Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall, Manchester
Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall, Manchester

Costume Museums

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Dressing up is a key activity in any museum setting. Kids in Museums volunteers, Emma Patterson and Leonie Saywell have been discovering two museums dedicated to dressing up in different parts of the country…

Fashion Museum, Bath

At the moment, the Fashion Museum in Bath is preparing for its next exhibition, Sport and Fashion, with some gallery space closed whilst work is completed. Although this means that there is less to see, entry to the museum is free while the exhibition is installed.

Each space in the museum had a different feel to it, different colours and lighting, which I really enjoyed. There was a space for children to dress up, and I was dismayed to find a sign saying ‘no adults’, until I discovered the adults dress up area around the corner, which was brilliant fun. There was also a space to create your own designs, and an inspirations wall where people could leave suggestions for other places visitors might enjoy.

The aisles through the museum are wide, and generally the labels are at a low level in a large font. Personally, I’m not keen on audio guides, but I gave this one a go and found it absolutely fine, moving through the objects at a steady rate which was easy to follow.

The museum is great at providing context for its collection, which is brilliant, especially for younger visitors. As well as the activities available, family visitors can borrow a backpack of fashion related activities from reception.

All in all, a good museum, which I’m looking forward to visiting again once the new exhibition is complete.

Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall, Manchester

When I was ten, my grandmother took me to London for the weekend. It was a rite of passage intended to steer me gently away from dressing dolls to learning to dress myself. Although we took in Harrods and Selfridges, the stand out memory was the Costume Collection at the V&A. At each display my grandmother, born an Edwardian, brought alive the roaring twenties, bias cut thirties, utility forties, new look fifties and swinging sixties. I’ve loved costume ever since.

With the V&A collection closed until spring 2012, we needed to travel further afield for our costume fix and it became a focus for a recent visit to Manchester. Platt Hall is a delightful Georgian house just outside the city centre. The sole Front of House guy was welcoming and, although there is no cloakroom, he happily stored our bags and coats.

Kids in Museum Manifesto ticks to display cases at child height, a rail of touchable sixties clothes, spacious loos, good disabled access and pocket money items in the shop. There are no specific family trails or activities but the wonderful displays gave us plenty to talk about. Eve liked the crinolines, Leah liked the stripy stockings, and I was mesmerised by a little girl’s bodice from the 1600s. How amazing such objects can survive 500 years, I mused as I gazed at my own daughters’ soup encrusted top halves.

All in all a great way to spend a winter afternoon with children aged four upwards. Entry is free and the gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 1.30-4.30 pm.

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