Fashion & Freedom

Manchester Art Gallery


An Excellent Ornament of Man

Lace, silk, taffeta, tulle 2016

Elizabeth Thomas

BA Hons Fashion Design

“I have long been interested in how women were subjugated by the fashions of their time… but after doing some research on late Victorian dress, I noticed that the expensive fabrics, length of dresses and the ornamentation of sleeves could be as restrictive as the sculpting underwear beneath.”

Elizabeth Thomas explored the notion that women were “an excellent ornament to man,” [Lapide, 1638. Omnes divi pauli Epistolas Commentaria] and how this was exemplified by excessive decoration in Victorian and Edwardian fashion. Her design emphasises the role of ornament in creating restrictions on the female body. She incorporates frills and flounces, and exaggerates the length of the dress and height of the collar to suggest imprisonment within fashion, and the stifling of women’s voices. Although the silhouette suggests restriction, she wanted there to be a certain “frothiness” to the design, inspired by the painting Hush! 1875 by James Tissot in Manchester City Galleries’ collection.

Elizabeth Thomas, An Excellent Ornament of Man 2016
Photography: Layla Sailor

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