'A ball gown is your dream, and it must make you a dream... I think it is just as necessary in a woman's wardrobe as a suit. And it is wonderful for morale...' Christian Dior

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

How do I love thee, Ossie?

Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell crepe de chine maxi dress (sigh)

One of the reasons for calling my blog Dreams In Dresses was because so often you daydream about a particular dress or a designer you can't afford but there's such an affinity there, you never give up hope that one day, the right funds and perfect fit will come together like the two most difficult remaining pieces in the world's longest and most boring jigsaw.

I came closer to that day last weekend when I stumbled across a beautiful vintage boutique, Hope & Harlequin, on Sydney Street in Brighton. Among the delicate rails of carefully selected designer pieces, there were not one but two 1960s/1970s Ossie Clarks. And they both fitted me perfectly. What are the chances?

I should repeat here that I came closer, (unfortunately I couldn't justifiably purchase either at that moment) I should also backtrack that to own an Ossie Clark is my ultimate dream, which is what made the Hope & Harlequin experience that little bit more special. 

How often do you feel comfortable enough to try on clothes you'd really-love-to-buy-but-realistically-can't and not lead the shop assistants up the garden path? It's all too easy to try something on, sheepishly mumble something about going to find a cash point and never return. But here, both ladies were friendly and helpful (adjusting straps and giving me shoes to try on with etc) but above all realistic. They take payment in installments and genuinely seem to care who goes away with which of their clothes. 

Ossie Clark biased cut crepe de chine trouser suit (sigh)

I'm seriously considering taking up the offer of installments if the maxi dress or the suit is still there next time I visit. But sadly, I know they probably won't be. That's Ossie Clark for you. I've been fascinated with his and one-time wife/one-time creative partner Celia Birtwell's designs ever since reading his journals when I was living back at my parents' house after graduating (I spent a lot of time at the library, along with lots of other frustrated people searching for meaning). Since then, I've written articles about him and searched high and low for his designs whenever at fairs/boutiques/markets. He's become a bit of a hobby...

I always imagined if I bought a piece of Ossie it would be one of his dresses, complete with Birtwell print, but after trying on this pale pink two-piece, I'm not so sure! It reminds me of something he would have dressed Patty Boyd (or even erm, Mick Jagger) in, in the 1970s. And while Celia's prints live on in her more recent lines for Topshop or John Lewis, there's something a lot more rare and covetable, even sacred, about his tailoring, through the bias-cut, use of collars and draping fabrics.

If you're not familiar with Ossie and would like to know more, read this. Hobby? That's just a polite word for obsession.