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Fashion parade; Merseyside Tales.

Byline: Stephen Guy

HE passing centuries have left their mark on Liverpool although virtually nothing physical remains of the port's early years.

TMost of the city's historic landscape we see today is Georgian and Victorian with some churches from the medieval period. Speke Hall, Croxteth Hall and West Derby Courthouse take us back to Tudor times.

Very little costume survives from more than 300 years ago. National Museums Liverpool has remarkable examples of clothing in its collections.

There are beautifully embroidered waistcoats from the 1700s, elaborate dresses and even an outfit worn by Queen Victoria.

We can follow the fashions of earlier centuries in various artworks and illustrated manuscripts. Painters often depicted characters in Biblical stories, for example, in contemporary costume.

England was a wild, often lawless, place when King John founded Liverpool by granting its charter in 1207.

During his reign men's keynote fashion garment was the surcoat. This was a long tailored piece of cloth - your head was put through a hole in the middle.

A flowing gown was worn underneath with the two garments held together by a leather belt.

King John dressed very finely and loved the company of women. They wore loose gowns with broaches at the necks.

Their outer garment was a long cloak with buckle or lace fastening. Shoes were elaborately embroidered and sewn.

Liverpool began to grow in importance after Charles II came to the throne in 1660. His reign saw a growth in trade and the beginnings of the British Empire, both of which benefited the city.

By the middle of the 18th century the port saw dramatic growth with many new buildings and vastly improved communications. New roads linked Liverpool to London and many other places, although travelling by sea was often still the best option.

Castle Street is seen in 1786, above, when it was, as today, in the heart of the port's commercial district.

Fashionable folk in fine clothes saunter past elegant buildings housing offices, counting houses and shops. Increasing numbers of well-off people had private carriages.

During this period fashions changed rapidly as people vied to be seen in the latest styles.

Men wore wigs similar to those still sported by barristers in court today. Tailcoats came in a variety of styles, worn with waistcoats and knee breeches. Everyone wore hats.

Until the 19th century all clothes were handmade, employing huge numbers of people. Women from all classes sometimes made their own outfits. The arrival of cheap prints, books and magazines enabled people to see fashions from far and wide.

Liverpool has always been a very fashion-conscious city, its streets enlivened with many different styles especially in the evening.

Stephen Guy is chairman of .the historic Lowlands West Derby Community Centre. Details at or 0151 226 5352.


Main picture | - a smart Georgian gent

Top inset - a | |bustling Castle Street in 1786

Left inset - a | |fashionable lady during the reign of King John

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 6, 2015
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