Towards the end of the 19th century increasing numbers of women were entering the world of work and a new generation of girls was beginning to access education. The popularity of leisure pursuits such as golfing, swimming, tennis and cycling was also rising.
The demands of an increasingly urban, industrial life rendered the stiff, restrictive corsets of the Victorian age impractical for modern life. The Rational Dress Society had the following to say in 1881:
‘The Rational Dress Society protests against...any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movement of the body or in any way tends to injure health. It protests against the wearing of tightly fitting corsets…as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible’.
The impact of the First World War also built on the changes of the previous century. Long skirts and boned corsets were now not only uncomfortable, but also hazardous to wear in the workplace. The 1920s brought a new, more practical style of dress for women.
Warm, less restrictive and able to attach to other items of underwear via a series of rubber buttons, liberty bodices continued to be popular throughout the first half of the 20th century and beyond. Many have fond childhood memories of liberty bodices, while others remember being rather too warm.