Historic costume

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Historic costume

Historic costumes in the collections of National Museums NI illustrate every aspect of daily life over the last 300 or more years.

Working life, religious life, a life of luxury, life in the fast lane of motor sport.   All of these and more are well represented in collections that include:

  • A fine selection of European court dress and everyday clothing from the 18th
  • Examples of women's dress from almost every year of the 19th century.
  • Over 100 uniforms relating to the history of road and rail transport in Ireland from the late 1800s to late 1900s.
  • Racing leathers and bibs worn by Stanley Woods (1903 -1993), champion motor cycle racer.
  • Religious vestments, including embroidered chasubles.
  • Costume for birth, marriage, and mourning, including a collection of over 100 wedding dresses, many with original accessories, dating from the 19th century to present.
  • Ireland’s largest public collection of dress for Irish Dance.

A study of the collection reveals the stories of town and country dressmakers, tailors, and small clothing shops.  It also records the quantity and quality of the many large Belfast department stores from the 1850s to 1980s.

Visitor Guides at The Ulster Folk Museum and The Ulster American Folk Park wear early 1900s period costume. These are based on originals in the museum’s historic costume collection.

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