Kid in a Sweet Shop: Part Two

This Part Two of my amazing trip last week to help M sort out her collection of vintage clothing – Part One can be found here.

Horrockses Fashions were renowned for their pattern designs, produced by salaried designers, bought from freelancers and studios, or,  occasionally from well-known artists. M’s collection includes a varied range. The patterns were designed exclusively for the brand – you couldn’t buy them to make a dress yourself – although the parent company did produce cotton fabric sold by the  yard. (See my interview with Wendy Simpson).

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This strawberry design appears in several forms in M’s collection: the lining of a coat, an unpicked skirt and some small pieces. It was designed in 1952 by the freelance designer Brigette Dehnert.

Another freelancer well represented is Ursula Hertz Sternberg (1925-2000). Born in Cologne (Germany) she emigrated to Holland and then Belgium during World War II where she designed fabrics and clothing for Forma. In London she worked for Zika Ascher and was introduced to Horrockses Fashions by Elspeth Juda of The Ambassador magazine.

Pat Albeck was employed as a designer from 1953 to 1958 and produced a fantastic variety of patterns – but her superb drawing ability is what really stands out. This is particularly evident in her Apple & Blackberry design which was produced when she was still a student at the Royal College of Art, Horrockses manufactured it in 1953.


M has two colourways of Pat’s grape and vine pattern, also beautifully drawn, as is the nut design used here for a dress (with wool jacket).

One of Pat’s most popular patterns with Horrockses’ fans is her lobster design – here we see it in a summer skirt. Pat worked closely with Horrockses’ fashion designers and it was John Tullis who asked her to produce something using a lobster motif, the original design (in the V&A) was altered considerably for the final fabric.


You can read more about Pat’s work for Horrockses in my book and on her website.

When we think of Horrockses we think florals. But the firm’s use of plains, checks and stripes were also important to its success. Striped dresses in crisp cotton, checks combined with plains provided consumers with practical dresses for all kinds of occasions. M’s collection includes bolts of fabric, there are metres of checks, there’s tartan, stripes, plains, cottons, wools and some fabrics I am struggling to identify (see the blue textured below).

Quirky, or novelty prints are here too. Including this Margaret Meades’ design produced by Horrockses to commemorate the Queen’s coronation in 1953. This was a popular design and examples survive in the collections of both the V&A and the Harris Museum, Preston.

The cotton printed fabrics that were the mainstay of Horrockses Fashions’ production were originated and printing organised by the firm, other kinds of material were obtained from other sources. For example, embroidered fabric including broderie anglais, was purchased from St Gallen in Switzerland, while silk, satin and nylon came from West Cumberland Silk Mills in Whitehaven.

As a textile-lover, one of the joys of this collection are the examples of different colourways of the same design.

So that’s Part Two – if you follow this blog you will receive a notification of future posts which will include a piece on hats and one on sun/play suits.

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One Response to Kid in a Sweet Shop: Part Two

  1. Beautiful fabrics and part 3 to come!

    Liked by 1 person

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