Elegant vintage Laura Ashley 1970s 1980s dress black velvet fit and flare dramatic Gothic Romantic mouton sleeves shoulders
Ah a dress fit for a Duchess, one that likes a little dramatic edge, in the English Romantic style, with a nod to the Gothic also part of that tradition....except...as English as this looks....it isn't; it's Welsh .
Because of course it is Laura Ashley, born in Wales herself and most of her garments manufactured in Wales. And what a Fashion heritage for the small but proud nation. And, with the mutton sleeves and riding style it has more than a nod to the Tudor. And when we think of the Tudors, we think of English History too: except errr...they were Welsh too! Henry VII flag even had the Welsh dragon prominent. Henry VIII his son, had 6 wives of course and there are always stories of heirs to the throne from offspring. And in a song roughly corresponding with the date of this dress, 1979, The Stranglers sang about one such girl's claim.
"Duch of the terrace knows all her heritage
Says she's Henry's kid
Knows all her history in the family
Needs a man, god forbid
Duch of the terrace never grew up
I hope she never will
Says she's an heiress, sits in her terrace
Says she's got time to kill
And the Rodneys are queuing up
The Rodneys of course being the chinless wonders of Eton she rejected and instead wanted the rough edged Hugh Cornwell. And the Hooray Henrys weren't exactly flavour of the month at the time with The Jam's Eton Rifles also being released the same year. So this was a time where the well heeled girl would play a wider field of exciting liasons with rugged boys from the other side of the tracks. And the prairie dress of previous Laura Ashley lines didn't quite cut it. So this was the point at which Laura's dark velvets and black raw silks came in to play for a edgier yet no less romantic mood.
I had the pleasure of seeing The Stranglers live in Belgrade a few years ago but of course no Hugh in the current line up, and since drummer Jet Black has passed away.
And this dress truly is jet black very rich velvet with real depth to it and acres of fabric in the flared skirt area, with that very tailored waist, and those huge mutton shoulders & top sleeve it's breathtaking. Trimmed with black piping and covered buttons raw silk I think though could be satin.
It is a size UK 4-6: I can't even button the front it needs a 30 inch bust. Though it wouldn't stop me wearing it undone make me look busty heh heh and otherwise it fits me size 8. Undone it has something of the Stevie Nicks rock chick look to boot.
But the Laura Ashley look was favoured by the Sloane Rangers, the well heeled but stylish girls like Lady Diana who lived at the smart bottom end of Kings Rd and Sloane St intersections but were very much part of the diverse youth tribal cultures that mixed in that hub of fashion in the 1970s and 80s. So the odd one may have bagged a Prince but many would be have been banging a cool Pauper ! They were especially active with the New Romantic scene of course which suited their robbing of history in their styles. So his dress is very much part of that spirit of the age. But you didn't have to be a Sloane to wear Laura Ashley either: indeed it was one of the most successful fashion labels of British history in terms of elegant dresses and of course home interiors so was very aspirational style for all, very British but less known was that it was actually Welsh. And then, there were also the Goths of the time who were far more looking like Hazel Court in Hammer movies in sumptuous velvets in the Romantic Gothic tradition, than the downbeat black hoodie or cheap synthetic lace of the modern goth.
So dare you? Have you got what it takes to pull this off? Don't worry if not, it WILL give you what it takes, it's unavoidable, this WILL transform you. If it is your size don't hesitate. Pretty Pretty, oh sweet prairie dress girl, come to me and the darker side of a Victorian or Edwardian or even Tudor Romance....this is British history in more ways than one.
top of page
bottom of page