Fabulous unusual dress that appears to date form the early 1960s, in pure silk with silk lining.
It is a golden to bronze/mustard main colour, indicating hides sewn together, over a slate blue grey base. There
is a central illustrative image of an unusual creature, that could be a stylized giraffe r perhaps I think, a generuk, an antelope
with a giraffe like neck, from Somalia/Ethiopia & Tanzania area of E Africa. It also has what appear to be illustration of beaded ceremonial
belt & tassles from the waist. All very unusual as everything is where it should be as a dress; yet it doesn't appear to be a hand painted item
though could be.
Whatever, while it has a fun novelty look to it in some ways it is a painstaking piece of work to do.
The only other thing it could be is a South American camelid like a llama or alpaca, though it doesn't look like any South American art I know.
So all we can say for sure is it is ethnic inspired but even that could be a fantasy tribal inspiration.
Now it is also a very elegant construction with that boat neck that should sit nicely on the shoulders but I'm a bit small for the dress: I'm a UK 6 to 8 and the dress I'd say is a UK 8-10. 27 inch waist but a good 34-35 inch bust. But don't be misled by the elegant simplicity of the dress cut; as I say this is some work of art the way those stylized 'hides' are in all the right places. This wasn't a 'novelty' print in the way we think of such now for sure; and especially not in the luxury of real silk and lined in cream silk. Could have been specially made for a performer of course; an Eartha Kitt or Shirley Bassey, or even some beatnik Juliette Greco type identifying with the ethnic vibes or Dadaist primitivism for example. But it's all speculation.
Length of the dress is 39 inches which with the boat neck and short sleeve, and waist pleats & hint of bubble shape dates it firmly to c 1962.
So this was the age that Bluebeat was becoming hugely popular in Jamaica and the UK, and the time of the Profumo Affair. So thinking about those
dresses and Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies got me to thinking of the movie 'Scandal' 1989 and remembering the scene in that where they are in a Bluebeat club, and there is also Desmond Dekker song 'Honour Your Mother and Father' on the soundtrack. So I can just see this dress in one of those clubs at the time.
Now if anyone sees something in this dress design that I haven't clicked, please let me know! As I say all I know for certain is its silk, very well made, and likely early 1960s.
And, that it is a dream to wear so lightweight and the wind as it catches the silk clings to the body with such a gentle touch like being caressed by butterflies. If you've never owned a silk dress, or pillows sheets whatever, you need to. You will never go back to polyester again that is for sure lol.
It may not be African of course, but it shouldn't come as a surprise that silk dressmaking is associated with Africa: that was where the Silk rd was headed to the Middle East and from there across Egypt as long ago as 1000 BC (Cleopatra known to have worn silk made in Lebanon) and sub Sahara Africa for centuries at least. Madagascar even importing Mulberry silkworms themselves in the 19th century. Mali Nigeria Ghana all these are renowned for their silk work; and wild moths may have been there some time. Silk has long been associated with tribal prestige occasional wear.
But similarly, African Art especially from the 1950s was having a powerful impact on Western Art & sculpture in particular, and eventually by mid 1960s in fashion.
So it's for you to decide, and I am open to alternative theories for this very beautiful dress. And that's for sure it's beautiful!
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