The Bowes Museum > Collection > Explore The Collection > Galleries > Fashion & Textile Gallery

Fashion & Textile Gallery

Much more of the Museum’s extensive dress and textile collection is now housed in a new, permanent Fashion & Textile Gallery designed by blue the design company. Combining historic collections with contemporary design, the gallery provides temporary exhibition space, a permanent chronological display of dress and textiles and a central ‘Glass Cube’, which is a textile study centre. Embroidery, The Blackborne Collection of Lace and quilts are stored here, allowing them to be accessed easily for study, by appointment.   It also provides a unique opportunity to view the curators working, and be invited into the ‘Glass Cube’ for talks and demonstrations.

The 'Glass Cube'

Using cutting-edge methods of display, garments are mounted on invisible mannequins, allowing them to be viewed from 360 degrees. Spectacularly lit, and placed in innovative free-standing glass structures, the dresses in the gallery provide an exquisite visual timeline of fashion, and serve to illustrate perfectly this collection of national and international importance.


                                      Detail of display circa 1918           1930s Evening dress         17th Century display

The dress collection has been acquired since the Museum opened, mainly through gifts from local sources. It represents women’s, children’s and men’s clothing and accessories from the late eighteenth century to the 1960s. It includes particularly strong examples of women’s dresses from the 1860s and 1870s, examples of twentieth century haute couture, and a comprehensive series of wedding dresses.
                                                             Wedding dress 1880                     20th Century display
Highlights include bodices, jackets and shoes which once belonged to the Empress Eugénie, consort of Napoleon III, displayed for the first time in the new gallery. The Empress was the leader of fashion, known as ‘The countess of the Crinoline’, and was dressed by the leading couturier, Charles Worth.
1860 to 1920 display
The Design Award display is a rare collection of modern classics from 1957 to 1962. Of great importance to the history of British Design, it features style icon Lucienne Day’s 1957 Design Award for the carpet Tesserae.

Design Centre Awards display
An acquisitions in 2009 include three stunning examples of haute couture, designed by Parisian couturier Madeleine Vionnet. Bought in conjunction with the V&A, London and the Fashion Museum, Bath, the consortium of museums managed to save nine dresses from export, after the government placed the first ever export ban on pieces of twentieth century haute couture.

Madeleine Vionnet dresses previously on display in the gallery

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.