Doris Langley Moore
|Doris Langley Moore|
Doris Langley Moore (around 1935)
|Occupation||Author & biographer, fashion historian.|
|Subjects||Fashion history; Lord Byron|
Doris Langley Moore OBE (1902–1989) also known as Doris Langley-Levy Moore, was one of the first important female fashion historians. She founded the Fashion Museum, Bath (as The Museum of Costume) in 1963. She was also a well-respected Lord Byron scholar, and author of a 1940s ballet, The Quest. As a result of these wide-ranging interests, she had many connections within fashionable, intellectual, artistic and theatrical circles.
Early life and career
Doris Langley Moore was born in 1902 in Lancashire, England. She was educated in South Africa, where her father was a newspaper editor. At the age of 18, she returned to England to study classical languages at university.
In her twenties, Langley Moore wrote a few lifestyle books, one of which, The Technique of the Love Affair (1928), was reprinted in 1999/2002. This was a tongue-in-cheek self-help book which suggested ways in which love affairs in the post-World War I era could be successfully conducted. Dorothy Parker, reviewing for The New Yorker, commented: "The Technique of the Love Affair makes, I am bitterly afraid, considerable sense. If only it had been placed in my hands years ago, maybe I could have been successful instead of just successive."
Subsequent books included Pandora's Letter-Box (1929) and, in 1933, co-written with her sister June Langley Moore, a guide for society hostesses called The Pleasure of your Company.
Doris Langley Moore was one of the first major female fashion historians and curators along with Anne Buck. In contrast to male fashion historians such as her friend James Laver and C. Willett Cunnington, Langley Moore favoured a hands-on object-based approach where she drew her conclusions after personally examining surviving artefacts. In 1949 she exploded the myth of the 18-inch waist, which almost all Victorian women were supposed to have had, by measuring over 200 surviving dresses and bodices in collections across the country. Her survey revealed that the average 19th century waist measurement sat comfortably within the 20-30 inch range, and that almost none of her subjects had a waist measurement less than 21 inches.
Her collection began with fashion plates in the early 1920s, and in 1928 she was given her first period dress. This led her to embark upon a dedicated quest for further examples of fashion and dress. Until about 1940, she was pro-active in her searching, taking the initiative and seeking out material to collect; but as it became more widely known that she was collecting, she was specifically sought out by people with garments and accessories to dispose of. Langley Moore had a large house in London, which she filled up with her collection, living in a small flat nearby.
Her collecting policy was firm:
- "A good specimen is one which is not only in sound condition and of nice quality, but which embodies the features of its period in an entirely representative way. A good specimen is completely of its period. If it was ever meant to be fashionable, then it will carry with it still the aura of fashion".
From 1949 onwards Langley Moore actively sought to establish a museum dedicated to fashion in the United Kingdom. Apart from the Gallery of Costume in Manchester, opened in 1947, there were no museums in England (and very few worldwide) dedicated solely to dress. In her Proposal for a Museum of Costume, Langley Moore laid out her wishes for an institution which offered facilities for the study of costume, not simply of the past, but also contemporary fashion, and offered displays of both historical and up-to-date fashion.
Langley Moore's collection travelled to various locations during her search for a home for her museum. In 1955, an exhibition opened at Eridge Castle in Kent, and it was also briefly displayed at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and the Octagon Chapel, Bath. The collection was eventually donated to the City of Bath and found a home at the Bath Assembly Rooms, where it opened for the first time in 1963. For further information, see Fashion Museum, Bath.
In addition to her other interests, Doris Langley Moore was a well-respected Byron scholar and wrote a number of books on Byron and his world. As well as a biography of Byron's legitimate daughter Ada Lovelace, Langley Moore wrote biographies of the author E. Nesbit, the 19th century ballerina Carlotta Grisi, and Marie Bashkirtseff, the Russian artist, sculptor and diarist. The title of this last book, Marie & the Duke of H, focused on Bashkirtseff's childhood infatuation with William Douglas-Hamilton, 12th Duke of Hamilton.
Doris Langley Moore shared Laver's passion for the theatre, ballet and the performing arts. During the Second World War, she wrote the scenario for a ballet, The Quest, which was choreographed by Frederick Ashton for Sadler's Wells and set to music by William Walton, with costumes and sets by John Piper. Langley Moore based her story upon Edmund Spenser's epic allegorical poem The Faerie Queene. The Quest premiered on 6 April 1943 at the New Theatre, London. The ballet provided Moira Shearer with her first created role (Pride) for the company. The cast also included Margot Fonteyn, who created the role of Una, Beryl Grey, and Robert Helpmann.
Doris Langley Moore remained closely involved with the Museum of Costume after its opening. In addition to this, she continued her work on Byron, publishing three books in the 1970s, including a biography of Byron's daughter.
She died in 1989.
Titles on fashion history
- The Woman In Fashion (London, 1949)
- The Child In Fashion (London, 1953)
- Fashion Through Fashion Plates 1771-1971 (London, 1971) ISBN 0-7063-1805-6
- Gallery of Fashion 1790-1822: from Plates by Heideloff & Ackermann (1949)
Titles on Lord Byron
- The Great Byron Adventure (1959)
- The Late Lord Byron: Posthumous Dramas (1961)
- Lord Byron (1971)
- Lord Byron Accounts Rendered (1974)
- Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1977) ISBN 0-06-013012-1
- E. Nesbit (1933)
- Carlotta Grisi (1947)
- Marie & the Duke of H: the daydream love affair of Marie Bashkirtseff (1966)
- The Technique of the Love Affair (1928, reprinted 1999, 2002) ISBN 0-7858-1615-1
- Pandora's Letter-Box: Being a discourse on fashionable life (1929)
- The Pleasure of Your Company: a Textbook of Hospitality (with June Langley Moore) (1933)
- The Vulgar Heart: an enquiry into the sentimental tendencies of public opinion (1945)
- Taylor, Lou, Establishing Dress History, chapter 4 (Manchester, 2003) ISBN 0-7190-6639-5
- Langley Moore, Doris, The Child In Fashion (author notes) (London, 1953)
- Schillinger, Liesl, The Lost Art of the Love Affair, The New York Times, February 14, 1999. Accessed January 27, 2010)
- Langley Moore, Doris, The Woman In Fashion, (Introduction) (London, 1949)
- Cumming, Valerie, Understanding Fashion History, chapter 3 (London, 2004) ISBN 0-7134-8875-1
- Bath City Council, Bath Assembly Rooms and the Museum of Costume, p.19. Quoted by Taylor, Lou, Establishing Dress History, chapter 4 (Manchester, 2003) ISBN 0-7190-6639-5
- Barnes, Clive. A word or two for design, Dance Magazine, October 2008. Accessed 6 February 2012
- Priory, Hugh, Review of The Quest/The Wise Virgins. Accessed 6 February 2012
- Kisselgoff, Anna, Obiturary for Moira Shearer, The New York Times, February 2, 2006. Accessed 6 February 2012.