Fashion & Freedom exhibition catalogue

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Day dress, 1845 - 1850

This one piece day dress is made from purple shot silk, which is woven using pink horizontal (weft) threads and blue vertical (warp) threads. The sleeves are set low; effectively preventing the arms from being lifted comfortably above shoulder level. They flare out in a bell shape, and were known as ‘Pagoda’ sleeves. The bodice features pleating which becomes narrower at waist level, finishing at a point and emphasising the smallness of the corseted waist. The wide, floor-length skirt is gauged to the waist seam. Up to 6 petticoats were needed to create this attractive bell shape, and at least one of these would have contained horse-hair for stiffness. The weight and bulk of these undergarments encumbered the legs, especially when walking briskly. The dress and petticoats also caused a rustling sound as the wearer walked. 

Day dress, 1860 - 1865

One piece cotton dress which has been roller-printed with alternate green stripes and pink and brown floral sprigs. The green colour is likely to be a man-made dye. It has a round neckline and narrow neckband decorated with a frill to give a square yoke at the front. It fastens at the front with buttons and features long pagoda-style sleeves trimmed with a ruched frill. The long, full skirt has been tightly gathered into the waistband. It would have been supported with a cage crinoline. These emerged during the mid-1850s, and meant that women were freed from layers of hot, heavy petticoats. Made initially from cane or whalebone, sprung steel versions were soon the most common and were mass-produced during this era. Though they gave rise to much satirical comment, crinolines were worn from the top to the bottom of society by working women and ladies of leisure alike.


Tan coloured silk day dress, 1875 - 1876

Consisting of a separate bodice, trained skirt, overskirt and collar, this heavy ribbed silk gown is trimmed with lace, ribbon, bows and silk fringing. The skirt is cut to accommodate a bustle and features a decorative pocket. Worn by Miss Glen of Muckhatch Farm, Thorpe, this dress, which was probably kept for ’best’, is typically 1870s in its complexity and solidity.


Corset, 1885 - 1890

It is made from black cotton sateen and boned with steels. The corset has a straight front busk and fastens with studs and loops. It is further reinforced with string cording, which has been stitched by machine. The cording at this date was made from twisted paper twine; treated to make it washable and to give it strength. Though it looks formidable here, cording allowed for more supple figure control and reduced the number of steels required in a corset.

Bustle, 1872 - 1874 & Drawers, 1870 - 1874

Bustle petticoat in red and black striped twill weave cotton. It is threaded with 14 flexible steels. Black cotton tapes tie behind the legs to hold the required shape. It is of the ‘Jupon’ style which was fashionable during the early 1870s. Many different versions of bustles existed, but this type obliged the wearer to sit ‘side-saddle’, as it is not easily collapsible.

A pair of white cotton women's drawers. The legs are decorated with 2 bands of whitework embroidery and rows of tucks. They are ‘open’ drawers, which means that, for health and convenience, there is no joining seam from waist to crotch. Open drawers were worn by most women from the 1830s with closed versions available alongside open ones from the 1880s. Open drawers were still available during the first quarter of the 20th century. 

Bonnet, 1840 - 1850

Grey padded silk bonnet with a horseshoe shaped crown and deep hooded sides. The crown and the bottom edge are trimmed with a pleated band of pinked silk. It is lined with white silk and around the top of the bonnet are two encased grey draw ribbons which are tied in bows to adjust the fit. Bonnets which completely enclosed the side of the face were worn by most women during the 1840s as part of day wear. 


Chemise, 1840 - 1844

A chemise made from white linen. It has a wide neckline with linen draw tapes to adjust the fit. It is typically voluminous and extends to mid-calf level. The chemise was the garment that both women and men wore closest to their skin. The linen was effective at absorbing sweat and a wealthy person would change their chemise every day.


Mittens, 1875 - 1885

A pair of ladies long mint green silk mittens. They are finely machine knitted with diamond patterns. They were worn with evening dress and would have reached almost to the point where the sleeves of the dress began. Women were expected to cover their hands when in public. Mittens were kept on when eating, though gloves were removed for main meals.


Boots, 1867 - 1870

A pair of coffee coloured silk boots with rounded  toes. They fasten on the outer side with 8 glass buttons covered with silk. The brown leather soles are marked with ‘Paris’ and the silk-covered heels are made from wood. They are lined with white linen and have white kid leather insoles. Such boots may have been worn outdoors, but are not fit for practical walking along the dirty, dusty roads of the era. 

Pair of women’s shoes, 1830 - 1840

Lined with red silk, the toe caps and counters are made from natural coloured plaited straw, while the uppers feature braids of straw and horsehair. The soles are of brown leather. A rosette has also been added. This is a fine example of plaited straw work; a craft which originated in the making of hats, but which branched out to the decoration of other garments and accessories from the 18th century through to the 1870s.  Straw work shoes were very fashionable during the 1830s; a period known for its elaborate and sometimes frivolous accessories. Needless to say, these shoes are incredibly delicate. Although they would once have been more robust, they were never designed for anything more taxing than taking delicate steps and sitting elegantly in one’s parlour.

Woman’s bathing costume, 1868 - 1875

Made from black wool, this two piece costume has a wide, loose tunic top with a round neckline and short sleeves. The top fastens at the front and a belt is attached at the back and closed in front. The wide drawers are pleated with a drawstring for adjustment of fit. They fasten with a fly front and button closure. Both the tunic and drawers are decorated with blue wool braid and white stitching. Sea bathing had long been seen as a healthy pursuit for both men and women. This was the era of the bathing machine; a cart which was drawn to the water to allow the bather to change in private and then to climb down a ladder into the water. Some beaches were strictly segregated into male and female areas and women, whose bathing costumes got so heavy when wet, were not expected to swim far; only dipping in the water to receive its health properties.


Walking dress, 1870 - 1873

This day dress is made from heavily starched, undyed beige linen and decorated with chain stitch machine embroidery in ivory and beige cotton thread. It consists of a bodice, skirt and apron over-skirt. The over-skirt has two additional streamers attached to the waistband. Each component is trimmed with bands of the same linen fabric which has been pleated and stitched in place. In addition to the decoration, this ensemble has many fashionable features, such as the layered skirts and the need for a bustle to complete the look. However, there are some practical features which indicate its status as ‘Walking Dress’. The skirt would have been worn ankle-length rather than floor-length and has no train; making it easier to walk in. Unlike the usual day wear of the period, it is also fully washable. 

Day dress, 1897 - 1899

It is made by Court Dressmakers Sheldrake and Tapp and consists of a separate bodice and skirt in black and red silk brocade. The dress is embellished with black sequins and bead embroidery. It is lined with black cotton twill and is heavily boned. Machine lace has also been added to the sleeves. The skirt is long with a slight train at the back.


Hat, 1909 - 1911

This typically large Edwardian hat bears a Harrods label and is made from straw, covered with black silk velvet and decorated with pleated silk satin. The brim features a wired butterfly and the underside includes a layer of white lace. Wide hats were a distinctive fashion of the Edwardian period. They were worn on top of equally generous hairstyles which were often augmented with padding or false hairpieces.

Tennis ensemble, 1895 - 1905

Made from white cotton, it consists of a long-sleeved blouse and skirt with pale pink tape trimming. The collar and belt are separate; the collar being fastened in place with collar studs. It is cut in a very similar way to normal day wear of the same period.  The long sleeves, high collar and long skirt would have limited the wearer’s range of movement.


Cycling bloomers, c.1890 - 1910

© Hopkins Collection

These women’s bloomers are made from brown wool tweed. They fasten at the back with buttons and the seat is cut extremely generously. Unlike the tennis outfit, they are very practical and designed to allow the cyclist to pedal freely. Cycling bloomers were the first bifurcated, or divided, garments that were socially acceptable for women. This pair have been thriftily constructed from a recycled man’s suit.

Lent by the Hopkins Collection.


Corset, 1885 - 1895

Produced by the firm ‘Y&N’, which was known for its ‘diagonal seam’ designs, it is made from brown cotton sateen and features a steel spoon-shaped busk at the centre front. Steel or whalebone strips are encased in lighter coloured boning channels.


Stiff collar and box, 1901 - 1910

© Hopkins Collection

This woman’s collar is made from heavily starched linen and decorated with white work embroidery. Similar to a man’s collar, it was attached to a shirt with studs.

Lent by the Hopkins Collection.


Blouse, 1914 - 1920

It is made from soft cream silk, cut with a shawl collar and decorated simply with French knots. The ‘V’ shaped neckline marked the end of high, stiffened collars for women.  When the blouse was worn it was tucked into a skirt and the waist-tie was not visible.

Day dress, 1895 - 1905

© Petersfield Museum

This attractive cream silk gown is of the ‘Aesthetic’ style. The gathered bodice features smocking and cream silk embroidery. The sleeves are loosely cut to allow movement, and the skirt is simply decorated with tucks. Aesthetic dress was easy to wear and did not require corsetry. It offered an alternative for women who preferred not to be hindered by their clothing.

Lent by Petersfield Museum.


Bathing costume, 1905 - 1915

Bathing costume, 1905 - 1915

It consists of 2 pieces; an all-in-one body suit and separate modesty skirt. Despite appearing cumbersome to our eyes, this type of bathing suit was a considerable improvement on the Victorian example shown in the case nearby. This example is made from cotton rather than wool and fastens at the shoulder line; preventing it from coming adrift during swimming. 

Seaside walking dress, 1916 - 1920

This ensemble consists of a dress with a separate weighted tunic. It is designed to be worn for walking at the seaside, and was made by Madame Campbell, Court Dressmaker, of Bournemouth. The simple decoration, sailor-collar and attractive nautical-style stripes are typical of seaside wear. Shorter skirts, which coincided with greater freedom for women, were now the fashionable norm.

Boots, 1900 - 1910

Brown leather boots with oval toes and shaped, stacked heels. Each boot has 13 pairs of metal eyelets for lacing. They have fawn leather insoles and cotton and leather facings. Elegant yet practical boots made from durable materials were usual for day wear during the Edwardian period. Though buttoned versions were also popular, lace-ups offered greater comfort and scope for adjustment.

Evening gown, 1922 - 1924

This pink silk velvet evening dress is decorated with glass beads and beaded tassels. The waistline features 4 long velvet streamers. Beadwork and fringing was very fashionable during the 1920s. The style coincided with the craze for energetic dancing; the beads reflected the light as the wearer moved. The dress was made by Russell and Allen, a London store which flourished in the early 1900s.

Cigarette holder, 1920 - 1940

Woman’s cigarette holder. It is made from bone and is slightly tapered towards the end. The shaft is coloured in sepia and decorated with a design of a seated semi-naked woman. The mouthpiece is still stained with lipstick. Smoking became more common for women during the 1920s and this fun and slightly risqué design reflects a new and daring attitude.

Cosmetic set, 1930 - 1950

From the 1920s onwards, cosmetics were worn by many more women. Made by ‘Vogue Vanities’, this set is housed in a novelty box resembling a book and contains a powder compact and lipstick. Both items are decorated with the exotic 'Persian Legend' design. Inside the compact there is a felt cover, swansdown powder puff, powder guard and mirror.

Handbag, 1930 - 1960

A brown crocodile leather handbag lined with chamois leather. It belonged to Miss Olive Matthews, the originator of this collection of dress. A brass tag has been attached to the strap which bears her name and address. Handbags or reticules for women had been useful additions to the toilette since the early 19th century, but by the 20th century they had become essential accessories carried by virtually all women when out in public.

Shoes, 1925 - 1935

A pair of black silk satin evening shoes by A.G. Meek of Norwich. They fasten over the instep with a diamanté buckle. The Louis heels are lacquered in black and set with diamanté designs of cherubs and swirling patterns. They are lined with fawn cotton drill and cream leather with cream leather cloth insoles.

Apron, 1950 - 1960

A strapless printed cotton apron designed to be worn with evening wear. The apron has a boned bodice, is cut in 3 sections and all the seams are trimmed with yellow bias binding. A pocket is to be found on the right hand side and it is fastened with ties at the waist. A label inside reads ‘Tailored by Jacsam’. The 1950s saw many women return to traditional female roles after the Second World War, and this ‘evening apron’ epitomises the ‘domesticity’ of the era.

Suit, 1943 - 1945

It is of twill-woven wool and is made by American designer Hattie Carnegie. Shown with a replica blouse, the design is inspired by military uniforms and is very typical of boxy utilitarian women’s suits of the era. However, though practical, this American example is not bound by the austere rules of the Utility Scheme which was imposed on British garments of the time. Instead it features opulent ‘gold nugget’ buttons and a double collar.

Shoes, 1938 - 1947

This pair of women’s ‘peep-toe’ shoes is made from black suede leather. The fastening is of the sling-back type, and metal stud decoration has been added to the sides of the platform soles and tasselled rosettes. The heels are of the block or Cuban shape. Decorative yet functional accessories were an important aspect of fashion during wartime.

Evening gown, 1949 - 1955

Mustard yellow evening dress with white floral print. It is made from semi-transparent rayon and the full skirt is lined with yellow rayon. A further layer provides fullness. It consists of stiffened cotton or tarlatan. The dress is fastened at the centre back with a zip. Full-skirted gowns with narrow waists were part of the ‘New Look’; an ultra-feminine style initiated by Christian Dior in his Spring 1947 collection.

Shoes, 1960 - 1961

Made by Lennards, the uppers are of black imitation suede and have ‘winklepicker’ points at the toe. These were inspired by Medieval footwear. The heels contain a steel spigot to give strength; an innovation which allowed them to be much higher and narrower. The name ‘stiletto’ (after a type of dagger) was first used for heels during the 1930s, but the 1950s saw the stiletto shoe reach the mainstream.

Day dress, 1961 - 1963

Day dress of grey wool flannel by Mary Quant. It is sleeveless and collarless, and the circular skirt flares out from a drop-waist. Black and white cotton bands have been used to trim the neckline and to create a separate belt. Quant was one of the first of a new generation of designers; producing quirky, youthful styles for her own peer group. This simple, fun mini-dress is reminiscent of school uniform, but with a nod to the emancipated flapper era of the 1920s.

Bikini, 1965 - 1967

It is made from cotton and fastens with fabric ties. The bottoms are elasticated around the legs and waist. This bikini is a far cry from the voluminous bathing suits of the Victorian and Edwardian eras and shows how much Western attitudes had changed towards the female body and its public exposure.

Jacket & trousers, 1971

Shown with a replica blouse and shoes, this Mr Freedom ensemble is of cotton velvet. The jacket includes angular pocket flaps with zip closures and yellow top stitching. The flared trousers feature cream plastic buttons. The brainchild of Tommy Roberts, the Mr Freedom boutique began in King’s Road, Chelsea, West London; moving to Kensington Church Street in 1970. It sold modern, innovative ‘pop art’ style clothes. 

Evening dress, 1988

Designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, it is of salmon pink stretch satin and is firmly elasticated at the sides. It features his famous conical bust style which was based on the spiral-stitched brassieres of the 1950s. Gaultier pioneered ‘underwear as outerwear’ fashions, and shot to fame for designing Madonna’s stage outfits during her 1990 Blond Ambition tour.

Images by John Chase Photography