Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Fashion Gallery

I'd like to give a quick mention to the Snibston Discovery Museum in Coalville. Built on the site of a former colliery, it contains exhibits relating to the industrial history of Leicestershire and various items involving science, technology and transport. You can even take a tour around the old pit head buildings guided by a former mine worker.

However it’s their fashion gallery that I want to plug in this blog. I went a while back as part of my ongoing researches. There are many fascinating items including pieces from the Symington Collection of Corsetry, Foundation & Swimwear (a must if you’re into corsets!). 

The novel that I’ve been struggling to write is set in the early 1860s and I was there looking at clothes from around that period. I took a few photos. I apologise for the quality. They were taken with a compact camera and the flash reflected off the glass. I’ve since been lucky enough to be able to upgrade to a DSLR and now I’m a bit embarrassed by these photos but they were intended primarily for reference purposes.

1. Right: Cotton camisole, drawers and corded cotton corset worn with crinoline cage, 1860.

Left: Cotton chemise and cotton corset worn with bustle, 1875.

2. Crinolines from the late 1850s-early1860s. Hoops of cane, whalebone or steel were introduced in the mid 1850s to replace the heavy layers of petticoats needed to achieve the fashionable wide skirts of the day. Though lighter, care was needed when sitting or bending as they could tip up displaying the underwear beneath and drawers became essential. Because of their width there was also an increased danger from skirts catching alight. Through the 1860s the shape became narrower again and by the end of the decade the silhouette had shifted with the emphasis at the back.

3. Farm workers outfit of around 1860. The dress is made of striped cotton and would have probably been made by the wearer. Coarse linen aprons and over sleeves protected the dress from dirt and damage. The cotton bonnet protected the face and neck from the sun.

4. Left: Bodice and skirt printed with purple sprigs and flounced borders of seaweed patterned cotton. Made in the 1850s. 

Right: Fine cotton day dress printed with pale blue, brown and yellow check. From around 1845. From the 1820s onwards textile printing technology rapidly developed and printed fabrics became cheaper.

5. Summer outfit with a white cotton lawn blouse and purple checked skirt supported by a crinoline cage, from around 1864. The high waistband is covered by a broad sash of silk ribbon

6. Cream canvas summer boot with side lacing, 1856.

7. Bright blue silk bodice and skirt with tartan ribbon trim on the sleeves, worn with a tartan silk shawl. Dates from around 1857. Silk at this time was expensive and difficult to care for. Dirt and stains had to be carefully removed by expert laundry maids.

To see what else can be found in the Snibston fashion gallery view the youtube video below:


  1. I've been to Snibston a few times, at least two or three when my children were young, its a fascinating place.

    Latterly, I went to see the Leicester City Football exhibition around eighteen months ago, and before that I visited a photographic exhibition there, so I am quite familiar with Snibston.

    They have a really good fashion gallery, and I recognise some of your shots. I love looking around museums, I am quite fascinated by how life used to be...

    Have you been to any National Trust properties? They are just amazing...and now I'm trying to think which one had the wonderful Victorian dresses.

    Good post

  2. Thanks for the kind words. I used to take my kids to Snibston too, they always loved going, but I hadn't been for ages and it had almost vanished into the middle of a housing estate. I was pleased to see that they still have the skeleton on the bicycle. I haven't been to any National Trust properties for a while but they're always well worth a visit.