Wendy’s Week. Knickers, Pants & Worthing Museum

By Wendy Hughes

Worthing MuseumWorthing museum and art gallery

I wonder how many people from the area have visited our local Worthing Museum. Although I have popped in to see the odd item or two, I’ve never really had a good look around, so I decided to look at the museum. And when I was offered a ‘behind the scenes tour,’ I jumped at the opportunity, and was surprised to learn that the museum  is the home of more than 30,000 pieces of costume and textiles, thought to be largest  outside London next to the Victoria and Albert.

It dates back to the 17th century, and includes an impressive collection of 800 pairs of shoes, the most famous being a pair belonging to Her Royal Highness Princess Amelia dating to 1798. Also included is a very diverse collection of jewellery, fans and parasols, and contains an array of homemade items, altered pieces, as well as high street fashions.

Queen Victoria BloomersPair of Queen Victoria’s knickers – similar to the one in Worthing museum

There are aisles upon aisles of boxes stacked to the ceiling, and vast hanging rails, but two things intrigued me, a pair of Queen Victoria’s knickers and a pair of David Bowie’s trousers left at the Assembly Halls long before he was famous.  Queen Victoria’s crotch-less 52-inch waist bloomers were donated to the museum in the Fifties after being purchased at a garden party at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. They are not in pristine condition and have definitely been worn.  The queen was in the habit of giving her used knickers as presents to her ladies- in-waiting, and to any female in the household she was visiting. There’s a story that, just before he died, Prince Albert saw a pair of her knickers in the window of a charity shop in Windsor and said they were his wife’s.

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust Album Cover

Another item that caught my eye was a pair of David Bowie’s trousers that had been worn by David Bowie at Worthing’s Assembly Hall on 11 May 1972 during his Ziggy Stardust tour. In comparison, the 52-inch waist knickers of Queen Victoria look enormous against Bowie’s mere 22 inch trousers.  It was thought they had been lost within the vast collection, but when they were discovered they had to be researched and authenticated before they could go on display.

“The trousers, which are now classified as museum accession number 1983/419, were donated by Mr J Fowle in 1983 and as a result of historic changes to the curatorial team they were unveiled as part of the ongoing collection cataloguing which enabled their inclusion in a digital database of the collection funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

The trousers, which are now displayed on the ground floor of the museum, feature a diamante hem detail, and are backed in black crepe.  They also have a zip fastening and include flares measuring three-feet in circumference which required four panels of fabric for their creation.



  • Wendy Hughes

    About Wendy Hughes Wendy Hughes turned to writing in 1989 when ill health and poor vision forced her into early medical retirement. Between then and her death in January 2019 twenty-six non-fiction books and over 1700 articles, on a variety of subjects were published. Her work appeared in magazines as diverse as The Lady, Funeral Service Journal, On the Road, 3 rd Stone, Celtic Connections, Best of British and Guiding. For many years Wendy campaigned and wrote tirelessly on behalf of people affected by Stickler Syndrome, a disorder from which she suffered. She founded the Stickler Syndrome Support Group and raised awareness of the condition amongst the medical profession and produced the group’s literature. Additionally she gave talks and instruction on the craft of writing, was membership secretary of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and was a member of the Society of Authors. Her catalogue of History Press publications is still available.

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