Queen Victoria's knickers could get a public airing later this year.

The crotchless bloomers with a 52in waist form part of a fashion collection at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery.

They were donated to the museum in the Fifties after being bought at a garden party.

Costume curator Ann Wise said: "Queen Victoria had a habit of giving her used knickers as presents to her ladies in waiting and the ladies of the houses 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.

"This pair were purchased at a garden party at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. They are not in pristine condition and have definitely been worn.

"All women at that time wore crotchless knickers because they thought gussets were unhealthy.

"They are huge. She was a very short and very dumpy woman."

Asked if the knickers would be on display ready for the Queen's Golden Jubilee visit in June, Ann said: "I think that might be a bit risque.

"We might display them later this year, though, because underwear exhibitions are very popular."

The royal knickers nestle beside high fashion items dating from 1600 in one of the most extensive collections in the UK.

Its latest acquisition is a set of more than 40 Second World War fashion sketches donated by Worthing resident Jean Goodwin.

She was an art student in Croydon between 1942 and 1943, when she produced the depictions of typical wartime fashions.

Mrs Goodwin, whose grandfather, Walter Gardiner, was the mayor of Worthing in 1926, went on to illustrate trends in women's magazines and the Co-op newspaper while working in London as a commercial artist.

The sketches are the first examples the museum has owned of fashion drawings from the Forties. Paper supplies were rationed during the war and few images have survived from that period.

For more information about the exhibition, call 01903 239999.