I’ve never heard of the Gallery of Costume in Manchester. I’m well aware of the Costume Institute at The Met in NYC, particularly given the annual Met Gala on Monday night, but when my o/h suggested we visit the one in Manchester, it left me slightly confused, and a bit miffed that I’d never been there before.
If you’re doing a fashion degree course then this is probably one of your first ports of call, but if not then the tourist board of Manchester needs to up its act and make people aware of this place.
Admittedly it’s not big, in fact, there’s so much more that could be done with the space given the time and money, and the big problem is there is no parking, so it’s difficult to get to.
Located on Oxford Road close by The Whitworth Art Gallery (which incidentally also has no parking), The Gallery of Costume is operated by Manchester Art Gallery and displays clothing and art from the main museum’s collection.
Currently on display is a collection of frocks from Mary Quant – the celebrated British designer who dressed the young, hip and famous throughout the ’60s and ’70s (my mum included, although she wasn’t famous).
It’s not a huge display (only 22 outfits) and the exhibition could have been better given the amount of photography around from that era. I personally would have liked to have seen the dresses worn by their owners and heard the stories behind them. I think the curator has missed a trick here, however it is worth a quick visit if you’re in the area.
Upstairs there are beautiful costumes dating back to the 1800s – again there are only a few on display which is disappointing as I’m informed that the collection consists over 20,000 items and spans the era from the 17th century to present day. Downstairs there is a pair of spectacular Grayson Perry vases.
The building itself is worthy of National Trust status having once been owned by the Worsley family. The hall, a listed Georgian building is exquisitely decorated and well maintained – one wonders why they haven’t made better use of the space on offer.
I wouldn’t make a special trip, however if you’re in the area and are planning on visiting the museums and art galleries of Manchester then it’s worth calling in.
Before the trip I was considering bequeathing my rather large collection of designer items to the Gallery of Costume, but truth be told I think they’d be better looked after by the V&A in London – much as it pains me to say this…
Gallery of Costume
Tel: 0161 245 7245
Contact us by email
Thursday and Friday 1-5pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm
Closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
Closed Good Friday 14 April
Opening hours from 1 June
From Thursday 1 June 2017, opening hours are 10am – 5pm, Thursday – Sunday inclusive.
Entry is free