THE WOMEN of 18th century Glasgow could teach today’s fashionistas a thing or two about upcycling.

One of the fabulous dresses in the city’s European costume and textile collection had a few owners over 100 years, says curator Rebecca Quinton.

“You can see signs it has been reused and recycled,” she says, adding with a smile: “Sustainable fashion, 1770-style.

“There would have been a very active second hand market at the time.”

The dress in question is an English gown so-called because of the style, rather than where it came from. It is one of many fascinating frocks and intriguing items to feature in next week’s Digital Doors Open Day event delving behind the scenes at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.

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In addition to a peek into Pod 17, the new textiles store at the centre, on September 18, online visitors can hear Dr Jo Meacock discussing the painting store and Ralph Moffat talking about arms and armour on September 15 and Emily Malcolm revealing more about the city’s transport and technology collections on September 16. 

Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival is organised by Glasgow Building Preservation Trust and this year, because of coronavirus restrictions, it has moved online.

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Rebecca, Research Manager (Art) and Glasgow Museums’ curator of European Costume and Textiles will be discussing some of the tasks involved in repacking different types of objects in the collection to ensure they are safe yet accessible and the genealogy research which goes into finding out who the makers and wearers of some of the garments were.

“The European costume and textile collection consists of around 17,000 items – mainly costume, but also samplers, carpets, quilts, lace and Scottish tapestries,” says Rebecca.

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“The English gown is one of my favourite items. It is made from woven silk tissue, so it would have been a little cheaper to buy, and you can see signs that it has been unpicked and remade to take account of the latest fashion.

“So in 1770, it would have had more of an ice cream cornetto-shaped bodice, but you can see where it has been adjusted for the hour-glass Victorian figure in the 1870s, 1880s.”

The collection includes a pair of embroidered black silk evening slippers, dating from around 1830, donated by Scottish suffragist and author Eunice G Murray.

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“It’s likely they belonged to one of her grandmothers,” explains Rebecca. “They are very pretty, and look a little like ballet shoes which was the fashion of the time.
“The label says J. Macneille, who was a shoemaker from Ayr.”

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Other highlights of the collection include a beautiful wedding dress, made of cream silk with woven yellow flowers, from 1878, and The Royal Clothograph, a fascinating quilt made of ‘many thousand pieces of coloured cloth stitched together with silk.”

“I have not counted them,” smiles Rebecca. “It is quite something. Munro was a Paisley tailor who settled in the east end of Glasgow, and this took him 18 years, working in his spare time, to complete.”

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She adds: “He was active in the Temperance movement, and apparently toured many of the meetings with this quilt, to demonstrate something else you could do with your time in the evenings instead of drinking.”

You can book for the GMRC events and find out more about this year’s festival at