Artistic dress : Berg Fashion Library

'Mrs Luke Ionides' by William Blake Richmond, London, 1882. I've used this image throughout this blog as it is, for me, one of the best examples of Artistic Dress.

Much of my research deals with trying to clarify a definition for Artistic Dress, as it has been treated in vague and conflicting manners. I was interested to note that the Berg Fashion Library now has a brief definition for it, where it was not included in their recent ‘Companion to Fashion’ publication (rather, Aesthetic Dress was the main inclusion in this area). Berg’s concise definition isn’t too far from what I am trying to establish, although mine is of course crazy-PhD sized. But for the record, Berg states:

Artistic dress

Source: Berg Dictionary of Fashion History

(F, occasionally M)

Period: 1848–ca. 1900.

The influence of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, a group of painters founded in 1848 by Holman Hunt, Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, on clothing was reflected later by Walter Crane: ‘…the dress of women in our own time may be seen to have been transformed for a while, and, though the pendulum of fashion swings to and fro, it does not much affect, except in small details, a distinct type of dress which has become associated with artistic people…’ (1894, Aglaia, p. 7). The ideal pre-Raphaelite woman had thick, softly curling hair, a pale complexion, strong features and a taste for unstructured garments in natural colours. This alternative style, one of the first successful movements antithetical to fashion, continued and evolved, and was caricatured and satirized, but the ideas of comfort and timeless elegance influenced designers such as Paul Poiret and Mariano Fortuny in the 20th century.

See Aesthetic dress, Delphos dress and Liberty & Co.

Artistic dress : Berg Fashion Library.

The Fan

‘The Fan of Lady X (The Crane Fan)’, ca. 1895. Wooden brisé fan with pencil, ink, and bodycolour. Private Collection. Image courtesy of Steve Banks Fine Art Inc.

In my research I have been able to look at some amazing things. Studying Victorian fashion, and getting to go into museum collections and unwrap amazing gowns and look at them, is better than Christmas. But one of the most fascinating objects I’ve been able to study is The Fan. More on this later, but for now, just a picture.

However, if you can’t wait, I did write and article on it. You can download the publication here.