Laura Ashley: The Romantic Heroine [exhibition]
|Prim styles, bold colours|
Entry to the exhibition is included in the price of a ticket to the Fashion Museum. If you haven’t already seen the ‘50 Fabulous Frocks’ exhibition, it’s a bit of a bargain. If you have already seen that one, I’m not sure the Laura Ashley exhibition alone warrants paying the same money all over again – that said, I’m not a massive 1970s fan, and as that decade’s often under-represented in fashion exhibitions you might disagree, or you might fancy revisiting the whole museum.
The first thing you see on walking in is a white title display, fronted by a set of white-on-white Laura Ashley frocks. The notes alongside the display pointed out that films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where Katharine Ross plays a schoolteacher who wears a white summer dress in a memorable cycling scene, made the style popular.
|Heathcliff, it's me, I'm Cathy, I've come home...|
Don’t be fooled by those white cottons! Behind that crisp, clean beginning is a mass of colour. Laura Ashley started out printing fabrics on her kitchen table, and many of her dresses had print as their standout feature. I did find the prints fascinating. Most were quite large in scale, and very bold, but the colour palettes were limited so most fabrics only had two or three colours, keeping things from looking too gaudy. The subjects weren’t all pretty and twee, either: there were hunt scenes, odd birds, all sorts of subjects. Given the resurgence in the popularity of home dress making, it would be fabulous if the firm could re-release some of these patterns in dress weight fabric.
|In multiple colours, the prints might be overwhelming, but they're fab in monochrome|
Ashley played with Victorian, Edwardian and Regency styles – I could well imagine my steampunk friends having fun with the dresses. Maxi-skirted, full-sleeved and high-necked, the dresses are shocking in their primness. We’re so used to revealing garments nowadays that the bold ‘NO PEEKING!’ these dresses represent is truly startling. There are some saucier ones with halter necks, but on the whole they are quite concealing.
|Note the emerald halterneck... Possibly the most revealing frock on show|
|My steampunk friends could rock this look!|
All photos copyright PP Gettins.
|You can see some of the later, more Regency-inspired dresses here.|