Costume Drama

Fashion from 1790 to 1850

8 July 2011 - 17 June 2012

Free admission

In this unique exhibition, visitors to Sudley House will be able to 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.

Love 18th century costume?

Online bookshop

Fans of costume history, design or construction will love our book of 18th century gems by 'Costume Drama' curator, Pauline Rushton. Find out more and buy online here.