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Exhibition Gives a Fascinating Insight into the Family Life of Emily Tinne
Emily Tinne ´s wardrobe.

LIVERPOOL.- A new exhibition gives a fascinating insight into the family life of Emily Tinne – the lady whose amazing wardrobe of clothes reflects a vanished world between 1910 and 1940.

A Sweet Life: Fashion in a Liverpool sugar merchant’s family 9 April 2009 – spring 2010 at Sudley House uses unpublished family letters to reveal the day-to-day life of Mrs Tinne, her wealthy general practitioner husband Philip and their six children.

The exhibition features 21 day, evening, outdoor and children’s outfits from probably the largest surviving collection of period clothes from one person’s wardrobe in Britain. There are also two cases of accessories on display.

The huge collection of letters from the 1920s to the 1950s recently came to light. Family members wrote to each other frequently, showing a close and loving relationship between parents and children – Elspeth, Ernest, Bertha, Helen, Alexine and Philip.

Pauline Rushton, exhibition curator, says:“These letters add a new facet to the Tinne Collection, giving a rare insight into family life during a period of great social change. It is very exciting to read these intimate accounts of the everyday life of the Tinne family which help reflect the clothes they wore. This exhibition takes the story forward from the very popular A Passion for Fashion staged at the Walker Art Gallery in 2006. We now have a fascinating new dimension to the world of the Tinnes.”

Mrs Tinne amassed an enormous collection of high-quality clothes, many of which she hardly wore - probably because her husband was often on call, leaving little time for socialising. The Tinnes were originally Dutch sugar merchants and shipowners who settled in Liverpool in 1813. In the 19th century they made a great fortune importing sugar, molasses, coffee and tropical hardwoods.

It is believed Mrs Tinne may have had philanthropic motives for buying so many clothes. Her buying spree covered the years of the Great Depression in the 1920s and 30s. By spending her money on good clothes she would help hard-pressed sales assistants who earned commission on items they sold.

Many of the clothes were stored in tea chests at the family home, Clayton Lodge in south Liverpool, where they remained until Mrs Tinne’s death. They were donated to National Museums Liverpool by Alexine.

Mrs Tinne herself made dancing clothes for the children. She wrote to Ernest in 1935:

“The dancing show is next Thursday. I wish it was over. I am getting very weary of it all. The sewing is rather a plague. I sometimes feel I cannot put up with it all.”

Dr Tinne wrote to his son:

“Another Watts display shortly and Mummie will have another 8 dresses or so to make. They seem a lot of trouble for a 5 minutes dance. They also cost a bit.”

Dr Tinne reveals a droll sense of humour in a 1934 letter to Ernest:

“Mummie and I went to a conversazione in Walker Art Gallery last Thursday night. About 1000 people there, of whom we knew 4. We had a lecture on ‘how to appreciate a picture’…then had a look round the Autumn Collection and came away.” He adds, disapprovingly: “Hardly anyone in evening dress. Those in it covered themselves with cloaks and coats.”

Dr Tinne wrote to Ernest – who later became a doctor and surgeon:

“One of my patients, a man, died – his wife said to me ‘I bought a bottle of whiskey for him, and just think, he only finished half of it’.” He revealed: “I was not destined for a doctor at first and merely became one to earn a living. The advantages of a doctor are 1. You are never out of work, except through ill health 2. You have a fairly good social position. The only other consideration is whether the work is distasteful.”

Servants could also cause problems. Emily wrote in 1926:

“The new housemaid is a rotter but the old cook is all right.”

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