Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Neon Surf Print Dresses

alexandra king

alexandra king

alexandra king

alexandra king

I found this surf print in the back of a local haberdashers a few years ago and immediately fell for it's early 90s neon print that reminded me of Fat Willy's and C&A t-shirts from Weston-Super-Mare's sovereign centre. The print has that vintage smell and is so thick it's starched the cotton to a crispness.

I'd sampled some tops and skirts a while back which didn't quite work out. This time a full cocktail dress 'Barbie' was the final design that made the print come to fruition. It's so bold and bright against the femininity of the 1950s strapless ballet cut of the dress. A pair of Barbie style white patent spiked stilettos or peep toes would finish this dress a treat.

The other two pieces, a skirt and mini dress are more subtle and layer with laces and white
t-shirts for various occasions. Best served with a Fat Willy's muscle vest and coral Malibu Barbie nails.

No blending into the dullness of the crowds with his fabulous surf print.

Available in the shop and on Etsy, just click on the pics.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Botanical Dress Sketches

alexandra king

alexandra king

alexandra king

Sketches of the botanical silk dresses from the studio sketchbook.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Vintage Laura Ashley

Whilst working on the Summer dresses I bought out one of my Mum's original 1980s Laura Ashley dresses. I remember going to the outlet shop in Street, Somerset when I was little and Mum adoring these voluminous skirts on brightly coloured polka dotted dresses. I remember a lot of fabric!

Mum would always treat herself to one of these dresses that came with a matching bolero. Due to her ultra petite size the dresses always looked very much the boho ideal of the early Laura Ashley designs. The skirts nearly sweeping the floor, loosely fitting and combined with her waist length hair the look was romantic rural cool. It was far from the stuffed porcelain doll image of the 80s bridesmaid those dresses evoked.

I look back nostalgically on these Laura Ashley dresses from the early 80's not just because my Mum adored them but because of their quality. The cotton was really heavy, the skirts had deep pockets (which meant a lot) and they were made in a small factory in the UK. They felt really special.

Later on as a collector I kept Mum's dresses, some of which she may retrieve and wear again this Summer, and I collected more from the 1970s. The dresses that have the true Edwardian style, full length with ruffles and lace. These again have this same special Merchant Ivory feel. The dresses also hold the label 'Made in Carno, Wales'.

So I bought the book written by Martin Wood (which is wonderful!) and pulled out the old Laura Ashley Book of Home Decorating which I also pawed over a child. I just loved the plants inside the cosmopolitan bathrooms and day beds. I my head they were all in New York, not the country despite all the florals.

     Not already knowing the story it turns out that Laura Ashley most certainly was as special as the label and dresses made me imagine. The business started at the kitchen table, Laura wanted to live in the countryside, wanted to invest in small towns and people where there was unemployment and build a sustainable cottage industry. Her story really is of ethical fashion which could be applied today.

Together with her husband Bernard they built a fabulous business producing excellent quality clothing and beautiful fabrics and home furnishings. They traded on romance. Sadly after Laura unexpectedly died in 1985 the dresses were never quite the same again.


The Sirk Damask Dress

The Valeria dress is another one of a kind piece made from  a stunning piece of vintage crepe damask from around the 1950s. The pastel satin colours are really gorgeous and pop against the red of the tulle underskirt. 

Still in keeping with the Suburban Floral theme this is more of a formal dress but I love dressing these styles down with knits for tea parties during the Summer. 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Hudson Floral Dress

The 'Hudson' dress is made from vintage Laura Ashley printed cotton fabric and has an intricate hand smocked panel in the front of the strapless bodice.
From the Suburban Florals Collection inspired by 1950s Douglas Sirk films, the florals and full skirts evoke this era.
The dress would make the most wonderful occasion piece for events this summer. Team with fine vintage knits or a classic long mac to downplay the print.

Available as a one of a kind dress in the shop here. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Suburban Foral Dresses

This pair of dresses from the Suburban Florals collection are made from the most fabulous floral print. A vintage find, this cotton fabric has to be the most decadent in floral design and were perfect for making into tea dresses.

The weight of the fabric has the feel of Laura Ashley about it, when they used to make wonderful summer dresses in the early eighties. The skirts swish around and both dresses can be styled down with knitwear and straw hats for a pared-down summer dress code.

Both available as one of a kind pieces in the shop here. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Met Ball Gowns

The best dressed all wore Oscar De La Renta. Photos From Vogue.com

Stunning Zac Posen gowns. Photos From Vogue.com

It was great to look through pictures of the bright and beautiful attending the Met Ball last night. Some took the Charles James theme and dress code on board and this showed in their perfectly considered gowns.

Above and below are my favourites. Dita Von Teese in an exquisitely cut Zac Posen gown is my overall favourite and Monica Belluci is just divine as always.

Monica Belluci in Dolce and Gabanna cape and dress.
Photo From Vogue.com

Monday, 5 May 2014

Suburban Florals - Dress Sketches

This weeks collection is titled 'Suburban Florals'. Loosely inspired by the films of Douglas Sirk, these dress use vintage floral prints and weaves in cottons and damasks that are either from or evoke the 1950s era.
Full of colour with plumped skirts and tightly constrained bodices these overtly feminine designs are for really dressing up in frivolously this Summer.

Charles James - Time to Dress Up and Celebrate

The Met Ball is held tonight in celebration the new Charles James exhibition. I am just awaiting the Charles James - Beyond Fashion book that I have been waiting for, for the last few years.

I first saw Charles James dresses in New York at the FIT Museum a few years ago. I stood in that room as long as I could leaning over the electronic rails to get as close a look at the seams on a stunning emerald green gown. Along with the Tree dress they were the most beautiful dresses I had ever seen.

They were pure couture, hand constructed with incredible cuts and drapes. The seams on the emerald dress didn't quite match which made it all the more beautiful in it's perfect imperfectness. Thankfully James persuaded his clients to gift these one of a kind gowns to the museums so that they have remained safe for us to see today.

Madge Garland aka Mrs Ashton editor of Vogue during the 1930s said 'He had more knowledge of fashion in his little finger than the whole world of couture put together'. Hugo Vickers Cecil Beaton. 

That green gown made me want to work harder and better and learn so much. It told me that I didn't have to try and be cool designing street wear or day wear or garments I didn't feel inspired by. It said this is what happens when you try to aim for the most magnificent. And whilst the everyday ass produced garments rot in landfill these dresses will live as monuments to giving your everything in design.
If I have just one dress end up worthy in a museum collection, I will die very happy.

Thinking of James as a so called elitest designer made me think of how we dress today. A few days ago I people watched from a cafe in the Clifton area of Bristol. As thousands of people passed me not one stood out as wearing anything with any substance or style. Sure it was daytime but the lack of individuality or even use of lipstick was clear. Grunge is great but when everyone wears the same uniform the effect just looks lazy and vacant. Does no one want to look anything more? And what's with all this wearing £2 leggings as trousers? Do young women really just climb off a mattress and pull these things on off the floor?
Then I discovered there  was little wonder why all these people were dressed the same when in three shops along the same side of the street (Park Street, Bristol) had exactly the same stock. As teenagers we used to visit this road to find individual pieces, stand out accessories and vintage one of a kind clothing. The thought of wearing the same as anyone else wasn't cool.

This is why today I am even more drawn to the designers from the past, Charles James, Christian Dior who helped nations of people look incredible and individual with their fashion fantasies.

I tried to find out everything I could about the designer. Cecil Beaton as a close friend barely mentions his work in his diaries and there was once just one little book available to buy. He was almost forgotten.
The Book High Style - Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Met has a good number of images and information. Now Beyond Fashion will deliver.

I really hope this long awaited celebration of Charles James' work sparks a revolution in style enabling us all to dress up and stand out.

Further Reading

Met Ball Turns to High Society but can the high street cash in. The Guardian - Imogen Fox
High Style The Met Museum
Beyond Fashion: Charles James
The Fabled Charles James Colin McDowell