70s Victoriana

Prints - 3 gingham Victoriana dresses one green, one pink and one blue

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.

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.

Also worth a look is this Pippa dress from the Monaco Collection (if you love this take a look at more on PippaDoll.net).

Pippa doll Monaco collection red hearts pinafore dress

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.

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


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)

Sindy’s Pinky

girl with Sindy doll in purple outfit

I suddenly decided it would be a good idea to take part in the Penge Jumble Trail this year about 4 days before it kicked off. If you haven’t heard of jumbletrail.com and you like shopping bric-a-brac (or searching for Sindy doll treasures), go and check it out now. It’s a really useful website where you can either organise your own jumble trail, or look for upcoming jumbles. You select an area and then invite people to join in. In America they call it a garage sale – in the UK we sometimes call it a yard sale but basically you set up a stall outside your house. Obviously it works better if other people are doing one on your street or nearby on the same day and that’s where jumbletrail.com comes in handy.

Luckily someone from another postcode was looking to partner up for a stall in my area and I had some company – not sure how I would have managed otherwise as I seemed to spend the whole day running in and out. I whizzed over to the local supermarket and bought 8 lemons and made real lemonade which went down well. The trick to the recipe is blending the whole lemon, pips, pith, skin and all. Then straining it out. With the sugar it gets that super-tangy bitter sweet taste. Since it was a blasting hot day, cold drinks went down well. My front garden is South facing with no shade, so we lashed an umbrella to a post and huddled under it.

girl on green wooden chair with Sindy doll in purple nylon

My jumble-buddy Jane (who it turned out I’d been calling Kate all day aaagghh bit dyslexic), brought her daughter and she adopted one of my Sindy dolls. I’d put a bag of rejected dolls out, including quite a nice Sindy with somewhat loose hip joints and a missing little finger. Sarah (not her real name but since I’m posting her picture) must have been around 10 years old and worked really hard on the stall with us all day and sold a lot of books for her Mum. Very patient! Instead of getting bored, she started playing with Missing Pinky and assembled a very stylish purple outfit with matching white petticoat, ballet shoes with string ties and a purple bow. It’s funny because I’ve collected over a 1,000 fashion doll clothes since February; I’ve washed and ironed and kept almost all of them except for about 20 rejects put out in the jumble sale. And Sarah managed to make 2 or 3 great little outfits out of them. Fashion designer in the making?

I also sold a Sindy with funny discolouring on her face to a local lady who turned out to be an avid Sindy collector (60s period) with an expertise in hair rerooting. So I’m going to be back in touch with her to see how she transforms the Sindy.

All in all a good day.