Iconic vintage 1980s Deadlier Than the Male corset gothic SARAH WHITWORTH bustle dress bolero Gothic Western Westworld
"The yellow sun was setting in Tombstone
The citizens were gone but not to their homes...
By a freak a coin in the piano made it play
But only the wind and the dust heard it say
Do you believe in the Westworld?"
Ah those haunting ghostly player pianos eh like in the modern tv series reboot 'Westworld'? And the short imagined showgirl/saloon bustle dresses of the 1880s!
Gothic Western style is here to stay! And this song by Theatre of Hate, and this bolero & corset silk bustle dress from the 1980s by Sarah Whitworth 'Deadlier than the Male'
label contribute greatly to the rich tapestry of our current obsession with the genre and our sense of Liberty against probable fatalistic destiny.
This is the first of a series of Sarah Whitworth dresses I will be listing, property of a collector who has treasured them so they are immaculate as new as if they had just come from the Sarah Whitworth 'Deadlier than the Male' store in Hype Hyper in the 1980s.
If you don't know Sarah Whitworth it is the equivalent of not knowing what a Colt 45 is and pretending you are in to westerns! This is a serious 'Gownfighters' dress!
And this piece is certainly reminiscent of western spirit, with the gothic femme fatale glamour Sarah was know for when designing. 1980s does 1880s!
Two pieces, it has a high cut bolero, 1940s does 1880s style, and 3/4 length sleeves.
But the embroidered gold and bronze threads on both bolero and dress which meanders round the contours of your body like a snake clinging to curves, as well as the fabric drape
means you know this is a seriously well made fashion garment. In raw silk, such fabrics first came to the USA in the 1880s as beautiful Chinese silks came in to San Francisco. Few women could afford such ostentatious glamour at the time but the best show girls certainly did; as they desired the French can-can glamour & to attract the cowboys & miners who came to town to splash their cash gold & silver on forgetting their troubles of range wars and mining dangers & bandits. So has that 1880s dance hall or saloon girl vibe. And we did of course, in the 1980s, as gothic western influences pervaded popular culture and style. Did you hear the Mission Bell? We were't the only 'Husseys' ya know!
But I have chosen some lyrics from Theatre of Hate's Westworld' to go with the dress which was released 1983. One of the best and most underrated bands of the time, 'Westworld' was a haunting Gothic Western metaphoric ballad driven along at hoof beat pace , about the self destructive fatalistic High Noon of West v East. Singer Kirk Brandon later formed Spear of Destiny with Liberator another thudding gothic western sound, about freedom. We'd have wriggled ourselves silly in these Sarah Whitworth dresses in London's thriving goth music scene at the time....where disco dollies and Sloane Rangers were among those seduced by the cultural explosion.
You dressed to impress; it wasn't the minimalist black hoody & eyes in those days! London attracted folk to the new scene from the world over...I know I was one of them such exciting times! And centre of that in day time was Kensington High St. In Ken market you had Johnson's where pretty bleached quiff Kirk Brandon wannabes - even Bros 'stole' his look really - piled in to get the latest 50s cut suits brothel creepers, Chelsea boots and leathers; while the girls hung out across the road in Hyper Hyper. What an amazing place it was!
The dresses and ambience of the stand, would have every girl's mouth dropping on the floor and drooling. The special service customers had throughout the store, which included suggestions of what was going on afterwards band and club wise; so was a very social atmosphere; full of amazing characters and fashions. ON Sarah's store, sumptuous brightly coloured silk dresses jostled alongside sumptuous black velvets in these incredible gothic, western gothic, and Edwardian & 1940s inspired designs. She was inspired by old school Hollywood glamour as well as the gothic; particularly the well dressed femme fatale. Easy to see the cut & shoulders of the bolero here, and producing that fab sweetheart neckline when on; very 1940s. Her label 'DEADLIER THAN THE MALE', with the black and red spider in a cobweb advertized immediately who the dresses are aimed at but it didn't stop the discerning Sloanes piling in for a piece of the action! They knew quality when they saw it; so you were equally likely to see these gowns rocking Glyndebourne or their social scene Balls. After all no debutante worth her salt was going to waltz in like the innocent she probably was: she wanted to hit that dance floor like Morticia Adams & tell her suitors in no uncertain terms she was a deadly dame!
These dresses were weaponry to entice, & armour to deflect the unwanted attentions of Rodneys, as The Stranglers sang in 'Duchess'. They were or all ages and classes. Often working class girls would save and save to own one of these gowns. They wanted to be the Belle of the local alternative night wherever they were from and a Sarah Whitworth dress guaranteed it.
Yes, people went for cocktails and gigs in these gowns.
So this one - I am a size 8 UK and can get away with it. I have kept the laces loose at the back so I can dance a bit, but they will tighten fully. But a size UK 6 the outfit would be perfect for.
And with another 'Westworld' now re-booting the fashion (Maeve Millay - Thandie Newton- wore some short bustle pieces in the tv series) for a new generation. Was fab to see a few girls out clubbing prior to lockdowns in Sarah Whitworth dresses in the West End. And now we have been locked up so long they are perfect for a revival of such decadent opulence once more!
'Catwalk Collection' corset dresses are rocketing in price and Sarah's are even better imho.
The V&A museum of Fashion in London have pieces in their collection know apt recognition after all these years of her importance in the style explosions & rich subcultural experiences of the 1980s.
"At the time of acquisition, Sarah Whitworth also provided access to her press clippings from the early 1980s, which give a great deal of valuable information about New Masters and its connection to the launch in 1983 of the design collective Hyper Hyper on Kensington High Street. Hyper Hyper was intended to bring together young, up-and-coming designers and offer them an outlet for their designs. Until its closure in 1999, it was a focus for young people because of its wide range of young, edgy and imaginative clothing offered by a wide variety of designers, including Pam Hogg, Dexter Wong, Ghost and Laurie Vanian of Symphony of Shadows.