Following the Second World War, the 1950s showcased active changes in the fashion world; womanly figures and the generous use of patterned fabrics, especially floral designs, displayed indifference to the restrictions from the wartime economy.
This change benefited designers, allowing them to take large-scale risks they had never been able to take before. New trends, such as mid-length poodle skirts and cinched-in waists, appealed to the bold and glamorous tastes of post-war consumers. The idea of stylishly showing off your figure and creating a feminine silhouette continues to be one of the most popular looks adopted today. The 1950s is where it all began and it is why Fashion for Venue chose to commemorate the 50’s for the Throwback issue.
We collaborated with the Costume and Textile Association to recreate a 50’s styled photo-shoot. The red and white floral day dress, modeled by Sophie Orpen, is an original Susan Small design, and the green dress, modeled by Lily Taylor is an authentic Harrockses’s piece.
Leslie Carr Jones created Susan Small in the 1940s and later joined the design firms Harrockses and Polly Peck to form the Model House Group, and then Fashion House Group, of which Jones became the head.
With the use of cotton, screen-printing and mass production, Susan Small was a ready-to-wear firm. Yet the patterns and prints used in the designs gave the clothes an air of sophistication and exclusivity, almost like couture.
From the 1950s, Susan Small’s creations, designed by Maureen Baker, were highly admired, especially their cocktail and evening wear, such as dress jackets, suits and hostess dresses. Baker’s designs not only captured the iconic, feminised fashion of the 50s, but were extremely sought after in proceeding decades too; so much so that she oversaw the design of Princess Anne’s wedding dress in 1973.
Although Susan Small terminated in the late 70’s, Baker’s designs continue and are still regarded as iconic today. Once worth up to £16, her pieces are now an estimated minimum of £200, a selection of which are preserved by Norfolk’s very own Costume and Textile Association.
For nearly twenty-five years, the Costume and Textile Association has upheld a vintage collection of fashion paraphernalia and supported the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. The collection includes but is not limited to gothic lace attire, a Japanese silk wedding dress, classic swimsuits, as well as iconic pieces from the twentieth-century like that of Susan Small’s.
C.T.A. preserves the history of costume and textile by annually hosting a variety of informative and engaging talks, workshops and exhibitions. Their next workshop is Christmas-orientated and on the Saturday 7th December at Town Close Auditorium, Norwich Castle Museum.
For more information on the organisation and how you can get involved with CTA’s upcoming events, see www.ctacostume.org.uk.