An original Biba ensemble from 1973

Over on ebay this week I have some FABULOUS items listed but the absolute gem has to be the Biba cardigan suit I am offering.

Now 70s isn’t normally my thing, but as I said before when I was selling a fantastic Alice Pollock dress, I sometimes make exceptions, and this is one of them ( Actually I’ll be honest I’m getting more and more into 70s stuff all the time)

I’ve done quite a bit of background research into this wonderful suit and have been able to date it to 1973 after finding some amazing original images!

 The first image shows just the skirt, I found this online on Helga Von Trollop’s wonderful blog, I don’t have the original reference for it but I believe this was in one of the Biba books. Doesn’t it look fab? And also show her versatile it is.

The second image is the really exciting one, this is by photographer Brian Duffy, who took some of the most iconic shots of the 60s and 70s. He was the photographer for David Bowie’s infamous album cover Aladdin Sane in 1973. The photograph here features Jean Shrimpton and Barbara Miller and you can see Shrimpton in the background wearing an example of the suit I am offering for sale! I wish I had the hat too. That would be rather amazing. This image featured in the Telegraph in 1973
This suit is evidently an important ensemble, an example of just the jacket features in Marnie Fogg’s book vintage knitwear which was published a few years back (an excellent read, I highly recommend it)
This is a truly fantastic example and typifies the style of Barbara Hulanicki’s designs.
 The Biba chevron design stripe like this was hugely popular featuring on everything from tops to skirts to jumpsuits. I really like the deco 30s look to the design, again typical Biba. As this dates to 1973 it would be pre the Big biba store, and would have come from when Biba was located on Kensington high street.
So what else can I say? Rather than buy a modern Biba from house of Fraser why not have an ORIGINAL 70s one!
This week I’ve got lots of lovely things listed including a sensational Horrockses evening dress and a lovely polka dot CC41 dress too.

Schiap Schiap Hooray

Today I’m going back to my roots…sort of . What I am really doing is going back to a post which I wrote nearly 2 years ago. All the way back then I wrote about Schiaparelli who is my favourite designer of ALL time, today after doing a research project on 30s fashion I’m going back to the Schiap and I’ll introduce you to some of my favourite designs.
Schiaparelli was one of the most innovative and imaginative designers of the 1930s. She began here career as a fashion designer in the 1920s creating simple knitted jumpers with trompe l’oeil motifs, but it was really the 1930s when her career took off.
The 30s saw Schiaparelli take design inspiration from a wide variety of sources, from art to nature even the celestial sky became her inspiration. Schiaparelli was more than just a designer she created objects d’art and Balenciaga would later say she was. “ the only true artist in fashion”
Schiaparelli was an innovator in terms of fabric and design, bringing the zip fastening to high fashion and often creating gowns in unusual fabrics. She often used synthetics to create her luxurious evening gowns.
Her style came to epitomise a new woman who was developing. Schiaparelli created “power dressing” before the term was even invented. She began developing more of a military silhouette in the 1930s with boxy shoulders and a squared silhouette that would become mainstream fashion in the 40s. Her clothing oozed sex appeal at a time when this still was often seen as inappropriate using motifs which had hidden sexual meaning.

Wonderful example from the Pagan collection featuring the insect buttons which came to epitomise this collection.
Schiaparelli’s circus collection of 1938 was one of her most popular and whimsical. The theme was widely copied.
The circus collection was launched in February 1938, Schiaparelli “sent the performers skipping up and down the imposing staircase and leaping on and off the venduses’ desks in her dignified showroom…This was the most riotous and swaggering show that fashion had ever seen. Here you paraded in a tall hat and a ringmaster jacket with a high collar, or in tights worn under long narrow black skirts.”

This is the jacket I originally blogged about all that time ago, which I now understand in a lot more depth than previously, and it still stands to be the garment I would probably give up my entire vintage collection for (o.k. everything bar my Horrockses, they are my babies after all). It was one of the key pieces in the Circus collection and the image here shows Maria Berenson, Granddaughter of Schiaparelli wearing the jacket (it is is the actual jacket in the V & A) for a Vogue shoot in 1971. The jacket actually featured in Cecil Beaton’s exhibition of the same year for the V& A Fashion: An Anthology which was the dawning exhibition of a new age of fashion exhibitions.

The fastenings on the jackets are one of the most important parts of the Circus collection. These complex fastenings employ industrial techniques, Here industrial slide hooks are used to keep the cast metal buttons in place.

The tear dress is probably one of Schiaparelli’s most famous designs. This piece was created for the 1938 Circus collection in collaboration with Dali. The dress uses imagery based on Dali’s painting necrophiliac springtime. The pink and red painted design is supposed to resemble torn flesh. The dress is typical of Schiaparelli’s playful juxtaposition of beautiful dresses with seemingly odd print or embroidery subject matter. 


The theme of Schiaparelli’s 1939 fall collection was music. This is one of the key garments from the collection. The dress is embroidered with musical notes in jaunty colours with gloves to match. The collection also featured fanciful items such as buttons shaped like drums and music boxes on hats. Many of the embroideries covering her garments this season featured instruments and musical notes.

And a final note, one of the key inspirations throughout Schiaparelli’s career was the 1890s. She collaborated on a series of wonderfully whimiscal printed dresses with Vertes and often the shapes of her garments recall the period (leg-o-mutton sleeves anyone). So whilst Schiaparelli was a great innovator she was more than happy to borrow from history too! The image above comes from 1939,  The print on the middle dress is an example of one by Vertes, there are a number of further fabulous examples in the book Fashion and Surrealism too.

My new Horrockses dress!

I just had to share this with everyone. This is my latest Horrockses dress. Anyone who follows me on twitter may have seen it already (if not, why not? – @liztregenza). It is a pretty special design to say the least and I think it might be my new favourite in my collection. Saying this does make me feel like I’m cheating on all of my other Horrockses by saying it, but this one is show stopping. Quite simple in design, but wonderfully elegant, crisp and I believe in unworn condition. The dress has its original integral petticoat still and this is SO clean and white still it is almost scary.

So onto the design of the dress itself. The dress is probably a John Tullis design. Tullis designed one of my favourite Horrockses dress that isn’t in my personal collection ( a dress that once belonged to Lucienne Day). See my blog post about the other dress here. Tullis was renowned for the complex cut of his dresses, which many of the seamstresses complained were a nightmare to stitch! Tullis got his training at Molyneux the couturier in Paris. This couture training could be one of the main reasons for the complicated cut of many of his garments. If you spot a Horrockses with a particularly complicated bodice, or details like pockets on the outside of a dress, then it will be probably be a Tullis design!
As far as Tullis designs go (or probably Tullis designs!) this isn’t the most complicated of designs, but it is an interesting piece. The design is what is known as a “unit” design. The bodice are made from related but different patterns. A process which was used for dresses where quantities were limited.
Something that I find interesting about Tullis is it appears he was the only fashion designer to ever be credited for his designs, a feature in Vogue stated (of a Horrockses dress) “designed by John Tullis” something which annoyed Herbert Mallot and prompted him to stipulate “ a Horrockses’ fashion production is, in the future, described as such and that no reference is made to the individual who created it…I must stress that the goodwill of our fashion business must remain in the name of Horrockses and not in anyone who is employed by us”. This probably happened because of Tullis’ couture credentials, which was also one of the reasons why he was hired in 1950, to bring prestige to the brand.
In my opinion this dress probably dates to between 1955-58 (if memory serves me correctly 58 was when Tullis left). As this is a size 10, a size which Horrockses (it appears) did not begin producing to 1954/55.
So how do I know so much about this dress? It’s a pretty important design I have to say. Not only does it appear in Chris Boydell’s book on Horrockses, but the design was also the inspiration for one of the new bedding ranges that features Horrockses original prints. This particular print named “Sophia”. I actually have the bedding on my bed back at home! (I’m at uni at the moment so my bedding is some very dodgy Asda value sheets : /) I bought my bedding at full price but on the website now there is 20% off. I urge you to go and have a look it really is lovely stuff made of really good quality cotton and when I ordered it arrived amazingly quickly.

And one last note on my new dress. It’s a perfect fit!