Evening dress

Design House: Attributed to Liberty & Co. (British, founded London, 1875)

Date: 1880s

Culture: British

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Purchase, Gifts from Various Donors, 1985

Accession Number: 1985.155


Liberty and Co. began designing dresses in 1884, under the supervision of architect E. A. Godwin, who shared Oscar Wilde's views that women's dress should be based on Grecian draping and classical form. This is a rare early example of a sumptuous, neoclassically draped dress. The bodice is lightly boned and the underskirt features the traditional dust ruffle.

Oscar Wilde wrote an article entitled "Woman's Dress" for the Pall Mall Gazette on October 14, 1884, to rebut some of the letters written to the Gazette about his recent lectures on dress reform. Wilde explained his principles of dress: "I am not proposing any antiquarian revival of ancient costume, but tying merely to point out the right laws of dress, laws which are dictated by art and not by archaeology, by science and not by fashion; and just as the best work of art in our days is that which combines classic grace with absolute reality, from continuation of the Greek principles of beauty with the German principles of health will come, I feel certain, the costumes of the future."