The costumes collection has more than 3,000 outfits and accessories with examples from every decade from 1730 to the present day.  The displays in the Costume Room are changed every year after careful choice from the Fairlynch costume collection, which is one of the finest in the South West.  The oldest costumes in our possession date from as early as 1700, and not only do we have ladies’ dresses, but also military uniforms and children’s clothes, together with the relevant accessories.

Earlier in 2017 Fairlynch was awarded a generous grant from South West Museum Development Programme to replace some of the unsuitable boxes in the costume and textile store, the Linhay. The following video shows volunteers, Iris and Betty, working on the project.

Ladies' costumes

Ladies' costumes from various decades were showcased in our 2011 exhibition.

Some of the costumes on display recalled the long history of Budleigh Salterton's many sporting groups.  The models of lady archers is a reminder that archery was very popular in Victorian times.  Practised by Queen Victoria herself the sport was considered a graceful exercise which taught dexterity.

In 2012 the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee together with the London Olympics provided the themes for our costumes displays.  Some items at Fairlynch came from Mrs Lennox, a royal nanny, who disposed of various garments which would have been worn by princes and princesses of Queen Victoria's day. 

Our 2013 costume display showed an Edwardian evening at home.  The main display was an Edwardian drawing room, where the ladies of the house were enjoying some music around the piano having left the gentlemen to their port and cigars...

An Edwardian evening at home
Bright Young Things

The 2014 exhibition featured clothes which characterized the ‘flapper’ and the ‘Bright Young Things’ in the period which followed the Great War.

The 1930s saw the rise of the small dress shop, and this was reflected in our 2015 display. Such shops flourished in towns that had no large department stores. Fashion changed slightly from the 1920s: waists were back, details such as buttons were more prominent and hair was longer. 

The 2016 exhibition features a scene from Joyce Dennys’ Worlds Apart: A Play in Three Acts for Women.  It was first performed in Budleigh Salterton’s Public Hall and published by Samuel French Ltd in 1957.

The play featured five female members of the fictitious Farraday family; of the remaining ten characters, two were male but, in the author’s words, ‘were designed to be played by women’.  Act I was set in Mrs Farraday’s drawing room in Kensington on a summer evening in 1856. The second Act was set a year later in a bungalow in India, and the final Act III was set six months later with a return to Mrs Farraday’s drawing room. One of the parts was written specially for Miss Joy Gawne, one of Fairlynch Museum’s co-founders and an enthusiast for amateur dramatics.

Joyce Dennys was born in India and in an author’s note acknowledged the help she was given with the India details by her brother Guy Dennys.

Joyce Dennys & Alison Robinson

Joyce Dennys regularly appeared in amateur dramatic productions. She is pictured here, left in the photo, with fellow-thespian Alison Robinson in Budleigh Salterton Drama Club’s production of Lord Arthur Savile's Crime.

Complementing the Admiral Preedy bicentenary exhibition in the adjoining Exhibition Room was a display of some of Fairlynch’s beautiful 19th century dresses in the first of two exhibitions from Easter to July in 2017. ‘Victorian Fashion’ in the Costume Room depicted a telegram being delivered to a group of ladies. The first message sent by transatlantic telegraph from England to America in 1858 was ‘Europe and America are united by telegraphy. Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men.’ 

19th century dresses

The fine blue dress in the photo of the telegram scene featured in a poster advertising the 2017 AGM, which was followed by an illustrated talk by costume experts who had produced a report on the Fairlynch textiles collection.

A second costume exhibition from July to October in 2017 was entitled ‘1967 - what were you wearing?’ and was a celebration of Fairlynch Museum ‘s 50th birthday.

1967 - what were you wearing?

A colourful display of quilts was staged in the Exhibition Room by Fairlynch volunteer Betty Hebditch, who succeeded Iris Ansell as Head of the Museum’s Costume Department. Many beautiful and rarely seen items from Fairlynch’s textile collection were put on display for the first time. An accomplished quilter herself, Betty has exhibited at many of the larger UK quilt shows. ‘Quilters are fanatics and I expect an exhibition of this kind to be very popular,’ she said. ‘People will travel a long way to see good quilts.’

A second exhibition, which took place in the Costume Room, was entitled ‘100 Years of Devon Weddings’.

Conservation Report for Barège Rural Wedding dress pdf

The rural silk wedding dress seen in the above photo was the subject of an important conservation project funded by the Textile Society with a grant of £2,550. A fascinating insight into the specialist work of textile conservation can be found in a report here on the project by Morwena Stephens ACR, Conservator of Textiles  & Ethnographic Artefacts.

100 Years of Devon Weddings

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