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Introducing Emily Tinne

1 November 2019 by Ellie Shenton

Emily Tinne portrait

Emily Margaret Tinne, taken around the time of her marriage in 1910. Photograph courtesy of the Tinne family

Most of us have clothes that we never wear but can’t bear to part with or have made one of those “mad purchases” when we wonder just what we’ve bought. Yet, whilst there are times when we could do with the skills of Marie Kondo, there are few whose dedication to fashion went as far as that of Emily Tinne.

Emily is often referred to as Britain’s first “shopaholic” and with a collection of over 700 items of clothing it’s not hard to understand why.

Born in Calcutta in 1886, Emily began buying and collecting clothes after her wedding in 1910. Her collection is a wonderful insight into how fashion evolved over the decades until the 1930s.

Tinne family portrait

The Tinne family. Photograph courtesy of the Tinne family

Here are 10 fashionable facts about one of our city’s great collectors:

  • Emily wasn’t always wealthy or able to finance her love of shopping; she had a very modest upbringing as her parents were both Presbyterian Missionaries.
  • She trained as a professional domestic science teacher in Edinburgh and taught at Liverpool Training School for Cookery and Technical College for Domestic Science.
  • While living in Liverpool, Emily was wooed by Phillip Tinne, a descendant of a family of wealthy sugar merchants and ship owners, who had inherited £161,830 from his father (around £9 million today).
  • Philip trained as a doctor, although he had initially wanted to study to be a curator for the South Kensington museum in London (now the V&A).
  • A well-respected doctor, Dr Tinne was known to allow his poorer patients, who couldn’t afford treatment, to pay him back in goods or services.
  • Most of Emily’s clothes were purchased from high-end retailers on Liverpool’s Bold Street, which at the time was known as the ‘Bond Street of the North’.
  • Many of her clothes were never worn, and can still be found in their original boxes along with their receipts.
  • Even though Emily had such an extensive collection of clothes, she refused to spend too much money on her children’s clothes, except for special occasions.
  • Her daughter, Alexine donated her mother’s collection to National Museums Liverpool. It was so large it had to be bestowed in three lots in 1966, 2001 and finally in 2003. There were many items that were damaged and couldn’t be accepted by the museum, so it’s unclear just how large Emily’s collection truly was.
  • Emily Tinne’s collection is one of the largest collections of clothing belonging to one person in the world and is the largest in any UK museum!

Find out more about Mrs Tinne and her collection at ‘An English lady’s wardrobe‘ at the Walker Art gallery.

evening wear display at walker art gallery

Evening wear display in the exhibition © Gareth Jones

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