M’s Dresses at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Harris Museum and Art Gallery with M (see my posts about her collection here). She had donated quite a large selection of her Horrockses Fashions’ collection to the museum which has the largest collection in the country (and probably the world!)

M chatted with curator Caroline Alexander about her memories of wearing her Horrockses and Caroline showed her the permanent display and the rest of the Museum’s extensive collection.

The dresses donated include this summer dress which was worn to a garden party in the mid-1950s. It is made from a plain blue cotton which is overlaid with a white broderie anglaise fabric. And this daisy print sun dress (unfortunately without its little jacket).

M was able to provide some images of her wearing some of the donated items, including this pink and white spotted towelling jacket which she wore often. She can be seen sporting it her on a Mediterranean cruise ship. She took a trunkful of Horrockses on this trip.

When she travelled to New York on the Queen Mary  in the early 1960s she wore Horrockses again. The photograph below shows her wearing a late 1950s empire-line dress.

One of her favourite dresses was this 1953 black and white check nylon evening dress with its striking fuschia pink sash. She remembers wearing it to a dance where she waltzed with her brother (who worked at Horrockses Fashions), a rather grumpy Princess Margaret was in attendance.

Continuing the non-cotton theme, there are a number of items in the donation that reflect Horrockses Fashions’ practice of devoting about 20% of their production to other fabrics. This includes a purple and black silk dress and this amazing yellow negligee/gown (which M never wore), a hounds tooth cheque winter dress, and a pink silk day dress with pleated flounce at the hem and a red velvet strapless outfit.

One cotton dress has been given to the Harris as it uses the same fabric design as one already in its collection. This illustrates the deliberate strategy Horrockses Fashions adopted of enhancing the perceived exclusivity of the brand by using fabric strategically, to help disguise the scale of production. So the usual practice was to aim to style each fabric ‘twice in quite different types of garments.’

One of the great aspects of the donotion is when one can cross reference with other items in the Harris collection. They have a number of books that include fashion sketches and fabric samples. One match is M’s dark pink coat lined with a strawberry cotton print (she originally had the dress too – as shown in the image from Homes & Gardens magazine March 1954).

The donation also includes fabric samples and hats (you can read more about these here).

The donation includes a Horrockses’ evening dress worn by M’s mother (brown satin) and a number of other items illustrated below.

M decided to give such a large donation to the Harris as she was determined her dresses should be available for study by researchers. If you want to look at any of the Harris’s collection please contact them to make an appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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