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Liberty Bodice

Liberty Bodice

The Liberty Bodice was invented by Fred Cox, Marketing Director at R & W H Symington & Co Ltd in 1908. It was a fleecy knitted vest with rubber buttons, re-enforcing cotton tapes and buttons to attach drawers and stockings. The bodice helped to change the way that children dressed in the early part of the twentieth century.

Until then most middle and upper class children wore supporting re-enforced corsets that were supposed to help ‘train’ their developing bodies. The Liberty Bodice was a softer, less restricting garment that allowed children to move around and play, at a time when playing and being active were viewed as an important parts of childhood.

Fred Cox’s daughter, Freda wore the bodice in an original advertising photograph. She appeared as the ‘Liberty Bodice Girl’ in much of the early marketing. The Liberty Bodice was produced in its millions and continued to be made until the 1960s. Loved or hated by three generations of children it remains one of Leicestershire’s most interesting products.

An advert for the Liberty Bodice, entitled 'She's Lost Her Liberty'. It features a girl tied to a post by a boy wearing a cape and a feather headband.
An advert for the Liberty Bodice, entitled ‘She’s Lost Her Liberty’, on display in the Growing Up case at Harborough Museum.

I Love My Liberty Bodice

The ‘I Love My Liberty Bodice’ exhibition is open at Harborough Museum now, and celebrates the undergarment that was loved or loathed by generations of children. The exhibition tells the story of R. & W.H. Symington & Co. Ltd, the Leicestershire corsetry manufacturer, who developed the new undergarment for children and looks at the way childhood changed at the beginning of the 20th century.

See the wonderful marketing that promoted the garment, different examples of Liberty Bodices and have a go at the ‘Flip an Owl’ game! The exhibition is open now until Saturday 7th March 2020.

A photograph of an original 1908 Liberty Bodice, made from cotton and fastened with bone buttons.

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