Iconic designs by Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant and Laura Ashley are being showcased in a new display celebrating costume, jewellery and decorative objects made by female designers.
Creating Visions: Women Designers 1900-2000 opens at the Walker Art Gallery on 21 October 2023. The display, located in the Craft and Design Gallery, will showcase pieces dating from the early 20th century to the early 21st century. They draw from National Museums Liverpool’s extensive decorative arts collection which is one of the finest in the UK.
The display celebrates 100 years of women designers at the Gallery and features 14 items of dress. These include a mini dress by Mary Quant. Quant, who died in April 2023, is credited with bringing to popularity the era-defining above-the-knee skirts and dresses of Britain’s ‘swinging sixties’.
Also on display will be a pinafore dress by Jean Muir; a tunic dress with matching overcoat by Janice Wainwright; a tunic dress from Vivienne Westwood’s Nostalgia of Mud Collection; a skirt and a long-sleeved top from Vivienne Westwood’s Rolls Royce Collection; an evening cape by Thea Porter; and a glass wedding dress made by Diana Dias-Leão.
Fiona Slattery Clark, Curator of Decorative Art at National Museums Liverpool, said: “Our vast decorative art collection contains some truly exquisite pieces by female designers and it’s been a joy to assemble some of the most exciting and significant designs from the last hundred years for this display.
“As well as featuring designers of global influence and acclaim, we’ll be displaying pieces with an important connection to Liverpool, including evening dresses made by designers who sold their garments in high-end boutiques located on Bold Street in the early 20th century.”
The display will include two Parisian-inspired evening dresses inspired by British designer Lucile and made by T & S Bacon of Bold Street, Liverpool; an evening dress inspired by French designer Madeleine Vionnet; an evening dress by Callot Soeurs Ltd; an evening dress with the label of Elaine Paquin of Bold Street, Liverpool; a full-length summer dress by Gina Fratini; and a full-length summer dress by Laura Ashley.
Also on show will be a selection of jewellery, enamels and glass which will change throughout the duration of the display. Jewellery from the 1980s and ‘90s by female jewellers will be exhibited, including pieces by the internationally renowned Wendy Ramshaw and Jane Adam. From Perspex and acrylic to precious metals and ceramic, a varied mix of materials will be presented.
The enamel display will feature a selection of works by a local artist specialising in enamelled metalwork, Liverpool-born Lily Day (b. 1870). Day studied at Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Art and became an enamelling/metalwork instructor there. Between 1898 and the early 1920s her work was frequently exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery.