You don’t need to be a die-hard retro fashion fan to enjoy this stunning new book by Christine Boydell, showcasing the ground-breaking fashions of the Horrockses label of the 1940s and 50s.
Horrockses Fashion was one of the most respected ready-to-wear labels in the UK. The Horrockses company was actually founded in 1791 in Preston, and in 1946 the Fashion branch of the business was born, creating stunning designs utilising the cotton produced by the Horrockses Cotton Mill.
In the 1950s, the label became synonymous with colourful cotton prints, whipped up into full-skirted summer frocks to die for – always well made, with excellent quality fabrics and custom-designed patterns with hints of Parisian couture – a pleasure even everyday housewives could indulge in.
Imported to the US, the label soon gathered a faithful following, and could be found in upmarket stores such as B. Altman. Pretty soon, everyone wanted a rainbow of Horrockses labels inhabiting their armoire.
Horrockses Fashions: Off-the-Peg Style in the ’40s and ’50s, takes a whimsical look into the Horrockses journey. This gorgeous hardcover book is a well-laid out and visually stylish tome with plenty of drool-worthy photographs and priceless information on how the label became a name.
Featuring divine retro advertisements, photographs of designs from women in the street to fashion shows, and pictures of beautifully preserved garments currently in-residence at the Victoria & Albert museum in London and the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, retro fashionistas will be agog at this book.
One of my favourite photos is of Queen Mary delicately fingering the full-skirted cotton of a frock at the Horrockses Fashion’s London office in 1948, while the elegant model keeps supreme composure. Superb. There are even photographs from the sketchbooks of designers, showcasing lustrous print ideas, and also sketches of garment designs and cloth references.
Boydell’s writing style is efficient, meticulously-researched and very interesting to the fashion layperson. For the fashion industry professional, therefore, it would probably be Nirvana. There is little the author hasn’t covered, including notes on overall fashion stylings and themes over the mid-century decades, how the company built its brand in a business sense, even information on the retailers who supplied Horrockes Fashions and their units purchased. Fascinating stuff.
With rare archival material, plenty of lustrous photography and even personalised stories to truly allow this fashion tale to blossom unfold, Horrockses Fashions is a book for now, and for well down the fashionista track. Add it to the library you wish to hand down to the precious fashion-lovers who follow you. The Horrockses Fasion label may have been discontinued in 1983, but its story is timeless.