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Dress

Dress

Dress

Circa 1888

Lace over silk, trimmed with silk ribbon and lace.

Acquired from the collection of Doris Langley Moore.

This dress previously belonged to Doris Langley Moore, whose collection formed the basis of the Museum of Costume (now the Fashion Museum) in Bath. It was modelled by the Swedish actress Mai Zetterling in Moore’s book The Woman in Fashion of 1949.

The John Bright Collection owns two first edition copies that belonged to the author, one inscribed to her sister. In the preface, Moore described how she was able to use many of her eminent friends from the world of stage, screen and society to model the clothes in the book, and those who appear include the dancer Moira Shearer, actresses Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, and opera singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. The format was chronological, with text relating to each outfit.

In the text for this dress, Moore discusses the popularity of asymmetry in the 1880s, shortly to go out of fashion, and the relative simplicity of the cut of the skirt in contrast to that of a few years earlier, when the bustle was at its most exaggerated. She describes how machine-made lace was available to home dressmakers in shaped pieces, to be put together without having to cut into the pattern. She then goes on to expound her theory of the alternations of concealment and revelation in fashion: ‘When one part of the body is exposed, another is sure to be withdrawn from sight’. In the case of this dress, feminine curves are exaggerated, but the body is almost completely covered.

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