Liberty in Fashion Exhibition Review

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Liberty in Fashion at the Fashion and Textiles Museum is an exhibition that highlights key fashion trends that Liberty fabric and fashion products have been part of, or lead since starting in the late 1800’s. The exhibition is a timeline of fashion pieces both made by professionals, as well as lovers of Liberty fabric. Liberty has been around a long time and it’s popularity, especially in fashion, has ebbed and flowed, depending on the trends at the time. Liberty has not however, changed face with each phase and this is what is so admirable about the company. They have stayed true to their beginnings and with every change in tide, have adapted to the market place.

Some of my favourite pieces from the exhibition, show key fashion trends of Liberty over the decades.

 

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This silk cap, C1860’s, has the most beautifully decorated hood. I’m doubtful you were ever supposed to were it up, as those tassels look like they might get in the way. Featuring gorgeous embroidered flowers and a paisley pattern.

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This silk Kimono C1920’s again has the most stunning nature inspired embroidery and I just love the shape of the sleeves. Both of these show that to begin with the importation was very much bringing in the oriental styles from Asian.

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This picture is a close up of the sleeve on a rayon dress from around 1915. I thought this was such a delicate and interesting detail on quite a simple looking dress. Something I will definitely consider using as a feature in future makes. This was the start of influence from Asian fashion to European fashion, having much less structure and more fluidity in shape and form.

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This is a dress design made by Liberty in the early 1960’s. I love this style of dress. Classic, simple, a little bit sexy, but definitely sophisticated.

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A key fashion feature of Liberty, is their use of smocking. I love this almost Scandinavian children’s ensemble from 1975, which consists of a tunic, skirt and overdress. You can see how smocking has been used across the body and shoulders to allow for movement and sustained life of the garment. The embroidery shows the ongoing links to nature in the use of pattern.

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This silk dress from the 1930’s has this beautiful appliqué flower collar, again showing the ongoing floral trend in Liberty fabrics.

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This dress from the 1970’s shows how Liberty still had links with it’s beginnings in Orientalism, but how the two had become less separated as seen in the use of a 1/4 circle skirt and broidery anglaise trim.

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Liberty in later years began to collaborate with fashion designers such as Jimmy Choo 1999. Personally I think this fabric still has some oriental links. as the flowers looks like cherry blossom.

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Vivienne Westwood Red Label for her Spring/Summer 2013 collection. Again clear links to the use of florals.

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And more recently Suzani Circles in her Autumn/Winter 2016 collection. less obvious nature patterns, but does link to Indian block printing shapes.

All three showing how liberty print is adaptable, but never strays far from it’s origins.

 

Overall this was an interesting exhibition, but personally I get a better idea of their history from going to their shop in London. The stair cases, window pains and many many floors of products, from scarves to carpets speaks more to me of a rich past, than carefully displayed mannequins and thoughtfully chosen excerpts from their archives.

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