Jessie Newbery and Artistic Dress

2014-03-24 12.42.51 2014-03-24 12.43.09

In an earlier post we discussed Das Eigenkleid der Frau by Anna Muthesius, a book published in 1903 that reflected a movement in costume, design and fashion: Artistic Dress. Artistic Dress describes clothing that was produced for everyday use, designed in accordance with contemporary art principles, intended to challenge fashion, and considered a work of art in and of itself. Emphasis was placed on the rejection of the heavy, restrictive Victorian fashions of the day. The movement was also political in its aims and part of wider societal moves to liberate women in the public and private spheres. Muthesius herself encouraged women to design their own clothing so that “every woman clothes herself as her particular personal style requires. The resulting dress will be an artistic reform of women’s attire.”

Jessie Rowat Newbery was born in 1864 to a Paisley shawl manufacturer who subscribed to radical politics and who fully supported education for women. She attended Glasgow School of Art from 1884-1888, marrying its Headmaster Francis Newbery in 1889. She later taught at the School, establishing embroidery classes in 1894. Her avant-garde milieu, textiles training and radical politics meant that she found a perfect outlet in the artistic dress movement. Indeed, her two daughters were photographed in dresses she had designed and made in Muthesius’ book. Between 1903 and 1909 her artistic dress designs were produced in the German publication Moderne Stickereien. Now very rare, GSA Library holds the second and third volumes of this series, which feature these beautiful designs by Newbery. Our copies come from Newbery’s own collection at Corfe Castle.

Update June 2014: Sadly our copies of Moderne Stickereien was destroyed in the Mackintosh Library fire.


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