Smith Hannington first opened the doors of his drapers shop, situated at the junction of North Street and East Street in Brighton, in 1808. The main facade as we see it today, was built in 1865. By this time busy workrooms were already established and specialised in dressmaking, mantle-making and millinery.
Mourning etiquette was strictly observed throughout the nineteenth century. Most large shops set up separate funeral departments. By the 1880s Hanningtons had opened their mourning warehouse in Hove. Garments continued to be made in the Brighton store up to the Second World War. By this time the idea of buying ready-made dress was more respectable and off-the-peg garments were commonly worn.
In 1986 Mrs. Ramsay Hughes presented the Museum with a mantle or cape, through the Sussex Archaeological Society. It was worn by her grandmother, Mrs Jane Dudeney, who lived in Brighton. Her brother-in-law was a former Mayor of the town.
The black satin mantle from the 1890s is typical of the black clothing favoured by older women at this period. Mrs Dudeney would have been in her sixties when she bought it. The cape is decorated with jet beads and silk hand embroidery of French knots and satin stitch. It is trimmed with a silk fringe and ribbon, machine-made lace and gathered silk muslin. The garment, which is lined throughout with black silk, bears the label: Hanningtons Ltd., Mantle-Makers, Brighton.
This bodice from 1875-1880 was probably worn with a matching skirt as a smart, fashionable, walking dress. The long line of the tight-fitting cuirass bodice is achieved by rigid 10-12 inch bones sewn into the lining.
It is made from an interesting silk and wool mix fabric, in cream with a random pattern of coloured dashes. This contrasts with olive-green silk lapels, cuffs, pockets and a false waistcoat front. The skirt may have been made up in green silk to match. The plate shows how a similar costume would have been worn. The pocket flaps are trimmed with buttons and wide, turn-back cuffs. These details are reminiscent of eighteenth century frock coats and masculine styles adapted for womens tailored riding habits. Reference to eighteenth century dress can be seen throughout the 1870s, from the elaborate Dolly Varden polonaise (a type of draped overskirt creating a bustle effect) to figures in eighteenth century costume painted on fans.