Costume & Textile

Dress worn at Guild balls

There are over 6,000 items of costume at the Harris. You’ll find women’s clothes, menswear, childrenswear, babywear, and costume accessories in our collection. See highlights of our collection online at #WeWearCulture.

The earliest item is a pair of men’s silk slippers dating from the 1620s, with most of the other garments dating from the 1800s and 1900s.

Many of the garments have an association with the Preston region and have either been worn by local people or were made here. Highlights include a collection of 1950s dresses made by local manufacturer, Horrockses Fashions, items of fancy dress worn for Preston Guild balls, and clothing associated with the Second World War. There is also a collection of Asian women’s clothing featuring some beautiful embroidery.


The 600 items in this collection include embroidery, samplers, whitework, woolwork, quilts, lace, banners and commemorative textiles, much of which relates to the Preston Guild. In addition there are two large William Morris and Co. tapestries, and the Forbes Watson pattern books - The Textile Manufactures of India, a famous collection of fabric samples from the Indian continent dating from the 1850s. 

You can view the complete collection of fabric samples, find out more about Forbes Watson and the books by visiting


Fashion plates and women's magazines

The museum possesses a fine collection of over 2,000 unbound, hand-coloured fashion plates dating from the 1770s to the 1890s which have been taken from a variety of women’s periodicals. This collection can be viewed by appointment.

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