Dress and Textiles

The department of dress and textiles was established in 2008 through the amalgamation of material from the nationally and internationally significant Designated Decorative Arts and Industrial History collections along with related material in the Social History collections. By bringing together the different collecting areas under ‘Dress and Textiles’ it has created a significant collection detailing the history of what people have worn in the past, the textiles they have used for their clothing, furnishing and decorating their homes.

Dress Collection

The dress collection is predominantly British and consists of clothes and accessories for men, women and children. Although there are a few accessories which date from the 17th century, the majority of the collection dates from the 18th century onwards.

A large part of the collection has a unique regional significance in that the items have been worn, bought or made in Leeds and the surrounding Yorkshire region.

However, the collection also represents the wider history of British fashion as it contains items which have been collected for their excellence of cut and construction or for their aesthetic beauty. Of note is the Kenneth Sanderson collection which contains a large quantity of mainly 18th century male and female fashionable clothes and accessories. There are also many items representing high end couture fashion from the end of the 19th century to the 21st century. Outstanding garments include an 1881 dress by Charles Worth, worn by the daughter of a Yorkshire mill owner and a particularly strong collection of garments dating from the 1960s by some of the best known British fashion designers, such as Jean Muir, Bill Gibb, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Bruce Oldfield, and Philip Treacy.

Leeds Tailoring

A significant and unique area of the dress and textiles collection is the large quantity of material relating to the production, finished product, promotion and selling of the nationally important tailoring manufacturing industry in Leeds. There are a few items dating from the start of the rise of the industry in the late 19th to early 20th century but the majority of the objects date to the height of the industry in the 1930s to its decline in the 1980s. The collection includes items such as tools and equipment, suits, photographic archive and promotional material. Although a number of the Leeds tailors are represented in the collection the two Leeds’ manufacturers best represented are Burton and Hepworths.


The textile collection, of all the areas in the costume and textiles collection, is the widest ranging in terms of date and it includes some extremely rare fragments dating back to the 15th century. The collection contains fragments and also complete items highlighting the wide variety of techniques used in the production of textiles for dress, furnishings and interiors.

Like the dress, the textile collection has many items with a unique local significance, which illustrate the use or manufacture of textiles in the home, for practical or decorative use, in the Leeds and surrounding area. This includes a large and extensive collection of needlework samplers dating largely from the 18th and 19th century and also many patchwork and quilted bedcovers.

An important sub-group of the textiles collection is the collection of country house floor coverings including carpets and other coverings. Rare items include early 1800s linoleum and Venetian carpets. These are considered important for understanding the country house interior and have informed restoration projects at Temple Newsam house and elsewhere. 

Of particular note in the textiles collection are the exceptional Henry Ginsberg and Roger Warner collections: The Ginsburg Collection consists of European embroideries, silks, linens, lace and printed cottons dating between 1450 and 1900.  The core of the collection is printed cottons and contains examples of well known designs from the best French and English manufacturers of the 1700s, such as Oberkampf from France and Bromley Hall in England. The collection of silks is extremely comprehensive in that it can illustrate the major developments in style and design between 1450 and 1800. It includes examples of dress and furnishing silks from Florence, Lyons and the British manufacturing centre of Spitalfields.

The Warner collection comprises a significant collection of mainly upholstery fabrics from English country houses, dating from the 1650s to the first quarter of the 1900s.