Cork or costume, in São Brás de Alportel?


The Museu do Traje, or Costume Museum, in São Brás de Alportel is quite a fascinating place. Housed in a beautiful nineteenth century palace, I was aware of it’s existence but had never before managed to be in the right place at exactly the right time.  A cool, but sunny, Sunday afternoon proved just perfect.  At 2.15pm a cheerful gentleman wielding a huge metal key unlocked the graceful gates and the voyage of discovery began.

Elaborate high ceilings and chandeliers stop me in my tracks.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but the style and shape of the doorways pins an instant smile to my face.  In the first small foyer an exhibition, ‘The Wheels of Time’, sets the scene.  Beyond this I step into the fashion plates of an old world magazine.  I know that my daughter would be in her element here, and try to capture some of the details for her.



In a darkened alcove I find two stunning Art Nouveau pieces.  A corridor leads from here to a kitchen, laid out with local produce for sale.

But for me the detail that I most enjoy is the way that the shutters fold open over the delicate glass panels above the doors.  The sunlight through the windows makes those shadows sing. And don’t miss the keyhole, will you?


Just when I think that I’ve seen all the delights available and am about to step outside, the curator beckons me in some agitation.  I have missed something crucial.  You see, this isn’t only a costume museum.  It is also the home of cork.

I’m led out of a side door and across to a large barn.  A screen is suspended in the centre and at the push of a button a film begins.  It demonstrates the whole process of cork production, from the growth of the oaks, the periodic cutting of the bark, the boiling to kill tanins and the pressing and cutting into the final products.  It is an incredible tribute to man’s ingenuity. Within the barn are a variety of displays.  A huge press presides over a selection of harnesses and carriages.  Outside, a pleasant garden offers more.

A modern auditorium has been added to the grounds and Sunday evenings host a programme of concerts.  A jazz musician is setting up as I depart. In addition there are lessons in everything from making bobbin lace to bridge classes and choir throughout the week.  It’s good to see the local community getting behind the upkeep of this lovely property.  I hope you’ve enjoyed looking around with me and, for those who might be interested, I’ve enclosed a video telling a little more about the life of cork.

P.S If you’d like to know a little more about the history of the building take a look at Becky’s post.  She managed some great research.


  1. uno speciale amore per cogliere i particolari! alcune immagini sono così spettacolari da togliere il fiato!
    grande Giovanna
    ti mando un grande bacio
    Annalisa, ringraziandoti per i bei momenti che ho passato in compagnia della tua arte fotografica 🙂

  2. I’m happy to see that you have overcome the terrible flu, Jo. And thank you for taking us along to this marvelous place with its superb collections.
    A terific photostory – you should send a link to the museum. 😉
    Best regards from Norwy, too warm, please send the cold weather up North where it belongs! 🙂
    Dina x

  3. Goodness, what an interesting museum and video. I feel like I have gone from a cork nobody to an instant cork specialist! Thanks Jo. I’ll never look at my coffee coaster in the same way again!

  4. So many unexpected things in this world, and you keep winkling out more. I read this ages ago, but I’m a bit time poor with the mob here. If only they didn’t eat!!! Still time to send a few hugs your way.

    1. It is a bit of an odd combination. Sometimes you see it named as the Ethnographic Museum- folk costume and such, but it’s a lovely old building and I don’t really mind what’s inside so long as it’s preserved. 🙂

    1. I love it when I see them being used originally, Ann, because the corks in bottles era has rather gone. I saw some cork postcards the other day and I was positively skipping! How are you, anyway? 🙂

      1. All good, Jo. Just pre-occupied with de-cluttering. Seem to spend half my life doing that task. It’s only till the end of this month though and then I will give it a break.

  5. Ha! My wife and I began collecting corks several years ago as souvenirs to remember great occasions. We have an enormous vase and several drawers littered with these little guys. Think you just gave me an idea to put them to use!

      1. hehehe you’re too modest. And I’m having too much fun causing trouble in the blogosphere to slow down on my blogging (too much). But sure, I’ll be sure to share any corky creations worthy of public consumption.

  6. It blows my mind that so much wealth was created from cork! And ‘cork speculation’?!? Who would have thunk. Once again I was attracted to every image with that endless Algarve blue sky. And with regard to the dresses, I thought to myself, thank goodness I don’t have to sport one of those about on Amandla!

      1. I will tell you that when I was a kid, I LOVED 1800s wear …I was in my ‘Little House on the Prairie phase. But once I found my final frontier, sportswear just seemed more practical 😊. I think it’s cool that your daughter dresses in that fashion!

    1. I don’t know about down your way but it’s flippin cold up here, Sherri 🙂 I’m just about over the flu but staying in the Algarve would have been a great option. 🙂 🙂

      1. yes… I would not – but I do wonder.
        I had so much fun looking at all the details here. that old sideboard (or buffet) has my favorite color wood – a dark walnut maybe?

  7. I love the costumes of past eras! I used to work at a historical park here in Texas and wore clothing in the style of the 1830s and 1890s at times, and no it wasn’t too hot! All that cloth keeps you insulated from the hot air, I think, and also, the natural fibers breathe so nicely.
    But I really love seeing the authentic clothing and the beautiful detailing, so thank you for sharing!

    1. There aren’t too many of these places around and it’s good to see them being put to such good use. I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks for your comment. 🙂 🙂

  8. When I saw that first image with the wire framed mannequin I immediately thought of your Lisa. Does she ever visit Tavira with you? This certainly looks like her kind of place. My favourites have to be the ceiling, the doors and fanlights and of course that keyhole and door knocker! Do you reckon Rafa will be joining Roger on Sunday?

    1. They did visit once, Jude, before Leo took ill, and if we do make the move I know that she’ll love this place. As do I 🙂
      Very nervous this morning, just thinking about the match, but we’ll soon know. Roger and Stan were amazing to watch. Funny in the interview after when Roger said it was only a couple of months since they were at Rafa’s tennis academy playing a kid’s event. Him on one leg and Raf with one hand, they could just about keep up with the youngsters. 🙂 🙂

  9. What a strange time for a museum to open… I could see this in French countries or islands, where the lunch break is extensive. Maybe in Portugal as well? Did you try one on, Jo? I mean a costume, not a cork!

    1. I think they open for a couple of hours in the morning too, Liesbet. Very laidback and we had the place entirely to ourselves so you can’t blame them. 🙂 Sadly there wasn’t a dressing up corner. Missing a trick cos there often are these days, for the kids at least 🙂

  10. What a fascinating find – wonderful architecture and interesting history. The clothes standing on models like that are a little eerie though – don’t think I’d like to visit at night!

      1. When I see photos of our pioneer women wearing garments like these, I wonder how they managed in the summer with temperatures over 30 degrees C. Poor things, they must have keeled over at times.

  11. This is my kind of place to visit. I find it interesting to see how people used to live and dress. What a stunning place the museum is housed in. Love the chandelier.

    1. You did a post, didn’t you? I was going to link up but couldn’t find it from your search box. These things never work, do they? I should have popped over and asked but I have half an eye on the tennis and just wanted to get the post up. Sorry! 😦

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