Zandra Rhodes – Unseen (and seen in Vogue and Harpers and Queen)

Inspired by visiting various fashion exhibitions recently – Debby Wale, one of our Triborough Reference Librarians has once again been delving into our Costume Collection at Chelsea Reference Library.

Zandra Rhodes - Unseen programme from the Fashion and Textile Museum
Zandra Rhodes – Unseen programme from the Fashion and Textile Museum

Working at Chelsea Library, with unlimited access to the Costume Collection, my interest in fashion has been revitalised. With the final days of my National Art Pass discount to be used, I went along to the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street, SE1. If you’ve not been – here’s a great description of the museum taken from their website:

The Fashion and Textile Museum is a cutting edge centre for contemporary fashion, textiles and jewellery in London. Founded by iconic British designer Zandra Rhodes, the centre showcases a programme of changing exhibitions exploring elements of fashion, textile and jewellery as well as the Academy which runs courses for creative students and businesses.

Their current exhibition is ‘Zandra Rhodes: Unseen’ and it runs until 31 August 2013. I had already been to the ‘Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s’ at the V&A. Zandra Rhodes’ career has spanned the decades from the 70’s and 80’s including designing a dress for Princess Diana – which can be seen at the current ‘Fashion Rules’ exhibition at Kensington Palace which I’ve also been to.

Princess Diana and Zandra Rhodes (taken from 'Dressing Diana by Tim Graham and Tamsin Blanchard)
Princess Diana and Zandra Rhodes (taken from ‘Dressing Diana by Tim Graham and Tamsin Blanchard)

Princess Diana wearing the dress designed by Zandra Rhodes
Princess Diana wearing the dress designed by Zandra Rhodes

This pink chiffon and pearl dress with a zig zag hem was worn in Japan and was sold at a sale of Princess Diana’s garments at Chrisities.

Years earlier I attended a talk at the Commonwealth Institute given by Zandra Rhodes and I was interested to find out more. Back at Chelsea Reference Library I trawled through the back issues of Vogue and Harpers. I even put together a display in Chelsea Gallery (part of Chelsea Reference Library) of the materials I found to write this post.

There’s some great information about Zandra Rhodes on Voguepedia:

When she realized her prints were too bold and boisterous for other designers, Rhodes began crafting clothing, as well. Still, she never lost sight of the methodical approach that she learned in textiles. For early collections, she visited the Victoria and Albert Museum and studied ethnic costume in the field. With a scholarly eye, she filled her sketchbook with drawings of Maasai warriors in Kenya, cacti from the Mojave Desert, Australian rock formations, and even celestial bodies that she discovered at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. For her book The Art of Zandra Rhodes, she wanted her garments displayed flat, like mounted butterflies, rather than worn by models. That way, their extraordinary patterns were revealed.

Zandra, Queen of the Desert

Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Be inspired by the art of seventies icon Zandra Rhodes. The pink lady’s fantasy fashion delivered a fix of culture clash glamour that lives on and on: graphic textiles, bold prints and swathes of diaphanous chiffon.
Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002

This silk devore dress was from the same shoot – worn with a Philip Treacy Couture hat and leather, feather, sand shells and beaded necklaces by Erickson Bearmon.

How to do….Zandra Rhodes

Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002

The same issue of Harpers and Queen has a very handy guide on how to dress in the Zandra Rhodes style or as Harpers and Queen describe it:

The original – and still the best for jet-set chiffon and inspirational prints.
Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002

This silk chiffon dress is by Salvatore Ferragamo and it’s worn with lace leggings by Zandra Rhodes – you don’t have to dress head to toe to get the Zandra Rhodes look.

Attention! Diversion! Zigzag Rhodes! 

Over to Vogue now…..

Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)
Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)

These pictures were taken from the article about Zandra Rhodes’ home:

Powerful patterns and coloured cover Zandra Rhodes house and her person, all is idiosyncratic, instantly recognisable decoration…The house, salmon pink outside, has mottled marbled sea-pinks and blues inside, a Martin Sharp mural up the stairwell meeting painted columns, urns, banked plastic flowers on the landing, with scarlet pleated bath alcove and Zandra in the tub.
Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)
Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)

Vogue’s own motor show

Here’s Jerry Hall in a Zandra Rhodes satin sarong – with a Rover to match!

Vogue, October 1976
Vogue, October 1976
Frilled sarong of pleated satin in whipped cream print, tendrils of rouleaux and gilded cords keeping body and soul together.

West Coast style

Vogue, March 1976
Vogue, March 1976

With more time, I’m sure I would find a lot more – I feel as if I am just scratching the surface. I really enjoyed researching this subject – so if you feel inspired come and take a look at our Costume Collection at Chelsea Reference Library.

Debby Wale
Debby Wale

Debby Wale, Triborough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library

Further information

  • ‘The Art of Zandra Rhodes’ by Anne Knight is available to view in the Costume Collection – it documents her designs inspired by Africa, China and India
  • Vogue and Harpers and Queens – back copies of these magazines can be viewed in the Costume Collection too
  • Berg Fashion Library has more information about Zandra Rhodes – you’ll need a Kensington and Chelsea library card to access this amazing online fashion resource
  • Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection Project – a blog I can certainly recommend
  • More information about the National Art pass is available on the ArtFund website
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