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Part 27. Horrockses Fashions and More

Part 27 - Horrockses Fashions and More

The main book in this review is Horrockses Fashions, Off the-Peg Style in the '40s and '50s by Christine Boydell; the subsidiary books come from her Select Bibliography. I reviewed Rosemary Harden and Jo Turney's Floral Frocks in Culcita 22 (2008) but this is a much more interesting book, not only is it packed with photographs and details of Horrockses frocks and fabrics but it tells the story of a firm who were pioneers in the field of branding and ready-to-wear frocks. This aspect of fashion history was new to me and quite fascinating.

Christine Boydell’s book begins with an eight page Introduction followed by only four chapters: Exclusivity Off-the-Peg (fifty pages), 'In Fine Cotton': Fabric and Fashion (fifty pages), 'Horrockses Fashions': Promoting the Brand (thirty-six pages) and 'Our Best Dresses’ :The Retail and Purchase of Ready-to-Wear (forty-one pages).The first two chapters cover the fabrics, their design, designers, manufacture and use, while in the next chapters Dr Boydell explains their historically important story of fashion manufacture. The book ends with Notes (four pages from four chapters so plenty, but discretely numbered in the text), Select Bibliography (two pages including Magazines and Journals and Archive and Museum Collections), a Monetary Note for conversion of purchasing power, and one page of Acknowledgements. The whole book is nicely designed, easy to read with an abundance of illustrations, all numbered, captioned and on the appropriate page. Well worth its £25 from V&A Publishing.

The other books in my review are from Dr Boydell's Bibliography. The first looks in detail at the work of some of the top-quality designers used by Horrockses for their fabrics: Artists' Textiles in Britain, 1945-1970 by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton. I reviewed this slim volume in Culcita 23 (Autumn 2008), essentially it has excellent full colour illustrations of textile work with three short essays; while writing this review a vastly expanded Artist Designed Textiles' 1940-1975 by the same authors has been published and a paperback version will be out in March 2012. As I would happily still recommend this earlier book, an expanded version can only be better.

My final books are on a completely different level; two light hearted looks at the fashion world just pre-war and after - In the Mink by Anne Scott-James and Something Wholesale, My Life and Times in the Rag Trade by Eric Newby.  Anne Scott-James writes in the Foreword that her book is not autobiographical but remember as you read it she worked for Vogue, then Vanity Fair and while at Picture Post married a fellow journalist! Her son, Max Hastings, has just published his autobiography so we can also read his view of her career and home life.

Eric Newby is better known for his travel writing but this book is his “hilarious and splendidly macabre account of the confusion and disorder that was his life apprenticed to the family firm of Lane & Newby”. Macabre may be a little strong but this book rollicks along while Anne Scott-James takes her story at a more genteel and suitably lady-like pace. However, both are enjoyable and reinforce all that Christine Boydell writes about the fashion trade in her Horrockses Fashions. They are both out-of print so look out for copies in your Oxfam bookshop or borrow them from a library.


Horrockses Fashion, Off-the Peg Style in the ‘40s and ‘50s by Christine Boydell is published by V&A Publishing (London) 2010, ISBN 978 1 85177 601 6 at £24.99. It is available from the Foyles website at £16.24 with free postage: and follow the links for ordering on line. This is a fairly new venture; I am pleased to find a serious competitor for Amazon.  ABE have second hand copies from £18.58.

Artists’ Textiles in Britain 1945-1970 by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton was published by the Antique Collectors Club, 2003, ISBN 1 85149 432 4 at £19.95. The new edition is Artist Designed Textiles 1940-1976, by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton, theISBN for the paperback edition to be published at the end of March 2012 is 978 185 1496297. Amazon say the hardback edition is ‘out of stock’, Foyles say it is to be published at the end of March and quote £31.50 for it as a ‘pre-order’ and £22.50 for the paperback ‘pre-order.’ The Antique Collectors’ Club do not acknowledge a hardback but there is a flier for the new paperback at £20.00-

In the Mink by Anne Scott-James was published in 1952 by Michael Joseph and my paperback copy is a Mermaid (1955) edition with a rather elegant pink cover. It is not listed by an English bookseller on ABE so keep your eyes open in second-hand bookshops. However, Something Wholesale by Eric Newby originally published by William Collins in 1962, paperback by Picador in 1985, ISBN 0 330 28778 8 is cheap on ABE.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2012

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price.