Ballgown, from a selection, by Balmain haute couture, 1954 “It’s the most knock-out dress. Even though it’s Balmain, to me, it’s Sabrina Fair. Post New Look, nipped waist, full skirt, spring 1954. And for all of its purity, it’s an incredibly sexy dress. If this was on a red carpet, it would have to be nothing less than the Academy Awards. On a winner, or a seriously iconic woman. It’s a lot of dress.” / Jackie Dixon

Banks-Blaney is the man Hollywood turns to for truly unique pieces. On the eve of the Baftas, the vintage expert selects – and styles – a few of his favourite red-carpet outfits

William Banks-Blaney looks a bit like a 1930s matinee idol. Maybe that's because of the impeccably knotted tie and perfectly-tailored three-piece suit. After all, they say the clothes make the man. They make the woman, too. Which is something Banks-Blaney knows all about.

A former interior designer, Banks-Blaney founded his company, WilliamVintage, in 2009, pursuing his personal passion for vintage fashion. Five years later, his business is booming. His bijoux London boutique, elegantly crammed with exceptional pieces, does brisk trade, as does the website – Banks-Blaney's vintage Diors and Chanels offering an alternative to fresh-off-the-catwalk designer glamour. And this month he was named style ambassador for American Express, a position that marries his intimate knowledge of styles past with his love of contemporary fashion.

Women trust that eye – that knack for pinpointing a moment from the past that feels relevant for today. Banks-Blaney maintains it has nothing to do with labels. "One of the things with our approach to vintage – you don't necessarily have to know where it's from," he says. "It's about a great dress that's right for the occasion." Hence the fact that, when approached to create a selection of red-carpet looks using key pieces from his store, Banks-Blaney included everything from an anonymous bustled Victorian dress to the grandest Balmain ball gown.


It's an unconventional selection of looks. But that's precisely what super-stylists such as Rachel Zoe and a devoted cadre of celebrity clients come to WilliamVintage for. They want to look like a million dollars – but not like everyone else's million dollars.

"Every woman who walks the red carpet has spent weeks in training and dieting, has spent hours in hair and make-up," reasons Banks-Blaney. "However effortless she looks, everyone knows the effort that goes into it. So having a dress that doesn't just make people think, 'Wow, she looks a knock-out', but actually does spark the imagination... the red carpet is the only place you can do that"

All vintage clothing available from WilliamVintage, 2 Marylebone Street, London W1, 020-7487 4322,

All fine jewellery, price on application, by Adler, 13 New Bond Street, London W1, 020-7409 2237.

Photographed at Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1,

Photography: Jackie Dixon

Styling: William Banks-Blaney

Model: Hannah Cassidy at Storm

Hair: Soichi at Saint Luke Artists

Make-up: Clare Read at Caren using Chanel Le Lift and Spring 2014

Retouching: Jam Imaging

Digital operator: Kelly Mitchel

Photographic assistance: Joseph Seresin

Thanks to Tim Beaumont, Amy Elizabeth Hill, Brenda Laguna, Anna Nash and all at Rosewood London