Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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1908-1909 liberty dress (1947.4261)
dress 1978.264
dress 1956.6

Men and women in ancient Greece both wore the chiton, a simple, loosely draping, unisex tunic, comprising a large, rectangular length of soft wool or linen, pinned at the shoulders. The chiton could be worn in various ways, fastened on one shoulder or both, and drawn into the waist with a single cord belt or with several. People in ancient Rome generally wore the toga, a voluminous, semi-circular piece of fabric, which could be wrapped around the body in many different ways. The neo-classical movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries looked back to these classical civilisations, seeking the apparent simplicity of their ideals in reaction to the excesses of a ruling aristocracy.

In women's dress, a highered waistline and loose silhouette were used to reflect purity and simplicity, and the unstructured loosely draping silhouette was suggestive of fine sculpture. Liberty & Co in the later nineteenth century also drew on classical influences as seen in the three designs shown below and dating from around 1910. Classical styles have also inspired more modern designers, especially the japanese, as seen in this pleated evening gown of peppermint green polyester jersey by Japanese-born Miyazaki-ken Yuki. His garments are pleated and folded with painstaking attention to detail to ensure the perfect drape, and they are constructed so that fabric falls away from the body and ripples like waves as the wearer moves.

Full item descriptions:

"aesthetic dress" [1947.4261], Liberty & Co
"evening dress" [1978.264], Yuki, Rembrandt
"dress" [1956.6]