Monday, 13 September 2010

Hurray for Horrockses!

As a lover of all things 1950s I have long been a fan of the Horrockses dress. With Mad Men back on our screens and an exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile Museum I thought it might be nice to have a look at one of my favourite dressmakers and show off a few of my favourite frocks.

Horrockses were initially famous for their crisp cotton sheets but in the late 40s and 50s, when clothing rationing was over, they celebrated the 'New Look' shape by making the most beautiful of dresses. They were immaculately made, but what makes them really stand out are the quirky prints an quality cotton they're made of. They were expensive in their day, worn by the Queen and with fabric prints designed by famous Artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi.

I have over the years amassed a few Horrockses, a couple by accident before I really knew what they were and a couple were pure luck on ebay! As time goes by they get rarer and so prices get higher, but if you see one at a bargain price, I would snap it up as I don't think I'll be adding any more to my collection now!

On the right are my dresses all together, the prints are so beautiful and the colours are as bright as the day they were printed.

This brown one was my first Horrockses dress and was a bargain at £20. I can't remember how long I've had it but I really can't remember not having it. The cotton is so soft on this one you can tell it has been worn a lot, but the print and the shape still stay. It has it's own fabric covered belt and I love the tie at the neckline.

This was my second Horrockses purchase and was a bargain as it needed some TLC. The back seem had come apart and there was a big stain on the back. However after I carefully stitched it together and soaked the cotton to remove the stain, it's almost back to it's former glory. The thing I love about this dress is the cut of the bodice, the sleeves have almost a jetsons like cut! I also love the very tiny pleats, they take forever to iron!

This pink dress I bought unsure whether I would wear it or not as I am not much of a pink person, but the print and the bolero are just too cute! I didn't realise it was Horrockses initially as there isn't a tag in the dress, just the bolero. Which means there are probably a wealth of anonymous Horrockses dresses out there!

This blue one was a bit of a find, I don't think it has ever been worn or washed as the cotton is so stiff. The print is so 50s I love it and with the unusual dropped waist it makes it more than just another shirtwaister.

And now for my absolute most favourite dress ever! My lovely orange one! I bought this before the summer and it was a bit of a bargain. I could just imagine Betty Draper wearing this to a garden party! I wore it at Vintage at Goodwood and never felt so 1950s! When looking online I also found this particular dress is actually in the V & A's collection:

There have been a few on ebay lately but if you wanted to get your hands on one, you would be best looking in vintage shops and antiques centres. I found a beautiful pink stripped dress, similar in cut to my blue jetsons-esque one in an antiques centre recently for the bargain price of £40. If I'd had the cash I would have bought it as on ebay now you're looking between £50 - £100 which is way above my budget!

Alternatively if you want to splash out the V & A are remaking a dress they have in their collection which was on display for the Golden Age of Couture exhibition a couple of years ago, it's £95 but the print is beautiful:

If you are the frugal kind however the lovely folkes at the V & A have actually put the pattern on the website for you to download and print off at home! You can download the pattern and instructions for free from here:

Print it out and make your own. All you need is the perfect print! I have downloaded it and stuck it together, just need to get round to cutting it out and making it up. I have some lovely red and white sailboat print fabric which I am planning to use. The cats obviously wanted to help sticking the pattern together but not sure they were any use!

If you have fallen in love with the wonders of the Horrockses dress the exhibition runs until October 24th and details can be found on the London Fashion and Textiles Museum Website:


  1. I went to this exhibition, it was amazing! I am so jealous of your many beautiful Horrockses dresses!!
    From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

  2. Hi, was at the V&A last weekend at the Grace Kelly exhibition, boy did that girl have style!jennyx

  3. My friend and I went to the Grace Kelly exhibition too and was blown away! Particularly loved her early style. Can't wait to actually go to the Horrockses exhibition and the book is very good too apparently.

  4. these are so beautiful, i desperately wish i was the owner of one.
    your pink one is actually my favourite of those posted. :)


    we could go anywhere..