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We all know that fashion is cyclical and now is the time for vintage Laura Ashley to shine. And yes we do mean big florals, ditsy florals, huge swathes of fabric, big skirts, big sleeves and big bows – the designs from her last 10 years (1975 to Laura’s death in 1985).

Laura Ashley started designing and printing her own fabrics for small soft furnishings from her home in Pimlico in 1953. She moved into fashion design in the 1960s. Her look was intended to be an antidote to the flesh baring, figure hugging, hedonistic styles which abounded. And they were. But they also fit with the hippy, free and natural ethos which was emerging and so were popular and sold well. These were the dresses made with small ditsy prints with lace and pin tucking. Laura took inspiration from Edwardian design.

But Laura moved with the times although she kept a recognisable style. By the late 1970s/early1980s the designs were becoming more exaggerated – fabrics, prints and shapes. Laura was also routinely producing sleeveless dresses fir summer and lower cut necklines. then moving into strapless and a variety of backless styles – often decorated with bows. Sometimes quite large bows.

Below are three typical examples of dresses through early to later 80s. They show larger floral on fabric, more exaggerated design in larger skirts and sleeves, low back and big bows!!

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And alongside came some truly glorious evening dresses using rich velvets and shiny moire, taffeta and iridescent silks. These dresses usually showed some flesh – strapless, backless and also by the 1980s some were above the knee. they were also often adorned with the ubiquitous big bow. Many of the sleeveless dresses had matching bolero jackets. This is a typical sleeveless dress with big print. A bolero would have been available.

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But Laura Ashley wasn’t the only producer of these iconic 1980s styles. Many others, including Radley (who had previously featured the wonderful early designs of Ossie Clark and fabrics of Celia Birtwell) produced similar designs in good quality fabrics.
Below are three Radley dresses from that period and, without seeing the label, would you really know whether they were vintage Laura Ashley or not?..

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what all these frocks have in common is great design, good construction, quality fabrics and they are striking to look at. No wonder they are now so sought after!!!
If this has whetted your appetite then take a look at my Pinterest board of the same name which is choc full of great vintage Laura Ashley finds from various sites.
And if you have a moment I would love to hear your thoughts on vintage Laura Ashley and the renewed interest in her designs.

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