The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon – and the people that wear the clothes

Debby Wale, Chelsea Reference Librarian, writes:

I have been looking through David Sassoon’s marvellous book in Chelsea Reference Library. I’d seen Bellville Sassoon gowns at the V&A’s Ballgowns exhibition last year, but nothing prepared me for the out-and-out glamour of the Bellville Sassoon exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum (ends 11 January 2014).

Bellville Sassoon was founded in 1953 as Bellville et Cie by Belinda Bellville. Sassoon joined in 1958 Lorcan Mullany joined in 1987. It’s the people who wear the clothes that are of interest to me. You need an occasion to wear such glamorous outfits. So who wears Bellville Sassoon? As Britain’s foremost couture label from the 1960s onwards, Bellville Sassoon have dressed many of the world’s most stylish women, including Diana, Princess of Wales.

 Many well known clients of Belleville Sassoon had lent dresses for the exhibition: Lady Shakira Caine, Cilla Black, Minnie Churchill, Angela Rippon, Lady Jane Rayne, Lady Anne Glendower, Lady Woolf, Baroness Fiona von Thyssen, Gaby Harris-Lyons and Brazilian socialite, Renee Behar.

Princess Diana, Princess Alexandra, Princess Michael of Kent, the Duchess of Kent and Princess Margaret were also clients. Princess Diana needed a dress for her engagement to Prince Charles. A formidable member of staff in Bellville Sassoon didn’t recognize her and suggested Harrods might be more appropriate. When David Sassoon found out, he was horrified.

She did return to Bellville Sassoon to purchase a number of outfits, including the one below:

From The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp.
From The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp.

The Princess of Wales arrives  for a 1993 film premiere in Bellville Sassoon’s little black dress, with beaded jewelled straps, one of the glamorous evening dresses that were auctioned at Christie’s New York in 1997.

 From an interview with David Sassoon in the Sunday Telegraph February 17 2013:

Another sketch, for a claret taffeta dress with bows, shows her enthusiasm to have the dress made up, with the words “Yes please!” next to the design, which she subsequently wore to the opening of the Barbican Centre with the Queen in March 1982, when she was six months pregnant.

“We had to let it out at the very last minute because her bump had suddenly grown,” said Sassoon. “She was very excited about the baby but also conscious of looking appropriate for the occasion during her pregnancy.”

Diana Princess of Wales in a maternity gown by Sassoon
Diana Princess of Wales in a maternity gown by Sassoon

 Bellville Sassoon are also famous for their wedding gowns. In April 1971 when Sarah Donaldson-Hudson married Nicholas Haydon at Caxton Hall, she wore Bellville Sassoon, but as she was marrying a divorcee, her mother forbade her to wear white. She wore a hand-painted coat, lined with silk, which had graced the pages of Vogue in November 1970.

 Sarah Donaldson-Hudson on her wedding day with Dorothy Donaldson-Hudson and Lt. Col. Ralph Davies-Cooke 23 April 1971:

From The Wedding Dress: 300 years of bridal fashions by Edwina Ehrman
From The Wedding Dress: 300 years of bridal fashions by Edwina Ehrman

  And the coat as it appeared in Vogue, 1970:

Cream wool crepe coat from the Indian-inspired couture collection, ‘Rajputana’
Cream wool crepe coat from the Indian-inspired couture collection, ‘Rajputana’

Bordered and panelled with exquisite flowers from a Persian miniature. Designed and printed by Richard Cawley and Andrew Whittle, who painted the boots by hand to match.

The coat proved to be very popular. The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon reproduced an article from Women’s Wear Daily 6 October  1970. Rajputana was ordered by ‘a tall member of the Royal Family’, but the name was not to be revealed. Baroness Fiona Von Thyssen (former fashion model Fiona Campbell-Walter) also ordered this costume.

 The Indian theme continues. In The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon, David Sassoon has a picture of Lady Londonderry wearing one of his Indian inspired costumes (in the December 1974 issue of Harpers & Queen, alongside the original picture, her name is given as Mrs Clive Powell. At the time of publication, she was married to Georgie Fame, a pop star, and Clive Powell was his real name.)

Harpers & Queen December 1974
Harpers & Queen December 1974

 Mrs Powell wears blue and coral printed silk georgette long sleeveless dress embroidered in gold, with wide waistband and gathered skirt. Matching printed and embroidered cardigan, with gold sequins.

 More famous clients dressed by Sassoon:

Catherine Deneuve (Mrs David Bailey), Vogue December 1965
Catherine Deneuve (Mrs David Bailey), Vogue December 1965
Actress Julie Christie, Vogue December 1965
Actress Julie Christie, Vogue December 1965

My favorite is the evening dress with gold lame spots on black chiffon:

From Ballgowns: British glamour since 1950 by Oriole Cullen
From Ballgowns: British glamour since 1950 by Oriole Cullen

This was made in 1996 and is in the V&A collection: T.76-1997. In the exhibition, it stands in a glass case, the fabric spreading out in a sumptuous puddle of almost liquid fabric.

You have until 11 January 2014 to visit The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon. Make it a New Year’s resolution!

From Chelsea Reference Library

Magazines

Vogue from 1923 – current issue

Queen from 1949 – 1970

Harpers & Queen 1971 – current issue

For a full list of newspapers and how long we keep them, click here

http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/public_KULOP_08_2011.pdf

Books

The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp. Antique Collectors’ Club Ltd, 2008.

Ballgowns: British glamour since 1950 by Oriole Cullen. V&A Publishing, 2012.

The Wedding Dress: 300 years of bridal fashions by Edwina Ehrman. V&A Publishing, 2011

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Motherhood Exhibition

This is a guest blog post from Kensington Mums about their latest endeavour – an exhibition on motherhood. They will be at Clare Gardens Children’s Centre on Friday 25 October, 10am to 11am along with a special action songs and rhymes session.

Kensington Mums logo
Kensington Mums logo

We are proud to share with you that after popular demand, we have teamed up with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to re-create the Motherhood Exhibition.

The exhibition will have the same concept as our previous Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition where Mums from all walks of life are invited to come and share their voices and stories on motherhood. The exhibition will showcase and support mums to develop and share their own motherhood stories using their own personal pictures which to them illustrate the definition of motherhood.

We will be using the activity from www.storyofmum.com  and there will be short filming as well documenting the many different motherhood journeys.

If you would like to come along, for a bit of fun, play and  networking I invite you to attend one of the sessions at your local children centres in the borough. Crèche is  provided at some of the sessions, but must be booked in advance and there will be play sessions for your little ones.

The final motherhood exhibition date will be confirmed in the New Year. If you missed the last exhibition, this is your chance to take part. Now is your time to shine and join me and other Mums to celebrate Mother’s Day every day! Just because we deserve it.

To be kept in the loop with the local scoop with the latest in children activities, playgroup and family outings, join Kensington Mums where you get free updates with what’s on for you and your little one(s). You are welcome to connect with other Mums to share your tips and recommendation and capture all those invaluable word of mouth recommendations.  It’s a fantastic support network! Kensington Mums also organises Mummy and baby outings as well as Mums Night out and pamper events! Visit The Kensington Mums website for more information.

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

Leighton House Museum Schools Art Competition

Leighton House Museum Schools Art Competition and Exhibition 2013 comes to Kensington Central Library

This week is Leighton House Museum’s 14th annual Schools Art Competition and Exhibition.  It celebrates work produced within schools in the Royal Borough and aims to encourage children and young people to pursue their interests and talents in art.
 
Leighton House was the former home and work studio of the leading Victorian, Frederic Leighton.  Frederic Leighton was visited by many great artists in his day, and as President of the Royal Academy Leighton gained a reputation for encouraging the work of young and emerging artists.
 
This year 33 schools took part in the competition and over 11 pieces of art work were selected for the exhibition at Leighton House Museum which took place earlier this month.  The exhibition has now come to Kensington Central Library for one week and displays the prize winners.
 
The exhibition and competition is sponsored by the Park Gallery, Flow Gallery and the Friends of Leighton House Museum.
Jennifer Kirk
Culture Service Development Officer

Further information

More information about Frederic Leighton and Leighton House Museum can be found on the Leighton House Museum webpage.

The Chelsea Blog – May 2013

Chelsea Library
Chelsea Library

Welcome to the May blog post from Chelsea Library. Lots of exciting things have been happening in the reference library at Chelsea so over to the staff to tell us more….

Adult Learners’ Week 2013

Adult Learners' Week 2013
Adult Learners’ Week 2013

In Chelsea Reference Library last week we got involved in Adult Learners’ Week by teaching some classes about getting more out of online information. From finding online career advice that you can trust to using our online Berg Fashion Library, we have really enjoyed hearing about our student’s different interests and helping them to do more online! (To access the Berg Fashion Library you’ll need a Kensington and Chelsea library membership).

We will be running more classes soon, so if you are interested, check out what we will be teaching next on the library events page.

And speaking of the fashion library, having been to the cinema recently we were inspired to display some of our books on 1920’s fashion that are in our Costume Collection.

What Daisy Buchanan May Have Worn
What Daisy Buchanan May Have Worn

Great facts about Chelsea Reference Library

#2: The Chelsea Gallery

Chelsea Gallery
Chelsea Gallery

 Did you know Chelsea Reference Library has space to display art?

The Chelsea Gallery, which is ideally located on the Kings Road in the heart of Chelsea, is a perfect place to hold art exhibitions. The gallery has been showing a wide range of exhibitions of some fine artwork by artists based inside and outside the UK for over twenty years. To date, we have had talented artists from around the world, including the USA, Philippines, Turkey, Japan, Iran and more, showcasing their paintings, sculptures and other artwork in the gallery receiving much attention and praise from the public.

 Our gallery space is beautifully presented, spacious and can be hired at an affordable rate. Whether you happen to be an amateur artist or an accomplished professional, the Chelsea Gallery is a great place to showcase your artwork.

 To find our more about the gallery visit the  Chelsea Gallery page on our website and the gallery is on Facebook too.  

The Chelsea Reference Library Staff

Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition

Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition

Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition
Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition

This is the second guest blog post that has been written by Dina from Kensington Mums – many thanks to her!

I am a contented Mummy of two healthy and vivacious kids and a Kensington lover. It all started when I had my first baby. It occurred to me that I was not the only one struggling with interrupted sleep, being on call 24/7 with no time off. Kensington Mums was created with the aim of sharing knowledge and experiences and helping my yummy Kensington Mums learn from one another. Since its launch, Kensington Mums has proved to be a vital support network for the community where Mums can connect, share parenting tips and capture all those invaluable word of mouth recommendations. Not even one year after its launch, I was truly honoured when Kensington Mums made it into the Top 100 winner of the 2012 Business Mum Award.

I run this group with pure passion and determination and honestly enjoy reaching out to Mums. I captured so many invaluable word of mouth recommendations from other mums that I would not be able to live without. After having my second baby, the idea of having a bigger network support came to mind and in a sense created a passion in me to help mums outside my group of friends. It occurred to me that mums really need a network support so that they won’t feel alone in a haze of milky delight during the first few months of being a mum. If you have family around you to help you then that is ideal but in a country where you don’t have family, your network of mummy friends become part of the family.

As a Mum myself, I can relate to the ups and downs of motherhood. To me motherhood is the most exhausting yet most rewarding job (I only wish we could get paid for being a full time mama!). So what better way to share the many different motherhood journeys than to exhibit them.

Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition
Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition

Kensington Mums Motherhood exhibition will showcase and support mums to develop and share their own motherhood stories using their own personal pictures which to them illustrate the definition of motherhood. I want Mums to celebrate Mother’s Day every dayThis day should be celebrated because so many Mother’s work super hard all year round and rarely get the merit they deserve. Nurturing and celebrating ourselves is the first step towards nurturing and bringing joy to others. We are not just Mums; we are more than a Mum’.

The exhibition itself aims to engage a wide community of UK and international mums from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The legacy will be increased social awareness of mums’ creative role and value. The exhibition welcomes ALL Mums to take part in this honest exhibition whether they are grandparents, single mums, and teenage mums or widowed. This exhibition will be included for the touring exhibition and events programme: “Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of themselves” culminating in an exhibition at the Museum of Motherhood in New York.

This FREE event is taking place on the 7th of June 2013 at Beaufort House, Chelsea. There are still opportunities to take part – all you need to do is email info@kensingtonmums.co.uk with subject heading ‘Participate in Kensington Mums Motherhood Exhibition’. You must attend one of the meet ups. Dates for meet ups are: 3 May 2013 10am-12pm, 8 May 2013 7-9pm, 10 May 2013 10am-12pm, 15 May 2013 7-9pm and 17th May 2013 10-12pm. You will be emailed the location.

To participate or attend on the 7th, email Dina at info@kensingtonmums.co.uk to book your place.

I look forwards in seeing many of you there.

Let’s put the mmmm into motherhood!

More information about Kensington Mums

Kensington Mums logo
Kensington Mums logo

To be kept in the loop with the local scoop with the latest in children activities, playgroup and family outings, join Kensington Mums where you get free updates with what’s on for you and your little one(s). You are welcome to connect with other Mums to share your tips and recommendation and capture all those invaluable word of mouth recommendations. 

It’s a fantastic support network! Kensington Mums also organises Mummy and baby outings as well as Mums Night out and pamper events! Visit www.kensingtonmums.co.uk You can also find us on Facebook  and Twitter @KensingtonMums. Enjoy your time with your little ones, as they are only little for a short while!