As part of Selfridges’ cultural celebration, The Big British Bang, the department store hosted an exhibition of early 1950s dresses in its Ultralounge last month. Curated by Judith Clark in collaboration with milliner Stephen Jones, the exhibition took as its inspiration three commemorative ‘Britannica’ issues of Vogue, each published in February between 1951 and 1953 (the latter being the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation).
The curious thing about the exhibition was that the dresses, each topped off with a champagne-pink Stephen Jones hat, were not actual garments from the era but reproductions by costume designer Christine Atkinson, who recreated the outfits from original Vogue patterns. Judith Clark, who was responsible for the idea, wanted to make the point that despite appearing unattainable, these dresses were in fact available to any woman who could sew, a fact also reflected in the monochrome colour scheme.As it happens the 1950s epitomised my favourite silhouette – bust, nipped in waist, hips – and I was in paroxysms of delight over the polkadot creation, top picture, whilst the peplum-embellished jacket, above, was reminiscent of a classic Dior outfit from the late 1940s. And then, of course, there was the ballgown (below): exquisitely crafted, the flattering strapless bustier was encrusted with dozens of beads and made me long for the days when formal attire was the norm. Sigh.