70s Victoriana

Victoriana was a trend in the early 1970s for a nostalgic fashion harking back to the 1890 – 1900 period before the first world war. Perhaps it seemed like a more innocent period.

Gingham-victoriana-set-in-situ-banner
3 gingham Victoriana dress prints available to buy from ShimmyShimShop

Gingham Victoriana prints in green, pink and blue available now in the shop Buy Now

Laura Ashley was one of the most famous designers producing Victoriana, and perhaps she associated it with a homely feeling of safety, as she had many great aunts who she remembered dressed in the old fashioned clothing during the early part of her childhood in the 1920s.

One of my favourite fashion doll outfits is Sindy’s Pinny Party – dated as a 1973 design by Our Sindy Museum. I really love it for the lurid colours. And it has a very synthetic twist on the Victoriana offered by Laura Ashley.

Yellow and pink Victoriana style smock dress for a Sindy doll.
Pinny Party Victoriana style smock dress for a Sindy doll.
Laura Ashley dresses in Fashion Museum in Bath UK
1970s printed cotton dresses by Laura Ashley exhibited at the Fashion Museum, Bath, UK in 2013

Laura Ashley loved natural fabrics and harmonised colours with a homely feel, which she actually designed to be worn at home. She demured,

“Most of our garments are to be worn at home. They’re not… for making a splash in a dramatic place.”

Whereas her Welsh counterpart, Mary Quant was famous for clothes which cut a dash with clashing colours and op art graphics.

Ashley on Quant:

“I’m the country one and she’s the town one. She’s marvellously urban… whereas I’ve got my roots in the country”.

Mary Quant mused:

“I think the point of fashion for women should be,

One: that you’re noticed.

Two: that you’re sexy and

Three: that you feel good.”

It’s almost as though, by accident, some of the Sindy doll outfits ended up being a crazy medley of Mary Quant and Laura Ashley designs. Take this orange and silver dress for example – it’s op art and Victoriana combined.

Op art and Victoriana orange and gold dress
Op art and Victoriana in one dress

I was 4 years old in 1971 and my young aunt Fiona got married that year. There was a big church wedding with lots of bridesmaids and pageboys, and I was one of the bridesmaids. We all wore the most amazing matching Victoriana style patchwork dresses with lace trimmed sleeves. We kept the dress which I managed to fit into for a birthday party and I remember being fascinated with it although I didn’t quite understand it. I mostly wore jeans and T-shirts by that time so a long dress with ribbons, lace and glass buttons was quite a strange novelty. After that I really got into dress-up though and it became a favourite game to dig through my aunt’s old clothes which she kept in a big wicker hamper and prance around the garden in them with my sister and cousins.

It’s a shame there aren’t any colour photos as it had lovely shades of mauve in it. I think the glass buttons were a dark purple colour. [Note – might be able to get a photo from our photo album this weekend will post here if I do]

Another childhood memory I have is watching the 1970 UK film the Railway Children

And the American show Little House on the prairie (first aired 1974).

There are some dresses called ‘frontier patchwork’ which were designed by Mattel for the 6 inch Rock Flowers dolls in the early 70s which match this.

Here is a fabulous Pinterest board by terrebella ✽ moda with a really lush selection of both Victorian and Edwardian inspired fashion.

The Laura Ashely quote was taken from this documentary about her life and business (22:20)

And the Mary Quant quote from this CBC interview (towards the end)

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