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Evening dress

Evening dress

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    c.1948 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Etches, Matilda (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    silk jersey, satin, boning, grosgrain

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Sylvia Harris

  • Museum number:

    T.94-2016

  • Gallery location:

    Fashion, Room 40, case CA13

This very beautiful green jersey gown was given to the donor's older sister as a gift from a gentleman friend. According to the donor, her sister never wore the gown out, but only occasionally wore it around the house, which would explain why it has survived in such perfect condition.

Matilda Etches (1898-1974) was a very interesting, underrated London couturier who was recently covered by Jonathan Faiers in an article for the V&A publication London Couture 1923-1975: British Luxury (pp.137-143). She worked from the mid-1930s to 1956. During the 1930s she was a friend of the couturier Charles James. He was known for his impeccable cutting and construction, and often mounted his dresses on beautifully coloured linings to showcase the beauty of the interiors. In this dress, Etches has used a rose-pink silk satin for the interior corselet which complements the dark emerald green jersey of the outer gown.

Etches was also an inspired cutter, something that she shared with James, although her approach was more intuitive than his extremely disciplined mathematical approach. She worked by draping directly to the figure, something that is particularly appreciable in this gown that relies so heavily on flowing, almost free style draping for both conception and impact. The dress is constructed as a pure wrap, opening up completely from bodice to hem, meaning that it can be laid out completely flat to expose the interior corselet. This wrap styling also enables the flowing fullness of the skirt to seamlessly extend from the skirt folds to form a cloak or mantle that attaches to the wearer's shoulder. The drapery can also be worn as a train, as a hood, or in various other ways at the wearer's whim, offering a variety of looks in one gown. The garment therefore is simultaneously gown and various forms of cloak, a quite surreal concept that exemplifies the designer's approach.

Physical description

Dark green silk jersey evening dress, full length, the draped bodice mounted on a pink satin interior corselet with waist stay in grosgrain, the skirt extending into a mantle/cloak. The skirt fabric can also be worn as a flowing train, draped over the head as a hood, or draped around the neck.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

c.1948 (made)

Artist/maker

Etches, Matilda (designer)

Materials and Techniques

silk jersey, satin, boning, grosgrain

Dimensions

Length: 116 cm top of bodice to hem, Circumference: 79 cm waist, Circumference: 95 cm bust

Object history note

This very beautiful green jersey gown was given to the donor's older sister as a gift from a gentleman friend. According to the donor, her sister never wore the gown out, but only occasionally wore it around the house, which would explain why it has survived in such perfect condition.

Matilda Etches (1898-1974) is a very interesting, underrated London couturier who was recently covered by Jonathan Faiers in an article for the V&A publication London Couture 1923-1975: British Luxury (pp.137-143). She worked from the mid-1930s to 1956.

During the 1930s Etches was a close friend of the couturier Charles James who was known for his impeccable cutting and construction, and often mounted his dresses on beautifully coloured linings to showcase the beauty of the interiors. In this dress, Etches has used a rose-pink silk satin for the interior corselet which contrasts beautifully with the dark emerald green jersey of the outer gown. Etches was also an inspired cutter, something that she shared with James, although her approach was more intuitive than his extremely disciplined mathematical approach. She worked by draping directly to the figure, something that is particularly appreciable in this gown that relies so heavily on flowing, almost free style draping for both conception and impact. The dress is constructed as a pure wrap, opening up completely from bodice to hem, meaning that it can be laid out completely flat to expose the interior corselet. This wrap styling also enables the flowing fullness of the skirt to seamlessly extend from the skirt folds to form a cloak or mantle that attaches to the wearer's shoulder. The drapery can also be worn as a train, as a hood, or in various other ways at the wearer's whim, offering a variety of looks in one gown. The garment therefore is simultaneously gown and various forms of cloak, a quite surreal concept that exemplifies the designer's approach.

Matilda Etches's fashion pieces are extremely rare. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a small but good representation of her work thanks in part to the designer's own donation of archive pieces in 1969, but including a 1973 donation of a quilted dress and jacket, the only other piece we have from one of Etches's original clients. In the collection she is already represented by three dresses (black quilted silk, turquoise and white striped gauze, and brown batik print cotton), a fringed chenille evening coat and two versions of a sculptural pleated cape, one in black taffeta, the other in red and black grosgrain ribbons. These are all quite constructed, geometric garments which makes this fluid jersey gown an excellent illustration of the designer's versatility and ability in a completely different type of fabric.

- Daniel Milford-Cottam
19/07/2016

Descriptive line

Matilda Etches. Evening gown in green silk jersey, wraparound style, the skirt extending into a mantle. London, late 1940s.

Materials

Silk jersey; Satin; Grosgrain

Techniques

Sewing

Categories

Fashion; Evening wear; Women's clothes; Formal wear

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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