Frock show: Major Laura Ashley retrospective to open at Bath Fashion Museum

Alice Jones' Arts Diary
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Don’t chuck out that sprigged smock from 1973, it’s art. 

A new exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Bath next month will celebrate the flounces, flowers and lacy yoke collars of Laura Ashley. More than 100 dresses will go on display in the first major retrospective dedicated to the designer who brought whimsical maxi dresses and Tess of the d’Urbervilles style to the middle classes.

To celebrate the shop’s 60th anniversary, the show will focus on the early boom years, with dresses from the late 1960s and 1970s. “There are lots of earthy colours, prints and long pin-tucked bodices”, says Rosemary Harden, principal curator at the museum. “Everyone who was there in the Seventies will say ‘oh yes, I remember that.’

“Culturally at that time, it was all Upstairs, Downstairs and The Good Life, a romantic pastoral idyll, which was a response to the excesses of the Sixties and the hardship of the Seventies,” she adds. Might that look be due a revival now? “We’re seeing long skirts coming back in. There’s always room for nostalgia in fashion.” After Bath, the show will travel to the Bowes Museum, County Durham from 21 September.

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