An Australian Horrockses

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As is made clear from many of the posts on this blog I really love Horrockses, and more than that I love the volume of historical detail out there than can be found out about the designs of the brand. My latest addition to the collection is an impressive and interesting one, and has made it all the way to the UK from Australia. I’ve had Horrockses from all over the world, but never Australia before, and never a special Australian made Horrockses.


The dress was made exclusively in Australia by ‘Californian productions ltd.’ Horrockses were not the only brand that this company made up, as the label attached to the dress suggests they also “made up” garments in Australia by a number of American firms. I have quite a lot of pieces by both Cole of California and betty Barclay (my best 50s playsuit with matching skirt is a cole of California number). It appears California productions were making up garments by good quality ready-to-wear brands.


It is interesting to note that whilst the swing ticket gives details relating to Australia, the interior label is the same as the British made Horrockses. On the other hand,  when examining the interior construction one can tell that the making up of this dress is slightly different to the Horrockses made in England, as it has overlocking. None of my other Horrockses from this date are overlocked, my later ones, yes, but not those of the mid fifties.



The dress too has its original tag (as you can see above), which has left me in something of a moral dilemma. The tag is attached loosely to the belt. The question is therefore, do I wear it or not? The dress is a perfect fit on me and I feel like I have the angel and devil upon my shoulder. The museum professional in me is saying ‘how can you wear an unworn mint condition 1950s dress’, whilst the vintage wearer in me is saying ‘it’s a perfect fit, why on earth not!’.

I was also very excited to be able to trace the design, not only the print designer but the fashion designer too. The print itself is by Pat Albeck, and features on her website where it is referred to as, ‘painted to look like a woven ribbon’; which explains why the design has an almost pixilated effect to it. The garment was designed by Betty Newmarch, and an original sketch of the dress can be seen in her sketch artists notebook from Summer 1955-6. Most of the other garments that I have been able to trace the original sketches of show slight variations, but this design is almost true to the original sketch with its swinging bow at the back, the only slight alteration being that mine has a sweetheart neckline, whereas the sketch shows a square neckline.



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3 thoughts on “An Australian Horrockses

  1. How interesting. It is fantastic that those design books have survived and that you can see exactly the who and when of your dresses. So many times this sort of thing was just tossed out when companies shut down.

  2. Pingback: The Next Frontier of Australia | We dream of things that never were and say: "Why not?"

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