Behind the doors of The Hampshire Wardrobe

While on my way to another of Winchester Fashion Week’s events, the opening of the Hampshire Wardrobe to the public, I had no idea what to expect. It was well outside winchester but set back away from the traffic, down a small lane lined with trees and paddocks and a few houses. An unassuming building from the outside but brimming with every costume you could possibly imagine!

I was awed by the sheer amount of clothes and accessories, from Scottish traditional dress, to Victorian Police uniforms, crinoline skirts to cute ‘60s minidresses. It seems they have everything that you could possibly want to dress up as, even a Scooby Doo suit!

When you walk in, there is a room with dressing rooms and a couple of rails of clothes, but the next room really hits you as you realise that rails upon rails are separated by only a half-meter gap, with wall shelves in every available space, filled with shoes, hats, wigs, props and even fancy parasols and umbrellas.

The women that work there were all helpful and from watching them help customers, I got the sense that they really love their jobs. They take care of the costumes, cleaning and repairing each as they are returned to the Wardrobe, as well as altering them to fit individual customers before they are loaned out.

This personal service can easily be dwarfed by the sheer size of the collection, however each rail is clearly labelled so finding what you are interested is easy as pie.

I was particularly enthralled by the collection of shoes; there were glittery, gaudy, 80s style lace-up platform boots, as well as petit satin wedding shoes, ballet shoes, victorian pumps, Japanese geta, leather cowboy boots and even embroidered mongolian slippers. That and the huge collections of hats, bags and costume jewellery!

But the Wardrobe doesn’t just loan costumes for parties; they also supply drama groups, photoshoots and all sorts of other organisations. Including putting together ‘talking boxes’ for schools, such as the Evacuees Suitcase which are designed to be used alongside history classes.

The best thing about the Hampshire Wardrobe was the huge mixture of modern fancy dress costumes, newly-made period costume and original vintage pieces. You could actually wear a piece of history! The parties that these costumes would have seen…

words and photographs bryony symes

2 Responses to “Behind the doors of The Hampshire Wardrobe”
  1. Sounds brilliant, my biggest problem with places like that is always trying to find things so it’s a relief to hear that everything is well spaced out and clearly labelled!

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