Big Britannica 1951-1953: Mid-century British Fashion at Selfridges

Big Britannica: 1951 – 1953 opened to great fanfare last night at London’s Selfridges as part of a store-wide celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, or to translate for  Anglophones on American shores, her 60 years at the reigns of the English monarchy.  Curator Judith Clark collaborated with famed hat designer Stephen Jones on the resulting selection of classic 50s-era-inspired looks accompanied by period issues of British Vogue.  Contrary to typical fashion exhibitions, the fit-and-flare dresses, exquisite tailored skirt suits, and wool separates on display are actually modern re-creations of 50s-era Vogue-brand home sewing patterns, mimicking the mid-Century, mid-market  trend for re-creating designer looks on one’s own.

As clarified by fashion journalist (and newly-minted Editor of Love magazine) Alexander Fury on Selfridges’ blog, “…costume designer Christine Atkinson used classic techniques to painstakingly craft an array of gowns in every shade of monochrome – from a coronet-embroidered day-dress to the black and white layers of tulle and pearl detailing on a debutante gown – with the shapes determined by those original patterns,” further adding, “…(it may seem) archaic, but in the fifties, that was ‘high fashion’ for the normal British woman: she may, at a push, have had a department store’s licensed recreation of a Dior or Balenciaga original, but her wardrobe mainly consisted of her own interpretations. That may sound frugal to modern ears, but before the high fashion ready-to-wear industry began, it was a fact of fashion.”

Big Britannica: 1951-1953 runs from 4 May – 24 June 2012 at Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London.

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