Regal dress gets an outing at Worthing museum

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A DRESS fit to wear before a king is on display at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery for the very first time.

A sumptuous 1760s sack back court dress has been conserved with a gift of £6,000 funding from The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Leche Trust so that it can be displayed.

The dress is a lilac colour and made from silk, it has woven flower decoration, lace and silver thread. It is called a sack back dress because of the way the back falls, and has double flounces on the sleeves.

Museum curator Gerry Connolly said: “We are very excited about being able to show this amazing dress, it’s one of the earliest costume items in the museum’s collection.

“We are very grateful to the funders, without whose support it would not have been possible to put it on display for the very first time.”

The conservation work was carried out by Zenzie Tinker conservation studies in Brighton.

Zenzie said: “We put in about 200 hours of intricate conservation work to make the dress strong enough to be displayed.

“In order to display historic costumes such as this, it is important to create an underpin support on the manequin on which it will be displayed, so the dress will hang in the way it would have in its era. We also needed to create patches of silk, which we dyed to match the colour, to fill slits in the original silk. Finally, we reshaped some of the trimmings and worked on the hem.”

The conservation of the dress, the type of outfit ladies would have worn in front of King George III, is the first of many changes planned for the costume gallery over the next few months as the museum team prespares to showcase two years of work.

The changes have been funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Trust to enable the curatorial team to research and conserve a selection of its finest costume pieces.

The eighteenth century gown is on display in the permanent historic costume gallery.