Costume & Textile Collection

The Costume and Textiles Collection comprises over 30,000 dress, accessory, and textile objects made, sold, worn, or used in sold in Virginia from the late 18th century to the present day. The largest of its kind in the American South, this collection enjoys an international reputation among fashion and textile scholars.

Select objects from this collection are on public view as rotations in the museum’s permanent core exhibition “This Is Richmond, Virginia” and in temporary thematic costume and textiles exhibitions in the Nathalie L. Klaus and Reynolds Family Galleries. Research appointments are available for visitors interested in studying specific costume and textiles objects not on view in the galleries.

Costume Collection

The Costume Collection contains clothing and accessories worn by Virginians of all ages and social class for private and public occasions from the 18th century through the present day.

Notable items from the Costume Collection include:

  • Over 15 gowns worn by Virginia women in the 18th century
  • The surviving wardrobe of late-18th century Virginian, General Lewis Littlepage, who served as ambassador from the court of Poland to the court of Russia in the 1790s
  • A fringed and embroidered deerskin hunting jacket from the late-18th century worn by Dr. Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur, dentist and friend of President George Washington
  • A large collection of clothing worn by Virginia women from 1800 to 1840, including three dresses worn at Virginia balls honoring the Marquis de Lafayette during his 1824-25 tour of America
  • General Robert E. Lee's boots from his time at West Point
  • Civilian clothing and military uniforms worn by Virginians during the Civil War era
  • Military and volunteer service uniforms worn by Virginia men and women in World Wars I and II
  • High-end designer ready-to-wear and haute couture worn by Virginians from the late-19th century to the present
  • Garments and accessories worn by Virginia's governors and their families. This collection includes an inaugural suit worn by L. Douglas Wilder, the first elected black governor in the United States and over 20 inaugural ball gowns worn by Virginia’s first ladies and is actively developed to reflect events surrounding  incoming administrations.
  • Garments and accessories relating to Richmond artists, performers and performance events. This collection includes 19th and early 20th century costume worn to fancy dress balls, one-of-a-kind fancy dress gowns and wearable art pieces created for Richmond cultural events, and costumes worn by members of Richmond-based shock-rock band, GWAR.
  • Men’s and women’s clothing designed, manufactured, and sold by Richmond-based companies from the 19th century to the present day.

Textiles Collection

The Textiles Collection includes important groups of quilts, coverlets and embroidered samplers, as well as a wide range of flat textiles and fiber arts made, sold, or used in Virginia from the 18th century through the present day.

Notable items from the Textile Collection include:

  • Over 100 quilts made or used in Virginia with examples of all styles popular between the late-18th century and the present. This collection includes three rare examples of pre-Civil War quilts attributed to enslaved makers.
  • Over 50 woven coverlets made or used in Virginia including examples of overshot, double cloth, and jacquard weaves.
  • Over 40 samplers made or used in Virginia including one commemorating the Richmond theatre fire of 1811 and another the 1824-25 visit of the Marquis de Lafayette.
  • 19th-century draperies used in Virginia homes.
  • Hand-painted flags carried by Virginia regiments during and after the Civil War.
  • Contemporary fiber art works made by Richmond-based artists, including late 20th century batik designs by renowned textile artist Claudia Helen Jemmot and a steamroller printed map of Richmond created by design incubator Studio Two Three.

Accessing the Collection

Accessing the collection is by appointment only. For hours, fees and available services, see Research.

To access the collections online, see Search the Online Collections Database.

Submit a Research Request

For information about donating objects to the Valentine's collection, see
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