When I was very young, my mother made me a summer dress in a Liberty print fabric – off-cuts, brought at a discount, carefully cut to make the most economical use of the fabric. I loved the small print florals, the smocked front. I had no idea that Liberty was a historic business, that’s its fabrics were hugely sought after, that it had been started in the days of Arts and Crafts. I only knew the prints, and, one awe-struck day, the exterior of the London shop itself, its iconic black and white Tudor Revival wooden exterior appearing to me like something out of a fairytale.

It was only years later that I wandered in the door of this imposing building, still awestruck, for the interior is a symphony of wooden balconies, arty fabrics and accessories, all of it wildly expensive. Silk Liberty pyjamas cost upwards of £300, but then Liberty has always dealt in quality, as the new exhibition at Dovecot this summer – part of the Edinburgh Art Festival - demonstrates.

Founded in 1874 by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, a journeyman salesman who’d learnt his trade at the wonderfully-named Farmers and Rogers Great Cloak and Shawl Emporium, Liberty was originally a warehouse importing goods from the Far East. But located just over the road from Arthur Libery’s former place of work, it soon became a byword for the exotic and the artistic, unbuttoning buttoned-up Victorian society with silks from India and kimonos from Japan, hand-block printed in florals by Liberty’s own craftsmen.

There are numerous examples in this exhibition, originally curated at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, but re-organized and added to in this Scottish incarnation by Dovecot Curator Kate Grenyer. From luxurious silk hooded cloaks to 1930s tea dresses, if you don’ t come out coveting something – including some lovely embroidered child’s smocks – you probably wouldn’t have seen eye to eye with Arthur Liberty whose aim to create “new fashion” was continued by the company long after his death, from those self-same tea dresses, which harked back to a “lost” era before the First World War to the frilly glories of the 1970s, fussy full-length visions of brown and orange print.

But if the fabric and the quality of the fabric bear much close-up scrutiny – although some of the busier patterns from the 60s and 70s require a stepping back - it is the history behind the business itself, shown on the walls in archive images, which provides the best context. In one corner, photographs of the hand-block printers producing the most highly expensive and intricate prints, meticulously working through the long rolls of fabric laid out in the Merton factory that the company occupied until the 1970s.

It is this factory, Merton Abbey, that provides a very real link to Dovecot, interestingly enough. Commissioned in the 1880s to make printed wools for Liberty, it was also the site for William Morris’ printworks and tapestry studios - and it was from here that the first Dovecot weavers came, shown in a photograph dressed up in smocks like artisan workers of times past.

And here too, is a fascinating part of the Liberty story – that of Marion Donaldson, whose eponymous range of clothing, made almost exclusively from Liberty fabrics, was hugely successful through the 1960s and 70s. It is an entertaining romp – the Donaldsons, just married, quit their London jobs and escaped to Glasgow on a Lambretta scooter with a suitcase full of Liberty fabrics. Marion starting running up dresses from home to her own designs, which were simple, but used very bold prints, and sold out so quickly in posh Glasgow boutiques that the business quickly grew. In time, she became so successful, that when Liberty started opening up regional shops, they contained Marion Donaldson boutiques.

Some of Donaldson’s creations are on display here, a 1960s mini dress, a 1970s maxi dress. Then, too, there is a display devoted to smocking, a style derived from agricultural workers clothes that became a Liberty style. There is a beautiful traditional child’s smock from the 1920s, embroidered in blue; a child’s smocked dress from the 1930s, and then a similar one from the 1970s (made by another very successful ‘kitchen table’ dress shop, Annabelinda), harking back to an earlier age – as Liberty had done with great success before.

Richard Quinn, a recent graduate, is the up-to-date face of Liberty, using Liberty print in silver foil, creating high end design to match the high end prices of the fabrics themselves, the most recent incarnation of a business has historically been at the forefront of many fashion trends and revivals. And then, too, there is recently graduated artist Lucy Wayman, whose Edinburgh College of Art degree show a few years ago wowed with her large scale mop heads, joined together like some vast swagged macramé. Here she reworks ideas and inspiration from the show, with somewhat discrete installations in the gallery and a large hanging piece in the shop outside.

Sarah Urwin Jones

Edinburgh Art Festival: Liberty Art Fabrics and Fashion, Dovecot Studios, 11 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, 0131 550 3660, www.dovecotstudios.com Until 19 Jan 2019, Daily (during August) 10.30am – 5.30pm, £9/£7/Under 16 free

Critics Choice

Fleming 50th Anniverary shows below - do call if any queries. Images will follow from Camilla Riva (or one of her colleagues) at the Fine Art Society) first thing tomorrow morning.

Iranian photojournalist and Glasgow School of Art student Iman Tajek’s photograph’s of the Calais Jungle are deeply sobering. Bold with blues, sometimes in fog, the Jungle, in these images, is a desolate, make-shift place, pieced together from plastic tarp and hope, fires burning by day, lights blazing at night. The people are here but sometimes hidden, back to camera or seen at a distance, perhaps in some way as Tajek himself was, having spent some time in Calais before receiving asylum in the UK. It is a fascinating contrast to the 19th century works that surround it at the Fine Art Society this month, a politically-charged exhibition of contemporary and historic woes.

Here is Thomas Faed’s “The Last of the Clan”, heads bowed, beaten, the Clearances exerting their toll. It is told from a later 19th century perspective, the wounds still smarting. The exhibition, “Radicals, Pioneers and Rebels” throws its arms wide, with later painters from John Bellany to Joan Eardley, included. It is one of two exhibitions this summer celebrating the 50th anniversary of the fine Fleming Collection of Scottish Art, the second being a showing of the collection’s fine holdings of Scottish Colourists, usually found touring galleries down South. “Rhythm of Light” is a chronological view of the development of the Colourists, from early experimentalism to full maturity in the 1920s, making the most of the Fleming’s fine and extensive group of works. Peploe, Fergusson, Hunter and Cadell will deck the walls of the Maclaurin Gallery at Rozelle House from 18th August until 30th September. “Radicals…” opens in Edinburgh on the 15th until 3rd September.

Sarah Urwin Jones

Edinburgh Art Festival: Radicals, Pioneers and Rebels, The Fine Art Society, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, 0131 557 4050, www.fasedinburgh.com 15 Aug – 3 Sep, Mon – Fri, 10am – 6pm; Sat, 11am – 2pm

Don't miss

Summerhall's 2018 Festival series is the usual eclectic mix. "Free the Pussy!" is an homage to the excellent work of Pussy Riot with pieces by artists ranging from Yoko Ono to Judy Chicago, created in response to the group's imprisonment in 2012. Along the corridor, the drawings and paintings of filmmaker Orson Welles, a rare and exclusive showing of the art which he considered his first love.  Elsewhere in the vast former Veterinary school, artists such as John Keane, Kurt Schwitters, Sura Medura and others exhibit - provocative and fascinating.

Festival 2018, Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh www.summerhall.co.uk 0131 560 1580, Until 23 Sep, Daily 11am - 6pm