Research: ‘Aesthetic’ robe

by Sophea

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V&A archives: ‘Aesthetic’ robe, 1894. Made of silk velvet and Liberty hop and ribbon damask. Trimmed with bands of satin stitched embroidery in silk, embroidered with beads. It was made in the ‘Artistic costume studio’ of Liberty and Co LTD, London for a member of the liberty family.

Women began basing their dress on classical, medieval and Renaissance clothing. Liberties opened their dress department in 1884 under the guidance of Aesthetic designer E.W. Godwin.

‘Aestheticism was a fashionable style of living developed from the late 1860’s. It was based on the philosophy of ‘art for art’s sake’ – the idea that art needed no other purpose than to be beautiful’ – quote from a plaque at the V&A; this is very relevant to my work as the idea of dressing at this time was very much about practicality as London became more industrialist, but also kept in tune with the beauty of surface decoration and the finishing of dress making to a high and ‘beautiful’ standard.

‘The style combined newly fashionable Japanese forms’, Japanese art and design began to have a massive impact on Victorian Britain; this also meant fashion. ‘Certain motifs and techniques became highly popular, most notably peacock, sunflowers and fans. Aestheticism was associated with a small but influential group of writers and artists, including Oscar Wilde, J.M. Whistler and the actress Ellen Terry.’

This is not something which applies to my costume but it is good to put the design in context to what movements were happening at the time.