Doris Langley Moore was one of the foremost scholars and collectors of historic dress in the twentieth century, a cofounder of the Costume Society, and the founder of the Museum of Costume, Bath. Born in Liverpool, England in 1902, Doris Elizabeth Langley Levy spent her youth in Johannesburg, South Africa, where her father worked as a newspaper editor. She returned to England in the early 1920s and published her first book in 1926, the same year in which she married Robin Sugden Moore.
In addition to her significant work in the field of historic clothing, Moore had a long and varied career. She was a successful designer for stage and film; a television commentator; a well-known author of fiction and non-fiction, including biography; and a Byron scholar (in 1962 at Bowood House, Wiltshire, she discovered the Albanian ensemble worn by the romantic writer in a portrait of 1814 by Thomas Phillips). Moore's many achievements were recognized during her lifetime. She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1971; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1973; and she was awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy in 1975. Moore died in London in 1989.
Clothing and Accessories
Moore's enduring contributions to the field of costume history include her outstanding collection of men's, women's, and children's dress and accessories, primarily English and Continental, dating from the sixteenth through the mid-twentieth century, and amassed over four decades beginning around 1930; her numerous books, articles, and related publications both on her collection and on the wider subject of dress; and her establishment of the Museum of Costume in 1963, and of the Costume and Fashion Research Centre (a part of the museum) in 1974. At the time of its opening, the Museum had the largest collection of fashionable historic dress on view in Britain. Both the museum and the Research Centre remain important educational and study facilities for scholars, students, and the general public.
Moore's impressive and rigorous connoisseurship encompassed all aspects of dress history, including surviving garments, visual and literary source material, display, and fashion theory. The Woman in Fashion (1949) and The Child in Fashion (1953), in particular, attest to her detailed knowledge of the silhouette and its evolution, acquired by years of close observation of objects in her own and other collections. Beyond clothing itself, Moore's expertise included the mechanics of the fashion industry and representations of costume in portraits, prints, and fashion plates. In Fashion through Fashion Plates (1971), Moore examined both the history of the fashion press and the nature of the plate as an idealized image.
True to Life Representations
Although she would later change her mind about the appropriateness of using live models for historic dress (as she did in The Woman in Fashion and The Child in Fashion), Moore felt strongly about presenting the totality of a given period silhouette, without which she felt the main garment would be meaningless and misunderstood. Her displays at the museum in Bath featured realistic, fully accessorized mannequins, complete with real or simulated hair, set in lively vignettes.
Costume History Pioneer
Moore was a pioneer in the study of costume history and instrumental in bringing appreciation of the subject to a popular audience. The perceptive, inquiring, and farranging approach of her scholarship laid the foundation for future dress historians. Moore's publications are still considered important sources of information, and her exemplary costume collection constitutes one of the most important in public institutions worldwide.
Byrde, Penelope. "Doris Langley Moore, 1902-1989." Costume 24 (1990): 149-151.
Doris Langley Moore. The Woman in Fashion. London: B. T. Batsford, 1949.
--. The Child in Fashion. London: B. T. Batsford, 1953.
--. The Museum of Costume Assembly Rooms, Bath: Guide to the Exhibition and a Commentary on the Trends of Fashion. Bath: Museum of Costume, [1969?].
--. Fashion through Fashion Plates, 1771-1970. London: Ward Lock, 1971.
Taylor, Lou. The Study of Dress History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.