California cottons. Mystery solved.

Let’s be honest who DOESN’T love cracking a vintage mystery??? I love it when I uncover lost information on brands (this seems to be what my dissertation is all about at the moment…or rather the messy divorces of various 40s and 50s fashion bosses, but that is another story!) So imagine my delight last wednesday when I managed to discover (completely accidentally I will add)  a key part of the history behind the collectible California cottons company.

Lovely advert for California Cottons in Vanity Fair May 1958

For a long time I had known that the company was definitely British due to their advertising campaigns, but there was some confusion as to the “California” associations, then I found this article in a copy of the Daily Mail. To the ball 9th oct 1958 Iris Ashley “ What a wonderful material cotton has become. The Cinderella fabric can now, indeed, go to the ball. I give full marks to the California cottons show at the Dorchester yesterday evening. Here is high fashion in the form of high waisted dresses, some sheath, some front fitting trapeze lines. The satin cotton in modern Italian style prints will make winter party dresses for about £5. The California dress company is in fact British. But the designing is all done in Los Angeles by a team of young people. The director, Louis Rawlings, is convinced that clothes intended mainly to be worn in sunshine must be dreamed up in sunlight. But the actual fabric and dresses are made here. They have hit on a new gimmick too. In co-operation with a famous Hollywood beauty firm, a colour chart for lipstick and make up will be attatched to every dress. This tells the wearer the ideal tone of lipstick to wear with the dress colour and also the make-up base and powder tones suitable for her particular type (blonde, brunette or redhead) when worn with such a colour. It’s a neat job. And if you’ve ever seen a blue-pink lipstick worn with an apricot or orange-yellow dress, you’ll agree its useful too.” So there you go, mystery solved. Designed in California, made in Britain. And the make up they mention? That was a special collaboration with Maxfactor. IMG_4307 my lovely friend Holly in one of her dresses by the brand Read my previous post about California cottons here

California Cottons and debutantes!

Back in May my lovely friend Holly asked me to shoot a few pics of her in some of her fabulous vintage dresses. Now, I am by no means a photographer, but I certainly enjoy taking some amateur snaps from time to time, I am sure over the coming months I will share more of these images, but today just one set featuring Holly.
Holly, like myself is a big collector of vintage, and her personal penchant is for California cottons. Here is Holly in one of her lovely California dresses.
Between the two of us we have not been able to ascertain too much information about the brand, apart from that it had roots in America (it looks like it might have been part of the larger conglomerate “The Great American Dress company” ), and dresses by the brand were being produced both in the UK and in New Zealand  It is interesting, though that the CC label is more often found in the UK than it is in the States.
There are a number of ad campaigns that feature California cottons to be found on the net, and most of these have an intriguing mix of American settings but using British models. The brand also had a tie in with the “max-factor” make up company.
On the day of the shoot there was a particular dress that we were both interested to shoot. This little number that fits Holly like a dream.
The dress features in a 1960 advert for California cottons. This whole series of adverts show both the continuation of 50s shape dresses into the 1960s and this America meets England aspect I mentioned.
The dress is modelled here by Henrietta Tiarks.
Tiarks is an interesting character, who I did a little more research on for one of my masters essays. Henrietta was a debutante, and “came out” in 1957. But Henrietta was more than your average debutante, and in 1957 was crowned “deb of the year”. Considerable press coverage surrounded debutantes at the time, and Tiarks epitomised the fresh face youthful ideal of the debutante. Brigid Keenan has suggested that in the period newspapers gave debs “star treatment”, and Tiarks is no exception.
If anyone does have any more information on the California cottons brand do drop myself or my friend Holly a message!