In Bermondsey Street itself, there were some attractive warehouses which have been redeveloped.
Whey hey, a vintage yard!!!
Can you just make out the sign against the sky to see where we're headed?
Well it's here, to this rather hot and funky looking building, home to the Fashion and Textile Museum. Sadly not in Morocco, just London!
The inside is pretty funky too.
We're here to attend an exhibition to which we've long looked forward...
Come on, sister, let's go and see all those beautiful frocks, designed and made in good old Blighty back in the hey day of the 1940's and '50's.
The long entrance corridor leading into the exhibition is promising. We feel somewhat shabby next to these advertising images of impossibly glamorous and svelte ladies sporting stylish outfits!
The exhibition is in sections and each has an information board to tell you more about the famous company. Horrockses Fashions was established in 1946 (a subsidiary of the original cotton business founded in 1791) and was one of the most well-known and respected off-the-peg labels of the '40s and '50s. The company was clever though and despite its frocks being available to purchase throughout the country, the number of outlets permitted to sell the clothes was restricted. The company also produced certain designs for retail only in particular stores, such as Harvey Nichols. In this way, they maintained an "air of exclusivity".
Let me explain that although photography was allowed, no flashes were permitted so the photos may be somewhat less than perfect. Better than none, though. I loved this little pink tulip-printed Summer dress and matching bolero which enticed us along our way into the exhibition.
Into the main exhibition space, the displays were split between two floors and this is a view of the ground floor (as seen from the gallery above). There was something of a Summery seaside-y theme here: the seagulls flying overhead, white sand on the floor underneath the dresses and even some "seagull calls" sound effects!
This was the first large display of dresses which showcased the various designers' work.
I loved this little swimsuit and matching jacket. Each piece had an information board near it and there was often a photo of the original owner wearing the item.
The walls were decorated with more of those super glam adverts. Horrockses were very clever with their advertising. They spent a considerable budget on advertising in the best and most fashionable magazines like Vogue, and used models more suited to working for couture houses. All this helped to raise the profiles of Horrockses' frocks as something above the norm. Their frocks were a favourite of Princess Margaret and indeed, HM The Queen, they would often wear them on trips abroad to the Commonwealth.
Oh to look like this lady!
Glass cases housed very interesting displays of pristine swatches of fabric and the original designers' sketches and paintings which inspired them.
Sketches of pretty frocks and fabric swatches were interesting to see. Horrockses employed both in-house designers, such as Pat Albeck who came to them fresh from the Royal College of Art (she is the mother-in-law of Emma Bridgewater), established artists such as Alastair Morton and also bought one-off designs from freelance designers such as Sir Terence Conran.
The next section, "In Search of the Sun" showcased some lovely Summery outfits.
This dress had a very unusual fabric showing plates of food! It was designed by Pat Albeck.
The final little group of frocks on the downstairs floor had some real stunners. Horrockses were well known for their good quality striped and flowered cottons which they produced in various colourways (the dress on the right came in seven different colours). The cotton was woven in Preston and the printing and manufacture of the dresses took place in Horrockses' own mills and factories in Manchester (with a small amount of contracting out to local firms).
Again, I was smitten by the little bathing suit. Little being the operative word!
Upstairs to the gallery then and a whole wall was dedicated to pattern design.
You can never have too many stripes and flowers...
Yet more pretty frocks. The dress on the right was made from another Pat Albeck fabric which had little nuts all over it and the cute jacket had acorn shaped buttons down the front.
This was the rest of the upper display space...
Horrockses' frocks were said to be infinitely practical, suitable for home or office. However, a typical Horrockses' frock cost between £4-£7 which was about an average week's wages. Girls saved to have a dress for a special occasion such as a wedding and many took a Horrockses' frock on their honeymoon. The frocks were produced in an enormous array of designs and prints. Those who worked for the company and in its offices had the opportunity a couple of times a year to buy dresses at reduced cost.
As if everything we'd already seen wasn't glamorous enough, in the corner we find some rather lovely evening dresses.
The red velvet dress is thought to be a showroom sample which was never actually retailed. The sweet little yellow dress is for a young girl. The lilac dress is a later item, made from synthetic fabrics (unlike the usual cotton) and intricately printed in a toile de jouy style pattern, as technology advanced.
The last section showed us that these super-glam ladies were as stylish at home as they were on the streets! An area dedicated to...the housecoat.
These had very full skirts which would have made doing any housework impossible. However, it was thought perfectly acceptable to wear these housecoats in the home when accepting visitors.
The housecoat on the left here has maps of the British Isles on the fabric along with quotations from Shakespeare. The housecoat in the middle belonged to a lady who lived in the Tropics. It was common for English ladies who lived overseas to return to England to buy their wardrobes and Horrockses' dresses were a favourite in tropical climes as the cotton was treated so as to resist creasing and be easy to wash and iron, and the colours stayed fast. This housecoat had been worn in the sun and washed many times yet the colours and design were perfectly vibrant.