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  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1897 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Liberty & Co. Ltd. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk and cotton brocade, lined with taffeta, with a silk-satin front panel and silk-plush edgings

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This garment with its full sleeves and long, flowing silhouette owes much of its inspiration to Pre-Raphaelite dress. The gown consists of a flared front panel attached to an open, flowing robe which falls from pleats at the back. The front panel has a patch pocket on the right side which is hidden by the deep plush edging.

Materials & Making
The puffed sleeves, wide cuffs and velvet edgings are inspired by plain, loose 16th century gowns. The sunflower and pomegranate motif on the fabric was a recurring design on objects associated with the Aesthetic Movement. The subtle gold and brown tones were popular 'artistic' colours used in both dress and furnishing fabrics during the 1890s.

Pre-Raphaelite painters had clothed their models in plain, loose dresses based on the forms of 'early Medieval art'. The opening of Liberty's dress department in 1884 helped popularise the taste for aesthetic dress. The Liberty designs which ranged from aesthetic gowns and children's artistic dresses to more conventional 'tea-gowns' had a wide international appeal among the social elite.

Ownership & Use
This type of dress was seen as the healthy and aesthetic alternative to the corseted and constrictive fashions in conventional dress. Before long it was not only those with artistic leanings who chose to wear garments which fit more loosely. By the early 20th century many fashionable dresses had a softer shoulder line and a more natural silhouette.

Physical description

This garment was inspired by 16th-century long gowns, and it was made in Liberty's Artistic and Historic Costume Studio for a member of the Liberty family.

The fairly large scale woven pattern features pomegranates and sunflowers - both favoured late-19th-century decorative motifs. The gown consists of a flared front sateen panel attached to an open, flowing robe which falls from pleats at the back neck and has gathered double puffed sleeves with narrow under-sleeves. The sturdy materials combined with deep edgings of heavy plush and a stiff mid-blue taffeta lining give the robe a stately quality.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1897 (made)


Liberty & Co. Ltd. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silk and cotton brocade, lined with taffeta, with a silk-satin front panel and silk-plush edgings

Object history note

Made in the 'Artistic Costume Studio' of Liberty & Co Ltd.
Purchased from Susan Cowdy (nee Stewart Liberty, 1914-1996), who stated that the hat and dresses were worn 'by a member of the Liberty family'. Susan Cowdy's mother was Evelyn Katherine Phipps (1889-1966), so these pieces from the 1890s are possibly worn by her mother, Ada Rebecca Liberty (1853-1933).

Susan Cowdy's address was 'Swyllmers', The Lee, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.

Descriptive line

Dress with robe-like construction of brocaded silk and cotton, made by Liberty & Co., London, ca. 1897.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
In the late 19th century artistic women's dress was based on classical, Medieval, Pre-Raphaelite and Renaissance clothing. Liberty's opened their dress department in 1884 under the guidance of the Aesthetic designer E.W. Godwin. This robe combines references to historic dress with the sunflower motif characteristic of the style. [27/03/2003]


Fashion; Women's clothes; Informal wear; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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