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Loose-fitting tunics, sometimes belted and worn over long straight dresses, were fashionable with the artistic set in pre-WWI Europe. The simple unstructured shapes, borrowed from traditional ethnic dress and favored by the Aesthetic Movement, were adopted by couturiers like Poiret and Fortuny. Poiret added a dash of brilliant color inspired by the Orientalism of the Ballets Russes, while Fortuny realized that the simple shapes were the perfect canvas for his wearable textile art.

The English Pre-Raphaelites in the 1870s showcased artistic or Aesthetic Dress in their historic paintings. In the early 1900s, reformers of the British Arts and Crafts movement turned their attention to women’s dress. They believed that the artificiality of fashionable dress (corset, crinoline, and bustle) destroyed the beauty of a woman’s natural form.

Also influential in the Aesthetic Movement was Liberty & Co.of London, which offered artistic dresses modified to follow the conventions of modern life. These dresses shared design elements with ancient Greek and Roman clothing (the Roman tunic) as reinterpreted during the Empire and Renaissance periods.

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