…and Gina Fratini has a dress to match. So says the London Fashion Guide of 1975. I can’t help but agree with them. Fratini is a criminally underrated designer. She has her fans, me being one of them, but rather like John Bates has been overlooked in favour of the real exhibitionists of the era.
‘As a child I dressed everything from dolls and Teddy to my dog. I never though about a career – I just did it.’ The words float over a studio that looks like a rainy-day dress-up box, full of Victorian dolls, whimsical plants and miles of lace laid out like a daisy chain.
‘When I design a dress it gets half made, then I add a bit here and there. When I’m working on a dress I’ll rummage and play with the lace all day, and suddenly I can feel it coming together.’
She salvaged a basement full of antique lace from shops which were closing down in the Sixties, and used this and predominantly natural fabrics in her work. Fratini was never about practicality or minimalism, she was truly a girl’s girl. Her motto is as apt for today as it was back then;
‘One works all day, and afterward there should be a time to really take off. That’s why I love doing these fantasy dresses. You’ve got to dream – these days more than ever.’
Above Left: Alice in Vintageland – an adorable gingham smock dress with pierrot collar and huge patch pockets. Right:You’ll feel like a Regency dream in this utterly, unashamedly romantic muslin dress from the late Sixties.
With thanks to Senti for that title! I honestly had no idea that these photos existed, but I found them yesterday and they’ve swiftly become my favourites. Diana, of course, is a huge inspiration to me – not only as Emma Peel but that does have a lot to do with it. I always loved how natural she seemed, and of course the effortless cool. As Emma, that was helped considerably by Bates’ influence as designer. She wore his designs to perfection, and continued to wear Jean Varon garments into the Seventies. Through this, I ‘discovered’ Bates and simply fell in love with his extraordinary designs. Having now met him, I’m even more in awe than ever before – especially after he gave me a nugget of advice on how to wear his frocks. The man is a legend.
I’ve never heard her speak of him, and only contemporary comments from him about the design process. I suppose these things rarely seem so iconic and special at the time, when deadlines are tight and it’s just another job. But you can just see magic being created in these photos.