I was lucky enough to receive some amazing books this Christmas. Including the wonderful Horrockses Fashions: Off-the-Peg Style in the 40s and 50s. Just under 200 pages, the book "draws together fashion photography, textile designs, archival material, personal stories and beautiful dresses to tell the story of one of the most respected ready-to-wear lables on the post-war British high street."
Having started to actually read it and not just scour the incredible collection of photos and illustrations, what I really love is its account of how social history affected the company's development.
Eduardo Paolozzi inspired print
Yes the fabrics are stunning, the patterns and designers perfectly selected, and the shapes meticulously cut, but the most interesting thing for me was finding out why and how the clothes took the shapes they did; why the clothing and fabrics were all made by the same company; what affect it had on British women and the effects of Britain on the company.
Much of my family came from a weaving background in Lancashire, where Horrockses was based. My grandmother worked for many years as a pattern cutter and I wonder if she ever worked for them.
I particularly love this photo from the book:
Co-incidentally found this photo only last week of women in my grandad's family, I can't help but notice the similarities. It may be just slightly earlier, and honestly a little bit less dashing than the Horrockses designs (with more modest necklines!) But it shows how 'real' Horrockses fashions were, you can easily imagine this girly gang eyeing up the latest styles from the book.
It's a beautiful book and I'd very much recommend it for anyone interested in fabrics, textiles, fashion or 20th century UK history.
I wish I'd been able to visit the exhibition too. You can however, still get your hands on some Horrockses merchandise at the V&A shop, from dresses and aprons through to luggage tags and eye masks... and finally, do have a glance at the google images for Horrockses for more idea of their vast collection