Sixties shift dresses at the Fashion Museum

Elaine, our curator for the afternoon, in front of the fabulous rack of shift dresses we had to study.

Elaine, our curator for the afternoon, in front of the fabulous rack of shift dresses she picked out for us to study.

A brilliant afternoon’s study at the Fashion Museum, Bath, with a rack full of Mary Quant, Dior, Courreges, Rochas and more, sixties shift dresses with  Anna Glasbrook and Desiree Goodall.  We were allowed to touch, but only with white, cotton gloves, and to make notes with pencils – no pens allowed!
Anna Glasbrook, with cotton gloves, examining BATMC I.09.884, Nina Ricci, 1967 silk plain weave dress (also has a separate coat).

Anna Glasbrook, with white, cotton gloves, examining BATMC I.09.884, Nina Ricci, 1967 silk plain weave dress (also has a separate coat).

Anna, Desiree and I are all textile constructionists, so we focussed on the construction of the shift dresses, rather than the dresses with print and embroidery.  As you can see in the gallery below we selected a lot of ‘plain’ dresses, with no surface treatments, but they were made fascinating by the proportions and lines used by the designers (how the body is divided up either through lines, or blocks of colour or fabric). Very inspiring for me, because any fabric I weave by hand will probably not be wide enough to cut the front of a shift dress in one piece.

Desiree and Anna discussing BATMC I.09.396, Debebnham & Freebody, 1960 - 1969, silk synthetic, woven (brocade) quilted.

Desiree and Anna discussing BATMC I.09.396, Debebnham & Freebody, 1960 – 1969, silk synthetic, woven (brocade) quilted.

The suprising difference between dresses now and from 1960s was the weight of the fabrics – really quite heavy, and some gorgeous fabrics.  The other surprise was the individuality in the making of the dresses; the linings and the hems, not just the design were all finished differently. Looking closely we found evidence of attention to detail, with hand-stitched construction – quite a few zips were hand-stiched, and that the majority of garments were finished as exquisitely on the inside as the outside.

We would like to thank the Fashion Museum study facilities, again, for a fabulous afternoon.

In the gallery below, each image is identified by the unique number given to the dress by the Fashion Museum and the known details; sometimes the exact year is not known so a range is given. All images in this blog post are courtesy of the Fashion Museum, Bath & North East Somerset Council,

Which dress is your favourite?

Penny Wheeler

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2 responses to “Sixties shift dresses at the Fashion Museum

  1. Pingback: Constructions, edges and structures | seam·

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