Courtney, Courtney, Courtney. Now I do admire your choice of dress, it’s a fab Ossie and it’s definitely better than what I normally see you in…..but girl, Ossie didn’t like underwear. He never buttoned his dresses low enough for a gal to wear big pants. He never once put one of those little bra-holder loops in the shoulders of one of his dresses. The chiffons were sheer for a reason. Those skintight corset satin trousers simply don’t have enough room for knickers.
No brassieres with Ossies, ok? If you can’t get your tatas in your dress, get a bigger dress or some smaller implants!
[no one wants to catch a chill down south so I think we're ok to wear knickers in the winter!]
Nice choice of arm candy though
In the same magazine as featured the photo of Ossie and model in front of Quorum, are features on four other Vintage-a-Peel favourite boutiques (Biba, Marrian-McDonnell, Bus Stop and Foale & Tuffin) with photos of their owners inside (or outside). I will eventually get around to sharing all these features with you because I know you’re all like me and you love being sucked back in time with photos of the shops and designers themselves – not just the clothes!
I will start with Bus Stop, simply because I’m on a Bus Stop ‘Bender’ today. From my nudie girl print blouse with the gigantic buttons (a perfect date blouse….just wait for the penny to drop), to my fitted fake-floral (it’s actually tiny people who look like flowers) cotton jacket which has faded from jet black to brown at some point but I practically LIVE in when the weather is more jacket-y, to the cherry embellished black jumper mistakenly credited to Babs Hulanicki in the Biba Experience book (tsk tsk!!), to my black cotton floral Forties-style dress (a replacement for the infamous Kate Moss one….which I still have but still can’t bear to wear) which I wore to take a friend vintage shopping in Camden the other week and got thoroughly gawped at by the good people of my less-fashionable South London locality…….to the…..well pretty much the majority of my daily vintage wardrobe…..it’s safe to say I adore Bus Stop clothes. And if I can’t find it with a Bus Stop label, well I’ll just buy the lookalikes as well (Harold Ingram did some awesome Bus Stop-a-like knitwear!)
I was also going to promote my newly listed novelty print Bus Stop smock top on the website, but it got snapped up immediately – testament to the popularity and wearability of Lee Bender’s work. Instead I’ll promote the sizzling red dress on the left (sans label, sorry, but it’s definitely BS!) and the suit in the post below this one which are both available at Vintage-a-Peel. The simply wonderful Moni has got an awesome selection over at eBay right now as well…..all of which I covet but will probably have to restrain myself – so please go and buy them and I can live vicariously through you all!
Since I think sometimes the ensembles section on my site gets a smidge overlooked in favour of beautiful flowing dresses and effortlessly wearable separates, here’s a hidden gem you may otherwise have missed!
Lee Bender was not only a genius when it came to tea-dresses and wearable separates, she was also brilliant at creating wearable suits for women in the early Seventies. Mostly what we see are skirt suits, but her trouser suits were something of a trademark at the time – and are bizarrely somewhat rarer to find nowadays.
This suit is a wonderfully relaxed, pyjama-style cut which would have been a superb alternative to floaty, plungey dresses for a groovy young hostess at the time (very similar to the Ossie and Jean Muir suits on my inspirational images page – see below).
The trousers are, frankly, enormous in width and flare out beautifully from a typical high waist. The jacket is cut loosely and flares out from the gently gathered front yoke and completely freely in the back, it is then tied to fit in the waist with a completely separate satin tie. There are no belt loops, so presumably this is also an optional thing and you could just as easily tie the satin belt around your hair if you wanted to keep the jacket lovely and loose. I love Bender’s work in satin backed crepe, and the way she used the satin to trim the jacket so beautifully at the collar and cuffs.
Once upon a time, I happened across a Radley own-label dress with a print which screamed Celia Birtwell. It was very like her later, crazier prints you see on the later Ossie pieces. I was fascinated, and perplexed because it was definitely a later Radley piece with the ‘girly face’ label. But it was definitely Celia.
I wondered if it was a one-off. But now I’ve found this little beauty, which is exactly the same design of dress, with a totally different print – but also a very distinctly Celia one! I can only surmise that Birtwell remained contracted to Radley after her divorce from Ossie Clark and continued to create at least one collection under their label.
Printed sketchy flowers and squiggles cover the deep plum sheer chiffon of this delicious dress. The gathered waist, the draped faux-wrap bodice and the draped back from the fitted yoke give it a wonderful grecian goddess feel. I love the very subtle effect of the pale topstitching, and the sheerness without lining means you can be as audacious as you like – whether you wear a slip or undies is up to you! And that, is the influence of Ossie!
£38 Starting bid over at eBay
I always get very excited by Biba pieces which were featured in the catalogues of the late Sixties. Perhaps because Biba was often so ephemeral and fast-moving, and not always featured as heavily in magazines of the time as you might think, it’s lovely to see them in situ and be able to date them (and see the original prices!).
This lace blouse was originally part of an ensemble with a skirt (which could be long or short apparently) but clearly is extremely wearable on its own.
In the catalogue’s own description “Spider lace peplum suit. A close fitting waisted jacket with narrow sleeves, buttoning to a high Edwardian neck.” The full suit was £7 7s in 1969.
Starting bid of £45 over at eBay
But that ain’t all…..there’s also a delicious couture label Ossie Clark ensemble, a superb bohemian Janice Wainwright, a super sweet candy pink Jean Varon dress and some other lovely non-designer pieces. Please do go and check it out!
There are a few holy grails in the vintage world. Some you start to suspect don’t exist, others you are lead to believe absolutely do not exist by the numerous tomes written about the history of fashion. I certainly never thought I’d see the day when I encountered an Alice Pollock-designed piece bearing a Celia Birtwell print. We all know how jealously Ossie guarded Celia’s work, and Alice’s work lent itself more towards plain block colours or more graphic prints than Celia’s.
But, this is an Alice blouse and it is a Celia print (shown in the V&A’s Ossie Clark retrospective book on page 120 and described as one of Celia’s earliest. It is, as yet, the only time I’ve seen this print in real life!).
That it’s an early Celia print is very apparent. It’s much more regimented and restrained than the flowing, weaving florals we usually see. The floral butterflies are contained within frames, rather like framed butterflies on the wall of a Victorian study. The blouse is pure, understated Pollock chic. Those ‘in-the-know’ know that often a Pollock piece can be ten times more wearable than an Ossie, perhaps because Alice knew what women needed in reality (not just in their Ossie-fuelled fantasies). Two of my favourite vintage pieces are Alice (both blouses, both crepe and both wonderful) and this piece is only available for sale because, as regular readers will know, I can’t wear this colour to save my life. It’s weird, most people I know can wear it with aplomb, but not me. So here it is, one of the rarest creatures you’ll ever see…much like the butterflies within the frames who so inspired Celia’s print.
Available over at Vintage-a-Peel.co.uk
Now I’ve managed to get my pesky scanner to start working again, I hope to get back on track blogging for you a lot more than I have been of late. Oh, and listing more gorgeous items too of course! But I must admit I often become absorbed by the piles and piles of magazines and photos I’ve accumulated and keep meaning to show and tell for you all.
I remembered I had finally got around to photographing a piece in my private collection (wonders will never cease!) which is a superb example of why labels aren’t always important to a collector.
I had often wondered who designed the dress I’d seen worn in a tiny publicity photo of Katy Manning (Jo Grant in Doctor Who…..the companion who seemed to live and breathe the Biba ideal). Eventually I saw the dress by chance on eBay one day and noted it was by fairly unknown boutique Crowthers (I want to say they were based in Manchester, but I have a feeling there was a London branch as well) who were in the habit of some very nifty Ossie and Biba knock-offs (but then, who wasn’t at that time?). I put it on my watch list, safe in the knowledge that no one knew what it was, it wasn’t a big name label and was unlikely to go out of my price range. Well, I was wrong. I think people just fell in love with its boutique-y gorgeousness, I’m fairly certain no one else was geeky enough to know about Katy wearing it.
So I sulked. For a bit. Well…..maybe more than a bit. [Shhhh!! Don't tell anyone how much of a brat Miss Peelpants can be when she's thwarted!] But now armed with the knowledge that it was by Crowthers, I could keep looking for it and hope that lightning might strike twice. And thank heavens it did! And courtesy of a good Doctor Who-fan-friend of mine, I was also able to nab a higher res. image of Katy wearing it. Hurrah!!
The only problem is that it’s really too big for me to ever wear (although I’ve yet to work out what on earth one wears with it anyway, since it’s an open-fronted overdress. Perhaps it had matching hotpants, but Katy is hiding whatever she’s wearing!!)……so if anyone EVER finds this dress in a super small size, pleaaaaaaaase let me know and I’d love to swap. I mean, I love my collection regardless of size but it’s always so much sweeter when you can actually wear it!
There are some vintage moments you treasure. For me these usually revolve around finding a vintage piece I own photographed in a magazine, finding an item of clothing as worn by someone I consider to be something of a style icon and (most recently) finally acquiring a piece of Avengerswear clothing. Albeit an Alun Hughes design rather than John Bates….but it’s halfway there!
Sometimes a vintage moment is even more spectacular. An item of clothing photographed either on or with its designer. I’ve experienced this event twice before, once with a Varon kaftan being hugged by John Bates and once with a fabulous yellow crepe blouse actually being worn by Alice Pollock. I’m not sure the Hockney portrait Ossie really counts, because I knew exactly what it was before it was even in my hands.
I love the casual way in which the model wears her version of the dress unbuttoned to the bust, and now slightly regret photographing the mauve and cream version so formally and primly. But at least now you can see an alternative way of wearing it. Ossie must have been [rightly] proud of this dress to have been photographed in front of Quorum alongside it. I knew it was special the moment I clapped eyes on it, and this remains the only other time I’ve seen the design (and even that’s in a different colourway!).
So…it’s rare, it has provenance (and then some) and it’s so fabulously wearable you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it! And no, I haven’t put up the price – it’s totally static and totally bargainous!
p.s It cost 20 guineas in 1970 – oh to have a time machine!!!