Investigating a mid 1950s floral dress

A few weeks ago I purchased what I thought was just another pretty homemade vintage dress from ebay.
What it turned out to be was something MUCH better.
When the dress arrived I had a cursory glance over it, and thought that the fabric looked a little bit like a Lucienne Day print. I was further intrigued by the fact that it felt heavier than traditional dress cotton- more like that used for curtains or furnishings.
On turning the dress inside out I found that down the selvedge of the fabric were printed the initials e w. I knew straight away what these initials stood for- Edinburgh weavers. The brand Edinburgh weavers have close links with Horrockses, and has henceforth been a brand I have been interested in for a while now.

This meant that there was a possibility that the fabric of the dress might be a Lucienne Day print. I had a hunt through the two books about Day I have but didn’t strike lucky- increasingly realizing that whilst the print was similar to her work it wasn’t quite her style.
My next port of call was the Edingburgh Weavers book. Here I struck GOLD. I found THE pattern of my dress. The print was by Jacqueline Groag and dated to 1956. The pattern book that it originally came from is housed in the Victoria and Albert museum archive… so my next step of investigation was to go and see the original prints in the flesh!
But who was Groag? I think Groag really came to the public eye last year after the exhibition at the fashion and textile museum which featured the work of herself, Lucienne Day and Marianne Mahler. Groag was a true European figure. Begging life in Prague before moving to Vienna and London. She started her career working for the Wiener Werkstatte, a group of progressive visual artists working in Vienne in the early 20thcentury. She then went on to produce prints for the likes of Lanvin and Schiaparelli in Paris, before coming to London. In London she designed textiles for furnishing and fashion, and also wallpapers working for (amongst other companies) Liberty, John Lewis and of course Edinburgh weavers.
As a quick aside, the AAD is wonderful. Located at Blythe House there are the archives for a number of key British companies and designers. You can see further the archives that the AAD holds on their hub on the V& A website.
The huge pattern book that the original fabric sample were contained in was quite frankly amazing, passing through the pages I encountered so many prints that I recognized from the various books I have read which illustrated Edinburgh weavers fabrics.
Around half way through the book I found what I was looking for, the original colour ways for the fabric of my dress!!!


I was particularly interested that this came in such a variety of colourways, it seems that Groag in particular (or by the books standards at least) was producing her prints in the largest range of colours.
I also like that down the side of the fabric samples you have the full details on the fabric itself.
So after this research what do I think about my dress? I’m pretty sure this is a homemade example created from Edinburgh weavers fabric. The cut of the dress, construction method, zip and boning used all points to it being made in the 1950s. So my assumption is that someone bought the fabric- despite intended as furnishing fabric, and used it to make a very nice dress! I’m certainly happy to have an original 1956 Jacqueline Groag printed dress.


If you want to find out more about Jacqueline Groag this book is excellent (I’ve only had a chance to have a flick through it…must go back to it in more depth soon!)
Or for more about Edinburgh weavers. Lesley Jackson wrote a definitive guide to the company last year.