Label ‘Horrockses Fashions’
Acquired from the costume designer Michael O’Connor
This dress, and those in Related Items, were made by the firm Horrockses Fashions, which was founded in 1946 by the long-established cotton manufacturers Horrockses, Crewdson & Co of Preston, Lancashire. The company aimed to raise the status of cotton garments which before the Second World War had, on the whole, been considered functional and inexpensive. Targeting a middle-class market, Horrockses employed top-quality freelance and in house designers for both its fabrics and garments, and sought to establish itself as a brand name recognisable for quality and modern stylishness at a reasonable, though by no means inexpensive, price.
Its success in this respect was marked by the choice of Horrockses dresses by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family for tours of warm Commonwealth countries. These models were then available to the public, prefiguring the present day interest in the clothes of younger female royalty. Other loyal, but less elevated, customers kept and cherished their Horrockses dresses, especially those associated with memorable occasions.
Although it produced evening wear, housecoats, childrenswear and beach outfits, the company was particularly renowned for its printed summer dresses. This dress is an example of one of Horrockses’ particular successes, the sun dress – fun, informal, and bringing to mind warm days by the Mediterranean Sea. Following the privations of the Second World War and its aftermath textile designers became more adventurous in their choice of motifs, and while florals were never superseded, exotic fruit and vegetables were deemed appropriate for informal dresses, skirts and beach wear. Pat Albeck, one of Horrockses’ most gifted textile designers, was responsible for fabrics printed with partly peeled and sliced bananas, pineapples alternating with roses, lobsters with flowers and butterflies, and peppers and sweetcorn. She did not design the fabric for this dress, but told the curator of the John Bright collection that she ‘wished she had’.