Reading Fashion Magazines: Celebrating the Courtauld’s History of Dress journals archive

Fashion magazines provide a space for escapism and fantasy, but this imaginative realm of image and text is centred on the very real interactions that viewers have with these material objects. How does it feel to read a fashion magazine? Do you read it dutifully, from cover to cover? Or do you flip through more sporadically, waiting for something exciting to halt you in your tracks? Of equal importance is where we read fashion magazines. Is it in the silence of the library, inhaling the smell of the archive? Or at home, from the comfort of the sofa? Perhaps it’s on the tube, amongst the rush of commuters and the jolt of a train braking? These multisensory encounters all play a part in our interpretation of what we see – and read – within the fashion magazine.

These are some of the questions we are going to be thinking about on Saturday 6th May, at our conference ‘Reading Fashion Magazines: Celebrating the Courtauld’s History of Dress journals archive’. In celebration of the Courtauld’s recently catalogued History of Dress journals archive, our one-day symposium will examine how the fashion magazine has constructed and circulated social, cultural and political ideas concerning dress, body and identity.  In opening up the collection, we will examine fashion magazines more broadly as documents of the time in which they were produced, reflecting changing tastes and attitudes as well as social and technological developments. We will explore how the fashion magazine has been consumed by readers, whether glanced through or thoroughly read from cover to cover, and consider the sensory connections to be made between looking, seeing, being, feeling and wearing.

Speakers include Paul Jobling, Alice Beard, Rebecca Arnold, Lucy Moyse, Marta Francheschini and Maria Angela Jansen, will consider these overlapping themes from the interdisciplinary perspectives of design history, fashion studies, visual culture, sociology, and those working professionally within the field. The day will include a viewing session of some earlier examples from our collection as well as an opportunity to see a fashion magazine display curated in collaboration with History of Dress MA students. This symposium will provide the opportunity to question changes in the way that dress has been documented, worn and consumed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as to study the fashion magazine as image, object, text, idea and experience intertwined.

Booking is now open at the link below, so hurry!

http://courtauld.ac.uk/event/reading-fashion-magazines

Welcome Spring! A Look at Lanvin’s Floral Frocks

Pierre Brissaud, “Dansons la capucine” in Gazette du Bon Ton, 1921. History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art.

With April fast approaching, so too come the beautiful blooms of spring! In celebration of warmer weather and brighter days, here are some fun floral designs from the early-twentieth century couturier Jeanne Lanvin.

Jeanne Lanvin for the House of Lanvin, “Roseraie” dress, Spring/Summer 1923. Silk. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Credit line: Anonymous gift, 1964). Available at this link.

Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946) started a millinery business in the 1890s and later expanded into couture as the clothes she designed for her daughter became popular among friends and fashionistas. By the 1920s the House of Lanvin was well established and wide-reaching, producing fragrances and clothes for men, women, and children. A guiding principle in her creation of female couture, as Lanvin put it in 1929, was that “modern clothes need some sort of romantic quality.” As such, her designs reveled in femininity through the use of ruffles, lace, ribbon, and, most notably, flowers. Many wonderful examples of Lanvin’s floral dresses survive in collections around the world, including a striking red and cream dress embellished with roses from 1923. This gown demonstrates how Lanvin’s preference for embroidery and appliqué (instead of patterned fabric) resulted in sumptuous, highly detailed creations. Ombré ribbons are arranged in a geometric pattern and punctuated with folded-ribbon roses, as well as a rose collar, sleeves, and belt. The marriage of a sleek pattern and soft roses evinces Lanvin’s eye for romanticizing trends to fit her house’s characteristic charm.

Jeanne Lanvin for the House of Lanvin, Dress, 1927. Silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Credit line: Gift of Varney Thompson Elliott and Rosemary Thompson Franciscus in memory of their mother, Margaret Whitney Thompson, 1985). Available at this link.

Pierre Brissaud, “Il n’a pas pleuré” in Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920. History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art.

Lanvin excelled at the robe de style, a gown that favored full skirts instead of the straighter silhouette popular at the time. While her robe de style were occasionally embroidered with flowers, it was more common for a large flower pin with copious ribbons to be pinned to the dress. Nearly identical pins can be seen in a dress from 1927 and a fashion plate from seven years earlier in the Gazette du Bon Ton. Pinned at the bust instead of the waist, this pin speaks to the continuity of style in the House of Lanvin, as well as a prevailing trend for florals.

Pierre Brissaud, “On t’attend” in Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920. History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art.

Nearly every issue of the Gazette du Bon Ton features illustrated gowns by Lanvin, many of them with floral embellishments. Gazette du Bon Ton, which ran from 1912 to 1915 and 1920 to 1925, was an elite fashion magazine with intricate pochoir illustrations. The sweet scenes displaying Lanvin’s couture for women and children embody in turns a maternal ideal and feminine elegance. In both instances, florals lend a graceful naturalness to the looks on show.

Pierre Brissaud, “Venez danser” in Gazette du Bon Ton, 1921. History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art.

Further Reading

Cole, Daniel James and Nancy Deihl. The History of Modern Fashion from 1850. London:
Laurence King Publishing, 2015.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds. Couture: The Great Fashion Designers. London: Thames and Hudson, 1985.

Pel, Martin. 1920s Jazz Age Fashion and Photographs. London: Unicorn in association with
Fashion and Textile Museum, London, 2016.

 

Costume Trainee Lily Bailie on Game of Thrones, Music Videos and Belfast’s Fashion

Lily Bailie studied Performance Costume at the Edinburgh College of Art as an undergraduate before embarking on a career in costume design. In this interview Lily reflects on her first jobs, her love of music videos (she is also a DJ) and her future. Her first roles after graduation as a costume trainee were for Game of Thrones, Zoo, and The Woman in White.

What was your job at Game of Thrones?

I was a costume trainee, which allows you to do a bit of everything. I worked in the Crowd costume department, which focuses on fitting and dressing the extras. It is a fun department to work for because every day is different: from making alterations and organising stock to loading costumes on a truck before driving to set. Given the number of costumes and extras, being organised is essential for any production’s costume department. I also worked on set, which often required me to work long hours in sometimes relentless weather conditions. It was nonetheless an amazing to experience and good fun.

What did you enjoy most about the job?

Being a trainee is great, because you experience different roles and gain a general understanding of the costume world in film and television. As a trainee, you hop between different departments, which allowed me to see the full journey of a costume from the sewing room, to a fitting and to being worn on set. Higher positions don’t offer the same breadth of experience, as they are more specialised.

How did you get the job?

My supervisor from a previous film sent my name as a recommendation to Game of Thrones. When working in costume, it is important to always work hard and make a good impression, because you never know who might get you your next job.

What other projects are you working on?

I am currently working on the BBC production The Woman in White, which is a Victorian drama series set in 1850. I also worked on a film called Zoo, which is a film based on the true story of a Belfast zoo during World War II. Belfast’s wartime fashion was interesting, because it was everyday dress rather than high-end fashion.

I also recently worked on the music video No Reason for Bonobo, which was an ambitious shoot with an amazing team. The video shows eighteen different rooms, which gradually decrease in size to signify claustrophobia. It was a bizarre and fascinating project which blurred the boundaries between costume design and art.

What are some of your favourite costumes?

I love the music video for M.I.A.’s Bring the Noize. All dancers are dressed in white while moving through a warehouse with UV-lights, which creates an interesting interplay between the costumes and lighting.

What project would you love to design costumes for in the future?

I would like to develop a style for a music video that can also be used for live gigs and album art work. I like design crossing over from the art department to costume, to style, to fashion; I love it when everything comes together.

To see more of Lily’s work, please visit her site www.cargocollective.com/lilybailie.

A Visit to the National Portrait Gallery Archives (Heinz Archive and Library)

On a sunny Wednesday in London, Liz and the Documenting Fashion MAs took a trip to the archives of the National Portrait Gallery to view a selection of photographs from our study period of 1920-1960. Tucked behind the main building of the National Portrait Gallery, the archives were an oasis of calm in the centre of bubbling London. The Photographs Collection began in 1972 and today holds about a quarter of a million images. 2000 of these form the primary collection consisting of the most important images with the remainder of the material (photographs, negatives etc.) forming the bulk of the collection. The selection we viewed was wide-ranging including a book, two albums, an illustration and, of course, black and white, as well as colour photography.

Of particular interest to us MAs was an album from the “Lady Ottoline Morrell Albums.” It showed a variety of subject matter ranging from a rather less glamorous cow on a field to the beauty of Claude Monet’s garden. However, seeing one of the albums first hand mainly provided further insight and context to the way in which fashion is also captured in these photographs. We had touched on the album collection’s value and richness in conveying fashion related information in class while discussing Lily Le Brun’s (former Documenting Fashion MA) article on Siegfried Sassoon’s depiction in the album (see below for details of this fascinating read). Other highlights included an illustration by Cecil Beaton which captured a stunning hat and dress with a tiny waist in just a few artistic strokes. As the illustration is merely in black and white, the references to the racecourse scene in the film “My Fair Lady” were strong – Beaton had been responsible for the costume and art direction of the film. A variety of his photographs on display also led us to discuss poses taken by the models or sitters. From the carefully posed and constructed to the informal snapshots from Lady Ottoline’s album, we mused over the different effects each has on the representation of the sitter. Are those in the snapshots truly less aware of a camera being present or is their awareness possibly heightened by trying to stay casual? Interesting backdrops also theme in the selected images. From polka dots, through geometric patterns to a design resembling the form of a bedspring were all instrumental in forming a highly stylised and distinctive look. A photograph taken by Louise Dahl-Wolfe here served as a refreshing contrast. It showed two men sitting in a park, dappled sunlight and shadows on their hair and clothing, resting and enjoying a moment of peace and quiet. Moving onto 1950s and 1960s images on the other hand gave us a chance to peek at photographer Norman Parkinson hanging upside down from a gymnasts climbing wall amongst his models. Beside this, there were three images by Horst, one of which showed a young Carmen Dell’Orefice, as stunning back then as she is today.

Although only a miniscule part of the overall collection, the images on display today showed the wide scope fashion imagery encompasses and the multiple different ways they can be decoded or read. From the personal to the public, the colourful to the dull, the professional glance to the amateur take, all store information on a time gone by, now preserved and ready for inspection in the wonderful archive of the National Portrait Gallery.

 

Sources:

Conversation with the Archivists of the NGP, 15/03/17.

Further Reading:

Le Brun, Lily, ”Life Lived on the Plane of Poetry:” Images of Siegfried Sassoon in the Lady Ottoline Morell Album Collection, Courtauld Institute of Art, MA Dissertation (2011).

 

Prof. Elizabeth Edwards to Speak at the Courtauld

Join us Monday 20 March in the Research Forum from 12:30 pm-1:30 pm for ‘Thoughts on historical pagents as photographs,’ an Ad/dressing History lecture with Professor Elizabeth Edwards!

Image: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The early twentieth century saw a craze for historical pageants – popular re-enactments of the history of a locality. In these the stress on authenticity of historical representation through words, scenes and costume was particularly important. Prof. Edwards will consider the role of photography in perpetuating these quasi-ritual processes, values and the social efficacy of the pageants. She argues that photographs of pageants were not merely records of pageants, but, through the temporal complexity and reality effect of photographs, created a subjunctive ‘as if’ of history which extended the reach of the ritual qualities of pageants. This paper is part of a larger ethnographic project on photography and the emergence of public histories 1850-1950.

Elizabeth Edwards is a visual and historical anthropologist. She has worked extensively on the relationships between photography, history and anthropology. She is Professor Emerita of Photographic History at De Montfort University, Honorary Professor in the Anthropology Department at UCL and will soon join the V&A Research Institute as Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor.  She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2015. Her current book projects are on photography and the emergence  concepts of the collective ownership of ancient monuments, and on photography and the apparatus and practice of history.

Easter Break 2017 – Fashion Exhibitions in Europe

Want/need a break from your dissertation writing, busy city life or 9 to 5 job? With the Easter holiday around the corner (plus Brexit being trending topic again), I thought I would share some of my personal favourite fashion-related temporary exhibitions that are on in museums all over Europe during the (UK) Easter holidays.

I can’t think of a better excuse to travel and tour wonderful cities, eat delicious food, immerse yourself into the richness of other European cultures and whilst doing so, explore some of the most interesting fashion exhibitions of this year outside the UK.

 

MUSEE DES ARTS DÉCORATIFS (Paris), from 1 December 2016 to 23 April 2017.

“Tenue Correcte Exigée: Quand Le Vêtement Fait Scandale” revisits the scandals that have marked the great turning points in fashion history from the 14th century to today. Featuring outfits, portraits and objects, it explores the liberties taken with dress codes and how they breached moral values. The robe volante, women in trousers, men in skirts, female tuxedo, miniskirt… (with examples as Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo, Elsa Schiaparelli’s jumpsuit and Yves Saint Laurent’s female tuxedo, among others).

http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/en/exhibitions/current-events-1322/musee-des-arts-decoratifs/tenue-correcte-exigee-quand-le-vetement-fait-scandale/

Dior by John Galliano, Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2000, inspired by Paris homeless population. From “Tenue Correcte Exigée : Quand Le Vêtement Fait Scandale” at Les Artes decoratifs © Guy Marineau

PALAIS GALLERIA (Paris), from April 27th to August 13th 2017.

“Dalida, Une Garde-Robe De La Ville À La Scène” pays homage to Dalida with an exhibition of her wardrobe, recently donated to the museum. Dressed by the greatest designers both on and off-stage, in haute couture or in prêt-à-porter, Dalida has remained an immensely popular star in France. Her wardrobe always followed the movements of fashion, but it also reflected her artistic development.

And

From March 8th to July 16th 2017

“Balenciaga, L’oeuvre Au Noir”. Spanish Season – A Palais Galliera Extra-Mural Exhibition pays homage to the couturier with an extra-mural exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle. The exhibition resonates with the black tones of an alchemist of haute couture: variations of black repeated in over a hundred of pieces from the Galliera collections and the archives of Maison Balenciaga. This exhibition opens the Palais Galliera’s Spanish season, which will continue with Costumes espagnols entre ombre et lumière (‘Spanish costumes from dark to bright’) at the Maison Victor Hugo (21 June – 24 September 2017) and will finish with Mariano Fortuny at the Palais Galliera (4 October 2017 – 7 January 2018).

http://www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr/en/exhibitions/

Dalida, Paris, Bobino, October 1958. © Boris Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet ; Jean Dessès, dresss, Dalida, 1958. © Julien Vidal / Roger-Viollet. From “Dalida, Une Garde-Robe De La Ville À La Scène” at Paris Galliera.

MODEMUSEUM HASSELT (Hasselt, Belgium), from 4th March to 3rd September 2017.

“Across Japan” features the fascinating innovations introduced by the Japanese avant-garde designers and their younger peers in combination with newer Western interpretations of the ‘Japanese’ aesthetics. At the same time, the show seeks to illustrate that this concern with Japan in the West is nothing new and has a long tradition going back to the seventeenth century, which is explored through a set of themes and a selection of silhouettes supplemented with visuals aiming at pinpointing the peculiar nature of it. The exhibition is part of the Yokoso Festival – 25 Years Japanese Garden in Hasselt.

http://www.modemuseumhasselt.be/#/tentoonstelling/across-japan/en/id/175

 MoMu (Antwerp, Belgium), from 31st March to 27th August 2017.

“Margiela, the Hermes Years” will display Belgian stylist Martin Margiela’s Hermès collections from 1997 to 2003 for the first time. As well as this, the tribute exhibition also explores the relationship during these years between these collections and his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. Groundbreaking deconstruction and timeless luxury – the two worlds of designer Martin Margiela – are the starting point of this exhibition.

http://www.momu.be/en/tentoonstelling/margiela-de-hermes-jaren.html

An image from “Margiela: The Hermès Years” at © MoMu

STAALICHE KUNSTSAMMULUNGEN (Dresden, Germany, State Art Museum), 3 March to 5 June 2017.

“Women Cross Media. Photography, Porcelain and Prints from China and Japan” is a presentation in the context of the exhibition Dresden • Europe • World and is dedicated to the cross-media issue of how femininity was portrayed in images in East Asian art of the early 18th to the late 19th century – in a dialogue between objects from the Porcelain Collection, the Photography Collection of the Museum of Ethnology and from the Kupferstich-Kabinett.

http://www.skd.museum/en/special-exhibitions/women-cross-media/index.html

“Kyoto Girls” (Drei Kurtisanen), Kyoto, from the album “Japan III”, 1880–1900, Museum für Völkerkunde. From “Women Cross Media”at Dresden State Art Museum, © SKD

KUNSTGEWEBERMUSEUM (Berlin, Germany), Until March 2017 (only for early birds, but I had to include it, looks fantastic!).

“Uli Richter Revisited – Fashion Visionary, Teacher, Inspiration” coincides with Uli Richter’s 90th birthday, and features some of the highlights of the Berlin fashion designer’s work. As one of the youngest major designers working in Berlin in the early 1950s, he played an important role in forging a ‘made in Berlin’ style. Over the more than 40 years in which he worked as a fashion designer, he succeeded in reinvigorating and consolidating Berlin’s reputation as an international centre of fashion. Clothing, design sketches, and photographs, provide the viewer with a glimpse into Berlin’s young fashion scene in the 1980s and 1990s.

http://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/uli-richter-revisited-modedenker-lehrer-inspiration.html

Heinrich von der Becke, Uli Richter with Mannequins Gisela Ebel and Gitta Schilling during the presentation of his first solo collection, 1959 © Bildarchiv Heinrich von der Becke, Sportmuseum Berlin. From “Uli Richter Revisited” at Kunstgewerbemuseum.

WIEN MUSEUM KARLSPLATZ (Viena, Austria), from 24th November 2016 to 26th February 2017

“Robert Haas. Framing Two Worlds.” Robert Haas (1898-1997) is among the great Austrian-American photographers of the twentieth century. He began his artistic career in Vienna as a graphic designer before studying photography. In the 1930s, Haas created stirring works of social reportage and sensitive depictions of everyday life, along with portraits and object studies of subjects in the city. On the way to his exhile to New York, Haas documented the American way of life beyond the big cities as well as public figures. The exhibition presents his virtually unknown oeuvre to the public for the first time: at once an artistic discovery of the first order and a richly detailed panorama of the times.

http://www.wienmuseum.at/en/exhibitions/detail/robert-haas-framing-two-worlds.html

Marlene Dietrich at the Salzburg Festival, 1936-1937 © Wien Museum/Sammlung Robert Haas. From “Robert Haas. Framing Two Worlds” at Wien Museum Karlsplatz.

LIVRUSTKAMMAREN (Stockholm, Sweden), from 15th September to 19th March 2017.

“Renaissance fashion in paper. The Medici family outside the frame”. Impressive costumes, opulent creations, extravagant forms and strong colours. Lace, frills, trains, rosettes and flounces. A Renaissance collection – inspired by the most powerful Renaissance family, the Medicis. The collection has been entirely made of paper by the Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. Now her most extravagant collection is being presented in the Royal Armoury in the Royal Palace, for the first time in both Sweden and Scandinavia.

http://livrustkammaren.se/en/exhibition/renaissance-fashion-paper

MUSEO SALVATORE FERRAGAMO (Florence, Italy), from 19th May 2016 to 17th May 2017.

“Across Art and Fashion”, analyses the forms of dialogue between these two worlds: reciprocal inspirations, overlaps and collaborations, from the experiences of the Pre-Raphaelites to those of Futurism, and from Surrealism to Radical Fashion. It focuses on the work of Salvatore Ferragamo, who was fascinated and inspired by the avant-garde art movements of the 20th century, on several ateliers of the Fifties and Sixties and the advent of the culture of celebrities. It then examines the experimentation of the Nineties and whether in the contemporary cultural industry we can still talk about two separate worlds or if we are dealing with fluid roles.

http://www.ferragamo.com/museo/en/usa/exhibitions/

View of the exhibition © Museo Salvatore Ferragamo

GUCCI MUSEUM (Florence, Italy), from February 2017.

“The Tom Ford Rooms” showcase women’s and men’s ready-to-wear in one room and accessories in another. The aim of the spaces is to remind people of the way in which Ford encouraged self-expression through developing a distinctive, sensual aesthetic for the House. The decoration of the rooms and the way in which the items on display are presented contribute to a mood of provocative sensuality that perfectly reflects the image that Ford created for Gucci while he was at the helm of the design team at the label.

http://www.guccimuseo.com/en/gucci-archive/tom-ford/

View of the ready-to-wear room © Tom Ford Rooms at Gucci Museum

CRISTOBAL BALENCIAGA MUSEOA (Biarritz, Spain), 6th October 2016 to 7th May 2017.

“Coal And Velvet. Views On Popular Costumes By Ortiz Echagüe And Balenciaga” explores the romantic vision and the aesthetic revision that Cristóbal Balenciaga, in his Haute Couture creations, and Ortiz Echagüe, in his photographic narrations of traditional Spain, make of popular costumes. It establishes a dialogue offering interpretations of a reality, that of popular costumes, which was already becoming extinct in the early 20th century and which both, through works of undeniable artistic quality, give validity and bestow on them a timeless quality.

And

“Cristóbal Balenciaga. Un Legado Atemporal”, 1st January 2016 to 7 May, 2017.

One of the most influential couturiers of the 20th century and a tireless perfectionist with an exceptional creative talent that inspired him to design models that were audacious in both their form and aesthetics, taking the world by storm and setting the indisputable trend season after season. His command of the craft earned him the respect of his colleagues and he reigned supreme in the international haute couture world until he retired in 1968.

http://www.cristobalbalenciagamuseoa.com/en/explore/exhibitions/cristobal-balenciaga-a-timeless-legacy.html

Cristóbal Balenciaga París, 1960, © Balenciaga Archives, Paris. From “Cristóbal Balenciaga. Un Legado Atemporal” at Balenciaga Museoa.

Horrockses Fashions: Fun, Feminine, Fifties

Vogue UK February 1949. Image courtesy of lancashirebusinessreview.co.uk

If the thought of summer dressing makes you think of cotton floral frocks with full swingy skirts you may have Horrockses to thank for that image.  One of the most popular dress lines in Britain and in America in the late 40s and 50s, Horrockses Fashions was known for its cotton prints manufactured in their own mill in Preston, Lancashire.   The mill dated back to 1791 and by the early 20th century was established as a trusted manufacturer of cotton goods, mostly household linens.  To expand their sales of manufactured goods into the lucrative fashion market, the parent company Horrockses, Crewdson & Co. Limited launched the Horrockses Fashions ready-to-wear line in 1946.  Horrockses had the goal of increasing desirability for their fabrics and then satisfying the demand with their own products.  Their vertically integrated business model ensured commerce at multiple points in the market.

Horrockses dress, 1957, V&A

Horrockses dress with bows, 1951-58, Bowes Museum

Horrockses Fashions were best known for their day dresses though they also produced housecoats, beachwear, and evening dresses.  As these examples show, there came to be a distinctive Horrockses silhouette for the dresses consisting of full skirts, tailored bodices, and defined waists which shows the influence of Christian Dior’s New Look that debuted in 1947.  Floral patterns, particularly roses, bows, and bands of print or bayadere, were signature motifs repeated every season which also borrowed heavily from Dior’s aesthetic.

Horrockses dress with bayadere design, 1953, V&A

To mitigate against the low-end connotations of mass-produced clothing, Horrockses carefully followed the lines, silhouettes and trends of the couture collections shown in Paris and London.  Cottons were accessible fabrics that had the weight and drape to create the New Look silhouette but with a softer, more casual result.  The dresses were made of high-quality cottons which were washable much like synthetics on the market.  Horrockses thus combined the easy-care of sportswear with tailored, sophisticated cuts associated with couture to bring the consumer “the best of both worlds.”

Horrockses evening dress featured in Vogue, January 1956

Horrockses Fashions differed from Dior and other couture houses in their frequent use of bright, playful prints which were generally highly stylized and abstract.  The company avoided unsophisticated connotations with their prints by aligning them with art, using exclusive designs by leading British artists including Eduardo Paolozzi, Graham Sutherland, and Alastair Morton.

pp. 96-7 of Horrockses Fashions: Off-the Peg Style in the 40s and 50s showing a design by Eduardo Paolozzi

At the symbolic level, voluminous skirts signalled plenty while the summery florals bring associations of vacations, resort, and weekend leisure which put the dresses at a clear remove from workwear.  Instead, Horrockses dresses correlated escape, fun, and exuberance with style, elegance, and femininity.  In the British post-war context, with rationing still in place into the early 1950s, Horrockses dresses were viewed as a splurge for an occasion such as a honeymoon.  In the American import context, however, Horrockses Fashions fit in perfectly with the broader cultural landscape of social change in the 1950s when the country prospered economically and disposable income increased across class strata.  The economic boom brought increased choices in manufactured goods which in turn increased consumerism.  An accompanying urban out-migration led to the rapid development of suburbs and the American dream of home-ownership became a reality for many.  Suburban houses came with front lawns and backyards where barbeques, pool parties, and gardening took place, providing a lifestyle scenario complementary to the look of Horrockses dresses.

Horrockses advertisement, Vogue, June 1950. Image from Christine Boydell, Horrockses Fashions: : Off-the-Peg Style in the 40s and 50s

The colourful aesthetic of Horrockses Fashions reflects the circulation of intensely saturated color images in print and film due to Kodachrome and Technicolor processes.  The wide scale of the skirts, too, abundant with fabric, seem to reflect the various widescreen film formats that enticed audiences into movie theatres and drive-ins to see historical epics, westerns, and melodramas.  Full-skirted, brightly-colored, patterned dresses such as those of Horrockses are like costumes for living life as it was depicted on screen: monumental, colourful, dramatic.

Model Barbara Gaolen in a Horrockses evening gown, Vogue October 1952

Horrockses dresses typically were produced in runs of 1,000-1,500.  Despite being mass-produced, the Horrockses ready-to-wear line had an air of exclusivity established through use of select retailers, exclusive prints, quality fabric, and well-cut and designed garments.  The image of quality always tied back to their own cotton manufacturing.  Horrockses Fashions advertisements regularly featured the sub-heading, “in fine cotton” under the brand name, underscoring excellence in their product.  The eminence reserved for couture was also accorded to Horrockses dresses in some measure by its royal selection.  Images of Queen Mary at the Horrockses showroom in Hanover Square and of Princesses Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret wearing the dresses cemented the company’s image as respectable, feminine, and desirable.  Editorial features in top fashion magazines also buoyed up Horrockses reputation as fashionable.

Though the name Horrockses might not be familiar to many today, their legacy is alive and well in contemporary fashion.  In a Telegraph article by Katherine Rushton on April 20, 2013, the impending sale of the Horrockses company was discussed.  The article states, “Horrockses vintage dresses had tapped into a growing demand for prom outfits, and that there was strong demand for newer versions…’These dresses are going on eBay for £250 each, they are part of Britain’s heritage.’” Hit television show Mad Men also likely whetted consumer appetites for mid-century style.  It is not surprising then that in the past year, ready-to-wear line Maje featured lace dresses with “puff-ball” skirts in a bayadere style and Ines de la Fressange’s S/S 2017 line for Uniqlo featured full-skirted dresses in floral and gingham patterns, similar to what it has done in recent seasons.  The Horrocks label was briefly resuscitated as a housewares line that sold at House of Fraser.  Exhibitions of Horrockses Fashions have been mounted at the Harris Museum, Preston (2011) and the Fashion and Textile Museum, London (2010).

Maje’s Rayela dress from the A/W 2016-17 season featuring a full skirt and bayadere design, image from uk.maje.com

Further reading:

Boydell, Christine.  Horrockses Fashions: Off-the-Peg Style in the 40s and 50s. London:  V&A Publishing, 2010.

Burden, Rosemary and Jo Turney. Floral Frocks: The Floral Printed Dress From 1900 to Today. London: AAC Art Books, 2007.

Arnold, Rebecca, ‘Wifedressing: Designing Femininity in 1950s American Fashion,’ in Glenn Adamson and Victoria Kelley, eds., Surface Tensions: Surface, Finish and the Meaning of Objects, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), pp.123-33.

Chatting ‘Cause & Effect’ with Amnah Hafez

Since skeptics proclaimed that print is dead some years ago, the opposite seems to have happened. There are now more fashion magazines than ever – just walk into Wardour News; the choice is overwhelming. Yet something is missing in all those glossy pages, a void that Amnah Hafez and her incredible team at a new magazine Cause & Effect are about to fill. I wanted to know more about their exciting venture, and so I spoke to Amnah to find out what to look forward to. One thing I am already sure of: I cannot wait to get my hands on the first issue. Now everyone, form an orderly queue, please.

BK: What inspired you to start your own magazine? 

AH: I wanted to see a magazine out there that was inherently diverse and inclusive. I was frustrated at the lack of that in the magazines I was picking up. And by that I mean in terms of age, gender, race, body type, work experience etc. I wanted to celebrate those who I felt were ignored. The content I was seeing never represented me, my friends or a lot of the people I know and respect. It was born after years of discussion between Tom Rasmussen (Executive Editor) and I. We essentially were so upset at how the industry was basically based on exclusion.

BK: Why Cause & Effect?

AH: When the discussion began on how we wanted to layout the magazine, I thought about the number three a lot. A number I always felt was complete and whole (I am superstitious and believe good things and bad things happen in threes, and so this was my good thing in threes, I suppose). I started to research the number itself within the context of religion and mythology, and ended up reading about the rule of three in Wiccan religion. “It states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times.” Essentially Karma. Cause & Effect was born from that. We wanted to put out something good into the world. We wanted to carve out a little place for ourselves within the industry where we could showcase the works of people we admire and create content where the unappreciated could feel appreciated.

Taking a break. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What is the concept/ethos of the magazine?

AH: This is exactly what we wrote down when we set out to begin the magazine, and what we would send to potential contributors:

Cause & Effect marries fashion and politics. We want to talk about a love of fashion that doesn’t require moral and intellectual compromise. We want to explore beauty beyond the realms of the unachievable, the non-diverse. We want to discuss mental health, race, body type, gender, sex, sexuality in a candid way, in a beautiful way, in an accessible way.”

BK: Is there a magazine that influenced how you put together C&E?

AH: Not really. William, my husband and our Art Director is a furniture designer who also creates digital artwork. He doesn’t have a background in graphic design per se, so the layouts are influenced by the pieces he was working with rather than existing designs he’d seen elsewhere.

BK: Why did you decide to create a print magazine rather than going digital? 

AH: Because I’m not well equipped to deal with that world just yet. Ha! I also wanted to create something that you could always go back to. Like any of the coffee table books that you would have. I wanted it to be tangible and beautiful. There is such a quickness to online content. It’s there, then it’s gone. I know you can save it, but how often do you go back to something you bookmarked? Or re-read an article you’ve saved? I don’t know, that’s my feeling about it. The books I own are always my source of inspiration.

Backdrop. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What types of articles can your readers expect from issue one?

AH: Articles on mental health, fetishism, leaving religion, fat-shaming, being a drag queen in the Middle East.

BK: You have a very small team of five editors. How did you manage to put the magazine together when you all have other jobs as well? Was there a big dependence on other collaborators? 

AH: In a way, of course, there would be no magazine without their help. We have some amazing contributors in this magazine that we were so eager to work with, so we’re very lucky they agreed to work with us. But at the magazine itself, we just divided the work between each of us. Everyone in my team happens to work freelance, so we met when we could and split the jobs between us. Tom and Emily Carlton (who is our Managing Editor) concentrated on the written content as well as commissioning writers, while myself and Vince Larubina (Senior Fashion Editor) produced the shoots. I styled some of them and came up with some of the concepts for them, and we also handled all creative aspects of the magazine such as finding and commissioning artists. It’s an annual magazine so it was basically done in our spare time.

Hair and make-up. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: How did the decision to work with your husband and close friends come about? Was it something you always spoke about or did it happen quite organically?

AH: As I said, Tom and I talked about it for sometime and when we began, it was the two of us that really founded this magazine. We reached out to people we knew to carry other responsibilities in their spare time, because we couldn’t keep up with the workload. I think it’s natural that you’ll reach out to people you know because you trust them, know what their job situation is like, so you know when they’re available and how often, and most importantly, know that they’re good at their jobs. I reached out to Vince (who lives in New York) because he had just quit his job because he was unhappy (he’s got the best eye and the best taste, and his body of reference is just unbelievable), and I needed the help. So he came out to London and lived with me for some time and we worked on the magazine together. I couldn’t have done it without him.

BK: Do you have any tips for people who would like to start their own magazine? 

AH: Have something to say. Make it your truth. Always ask! You never know who will agree to contribute or help out. Remember that this isn’t a job where you’ll be making money (ha), so you’ve got to fucking love it.

Editorial sneak-peek. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What are your hopes for the magazine in the future? 

AH: For someone to buy it and read it? Haha. I would love to continue to showcase and represent more people I admire, for those people to inspire others as they have inspired me. I have a vision for the brand itself, and for the magazine but it’s baby steps. I want to eventually create an online presence, e-commerce (t-shirts, posters etc.), eventually a charity, but some of it is not for quite some time yet. I want to make a few more issues before expanding – I just hope that with time, Cause & Effect can be my full-time job.

Getting camera-ready. Photo by Amnah Hafez

First issue of Cause & Effect will be out in March/April 2017. 

Fashioning Eva Perón’s Rainbow Tour

French foreign minister Georges Bidault (R) greets Eva Perón as she arrives at Orly Airport. © AFP/Getty Images

Eva Perón, immortalized in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical Evita, was just as much a superstar in real life as her fictional counterpart. A rural girl turned actress turned First Lady of Argentina, Eva cultivated her image throughout her life as a symbol of the potential for descamisados (underprivileged people) to succeed. Her 1947 European Rainbow Tour marked a turning point in Eva’s sartorial evolution, as she stepped out for the last time in celebrity finery before refining her style.

Fresh off the win of her husband Juan Perón in the presidential election, 28-year-old Eva visited Spain, Italy, France, and Switzerland as a sign of goodwill between Argentina and Europe. While she had been dressing to impress the Argentinian people for years, the Rainbow Tour (so named after Eva, dubbed the ‘Rainbow of Argentina’) was her chance to dazzle the leaders and people of the European continent. Argentinian fashion houses Paula Naletoff, Henriette, and Bernarda most likely designed her clothing for the tour.

Eva Perón listens as Spain’s General Franco gives a speech in Madrid. ©Popperfoto/Getty Images

Eva’s clothes displayed the splendor of Argentina to a continent still reeling from World War II, and she dressed to fully exploit each moment of her tour. When General Franco welcomed her to Spain, she wore a carefully tailored suit, a spray of flowers on her lapel, and a towering black hat atop her perfectly coiffed hair. Her suit communicated the formality of her position, while its light color softened her appearance.

From L to R: Eva Perón during a visit to the Commercial Exhibition in Milan. ©Hulton Archive/Keystone/Getty Images; Eva Perón wearing a floral print dress and hat as she leaves a building during her visit to Paris. ©Archive Images/RDA/Getty Images; Eva Perón attending a reception at the Palace of Justice in Rome. ©Hulton Archive/Keystone/Getty Images.

Given that the Rainbow Tour took place in June and July of 1947, most of Eva’s dresses still followed the boxy silhouette of the mid-1940s. Eva updated her wardrobe to suit the New Look through the use of belts and further feminized her outfits with flowers. Photographs from her time in Italy and France show a preference for floral headdresses/hats and floral pattern dresses, appropriate for the summer season.

On one of her last nights in Paris, Eva stepped out with the Argentinian ambassador to France in a striking metallic gown. The figure-hugging cut of the dress, elaborate hairstyle, and sparkling jewels reflect Eva’s origins as an actress. Her desire for a glamourous life was made manifest not at an award show, however, but on a diplomatic mission as the most powerful woman in Argentina.

Eva Perón and Julio Roca (Argentinian ambassador to France) in Paris. ©Hulton Archive/RDA/Getty Images

After the Rainbow Tour, Eva fully embraced the New Look and dramatically toned down her style, transitioning from flashy actress to fashionable and refined First Lady. She smoothed her hair into a low chignon, adopted a clean makeup palette with a bold red lip, and filled her closet with clothes by Dior and Jacques Fath, both of whom had mannequins with Eva’s measurements in their ateliers. Her stock of Parisian couture suits, gowns, and other outfits would be biannually replenished until her death at 33 from cervical cancer.

Performing the Kimono in the 19th Century

Gustave Leonard de Jonghe (Belgian, 1829 – 1893), (L’admiratrice du Japon), The Japanese Fan, c. 1865, oil on canvas, 44 ¼ x 34 1/16 in., Gift of the Francis & Miranda Childress Foundation, AG.1988.3.1. Cummer Museum. 

With the Americans’ forceful opening of Japanese markets in 1853, waves of ‘Japonisme’ washed over the West until well into the 20th century. One of Japan’s key exports during this period was the kimono, which was not produced in the West until around the fin de siècle. In an attempt to maintain and increase demand for the kimono, Japan did not export part of its own kimono stock, but rather created kimonos with what the Japanese considered to be a Western cut and textile patterns. Nonetheless, the exoticism of these garments became immensely popular in the West, whilst simultaneously the kimono was considered Oriental indecorum. Therefore, for most of the 19th century, wearing a kimono became a performance. Through the performance, an ‘othering’ took place that allowed a ‘respectable Western woman’ to wear a kimono without it being considered inappropriate.

Alfred Stevens (Belgian 1823-1906), La Parisienne japonaise, c. 1872, oil on canvas, 105 × 150 cm (41.3 × 59.1 in), AM 526/183. © Liège, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Boverie.

This performance was not only presented in 19th century Western paintings, but also perfectly expressed by a reader’s letter published by Good Housekeeping in May 1904. The publication, founded in 1885 by Clark W. Bryan, was as one of the first women’s magazines “conducted in the interests of the higher life of the household.” As such, rather than expressing the fashions and ideas of the wealthy, it focussed on general information for the influential new middle class. The reader’s letter describes a Japanese tea party that was hosted the year before and sets out an approach to giving your own:

“Write the invitations on a Japanese napkin, then tuck each one into a tiny Japanese lantern on which the guest’s name has been printed with India ink. […] The reception rooms may be adorned by lanterns, fans, parasols, screens, all of Japanesy style. Scatter cherry blossoms in great snowy masses to light up shadowy corners. […] The hostess may quite properly receive her guests – who of course are all ladies – in a graceful, gorgeous, silky kimono. Her hair should be dressed Japanese style, adorned with half a dozen tiny bright fans, and she should wear pointed, embroidered slippers.”

John Atkinson Grimshaw (British 1836-1893), Spring, c. 1875, oil on canvas. Private Collection.

As the reader’s description makes clear, rather than just dressing up in a kimono, the hostess needs to imitate Japanese style as thoroughly as possible, including in her hair and shoes. Her home, too, should be decorated with as many Japanese objects as possible and even the invitations should look decidedly Japanese. Through recreating this little Japanese scene, rather than just hosting a party, she is clad in a costume and her home becomes a kind of set design. In that way, the performance allows a Western woman enough distance from her normal self to wear an ‘oriental’ garment without it affecting her status. Many Western painters were interested in the theme or ‘Orientalism’ and painted women in kimonos surrounded by Japanese art objects and furniture.

Frans Verhas (Belgian 1827 – 1897), Le Kimono Japonais, painting on panel, 75 x 47.5 cm. (29.5 x 18.7 in.). Private Collection.

William Merritt Chase (American 1849-1916), A Comfortable Corner (At Her Ease; The Blue Kimona [sic}; The Blue Kimono), c. 1888, oil on canvas, 57 x 44 1/2 inches, Littlejohn Collection, 1961.5.21. Parrish Art Museum.

Alfred Wordsworth Thompson (American 1840-1896), (La Japonaise), The Japanese Lady, oil on canvas, 114.2 x 76.1 cm (44.96″ x 29.96″). Private collection.

Sources:

Good Housekeeping c. 1904. Discoveries by Our Observers and Experimenters. Good Housekeeping, 38(5), p. 527.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. [Online]. 2016. Dressing Gown. [Accessed 14 February 2017]. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/155954.

Wood, J. P. 1949. Magazines in the United States. 2nd ed. New York: The Ronald Press Company.