Fashion at Lady Lever and Sudley House

Last week we travelled back through time and space to see how people dressed in olden times. It’s always a pleasure to visit these lovely places whatever show is on. These exhibitions are interesting not only to followers or students of fashion but anyone with an interest in the historical and sociological context.

Starting at the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight we saw the ‘Finishing Touch‘ exhibition which looks at a dazzling array of women’s accessories that helped to add a touch of sparkle to fashionable outfits. The items on display range from when Queen Victoria was a girl up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

All of the 60 bags, shoes, hats, gloves and other accessories are from National Museums Liverpool’s collections and many have never displayed before.

Find out more about The Finishing Touch: women’s accessories, 1830-1940.

Then onto Sudley House in Mossley Hill where ‘Costume Drama: Fashion from 1790 to 1850‘ recently opened.


In this unique exhibition, visitors to Sudley House can see original clothes and accessories from the era of Jane Austen.

The exhibition brings together early and rare items from National Museums Liverpool’s own costume collection and explores the developments in male and female fashionable dress at a time of great social and economic change.

Just like today, people then used dress as a way of displaying their wealth and social status. The emerging middle classes used fashionable dress to show their rising social position. Poor people, however, were excluded from the world of fashion. Their clothes had to be plain, fit for purpose and cheap.

Highlights include:

  • A man’s Court suit from the 1790s or early 1800s, richly embroidered with multi-coloured silks and sewn with hundreds of silver sequins and glass pastes.
  • A woman’s gold and white figured silk evening dress with a train, dating from 1800-1810, similar to those worn by the wealthier characters in Jane Austen’s novels.
  • A white cotton lawn day dress with fashionable sleeves and collar, from the early 1820s, worn originally by the wife or daughter of a Liverpool sea captain engaged in the slave trade.
  • A brilliant yellow silk brocade evening dress, from the early 1840s, as worn by the wife of one of the rising middle-class merchant elite.

Full details of ‘Costume Drama’ at Sudley House

Images from the top:
Costume Drama – Sudley House.
Cover of Weldon’s Ladies Journal, 1934 at Lady Lever
Wedge Shoes at Lady Lever
Shoes from 1790-1810 at Sudley House