Acquired from the estate of costume designer Shirley Russell
The John Bright Collection owns a number of garments produced by the Footprints Studio. The studio was founded in 1925 in West London to produce and sell block printed textiles in a fresh and modern idiom. One of their female designers, Joyce Clissold, took over the business in 1929, becoming its guiding light, and continuing to work on a smaller scale until her death in the early 1980s. Unlike some textile design studios that employed women working in their own homes in a freelance capacity and were paid less than men, the female orientated Footprints took on young women and not only trained them in all the steps of production, but also provided a sense of community and companionship. From 1933 until 1940 the company’s ready-made garments, soft furnishings and fabrics were sold in their London shops, and a bespoke service of design and fabric choice was also available to their customers.
Conventionally cut for its time, this dress is made of crepe de chine block printed in a palette of sludgy blues, mauves, pinks and light grey. Roughly square repeats of the design depict birds in a rural setting, the colours of the motifs alternating from square to square to appear less regimented overall. The quality of the printing is technically inferior to that of the contemporary Crysède block printing company whose garments are also included on this website; nevertheless, the imperfections give the fabric its charm, and emphasise a disdain for the impersonal nature of machine produced goods compared to that of craft work, a strongly held view disseminated by the art critic John Ruskin and the designer and author William Morris in the previous century.