Dress by Liberty & Co, 1910-12, Powerhouse Museum
Museum no. T.57-1976
This garment with its full sleeves and long, flowing silhouette owes much of its inspiration to Pre-Raphaelite dress. The gown consists of a flared front panel attached to an open, flowing robe which falls from pleats at the back. The front panel has a patch pocket on the right side which is hidden by the deep plush edging.
The puffed sleeves, wide cuffs and velvet edgings are inspired by plain, loose 16th century gowns. The sunflower and pomegranate motif on the fabric was a recurring design on objects associated with the Aesthetic Movement. The subtle gold and brown tones were popular ‘artistic’ colours used in both dress and furnishing fabrics during the 189
“Aesthetic dress was part of a wider aesthetic movement, supported by artists and bohemians such as Oscar Wilde, who were rebelling against the contemporary fashion which they saw as restrictive, deforming to the natural figure and over embellished. Instead they preferred looser cut garments which followed the Medieval and Renaissance look in Pre-Raphelite paintings.
They believed looser, un-corseted styles were more conducive to good health, and could therefore show more natural beauty. In mainstream fashion, the use of bright and gaudy analine dyes was scorned by the Aesthetes, who preferred materials such as silk and velvet dyed in softer natural colours like sage green, amber and terracotta. ”
A wonderfully romantic watered silk house dress from 1888. It shows heavy influence from the Aesthetic Movement and I think it would look right at home in a Pre-Raphaelite painting. It was made by L. Tompkins in South Kensington, London.
“By the 1880s, women’s fashion had left the wide skirted Crinoline of the 1860s and the full gathered lower skirts of the 1870s behind. However, the resulting fashion was no less restrictive or awkward. Bodices were still tightly corseted and skirts were bulky and heavily decorated, supported by bustle pads which emphasised the drapery, frills and swags which had become increasingly popular. This dress however, is very different. Its style is loose, and it lacks all the popular features of this period. Its style, colour and materials all are characteristic of what became known as ‘Aesthetic Dress’, which was popular with a minority group of people for the closing decades of the 19th century.”
This is a water silk dress from 1888.
Liberty & Co. aesthetic tea gown ca. 1894 via The Victoria & Albert Museum