previously on display to the public.

The exhibition, funded by Arts Council England, focuses on uniforms from various settings and time periods and holds an abundance of stories about the city and the people who lived and worked in Gloucester from the 16th to the 20th century.

The uniforms reveal the tales behind the social history of the city, and reflect social changes in terms of gender roles, politics, and wealth.

Key pieces on display include a 16th-century set of judicial robes, the robes of the very first female magistrate in England, police and Gloucester Prison warden uniforms, as well as midwife and scout uniforms.

To celebrate Gloucester Rugby’s momentous 150th anniversary year, there will be two iconic Gloucester Rugby caps on display, which have been restored, thanks to a South West Museum Development On Display grant.

Buttons, Badges and Blazers, will also showcase the city's ties to the late Janet Arnold, a renowned British costume historian whose influential ‘Patterns of Fashion’ series, was regarded as essential reading for historical costume experts and fashion designers.

One of her designs, has been meticulously recreated by costume designer Nivera Gilbert and will be on display alongside the original drawings.

It will sit alongside new work from two local artists, Katie Taylor and Sam Bates as well as the Costume for Gloucester, designed by local costumier Katie Taylor, celebrating the city's diverse people and eclectic history.

Councillor Andy Lewis, cabinet member for Culture and Leisure at Gloucester City Council, said: "I’m delighted that we’re able to open up this fantastic collection to be able to tell the compelling stories of the people of this city.  We're eager to hear the public's perspectives of these historic gems and hopefully hear more about the people who live and work here to enhance our collection further."

Phil Gibby, Arts Council England, South West, Area Director, said: “We are pleased to support the Museum of Gloucester through a National Lottery Project Grant as part of the Arts Council’s Unlocking Collections initiative. By empowering museums across England to develop their object displays and interpretation, we can preserve the past, its people, and their stories for many generations. Thanks to public funding, the local community and visitors to the city can look forward to increased access to prized artefacts and new opportunities to engage with contemporary creative responses. We are proud to invest further in the cultural landscape of Gloucester - an Arts Council England Priority Place – and look forward to seeing the positive impacts this will bring to the region.”

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