Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book Love: Horrockses Fashions

I was beyond excited when this book landed on my desk courtesy of the Allen and Unwin fairy (thanks Jess!). A history of the hugely influential British ready-to-wear label Horrockses, I must confess that as an Aussie I knew little of this brand until this lavishly illustrated hardback crossed my path.

Horrockes was actually started in the 1790s, and for hundreds of years was known as a producer of quality cotton and yarn. In the 1930s they targeted their quality lines mainly to the home dressmaker, but after the close of WWII, and as ready-to-wear fashion became more and more visible and viable, Horrockses decided to launch their own high quality fashion label. Horrockes Fashions would come to be known for their lush fabrics and gorgeous prints, and they employed talented designers such as Alastair Morton and Pat Albeck as well as freelancers and artists to keep the brand ahead of it's imitators.

The 1940s and 1950s were the labels heyday; Horrockses Fashion was sold to another business in 1964, and this precipitated a decline in quality, which eventually saw the label disappear in the early 80s.

Here are a couple of gorgeous dresses & a sun suit that I scanned from the book.

There are so many amazing prints on display too, from beautiful florals to arty geometrical and kooky novelty prints. This one was inspired by opera costumes.

A couple of advertisements.

And V&A Publications have assembled quite the photographic collection of "real" British women wearing Horrockses Fashions. In this photograph all the ladies are actually Horrockses employees out on a picnic, each one wearing a different Horrockses item.

A peruse of the Internet has me convinced that these gorgeous pieces of history are hard to find, so I'd love to hear from anyone who has a Horrockses dress?
The V&A have mined the print library to produce a few reproduction items, such as the frock above.
And the lovely floral sundress below is a true blue 1950s number which you can purchase over at Vintage-a-Peel.

For those fascinated by what real women wore in the 40s and 50s - 0r for the print obsessed - this would make a great addition to the bookshelf.


Camelia Crinoline said...

I actually own two Horrockses dresses from the 50s. Both of them have lovely bright floral prints. It's interesting that you say you think they are hard to find, I always thought they must be quite common since I had managed to find two of them in a country like New Zealand, which is not exactly renowned for huge amounts of vintage. I really love stuff like this. It's so cool learning about where my vintage dresses came from.

The Collar of the Dove said...

I've got a 70s Horrockses sleeveless floral print maxi dress, acquired online from UK. The label reads 'By appointment to H.M. the Queens Dressmakers'.

Louise said...

Love it!
Camelia Crinoline - I haven't seen a Horrockses label in my travels around Sydney yet, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough. I will definitely be alert here on in.

joanne said...

I grow up on stories of Horrockses. My Mum worked for them in the 50's & 60's as a sample maker. Sadly we don't have any dresses left, but you quite often find them on ebay UK. As well as old adverts etc.

pamela said...

My mum had a Horrockses dress which I borrowed to go to a Scout dance when I was around 14 in 1956in Scotland. It was much too big for me but I think we pulled it in with its sash or a belt. I'm sure there must be a photo of my mother wearing it somewhere - I'll look! Looking at the prints, they must have inspired other companies to use similar fabrics to produce cheaper styles.