Historically accurate and beautifully preserved, it’s a chance for people to see how those living in the Victorian era would have dressed.
But what people may not know is that the vast majority of the costumes worn by the town’s team of demonstrators are actually made on site, by a small team of dedicated costumiers whose aim is to make the visitor experience as authentic and immersive as possible.
Blists Hill Open Air Museum opened to the public on April 1 1973 and replicates life at the end of the Victorian era, where visitors can discover what it was like to live and work at the turn of the 20th century in Shropshire.
To celebrate its 50th year, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is running a competition for Star readers to win one of 50 Golden Tickets offering unlimited family entry to all 10 of its award-winning museums for a whole year.
At one of those museums – Enginuity – you’ll find The Costume Project, a treasure trove of a studio dedicated to creating the costumes you see not only on Blists Hill’s Victorian demonstrators but garments that are displayed at visitor attractions across the UK, including the National Trust, the SS Great Britain Trust and Tower Bridge London.
Headed up by senior costume interpreter Alison Phillips, the Costume Project sources historic patterns and images as well as archival research to recreate garments akin to those that would have been worn by residents of Blists Hill circa 1900.
Original Victorian workwear is incredibly rare because garments were repeatedly re-purposed and recycled to exhaustion. In fact, the site has a dedicated wardrobe team who are solely responsible for cleaning, repairing and making new costumes for the site as well.
From sourcing period-look fabrics to the traditional construction techniques that Alison uses, every hand-constructed piece is designed to be as historically accurate as possible, offering another level of authenticity.
“When visitors enter Blists Hill, we want them to feel like they’ve stepped back in time which is why it’s so important that the clothes our demonstrators and greeters wear reflect what actual residents of the town in the early 1900’s would have worn,” Alison says.
“From the police uniform worn by Constable Jarrett to the aprons worn by the ladies in the Fish Fryer, it’s the tiniest of details that help visitors understand a world that is so far from their own.”
As well as dressing Blists Hill’s many residents, Alison and her team of volunteers also help visitors to channel their very own Victorian character with a range of try-on costumes.
From Victorian school outfits for the many school trips that the trust’s learning team accommodates to the costumes that can be found in the town’s photography studio, each plays an important role in the experiential nature of Blists Hill.
“Clothing can be so transformative and is an important way that we can help to physically transport people back to a completely different era,” Alison adds. “Costume gives people a tangible piece of history that lets them feel the textures and the weights, see the colours and the shapes and physically wear garments to better understand not only the history of the period but how truly different it was to the way that we live our lives today.”
To celebrate its 50th year, The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is running a competition for Star readers to win one of 50 Golden Tickets offering unlimited family entry to all 10 of its award-winning museums for a whole year.
To be in with a chance of winning, collect three out of seven tokens printed in the newspaper every day until Saturday, March 25, and send them in with the entry form included. Entries close at 5pm on Thursday, March 30.
For more information on the Costume Project, visit ironbridge.org.uk.