Couturier or Dressmaker in C20th London Society

Couturier or Dressmaker in C20th London Society

Saturday 17 March 2018

What differentiates a couturier from a dressmaker? Why are some remembered and others forgotten? This study day explores some of the lesser-known couturiers and dressmakers of the twentieth century through surviving archives and objects in collections.

Lucile: Portrait of an Archive
Amy de la Haye is co-author of Lucile Ltd.: London, Paris and Chicago, 1890s – 1930s which is a study of the Lucile Archive housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with a focus on a fashion album from 1905. This extensively illustrated lecture will explore the history and contents of this archive, situated within the context of Lucile’s career.

Amy de la Haye is Professor of Dress History and Curatorship at London College of Fashion. She was formerly Curator of 20th Century Dress at the V&A. She has published extensively on London dressmakers and couture.

Dressmakers of London: through the wardrobe of Heather Firbank
In 1926 Heather Firbank packed away her extensive wardrobe of fie clothes, bought from the very best dressmakers and tailors in London. In 1957 over 200 items were acquired by the V&A laying the foundation of its now world famous fashion collection. A rare and remarkably complete picture of one young woman’s tastes and shopping habits at the beginning of the twentieth century is captured through the clothes, photographs, bills and correspondence held in this archive and we learn of the many dressmakers who satisfied the demands of a wealthy elite who could not always afford the top couturiers.

Cassie Davies-Strodder is Curator in Fashion and Textiles at the V&A.

She curated the current major exhibition on Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion and other signifiant projects include: Future Fashion Now: New Design from the Royal College of Art, 2009/2010; Grace Kelly: Style Icon, 2010 and the re-display of the permanent fashion galleries, 2012.

Her recent publications include; London Society Fashion 1905-1925: The Wardrobe of Heather Firbank, (V&A, 2015 (ed.)) London Couture 1920-1970 (V&A, 2015 - essay on Michael Sherard) Shoes: Pleasure and Pain (V&A, 2015 - essay on fetishistic trends in 21st century shoes).

The Ghosts of Mayfair, or the Curious Case of London’s Forgotten Women Couturiers
The history of London couture is largely a male history, but working at the same time as the justly celebrated star couturiers such as Norman Hartnell, Charles Creed, Edward Molyneux etc., were an equally talented and innovative group of women couturiers. This talk will introduce some of these neglected couturiers and ask the question why their reputation has been eclipsed by their male contemporaries.

Jonathan Faiers is Professor of Fashion Thinking, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton and his research examines the interface between popular culture, textiles and dress. His publications include Tartan (Berg), Dressing Dangerously: Dysfunctional Fashion in Film (Yale University Press) and Colors in Fashion (Bloomsbury). He has written essays for Alexander McQueen (V&A), Developing Dress History: New Directions in Method and Practice (Bloomsbury), London Couture 1923- 1975: British Luxury (V&A). He lectures internationally on textiles and dress and is a founding member of the Winchester Luxury Research Group and the Advisory Committee for the Costume Colloquium, Florence. His current research includes a new, single authored, socio-cultural history of Fur (Yale University Press 2020).

Famous, Forgotten, Found: rediscovering the career of London couture fashion designer Giuseppe (Jo) Mattli, 1934-1980
Giuseppe (Jo) Mattli, a Swiss-born couturier, established his business in London around 1934. A member of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers from 1948, he was a contemporary of Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies, Victor Stiebel, Charles Creed, Digby Morton and John Cavanagh. Retiring from couture in 1975, Jo Mattli’s career was, with Hartnell and Amies, one of the longest in British couture. It is perhaps surprising that Mattli is not better remembered in the histories of fashionable dress.

Caroline Ness began researching the couturier Jo Mattli for her MA at the Textile Conservation Centre Winchester in 2008. She continued this research for her PhD at the University of Glasgow in 2014. Now an independent scholar and researcher, Caroline works as a consultant in museum collections management and curatorial research. Plans are in progress for a monograph on Mattli and for a post-doctoral research project with the University of Glasgow Centre for Textile Conservation that will identity the fires used in the production of mid-twentieth century couture fabric.

The report on this event is included in the Spring 2018 issue of WECS Wardrobe.

Magazine Cover