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Maternity chic from the 1920s

4 January 2013 by Lisa

Here’s our Curator of Costume and Textiles, Pauline Rushton, to tell us about her favourite pieces of costume from our current display at the Walker Art Gallery, ‘Mrs Tinne’s Wardrobe’.


If you love vintage costume then you really should make a visit to our Craft and Design Gallery at the Walker, as you’ll have the chance to see some more of the clothes from the wardrobe of local doctor’s wife and well-known shopaholic Mrs Emily Tinne!

Curator with costume

Curator Pauline Rushton with Mrs Tinne’s maternity dress.

Between 1910, when she married Dr Philip Tinne, a member of a wealthy family of sugar merchants, and the outbreak of war in 1939, Emily amassed an enormous number of outfits. Some were made for her by a local dressmaker, Mrs Taylor, while others were bought from Liverpool’s best-known department stores and ladies’ outfitter. Names such as George Henry Lee’s, the Bon Marché and Owen Owen’s still provoke a nostalgic reaction in many a seasoned Liverpool shopper.

Most of the outfits in our new display have never been seen in public before, including a very rare maternity dress from about 1920. Emily Tinne had seven pregnancies but surprisingly there are only three maternity garments in her huge wardrobe of more than 700 items. This must surely be because she threw the rest of them away after her children were born.

I can remember the sense of relief I had myself when I was able to throw away a pair of baggy maternity jeans, after my son and daughter were born, thankful that I’d never have to wear them again!

Sepia photograph of Emily Tinne and her childrenElspeth, Emily, baby Bertha and Ernest, 1916

I believe Emily Tinne must have done the same, being keen to get back into her ‘ordinary’ clothes, just like women today.

Also on display is one of my favourite items from Emily’s wardrobe, a beautiful fitted evening dress of beaded black satin-backed crepe, dating from the mid-1930s.

It looks like something that a Hollywood star like Joan Crawford or Bette Davis would have worn, rather than a provincial doctor’s wife.

I think Emily probably bought it just for its glamour, and like many of us, thought she might be able to slim down into it eventually!

You can get a taste of what’s on display from our online gallery here.

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