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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1885 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Liberty & Co. Ltd. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk lined with cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs W. O. Manning

  • Museum number:

    T.171 to I-1973

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The dress was made and worn by the wife of Sir Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1926). He was a sculptor and designed it for her. They were both interested in the dress reform movement and conceived the dress in accordance with the movement's principles so it did not restrict the waist and arms.

It fits a natural, uncorsetted figure and is cut fairly full, with smocking at the back and front. The sleeves are elbow-length puffs, smocked and gathered, to reflect historical styles. The skirts consist of an overskirt, draped with tapes and gathered up, and an underskirt, mounted on a white cotton lining and tied back.

The sewing is not professional and the dress has been altered. The Liberty's material is a thin, probably Indian, washing silk of a type that seldom survives.

Physical description

Dress of blue and white striped Liberty silk, with a set of nine fragments of the material.

The dress has a low, square neck and short-waisted bodice fastened at the back. It is cut fairly full and smocked at the back and front. The waist is round with the skirts attached. These consist of an overskirt, draped with tapes and gathered up to show an underskirt, mounted onto a white cotton lining and tied back with tapes. The sleeves are elbow-length puffs, smocked and gathered. Darker blue silk is used to face the bodice and sleeves.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1885 (made)


Liberty & Co. Ltd. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silk lined with cotton

Object history note

The dress was designed by Sir Hamo Thornycroft for his wife, Agatha Cox, who he married in 1884. The following letters, from the Archives at the Centre for the Study of Sculpture, Leeds, are from Agatha to her future husband and most likely pertain to this dress:

Letter 630/61

Marl Field House, Tonbridge [letterhead]

Jan 1st 1884

Dearest. The box from Liberty caused me a great deal of surprise and delight at your kindness in sending me such a lovely present. The stuff is beautiful and it has often been my ambition to have a dress of it but I cannot help reproaching you at the same time for indulging me to such an extent. I am just delighted with the gift itself, but, as you say, coming from you its value is greatly enhanced and I only wish that I might thank you for it properly. The question that arises is, how can I get it made into a wearable form? I am afraid the genius of the Tonbridge dressmakers is not sufficiently great to induce me to let them try their hands on it. But I cannot yet make up my mind on such a weighty and important subject. You see women are all alike; just as vain as one another! I have been considering already the design of the dress but I think you must help me with that. It requires great consideration -


Marlfield House

Jan. 8 84

I am going to get my dress made by a dress maker here, the only one think who can carry out instructions at all near the mark. I shall keep her well under my eye which will be possible if she comes here to work. I think conclusions we came to very satisfactory with regard to the dress the other night. I have a good idea of what it should be like. It was sweet of you to make so much trouble about it.


21 Jan

How sweet and thoughtful of you to send the lace and mittens, thoughtful because it was just what I wanted and was thinking of investing in the letter. The lace is lovely and will suit the Liberty gown.

Descriptive line

Silk dress and set of nine fragments of the material, England, ca. 1885.


Silk; Cotton


Woven; Woven


Fashion; Textiles; Women's clothes; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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