That’s been me this week!
I have been discovering fashion and textiles that have been stored for years – and helping to find new homes for them. I have been opening dusty boxes and crawling about in an attic. All of the treasures have come from one woman (M), a lady whose brother worked at Horrockses Fashions in the fifties. M was the lucky recipient of model dresses worn at the fashions shows at Horrockses’ headquarters in Hanover Square, Mayfair. She must have been one of the best dressed women in London! There are day and evening dresses, skirts, coats, jackets, fabrics, hats, gloves and shoes – from the 1950s and 1960s. And not just Horrockses – there’s couture and ready-to-wear from Paris.
Some of the collection will find its way into museums and some will be sold – but before that happens I have been recording and researching some of the pieces.
These two evening dresses (above) are couture pieces that came from Horrockses. The firm were keen to follow developments in Paris and were known to buy regularly from Parisian houses. (Boydell, 2010: 43) As far as I know they wouldn’t copy directly – but used the purchases to inspire the designers. We included this red velvet and satin Horrockses’ creation in the exhibition in 2010 and I think it is clear that the influence came from Paris. The other evening dresses in M’s collection also reference Paris.
The classic Horrockses’ floral frock is well represented.
But also M had a number of straight styles and winter suits (which she wore a lot). Seeing them altogether gives a taste of the variety of designs that the firm produced, but also the fact that they produced in fabrics other than cotton.
As a fashion historian one of the most interesting aspects of the collection are the number of items that have been partially or wholly unpicked, alteration projects never completed.
These garments represent M’s love of her dresses – the fabric was so valued – she wanted to continue to wear them in some form. There are a number of unpicked skirts which are testament to the generous use of fabric in the 1950s (most are over three metres) and the white broderie anglais is over four!)
Getting up into the attic was a treat. M was worried that we hadn’t been able to locate some pieces and thought she may have given them to a charity shop. So on the morning I was due to leave up I went. Lots of boxes, old trunks and suitcases – most empty. And then I came across a couple of more difficult to reach boxes that were full! Lots more Horrockses and other goodies too: some fancy dress worn at a Chelsea Arts Club ball, her father’s top hats and a beautiful bowler in its equally beautiful box.
We had included a piece of the ball game fabric in the 2010 exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum, but at the time M couldn’t find the outfit – but there it was in the bottom of a box. A photograph of the design and sample is in the Harris Museum & Art Gallery’s extensive Horrockses’ collection.
So much to share about this amazing visit – so follow me and you will receive news about Part Two (and possibly further instalments!) – including discussions of hats, prints and playsuits.