The UK is known for its impressive array of museums, so much so it can be hard to pick where to go.
Which is exactly why we’ve put together a ‘go-to’ guide of some of the best museums serving the costume world to get your creative juices flowing.
We’ve pored through a plethora of galleries and museums of all sizes and varieties to pull together our top list of costume museums you MUST visit.
Get your walking shoes on, grab a map and let’s dive in:
Of course, no museum guide would be complete without a visit to the V&A in London. It’s pretty much an essential visit and has become a sort of pilgrimage for costume designers, makers, researchers and historians alike.
With collections spanning from wedding dresses, through theatre and performance, opera and fashion, there is plenty to get lost in- just make sure you give yourself enough time!
Fashion Museum Bath
Housed in the ancient town’s assembly rooms, this museum features an impressive collection of historical fashion.
Ranging from exquisite gloves, delicate shoes to shakespearean garments, aswell as a celebratory archive of modern fashion design, this collection is an absolute must-see.
Fashion and Textile Museum London
Set up by iconic British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes in 2003, the brightly coloured museum set in the heart of the UK’s old wool and textile hub is a great port-of-call for costumiers.
Beautifully designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and now a part of Newham College, the FTM has a rapid turnover of modern fashion exhibitions, aswell as classes and workshops.
Totnes Fashion and Costume Museum
In a little historic town in the heart of Devon, lies a fascinating collection of period costume from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Explore exhibits including mens, womens and childrenswear, aswell as accessories and textile design from World War Two.
Gallery of Costume Manchester
Set in the atmospheric Platt Hall, this costume gallery – part of Manchester Art Gallery – is home to an extensive collection of historical wear.
Many of these date back to 17th century, with highlights including the under garments section, sportswear and leisurewear across the centuries.
Blandford Fashion Museum
Tucked away in a beautiful Georgian house in the historic forum in Blandford, Dorset is a well curated fashion museum, housing an incredible 13 different costume collections.
The exhibitions rotate annually and plays particular homage to aspects of local life and the lifestyles of women, with displays on the ‘Ladies of Dorset’, an Edwardian ladies’ room and a victorian afternoon tea in the original parlour.
National Wool Museum
Part of the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, is a fascinating exhibition which offers something a little different to the usual costume and fashion displays.
Learn about the art of wool production in this time-capsule of a museum and how the textile goes from ‘Fleece to Fabric’. You can even have a go at carding, spinning and sewing while you’re exploring.
Dalgarven Mill- Museum of Country Life and Costume
This little gem of a museum is found in a 17th century watermill amongst the beautiful countryside of the Garnock Valley, North Ayrshire, Scotland.
Not only are the surroundings like stepping back in time, but the museum houses an impressive collection of over 2000 costume and textile pieces depicting life from rural Scotland.
National Museum Northern Ireland
This collection within the National Museum, Ulster offers an interesting selection of exhibitions, including flags and regalia spanning over 300 years and nearly 10,000 costumes and accessories from the mid 18th century until present day.
There is also the opportunity to gain insight into the lucrative linen industry of the 19th century, aswell as embroidery, lace-making and craft skills over the ages.
Mode-National Museum Scotland
Housed amongst the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, is a small yet comprehensive collection of fashion over the years, with particular focus on the modern era.
Highlights include stunning displays from Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Elsa Schiaparelli.
Let us know what your favourite costume gallery is or where you get your inspiration from. For more historical costume research, check out our articles on historical costume blogs.