Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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1907-1909 red cloth outfit back (1947.2507)
1907-1909 red cloth outfit (1947.2507)
1907-1909 red cloth outfit detail (1947.2507)
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1893-1896 dress (1947.4192)
1908-1910 coat & skirt (1956.272)
1907-1910 dress & jacket (1956.274)
1915 suit (1960.168/3)

From the 1890s, the tailor-made suit transformed the working woman's wardrobe, providing a range of practical but smart outfits for a selection of activities, and reflecting women's new-found career and travel opportunities. Although this 2-piece suit in fine red facecloth was by no means a cheap purchase, it was not worn by a very wealthy women, but rather by someone middle class for visiting town, perhaps for Church or committee type work or for social calls. It has a long jacket, fitting over the hips, and with masculine style revers and collar, in a style known as "Newmarket", with a matching full-length skirt. For display, the suit has been accessorised with an appropriate hat of the same date.

This outfit is on view in the Gallery of Costume in an exhibition called "A Suit of her Own", focusing on the new avenues available to women in sport, work, and travel from the late nineteenth century to about 1914, and illustrating the range of new garments developed to facilitate these activities, usually by male tailors working with woollen cloth, rather than female dress-makers using lighter fabrics. Four other outfits from the display are shown below, as is the pattern for a woman's jacket of the 1890s (like the brown woollen suit), as well as a Punch cartoon showing a cyclist in a matching tweed suit.

Full item descriptions:

"suit" [1947.2507]
"dress" [1947.4192]
"coat & skirt" [1956.272], Horan Smith & Goulden Ltd.
"dress & jacket" [1956.274], Horan Smith & Goulden Ltd.
"suit & blouse" [1960.168/3], Brown Bros.

Related Themes:

Suits for Men & Women