Laura Ashley: The Romantic Heroine – Bath Fashion Museum

The Fashion MuseumPhoto credit: natalialopes / / CC BY-NC

While countless fashion fads get retired to the sartorial scrap-heap, there are a chosen few that remain style staples. Romantic florals have been around for yonks, reigning supreme as the go-to print to wear at everything from summer barbecues to winter weddings – perhaps even more so now that vintage and thrift shopping is so in vogue.

Indeed, the same sense of nostalgia that leads so many to flock to vintage fairs today also informed Laura Ashley’s collections in the late 1960s, when the brand created a signature look of country florals that inspired a generation of women to dress like classic literary heroines such as Hardy’s Tess and Cathy from Wuthering Heights.

At the end of the 1960s, the optimism of the decade has started to wane, and a longing for a bygone ‘golden’ era came to the fore. Laura Ashley’s modest designs and rustic floral prints summed up the spirit of the period and created an iconic look around the idea of an idyllic ‘back to basics’ lifestyle, which was further popularised by TV shows such as The Good Life.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of this enduring brand, Bath Fashion Museum will showcase over 70 Laura Ashley dresses in a special summer exhibition on display from 13th July to 26th August. To coincide with the exhibition, Laura Ashley is inviting people to share their treasured photographs and memories of the designer for a competition running on its Facebook page from early June. A selection will also be shared by the Fashion Museum on Twitter (follow @Fashion_Museum #LauraAshley60) and Facebook page.


A classic Laura Ashley dress.

Photo credit: vintspiration / / CC BY-NC-ND

Rosemary Harden, manager of the Fashion Museum, said:

We’re celebrating the vision of the romantic heroine that Laura Ashley gave to fashion in the late 1960s and 1970s. A classic example was the chaste cotton print maxi-dress in earth-hewn natural colours – whisking us away with the notion of life in a golden age; a pastoral idyll far from the mad city life.’

This is an aptly timed exhibition, not only because both Laura Ashley and Bath Fashion Museum are celebrating significant milestones this year, but also because the current vintage fashion boom reflects the same feeling of nostalgia that the brand captured back in the 70s.

If you can’t get to Bath between 13th July to 26th August, you’ll have another chance to catch it at The Bowes Museum in County Durham from 21st September to 5th January.

I love the idea of dressing like Cathy – perhaps my next sewing project will be a floor-length floral number (to be worn only on country walks across the moors, natch).


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