Horrockses Fashion : Off-the-peg style in the 40s and 50s by Christine Boydel

by |June 9, 2010

Horrockses Fashion

Tells the story of this iconic British fashion label and its role in the history of ready to wear fashion in the postwar decades.

Horrockses Fashions was one of most respected ready-to-wear labels of the late 40s and 50s. Founded in 1946, the company concentrated on the production of quality womenswear, beach clothes, housecoats and children’s attire. Although produced in considerable quantities, the firm maintained an air of exclusivity with an emphasis on good quality fabrics, especially cotton, with custom-designed patterns and couture styling.

Horrockses designs had a distinctive look, celebrated for their lively floral prints and full-skirted summer dresses. The label also collaborated with contemporary artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi, Alastair Morton and Graham Sutherland to create alluring designs for their fabrics.

Drawing together a wide range of archival material, ranging from magazine spreads to interviews with former employees and consumers, Horrockses: Off-the-Peg Fashion tells the story of this iconic label and its role in the history of the British high street, while also exploring the connections between couture and ready-to-wear fashions in the post-war decades. The book features 180 full colour illustrations.

The book has an interesting Australian connection: Gloria Smythe, creator of many of the classic Speedos swimming costume designs, worked as a designer for Horrockses from 1952 to 1956. She was a pattern maker and assistant to head designer John Tullis.

Christine Boydell is principal lecturer in Design History at De Montfort University. Her publications include The Architect of Floors: Modernism, Art and Marion Dorn Designs (1996) and she is co-editor of Disentangling Textiles: Techniques for the Study of Designed Objects (2003). In 2001 she curated Our Best Dresses: The Story of Horrockses Fashions for the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston. She is also curator of Horrockses Fashions which opens at the the Fashion and Textile Museum in London in May 2010.

The Golden Age of Couture : Paris and London 1947-1957

Fashion at its most innovative and intricate created by Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Amies and Balmain, photographed by the likes of Avedon and Beaton.

This sumptuous book, now available in a deluxe paperback edition, focuses on Parisian and British couture during the decade that Christian Dior described as fashion’s ‘golden age’. Stunning gowns and exquisite tailoring from designers such as Balenciaga, Hartnell, Amies, Balmain, Givenchy and Dior are accompanied by evocative photographs by the likes of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Cecil Beaton. The skill and craftsmanship of haute couture, the inner workings of the exclusive design houses, and the inspiration behind some of the most famous styles of all time are revealed in detail.

Claire Wilcox is Senior Curator in the V and A Textiles and Fashion Department. She curated the highly successful exhibitions The Golden Age of Couture (2007),Vivienne Westwood (2004), Versace (2002) and Radical Fashion (2001) and edited the accompanying books. She is also the author of Bags (1999) and co-author of Modern Fashion in Detail (1998).

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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