Because I love vintage clothing and live in warm and sunny Florida, I’ve developed a serious passion for pretty 50’s cotton print sundresses. First of all because I can wear them almost year round and second because they’re so darned cute, just looking at one makes me smile. Some people get all excited looking at their shiny new cars or their jewelry box full of gold and diamonds. But lovely vintage fabrics in beautiful prints is what does it for me. Whatever floats your boat, I guess!
A prime example of spectacular vintage cotton print sundresses were the ones manufactured by Horrockses Fashions of England in the 40’s and 50’s. A company originally famous for their high quality sheets and sleepwear, they decided to expand after WWII, and produce a women’s ready to wear line using their finest cotton textiles. The fabric rationing was over and ladies were ready for clothing that was bright and colorful, with a bit of glamour. No more of those wartime drab colors for them!
1953 Horrockses dress, print designed by Eduardo Paolozzi
Needless to say, the Horrockses dresses became an immediate success. Their polished cotton floral prints were favored by women of every social background. Even members of the Royal Family wore them when they travelled abroad. High priced by 1940’s and 50’s standards, and the equivalent of a weeks salary for the majority of young ladies. Many would save their hard earned cash just to be able to own one of their dresses. They were especially popular as going away outfits for honeymoons.
50’s Horrockses Sundress from Tasty Vintage
The fabrics were treated with a special finish, which gave the cotton its crisp feel and lovely sheen.
Styles and prints were produced in limited amounts to maintain an air of exclusivity to their garments. Many of their prints were designed by famous artists, including Alastair Morton , Graham Sutherland , Eduardo Paolizzi and William Gear.
1955 Red print Horrockses sundress with jacket, on display at Victoria and Albert Museum
1949 Dress and jacket, print designed by Graham Sutherland
In 1964 the brand was sold to Steinberg and Sons, after the director, James Cleveland Belle, and many of his colleagues left the company. Though the label continued until 1983, it never again had the popularity it enjoyed during the 1950’s.
50’s strapless pink floral print dress from Blue Velvet Vintage