Aesthetic Movement

Artistic movement begun in England between 1880 and 1900 in which clothing (“aesthetic dress”) was inspired by the work of Millais, Holman Hunt, Rossetti, Burne-Jones and other pre-Raphaelite artists. Similar to medieval clothing, it was unstructured, with small details and few accessories. A forerunner of Art Nouveau, the Aesthetic Movement was a variation on other movements of the time which favored the decorative arts then widespread almost everywhere in Europe and the U.S. at the end of the 19th century. Their aim was to encourage a more spontaneous style of clothing which ran counter to the current fashions and “reform” them. Corsets and tight clothing were completely abandoned in favor of soft fabrics and fluid lines which freed the body, with lines in the Empire style and decorated with patterns found in nature, either animal or floral, or with purely decorative motifs, either medieval or post-Renaissance. Particularly important were the patterns for fabric and clothing made by William Morris and sold by Liberty of London. It was a style of clothing especially suited to intellectual women and was part of the movement for women’s emancipation.