The extensive Brighton Historical Society costume and textile collection is currently being photographed and meticulously catalogued thanks to the valuable skills and assistance of volunteers Annabel Butler and Boe-lin Bastion.

The catalyst for this is the ‘Victorian Collections’ website which is devoted to information of cultural treasures held by museums, galleries and historical societies in Victoria. Developed by Museum Victoria in partnership with Museums Australia (Victoria), it provides a showcase for the BHS costume collection.

Check it out on

Blue dressThe Brighton and Bayside Community are fortunate to have such an extensive collection of costume representing the period of settlement in the Bayside area through to the modern day.

The collection ranges from children’s wear to evening gowns, dresses, hats, gloves, shawls, nightgowns, underwear, menswear, fans, shoes, swimwear and handbags.

Costume has been donated since the Society began in 1963. Some was even purchased in the days when Victorian items were still to be found on sale in local op. shops. The concept (or the existence) and size of the collection is attributable to the foresight of the founder of the BHS, Mrs Rosalind Landells OAM.

In the early days little was known of conservation techniques but as time progressed and we became aware of the treasures held, methods were implemented by volunteers to care for the costumes in the best way possible using available funds.

Four conservation friendly wardrobes were purchased from the Performing Arts Museum to house the collection and later a Bayside Council Grant enabled us to have six more wardrobes built. Volunteers triple washed unbleached calico in pure Lux soap flakes before sewing covers for costumes and for coat hangers. Some acid free boxes were purchased from Zetta Florence to store our most important items

Last year, 2010, a Victorian Heritage Council Grant allowed a Significance Assessment to take place and the costume was further sorted. Where possible provenance was sought and listed, items were dated and numbered. The Costume Collection was assessed by Sue Hodges Productions and the following statement made;

This collection is of State significance. It is the most comprehensive collection of costume in an historical society or small museum in the State. The collection is well-provenanced and provides a comprehensive record of fashion in Brighton and surrounds since settlement. There are a number of individual items of State significance as well as sub-collections of clothing that also have State significance. Items outside Brighton and district have also been included in this assessment since the collection is a State collection.

The Brighton Historical Society will loan costume to recognised organisations that use current conservation techniques. Recent loans have been to the Bayside Council (ladies early bathers) for an exhibition at the Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre and to the National Trust, (Coral Knowles wedding dress), for an exhibition at Como House.

The Brighton Historical Society welcomes donations to the costume collection. Items are assessed and accepted on the basis of their relevance to the ongoing history of the area, their connection to Brighton or their rarity.