Liberty sundress – fashion over time

MM volunteer Natalie writes about how fashions of the past are often the same as, but also different to, modern tastes

It’s always hard to imagine what we will consider fashionable in the future. If you had asked me a few years ago, I never would have guessed that active wear would make a comeback in recent years. History SA has recently received a collection of clothes, shoes, and bags that were worn by the donor over her life. The clothing dates between the 1950s and late 1980s. It is interesting because it enables us to see the ways that fashion has changed over time in a really tangible way, as well giving us a peek into what else might come back in fashion in the future.

I have been working on this collection for a few weeks and, as hard as it was to pick, one of my favourite items so far is this Liberty sundress. This dress was first worn by the donor in 1959 when she was 15 years old, and it was purchased from the Liberty department store in London. Famous for their fabrics and their floral and graphic prints, Liberty also are well known for their selection of luxury goods, including clothing and homewares. This Liberty sundress is an excellent example of youth fashion in this period, and especially the influence of London youth fashion on young people in Adelaide.

Despite my earlier complaints about current fashion being synonymous with sportswear, there are some comparisons that we can draw with this Liberty sundress and contemporary clothing today. The Peter Pan collar has made a quiet return to fashion, and if you hunted long enough I think you could probably find a similarly tailored dress. The biggest difference between the Liberty sundress and fashion today is that you can look far and wide, but you it will be difficult to find a rival in the quality of design. Liberty is unfailing in their design of beautiful floral fabric, and it will be a very long time until another designer takes their crown.

I chose this dress not only because I really love everything about it, from the colours to the collar, but because it’s something that I would have liked as a 15 year old, some fifty years after the donor wore it. And to be honest, it’s something that I would like to wear now as well. One of the great things about fashion history is the way that we can relate to people in history. We can see elements of ourselves, in all our modernity, mirrored in the past, even if it’s as shallow as a shared taste in shoes

Liberty sundress HT 2015.1048, donated by Mrs M Parker

Back of the dress

Back of the dress


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