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Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon

I had free entry to this exhibition as part of my sewing day at the Fashion and Textile Museum.  It's finished now unfortunately, and I didn't have much time to look at it - just under 1/2 an hour, so I whizzed round with my camera photographing anything and anything. Since doing the couture course, I am now able to appreciate the garments in a different way. The skillful construction and the best use of materials for examples. The dresses are each like individual, beautiful works of art.

Garments were displayed alongside copies of modern works of literature (including Zadie Smith's 'White Teeth', which I'm reading at the moment). I'm not quite sure why this was ... maybe if I'd had more time I would have found a display board explaining ... except that this idea probably links the dresses in with what was going on around the time of making.

Anyway, here's what I was able to find out from the exhibition labels.  An important aspect for the company was the creation of occasion dresses for grand balls and parties of the 50's and 60's.  The Wilton Ball, Holkham Ball and Windsor Ball required statement dresses for statement jewellery.  Many clients attended the same events so it was important for individual dresses to be made.  Dresses were often designed to accompany a piece of jewellery and designers would visit vaults to see jewels.  One client visited the studio with a pen line showing where her necklace would sit, as the insurance was too expensive to wear it to the Salon.  The era of great balls peaked in the 70's and The Proust Ball in Paris was hosted by the Rothschilds as a finale in 1971.  Royalty and aristocracy mingled with the international jet set - these were invitation only affairs generating huge publicity.  The Proust Ball influenced the company's collection that season, including a group of Belle Epoque inspired dresses.  The balls gave way to the charity galas of the 80's and 90's as focus shifted from private to public.  Statement dresses were still in demand and Bellville Sassoon continued to dress socialites around the world for high profile parties like The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala in New York and Elton John's annual charity ball in Britain.

Pin hems and bound edges


Silk and chiffon joined





Rouleaux loops





The rest of this information is from Wikipedia: 
Bellville Sassoon is a high end British fashion salon in Chelsea, noted for its glamorous and expensive clothing. It was founded by Belinda Bellville in 1953. It became Bellville Sassoon by name in 1970 after David Sassoon who had joined the company in 1958 and remained for some 50 years.  The company is currently run by Irish fashion designer Lorcan Mullany.

1991 Nicky Haslam watercolour of the Bellville Sassoon premises
Bellville Sassoon actually has its origins in Belinda Bellville's grandmother, Cuckoo Leith, who ran a dress-shop in the 1920s.  Belinda Bellville invited David Sassoon to join the firm in 1958.  Belville counts numerous socialites and the royal family amongst its clientele and was the most prolific of Princess Diana's early designers.  Bellville Sassoon designed her "Gonzaga dress", amongst numerous other items of clothing. Sassoon has said, "When she got engaged, her mother brought her in to us and asked us to make the going-away outfit."  Aside from Diana, Bellville Sassoon has designed clothes for Princess Margaret, Princess Michael of Kent, the Duchess of York, Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Jerry Hall, Anita Baker, Melanie Griffith, Helen Mirren, Ivana Trump, Madonna, Jada Collins and Melissa Brown and his designs have appeared on the covers of Vogue and Harper's Magazine.

Due to Sassoon's Jewish roots, Belville Sassoon has become a notable Jewish fashion house, and according to Sassoon the salon has done "a tremendous amount for weddings and barmitzvahs, because Jewish women like to dress up for these occasions. They have been very big business for us over the years."  In recent years, due to old age, Sassoon has increasingly given responsibility to Irish designer Lorcan Mullany in the running of the company.  The firm won the Export Award in 2005.







Fish line hem on blue dress


There was a section of the exhibition devoted to Royal dresses but photography was not allowed of these. Display cases also featured some of the paper patterns produced by Vogue.



The Museum Shop had been selling copies of these but all gone in my size unfortunately ...  I think they are still generally available though, so I'll do some investigating in my local store.

This was an exhibition I hadn't particularly planned or put in my diary for seeing, but I hugely enjoyed it all. Stunning to see everything at close quarters and an opportunity that doesn't come along that often.  Glad I could catch it and hope readers enjoy the photographs.  Sorry some are a bit out of focus ... didn't have much time! 

9 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Definitely Bea! I'm sorry I couldn't have spent longer in there and that it's all gone now ...

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  2. Such beautiful dresses. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I'm going to see if I can find a pattern Judy ...

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  3. oh, gorgeousness. must have been so inspiring to be that close, even briefly!

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    1. Oh it was Oona!, as I've just told Judy ... am going to try and find a pattern ...

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  4. Thank you for showing us these ball gowns - there's so much variety and some truly stunning designs. When I was at university I wore Belleville Sassoon to balls, although I made mine using the patterns and they didn't look anything like the ones in your photos. Still it was fantastic as my first experience of dressing up to go out.

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    1. I've never actually been to a ball Nicki, at least not yet! I'd love to make a dress like this and I have a few skills now, so you never know ...

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  5. WOW! FABULOUS! The pieces are absolutly stunning!
    I think I have one pattern in my collection... but it is nothing to seeing them all live.

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