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Horrockses Fashions off the peg style in the '40s and '50s

17 March 2010

Fashion and Textile Museum, 9th July – 24th October 2010 

Horrockses Fashions Limited was the manufacturer of one of the most respected ready-to-wear labels of the 1940s and 1950s. The company is best known for its full-skirted dresses that were sought after by women everywhere and were even worn by Queen Elizabeth II.

This new exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum draws together fashion photography, archive material, personal stories and some beautiful dresses from private and public collections to tell the story of the company, its role in post-war British fashion and the link between couture and ready-to-wear clothes over these two decades. The exhibition will look to recapture the feeling of that bygone age where a post-war Britain began to feel anything was possible.

Through the wealth of materials available, this exhibition is uniquely placed to explore the links between manufacturing, design, and the emergence of ‘brands’ and how smart and targeted selling and advertising helped shape the customer relationship with Horrockses. For example, it is no accident that the photography in Horrockses adverts often echoed the photography used in up market fashion magazines to promote couture gowns.

The first collection was launched in April 1946 to great acclaim with publications like Drapers' Record at the time commending 'their cotton frocks for their superb cut, good colours and unusual designs.' Cotton beachwear, hostess gowns and dresses were the mainstay of their collections and became so popular they were often worn by members of the British Royal family.

Horrockses had to tread a fine tightrope as they were producing considerable quantities of their products yet were selling an air of exclusivity to women. They cleverly did this using a number of techniques, including following closely what was going on in Paris and London with regard to couture, by creating fabric designs by well-known people specifically for their own brand such as Graham Sutherland, Eduardo Paolozzi and Pat Albeck, limiting the number of outlets it sold through to ensure an area wasn’t flooded with its fashion and carefully considering how they promoted their products.
Christine Boydell, curator of the exhibition said:  'The success of Horrockses Fashions was due to a significant marriage of traditional know-how and fashionable innovation. The concept for the label demanded careful management of the balance between the practicalities of the ready-to-wear business and the creativity of the designers who would provide the up-market fashion upon
which the brand was promoted. Something they pulled off with great success.'

The brand survived until 1983 but this exhibition focuses on its heyday in the ‘40s and ‘50s. It is also accompanied by a book of the same name by the curator Christine Boydell and published by V&A publishing.

Notes to Editors: 

Further information, images, interviews and exclusive features on the different elements of ‘Horrockses Fashions – off the peg style in the ‘40s and ‘50s’ are available. 

The exhibition is staged by the Fashion and Textile Museum and runs from the 9th July – 24th October 2010 

Exhibition opening times are Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm. Last admission 5.15pm.  

Ticket prices are £6.50 for adults, £3.50 for students and concessions, free entry for under 12s 

For further information about FTM and its activities visit www.ftmlondon.org  

Press enquires please contact:

Alison Lowe - Press Officer

Felicities Ltd representing the Fashion and Textile Museum

Email: Alison@felicities.co.uk

Tel: 0207 377 6030

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