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Fashion and the Arts and Crafts Movement

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Fashion and the Arts and Crafts Movement

Inspired by the 'Elspeth' dress coming to the shop this week (pictured above), this is a little fashion history post taking a brief look at one of my favourite artistic movement and one that had a direct and lasting impact upon the fashion industry.

The Arts and Crafts movement was an intellectual and artistic reaction against the mechanical and uniformed production of commodities brought about by the industrial revolution. Towards the end of the 19th century, a group of like-minded artists and intellectuals including William Morris sought to rejuvenate the practice of traditional hand made production and believed in the creation “art for arts sake.” The beliefs and values of the movement were shared and triumphed by artists from all disciplines of artistic practice, including fashion.

"The motifs and patterns demonstrated in the clothing and fabrics of the arts and crafts movement were heavily inspired by the British countryside. "

Between the late 19th and early 20th century, artists of the arts and crafts movement designed and hand produced a wide variety of dress objects including jewellery, clothing and accessories.

 

Child's coat, unknown maker, 1880 – 1895, England. Museum no. B.17-1998. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The motifs and patterns demonstrated in the clothing and fabrics of the arts and crafts movement were heavily inspired by the British countryside. The English garden and its native flowers formed the basis for many of the designs synonymous with the movement. 

Rural crafts and trade workers in lace and woven and printed fabrics were often enlisted to produce designs created by art practitioners of the movement. 

Embroidery was enthusiastically promoted as a craft based skill and one that women could take up at home. ‘Work it yourself’ kits fuelled the trend for hand-embroidered motifs on clothing and helped pave the way for women to become working designers in the medium in the latter part of the nineteenth century. 

(Above image) Embroidered details of a girl's dress c.1900 of a floral design on the bodice and cuffs with a chain stitched boarder from the Dressed in History collection. 

Maternity dress, Jessie Newberry, 1902, Great Britain, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, (Museum Number 1952.233)

(Above image) Embroidered detail from a maternity dress designed by Jessie Newberry for Lady Mary Murray in 1902. Newberry was a Scottish artist and designer who was involved in the Arts and Crafts movement and pioneered the school of needlework at the Glasgow school of art.  

"Elements stemming from the arts and crafts movement are visible in many fashion garments from the late Victorian and early Edwardian era'

Values of the movement and is design features although shunned at first, filtered into mainstream fashion. As such, elements stemming from the arts and crafts movement are visible in many fashion garments from the late Victorian and early Edwardian era even if the garments were not produced under the guise of the movement itself.

This Jacquard-woven bustle dress features 'a dense pattern of violets springing from a bed of vine leaves' and although not hand produced, the fabric never the less demonstrates the taste for organically inspired fabrics in fashions of the late nineteenth century.

 Jacquard-woven silk bustle dress, Mrs Francis (maker),ca. 1885, Great Britain, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, (Museum Number CIRC.204&A-1958)  

The values of the movement still influence what is thought of as fine art in which craftsmen creatively produce products by hand on a small scale and individual basis. This notion feeds directly into the concept of haute couture in today’s fashion industry in which a garment must be custom made for an individual and hand produced from start to finish to be qualify for this most prestigious label.

Written by Hannah Mays Chandler for Dressedinhistory.com. Please do not cite this work without the explicit permission of Dressed in History. 

© 2019 Dressed in History All Rights Reserved

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