Macclesfield Stripe Project & Exhibition

The Museum team are proud to announce their first exhibition since lockdown, launching 18th September 2021 until 31st March 2022, centred around the iconic Macclesfield Stripe dresses.

The Macclesfield Stripes were designed and produced in Macclesfield during the 1920s to 40s. This textile had the ability to be boil washed over and over again, without losing colour or shape – which before washing detergents was extremely important – one of the reasons the colours are still so vibrant today. Mill workers were known to take off-cuts of the fabric home, and create their own fashions. This helped Macclesfield’s Mill Workers get the nickname of ‘Best Dressed’ at this time.

There are about 16 garments, over 200 handkerchiefs and a few larger Macclesfield Stripe Textiles in the collection. Due to lack of space, we were forced to store this collection in cramped boxes. The silk from the 1920s and 30s is extremely delicate and fine, meaning the additional creases due to this storage put too much stress on the collection, and in some cases tore the garments.

In 2019, the museum was awarded restricted funding of £4,800 from the Textile Society enabling employment of freelance conservator Zoe Lanceley. The Friends then granted a further £6,675 enabling the purchasing of specialized conservation material, storage solutions for the collection and enabling the employment of Curator Kathryn Warburton to conduct further research into this collection. The Friends vital donation has also enabled the museum to create a designated costume space with research area (still in progress) enabling this collection to be preserved for future generations.

“Working with freelance Conservator Zoe Lanceley, we’ve been slowly improving the storage issues, creating hanging solutions for the costumes and rolled storage for the handkerchiefs and larger textile samples.” Explained Kathryn Warburton, Curator, “Zoe is also conserving the torn and weaker areas of the textiles, making more of the collection safe for future display. There are still some garments that need further repair beyond Zoe’s contract, where we hope to complete this work with the help of conservation students.

“Due to Covid we’ve had to close the doors to the general public, but despite this we have still been busy behind the scenes with projects like the Macclesfield Stripe.

We believe it’s important to share this work and progress with the general public, through our new Macclesfield Stripe exhibition opening Saturday 18th September (see The Friends Special Double Invitation). This will highlight the project’s preservation and conservation work and also aims to be a public platform to help us draw out more human stories connected to the collection.”

The next step is a significant research project led by Curator Kathryn Warburton. This will look into manufacturing processes, the clients and hopefully will uncover human stories linking to the collection. We envision sharing this research next year through either an online or in house exhibition.

Click here to read all about our Costume Mounting Training Day