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Glitz and glamour at the Lady Lever

8 October 2015 by Lisa

1930s sequinned dress.

Sequinned evening dress that belonged to Mrs Jane Moreton, the daughter of the Chief Officer on the Titanic, Henry Tingle Wilde.

Are you a fan of classic Hollywood movies from the 1930s? If so, you’ll love ‘Putting on the Glitz’, the new exhibition at the Lady Lever Art Gallery. There will be 20 outfits on display that wouldn’t look out of place in a film starring Bette Davis or Joan Crawford. Here’s Pauline Rushton, Curator of Costume and Textiles, to tell us about her favourite gown from the exhibition: 

“The 1930s was a period of huge contrasts. There was great poverty in both Britain and America after the 1929 Wall Street crash and the Depression that it brought in, but at the same time, many people were becoming better off. They were buying their own homes and other consumer goods like cars, furnishings and clothes.

During the ’30s, you could escape from the harsh realities of life by going to the cinema. Tickets were cheap and, at a time when most people had no television, they went to see a film two or three times a week. Imagine how expensive that would be today!

Grey evening dress.

Pauline’s favourite dress from the exhibition.

Glitz and glamour were definitely in fashion on the big screen during these years. Cinema-goers expected to be distracted from their everyday troubles, for an hour or so anyway, by the vision of stars dressed in fabulous clothes.

Just like today, these fashions were copied for ordinary people to wear, either by individual dressmakers or by department stores and other shops.

When you visit ‘Putting on the Glitz’ you’ll be able to see these Hollywood-inspired designs, ranging from beautiful bias-cut satin evening dresses that hug the body, to rustling silk taffeta gowns with voluminous skirts, to sensuous silk velvets used for evening coats.

My favourite outfit is probably the pale grey silk satin evening gown made by the Callot Soeurs, a top Parisian fashion house run by four sisters. The gown is decorated with panels of net, shot through with silver thread and finished with glittering bands of diamanté paste. It looks like a Hollywood diva just stepped out of it!

The exhibition also features a selection of shoes, hats, gloves and bags, and some wonderful large-scale images of women in hats, drawn in the 1930s by Wirral-born illustrator Winifred Aileen Brown (1907-1993). She produced them for Liverpool’s most prestigious department store at that time, George Henry Lee & Co., in Basnett Street, for their fashion adverts in local newspapers. More than 70 years later, they look just as stunning and glamorous on the walls of the exhibition.”

Exhibition highlights

Want to see more dresses? Browse through Pauline’s top six outfits from ‘Putting on the Glitz’.

'Putting on the Glitz' opens 16 October 2015 at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

‘Putting on the Glitz’ opens 16 October 2015 at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

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