Book Review: Horrockses

There is a particular dress in my costume collection that has always intrigued me. There is something about the way the fabric falls, how the print meshes perfectly with the cut, and how this simple cotton dress from the 1950s still looks like you could step right into it and feel perfectly stylish. After reading Horrockses Fashions, I know why. Horrockses dresses, mostly designed between 1946 to 1958, are of lovely quality and, not surprisingly, have been cherished by their original owners and collectors alike. The company showed its first clothing collection in 1946, based on the strategy of providing ready to wear clothing with an exclusive “up-market” allure. The signature look for the line was influenced heavily by Dior’s Corolle line in 1947: soft shoulders, nipped-in waist, and full skirt.

Christine Boydell, the author of this book, is a force to be reckoned with. She curated the Horrockses dress exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her work is meticulously researched, obviously a labour of love, as she passionately demonstrates how the company achieved their goal of creating an air of exclusivity combined with high quality, and how devoted their clients were to these special dresses. (There is a terrific interview with the author at the Fashion and Textile Museum of London in front of the Horrockses exhibit that she curated, which allows those of us who missed the exhibit to sneak a peek.)
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The Hat Attack

While recently in London, I stopped by the Victoria and Albert Museum for the recently concluded Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones. The exhibition featured a handpicked assortment of hats grouped by materials and styles (think “turbans”, “plastic”, “geometric” and “nature-inspired”) which Jones felt best illustrated the limitless sources of millinery inspiration.

Catering to the knowledgeable couture-wearer and the fashion-layman, the exhibition included hats worn by the fashion elite, such as several sported by Anna Piaggi, alongside famous cinematic caps, like Audrey Hepburn’s pink straw and silk bonnet from My Fair Lady. Some might say millinery is an oft-unappreciated art, but it was hard to believe that in a room full of people ooh-ing over beaded appliqué flowers and watching videos on top-hat construction. And as Jones – himself a legendary milliner for celebrities and designers alike – points out, when someone wears a fabulous hat, they command attention!

“A hat makes clothing identifiable, dramatic – and, most importantly, Fashion…It’s the cherry on the cake, the dot on the ‘i’, the exclamation mark, the fashion focus.” -Stephen Jones

Today hats are often sold in department stores, making the nostalgic allure of a hat shop (and those scrumptious hat boxes!) even more endearing. Milliners were originally supposed to recommend face-flattering hat styles to wealthy clientele who could swan around the showroom selecting fabrics. And fun fact: apparently Lilly Daché, a milliner in New York in the 30s even had colour coded celebrity fitting rooms: gold for blonds and silver for brunettes.

All this hat knowledge intake made me feel a bit giddy, and upon my return home, my sister and I decided to embark on a little headgear hunt of our own. Bottom-line: family is an EXCELLENT source for hats – vintage and contemporary alike…seriously, one man’s (or father’s specifically) Indian Jones fedora is another girl’s indie cap and grandmothers knew sunhats were cool even before skin cancer. As the summer heats up, I can’t wait to search out new wide brims, remembering “however, the cardinal rule of hat-buying, as French fashion editor Genevieve Dariaux noted, is to ‘take the one you fall in love with, which mysteriously ‘does something’ for you, which magically makes you feel more beautiful.’”

Amen to [t]hats!

text & photography // Esmé Hogeveen

Esmé Wornette

Bonjou! My name is Esmé and I am one of Worn’s new editorial interns. I graduated from Etobicoke School of the Arts last year, and this is my first experience working at a fashion magazine.

I like to take my fashion cues from looking through trunks at my Grandma’s, watching British TVO and PBS shows (specifically those about small town police stations set in the sixties … Heartbeat anyone?), people watching and FT reruns. I also really enjoy the styling in Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson (shout-out to Anna!) films. My friend Stef and I are recently began making a line of reconstituted vintage and second hand clothes, and working at Worn has been a constant inspiration. I also enjoy perusing online museum galleries of historical dress.

my current inspirations…

Die Young, Stay Pretty
Lovely photos!

New York Times writer Guy Trebay
Often intriguing take on contemporary fashion.

18th Century Blog
A great resource for online clothing galleries and a plethora of historical portraits.

Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century
An ongoing research project between art historians meant to connections… [between] personalities, rumours, art, fashion, politics, theatre, music, literature, and gossip!

Victoria & Albert Museum
A FINE source of information on historical fashions… including such fascinating articles as “Men in Skirts”.