The Mitchell Collection of Costume

waist detail

The Mitchell collection of costume was kindly donated to the museums in 1991 from an enthusiastic local collector, Mrs Kathleen Mitchell. From corsets to capes and bodices to boots the collection of more than 450 items of costume and accessories contains many exquisite examples of historic costume especially from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. As with many museum collections, the story of its creation is as interesting as the objects themselves.

Mrs Mitchell

Mitchell Collection
Kathleen Mitchell (nee Stacey) was born in Sheffield in 1912, and moved to Hull in 1950 to teach at St Johns Church of England School. She and her husband John Mitchell organised barn dances between two local schools. Despite initial problems making the boys and girls dance country dances together in a time of Rock and Roll, her enthusiasm was infectious enough to make the events a great success.

The Mitchell's were well known within the Folk music and dance world. Kathy led a local branch of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), which flourished under her leadership. She organised the Whitby EFDSS festival, and taught country dancing and sword dancing and prepared the Country Dance Demonstration Team. She was treasured as great teacher and very gentle woman, and in recognition of this was presented with the Gold Badge by the Society in 1978, the highest award they could bestow.


Collecting costume


Kathy Mitchell's collection of costume was a personal hobby arising from a genuine interest and love of historical costume. She amassed such a large number of items that it virtually took over her house. She collected items from wherever she found them; second hand shops, auctions or through donations. Pat Raine, a local costume expert and friend to Mrs Mitchell, recalls meeting Mrs Mitchell after an introduction by a mutual friend. Kathy had been pleased to show her collection to a fellow costume enthusiast and someone who used the fashion and historical context of many items.

Sadly very little of the collection has any known provenance due to the various methods of collection, but living in Hull and Sheffield makes it likely that many of the costumes have a local connection to the city and the wider Yorkshire area.

Donation to the museum

Mitchell Collection
Kathy had talked to Hull Museums before her death about donating a few key items which were historically important, and a good addition to their collections. Unfortunately this had not been completed before she died in June 1990.The executor of her estate was kind enough to donate the entire collection to the museums including an extensive collection of slides, showing the costume photographed by Mrs Mitchell in her garden, sometimes on live models, a practice not advocated with historical dress today.

Acknowledgments


Many thanks to Pat Raine for kindly supplying this information on Kathy Mitchell. Pat has assisted Hull Museums many times by providing research and expertise on costume items. The museums wish to acknowledge her long standing support.

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