Tea Gown c. 1885 Liberty

Artistic dress had its roots in mid-Victorian England, where Pre-Raphaelite artists, with their love of things medieval, and disdain of industrialized society, revived a version of the loose fitting, relatively plain gowns of that time. Its successor, Aesthetic dress, drew from the same design, but not philosophical, resources. In 1884, Liberty & Co. hired Edward William Godwin, an architect and proponent of Aesthetic dress and dress reform, to head their new costume department. This tea gown, with its light corseting and bustle is a more fashionable adaptation of the Aesthetic style. An unusually early, and quite beautiful, example of Liberty clothing, it is executed in the company’s distinctive light and supple silks. With its simple adornment and pale colors, it stands in marked contrast to the heavily embellished, confining, vividly colored costumes of the day. This style of dress became particularly popular as at-home wear because it was both comfortable and appropriate for greeting visitors.

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