Liberty Prints at the London Museum of Fashion and Textiles


Liberty Artistic Dressing

London Fashion and Textile Museum Liberty Exhibition 2016

There are not many chaps out there who are willing to encourage a fabric obsessive like me but the lovely Mr D asked me if I wanted to visit the Museum of Fashion and Textiles  as he had noticed there was a Liberty exhibition! I leaped at the opportunity! We headed off by train early on a chilly Saturday morning, after a short pleasant journey,   I found myself stepping through the glass doors and bright interior –  a world of Textiles  -Heaven on earth!


The exhibition was organised chronologically: this display of kimonos dates from the early years of Liberty around 1870. The exquisite hand embroidery was simply, divine. The butterflies and iris adorn exquisite silk kimonos and you can see in the bottom left an example of wallpaper that inspired  the kimono decoration.

I was thrilled to be able to get up close to the exhibits eager to feast my eyes on construction,  finishing and techniques used. I am fascinated by design details – and spent a great deal of time noting and photographing in order to create a reference at home. Having recently taken up hand embroidery it was inspiring to see it utilised in high end fashion it tends to go in cycles. The two items above were  examples of the dress reform movement. Women wanted clothing that was more practical, the late Victorian period where the S curve was in Vogue this was revolutionary! The dress on the right had exquisite pleating that simply followed the curves beautifully – a good 60 years before the 1930’s bias cut.

I spent a great deal if time taking in the wonderful construction details of the 1930’s to 1940’s stand. I particularly enjoyed the way the red flower dress was thoughtfully made. The neckline is trimmed with appliquéd flowers, the sleeve cap is full typical of the 1940s and has a lovely velvet ribbon detail running down the centre finished with a little bow. The velvet ribbon detail is repeated at the front placket, and the overall placement of the red/pink flowers is skilfully done.

The 1970’s saw a revival in ‘folk’ costume especially the use of smocking. The whole of the seventies section brought back memories of warm summers wearing gypsy skirts! I the brown  dress,  fabric is entirely shaped using this technique it allows so much movement that you can put the clothing on without the need for zips or darts! The wedding dress reminded me of the 1980s.

Art Nouveau had a revival in the 1960s prompting the use of more romantic folk styles classical empire lines, Victorian Butcher sleeves – updated with modern prints and fabrics. The wonderful detail of the corduroy dress yoke was a delight to my eye!

There were lots of displays of the patterns used and I did not realise Kate Greenaway had designed for Liberty (centre)


It was a wonderful exhibition – I took a lot more pictures that I shall use for reference there were so many examples of different construction techniques and embellishment ideas that I am still buzzing days later. I can’t wait to include them in my sewing.

The Museum of Fashion is just a short walk from London Bridge Station it is a real treat for any lover of textiles or fashion.

Vintage Womans Weekly Magazine – August 12, 1933

01-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933

Sit yourself down, with a lovely pot of tea and some vintage cups and take a perusal of a Womans Weekly, 1933! Over 80 years ago! It is fascinating to look  at what women were reading about back then-when I spotted this in a charity shop I could not resist it!  I am hungry for  vintage details – because you can look at the styling that was taking place back then in context.

As you can see from the front cover – the magazine came with a knitting pattern – for average to large sizes. This gives us a clue that the magazine was mostly aimed at mothers and grandmothers rather than young women – which is still true of the magazine today.

02-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 1

The inside cover has a advert for another magazine, most likely by the same publishing 04-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 3house – that includes free patterns. The two button suit is very glamorous –   the hat and gloves completes the outfit – no woman would be seen outside the house without them!

The September issue of Home Fashions caters especially for the late holiday folk who want smart styles for last minute frocks and suits for the sea and the country. Free patterns are included for making the most attractive suit and little puffed sleeve blouse. There is a Coupon Pattern for a charming ensemble that consists of an afternoon frock and coatee suitable for patterned silk. Then there is a special supplement of lingerie fashions showing the newest and loveliest designs and including models with the new on-the-cross cut.

Bias cut had only just been introduced and popularised by Vionnet and it is still a wonderful way to create beautiful feminine lingerie.

Notice the pretty blouse peeking out from the jacket top! You can see how sixties fashions were inspired by the 30’s -with this cropped jacket, pillbox hat!

05-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 4

I adore this charming feminine blouse, the lace frilled edging is a lovely detail around the button placket as well as the collar, it looks as if it is flat not gathered or pleated.  Lace would have been mostly cotton as nylon had not been invented.  Note also the fullness of the sleeve – a feature throughout the 1930s.

Both illustrations include a six  gore skirt finishing somewhere between the ankle and the knee.

The silhouette is streamlined, after the 20’s flapper style which hid the waistline and saw women flattening their chests – thirties fashion with the bias cut – creates flowing garments that enhance and accentuate curves.

12-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 11

15-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 14

On a gingham holiday frock the only relief might be a wide, white pique belt. Smartest, if the lines in the weave run down.

This is the opening page of the magazine – the title ‘Weekly Whispers’ is rather quaint, don’t you think? I have to say that even with my glasses I am struggling to read the small text. Oh imagine – it was usual for readers to visit a dressmaker rather than off the peg! Advice in their letters page is just as useful today as it was then.

‘Women are becoming more practical about underclothes, at last’ remarked a very shrewd dressmaker to me the other day. They are awake to the fact that it is just as important for the under the gown to fit well – as it is for the frock itself. There’s logic of course in her remarks, when a dressmaker has provided a good line to a gown it must be very heartbreaking to have it all spoilt by the basics -ill fitting underclothes.

What great advice – given that a lot of these dresses would be cut on the bias, any undergarment bump or bulge would be visible. It is the same today, the muffin top is a pure invention of badly designed underwear. French knickers are ideal under a bias dress – it also flows around the body without cutting in – as you find in the average cotton brief.

Pleated organdie frilling makes this dainty collar and bow. Two double pieces of frilling joined together and gathered up in the middle. A brooch would cover the gathering stitches.

Pleated organdie frilling makes this dainty collar and bow. Two double pieces of frilling joined together and gathered up in the middle. A brooch would cover the gathering stitches.

A friend of mine, who has no maid, has made the prettiest organdie covers for her tea table. When there is a little party, she gets everything ready and then she covers the table with this organdie square. (It is hemstitched and strewn with little flowers in simple embroidery) It looks so pretty and gives such a feeling of freshness to the tea table.

Imagine, not having a maid… poor thing!   Oh how dreamy this dress is! I imagine it to be made of Georgette fabric – that has enough weight to make the most of these lovely lines! Dresses were often ‘updated’ by maids – to give a garment a new lease of life. Here there are instructions for making an organdie bow.(see caption)

Here is a fairytale design for the loveliest luncheon set.

Here is a fairytale design for the loveliest luncheon set. The flowers are worked mainly in Satin stitch and stem stitch. The pattern was available post free from the Woman’s Weekly Transfer department in Oxford St, London.

It seemed that readers engaged in home crafts – here is a lovely pattern for a ‘luncheon set’ – if you were not using a full table cloth – then smaller sets were made of linen – similar to place mats today, even trays were lined with linen cloths – you can usually pick these up in charity shops or antique markets.

An Adventure to make in two colour knitting - Woman's Weekly, August 12 1933

An Adventure to make in two colour knitting – Woman’s Weekly, August 12 1933

The knitting pattern was a front cover feature – and it was why I bought this particular issue among the six available. Notice how close fitting this garment is – very different from knitwear available today.

08-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 7

A friendly little jumper – a thing to be gay the Autumn! Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

The use of the colours works so well – and I adore the collar what a lovely finish. Her hairstyle is classic, you also see it on models of 1950’s. Once again the skirt is a tightly fitting six gore skirt – but as it is white the details are almost lost.

Who would have known it - a vicar is a love interest for dear Norah - complete short story in Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933

Who would have known it – a vicar is a love interest for dear Norah – complete short story in Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

Short stories are still a feature of the magazine today, the tale of Norah and Peter Cunningham had a hundred readers so stirred up enough to ask for a sequel!

Peter Cunningham was a big manly fellow, sufficiently unlike the orthodox parson for tongues to wag in the village when he had first arrived.

It seemed that Norah and Peter were just beginning to have feelings for one another when a silly girl grabbed all his attention! Poor Norah was left alone with a broken heart – and that is why readers pleaded for more! Thankfully – it turns out that Norah and Peter finally found each other again.

Peter drew her hand through his. ‘ ‘Never mind the fog’ he said. ‘The stars are shining somewhere’ My stars are shining here’ Norah answered. ‘Happy’ he asked. ‘Perfectly, perfectly happy’ she answered. ‘You will always be’ he told her.

Little Bill on his Holiday - Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933

Little Bill on his Holiday – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

There are a number of little poems scattered throughout the pages, wether or not they were reader’s poems it isn’t made clear. I love the illustrations – similar to Mabel Lucie Attwell who was very popular at the time – she illustrated for the Tattler and the Illustrated London News.

Ponds Advert - Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933. Endorsed by Lady Hindlip.

Ponds Advert – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933. Endorsed by Lady Hindlip.

It seems that celebrity endorsement is not a modern concept, here is a peer of the realm endorsing Ponds Cream. There are a few other adverts in the magazine, some companies are still trading; cutex, harpic, New Zealand Lamb, Robin Starch and Kraft cheese (foil wrapped triangles!)

Kellogs All Bran Advert - Woman's Weekly - August 12, 1933

Kellogs All Bran Advert – Woman’s Weekly – August 12, 1933

Kellogg’s were advertising back then, but some names are lost in the mists of time. Cepos – monthly pain relief for headaches and Neuralgia  (I am not alone!), could be bought ‘without embarassment’ Fennings Children’s Powders and Southalls rubber pants for babies! There is even a Liquid hair remover called Taky way.

Mrs Marryatt gives some very wise advice - Woman's Weekly, 12 August 1933

Mrs Marryatt gives some very wise advice – Woman’s Weekly, 12 August 1933

Mrs Marryatt was giving advice just as she does today! In this article it is suggested that girlfriends ensure they are not dismissive of their beau’s female relatives.

There is one thing which girls often forget when they are rather keen on meeting young men – and that is the value of being friendly and nice to the womenfolk of the men they meet.

Young women are recommended to take a middle road between disinterest and disregarding women in his life but not to ‘over do’ the friendliness either.

A weariness comes in the society of the too demonstrative friends.

19-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 18

What a future wife should own before marriage – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

This wonderful article specifies what a bride should have in her Hope Chest or Bottom Drawer as she approaches her wedding day.

  • 3 pairs of sheets
  • 6 pillow cases
  • 3 bolster cases
  • 1 under blanket
  • 1 counterpane for each bed
  • 1 eiderdown for each bed
  • 3 top blankets
  • 6 bath towels
  • 6 face towels
  • 3 breakfast cloths or sets of mats
  • 6 table napkins
  • 2 roller towels for kitchen
  • a few tray and afternoon cloths
  • 6 dusters
  • 6 tea cloths
  • 3 glass cloths

It is quite a modest list – but entirely made up of textiles in one form or another! Imagine a young girl carefully embroidering her tray cloths – in the hope that she would one day have a home of her own. It is why they are so prolific, and often in good condition – as they would have been reserved for high days and holidays!

Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933

Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

Food and recipes did not feature very large in this issue – There are a few short paragraphs with sandwich filling suggestions for a picnic. The illustration beside it is delightful – the lady’s hat frames her face, and once again we see full sleeves on her dress. Big florals and geometrics were fashionable in this Art Deco era, and the gentlemen would have worn shirts and jackets. The sandwich filling suggestions are: cream cheese and walnuts, minced ham and cress, cheese and tomato and egg mayonnaise.

26-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 25

The front cover features this dress which is ‘This Week’s Bargain Pattern’ readers had to cut out a coupon (still intact in this issue) and send it to the Woman’s Weekly offices with enough stamps to cover postage (4 1/2d ) there is an alternative address for Australian Readers. The pattern was created especially to give a slimming effect – with the pattern sizing available from 36 up to a 48inch bust and a special version for ‘short women’. 

Front dress pattern 1933 Woman's WeeklyThis week we have thought of our older readers! We have found them a slimming and gracious little dress for printed silk and the pattern can be had in all the large sizes as well as in the average size. A new afternoon frock is a boon for the late Summer days and for the early Autumn, while later on, it looks so pretty under a heavy coat. This design slims the figure very cleverly with the centre seams and the skirt carried in points above the waist. Notice how the bodice itself comes down in a point into the skirt to keep the figure perfectly flat in front. The little vestee and pretty cowl-like collar give softening at the neckline. I suggest you choose a printed silk in any dark colour, and have the collar and cuffs in cream georgette – so much softer than dead white. 

August 12, 1933 dress pattern layout

August 12, 1933 dress pattern layout

Front dress technical drawing

The layout of the pattern and instructions are also included on the page – there is not a lot of detail! However I really enjoyed reading the problem page at the bottom entitled ‘Is this your problem too? – write to the London Girl if you have dress problems – she knows all the answers’

Skirt length was an issue, women needed to feel they were respectable. Ida asked about the correct length of a skirt from the ground as she had just learned to sew. London Girl replied: For streetwear, skirts are now fourteen inches from the ground. Sports clothes and man-tailored costumes are sometimes worn a little shorter. For afternoon occasions ten to twelve inches is correct, and evening dresses should be instep-length or just clear of the ground. 

27-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 26

The remnant frock – Amazing what we can do with our gleanings from the sales. Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

There is something very taking about a plain frock well tailored. The box pleated flounce makes pattern 52,415 distinctly interesting, (and box pleats are so easy to manage!) Perfectly simple – the two piece skirt and plain bodice and a neat cape collar. Short or long sleeves are equally smart. 

12, August 1933, Woman's Weekly

12, August 1933, Woman’s Weekly

FUN – IN A NEW DRESS – The special occasion that needs a special frock. What a harassing problem this is unless one prepares one’s wardrobe with an eye to the future. A long frock, prettily cut, will always come in for the dances and social evenings that are soon to be here again. This design with a dear little cape to hide the low neckline when needs be. The two piece skirt has true circular flounces, and is joined to the bodice at the waistline. 

Double Frill dress, Woman's Weekly 12, August 1933

Double Frill dress, Woman’s Weekly 12, August 1933

It seems that London Girl is promoting the Woman’s Weekly patterns and given that there are four pages of patterns in all – it would suggest that women were making their own clothes.

Two remnant dresses

Two remnant dresses

Notice all the patterns have full sleeves, with bows and or dainty button details. Also the cape adaptation – helped when wearing Sunday Best to church.

13-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 12

Updating coat advice – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

If you have a light summer coat which needs a spot of ‘doing up’ try the effect of very dark revers on it. These light-and-dark contrasts are extremely chic at the moment. 

32-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 31

Best Way Outsize Summer Fashions – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

That ever-perplexing-problem, ‘What to wear on holiday’ is easily solved if you make your choice from the many attractive designs in Bestway Outsize Summer Fashions. This useful book contains a host of flattering designs especially cut for the larger figure. All easy and smart to wear. There is also a FREE pattern for making this charming frock. 

It seemed that most women had little option but to make their own clothes – and there were many pattern companies to choose from. Sizing difficulties is not a modern phenomenon after all!

24-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 23

Holiday suggestions in the 1930’s Jersey promises fun and gaiety and all possible amusements! 

25-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 24There is a lot of illustration – mostly of young, slim women and dashing young men! Older women are not portrayed in such good light – our poor Matron and Mrs Marryatt are rather stout!

10-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 9More advice – this time childcare from a Matron of a big welfare centre. The letters ask about treating stinging nettles (dock leaves) and dandruff. Rub the skin of the head with a freshly cut lemon before washing her hair with tar shampoo. Massage a mixture of castor oil and eau-du-Cologne onto damp hair at every night. Wash hair once a week. 

29-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 28

I love the way the flowers adorn this gorgeous lady! This is the Beauty Advice section

I am having my first permanent wave shortly, I want to get it in really good condition. What do you advise? -ZITA

Use a good tonic, like Bay Rum and Cantharides. Massage a little into the roots of your hair twice a day. You need not bother to shampoo your hair as the assistant will wash it first. 


Would you mind telling me where I can buy sunbathing oil? CITY GIRL

Most chemists keep sunbathing oil to-day. Several good brands are put up for sale a 1s 6d size.

03-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 2

I hope you have enjoyed your time travelling tea break!

Enjoy the summer! 

ttfn x