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The Artistic Dress movement and its successor, Aesthetic Dress, were fashion trends in nineteenth century clothing.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were conscious archaizers, emulating the work of the "old masters" and chosing romantic, medieval subjects. They dressed their models in long flowing gowns loosely inspired by styles of the Middle Ages. These styles were then adopted by the painters' wives and models for everyday dress. Dresses were loosely fitted and comparatively plain, often with long puffed sleeves; they were made from fabric in muted colors derived from natural dyes, and could be ornamented with embroidery in the art needlework style. Artistic dress was an extreme contrast to the tight corsets, hoop skirts and bustles, bright synthetic aniline dyes, and lavish ornamentation seen in the mainstream fashion of the period.
In the 1860s, artistic dress became popular in intellectual circles and among artists for its natural beauty; it also reinforced their social ideals of quality materials, respect for the work of the hands, and the purity of medieval design.
Aesthetic dress of the 1880s and '90s carries on many of the external characteristics of Artistic dress (rejection of tightlacing, simplicity of line, and emphasis on beautiful fabrics), even though, at its core, Aestheticism rejected the moral and social goals of Pre-Raphaelitism. The Aesthetes' belief that the Arts should provide refined sensuous pleasure was a direct rejection of the reverence for simplicity and handwork propounded by William Morris.
Aesthetic dress encompasses a range of modes, from the Japonnaise gowns and Kate Greenaway-inspired children's smocks of Liberty & Co. to the velvet jackets and knee breeches of Oscar Wilde's "aesthetic lecturing costume" for his speaking tour of Anerica in 1882.
Influence on mainstream fashion
From artistic circles, artistic and aesthetic dress spread to fashionable ones. The delicate, lightly-corsetted tea gowns of the turn of the century echo the lines of late aesthetic dress, and in their turn pave the way for the early Art Deco creations of Paul Poiret.
Elizabeth Aslin, The Aesthetic Movement: Prelude to Art Nouveau, 1969, ISBN 0236176013.