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Fabulous frocks on show at Walker Art Gallery

Glamorous and intricate evening dresses from the inter-war years are on show in a new free display at the Walker Art Gallery.

Shimmer and Shine: Beaded Evening Dresses, 1920-1940 features 14 fabulous and fashionable frocks from the period.

Many of them were made in France and then exported throughout Europe including to Britain.

Among the dazzling examples on display is a 1930s sequinned evening gown which belonged to Jane Moreton, daughter of Titanic Chief Officer Henry Tingle Wilde, and a sequinned cape made in France and which was worn to dinner at Manchester’s Midland Hotel during the 1930s by Elsie Rowe.

The mini exhibition also charts changing fashions from 1920 to the outbreak of the Second World War, with hemlines rising through the 1920s with the famous ‘flapper’ dresses and then falling again to create the sleek silhouettes of the 1930s.

Above: A selection of the sequinned and beaded dresses. Top: Pauline Rushton preparing the gowns for display. Photos by Gareth Jones

Pauline Rushton, Head of Decorative Arts at National Museums Liverpool, said: “There’s something very special about fashion from the 1920s and 1930s. The optimism and allure of these dazzling new styles captivated women then, and they continue to fascinate us today.

“Women shopped in a very different way at the time. During the 1920s, it was common to purchase sections of dresses, such as a dress front or hemline, covered in beads. These would then have been sewn together by a dressmaker to make a complete dress. We have a wonderful example of a beautifully elaborate dress front in the display.”

Shimmer and Shine: Beaded Evening Dresses, 1920-1940 is on show in the craft and design gallery at the Walker until autumn 2023.


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