Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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gown 1966.171
gown back 1966.171
gown back detail 1966.171

The aesthetic dress movement of the 1870s and 1880s looked to reform the type of restrictive clothing worn by fashionable women, especially the appearance of over-tight corsets and narrow shackling skirts. Perhaps first originating with Amelia Bloomer's trousers in the 1850s (see below), by the end of the nineteenth century, this movement had its greatest effect in the design of domestic undress wear, specifically tea-gowns which could be used for a variety of "at home" entertaining occasions. Loosely flowing and obviously base on a Grecian or sculptural model, these dresses provided a classical timeless shape, free from fussy over-trimmed decoration.

The London firm of Liberty & Co was established in 1875, first selling products influenced by the Orient and slanted to an artistic market. They were prime retailers of these tea-gowns, and their booklets of designs showed dresses which could be chosen and ordered. This example from around 1910 has charming embroidery around the neck, yoke and cuffs, and is typically loose and full, not fitted to the figure at all.

Full item descriptions:

"aesthetic dress & teagown" [1966.171], Liberty & Co

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