Why have cotton when you can have silk

A display of Victorian outfits, three ladies and one boys

A new exhibition entitled ‘Why have cotton when you can have silk? at Arlington Court shows how silk is made, used and cared for

This well-known phrase, used to market Galaxy chocolate in the 1990s, captures the theme of the 2018 temporary exhibition at Arlington. It explores how silk is made, used and cared for. Items from the small costume and textile collection will on display, including objects previously not seen as they show serious signs of the damage that can happen to silk. Silk was so expensive it was often bought but not used for many years; one dress on display dates from the 1840s but the fabric is eighteenth century.

Learn about the life cycle of the mulberry leaf eating silk worms and the process of how silk is made. Discover some of the ways environmental conditions and insect pests can cause irreversible damage. 

The exhibition explores how silk was used not just for luxurious clothing but also furnishing textiles and the interiors of carriages. Arlington Court has two rooms with original 1830s silk wall hangings which are showing their age so you’ll also be able to see how they are being looked after.