News & events – Fashion (Archive 2016)

Christmas 2016

On 20th December the Fashionistas met at Ruth’s home for our Christmas get together. After a glass of Prosecco they all completed a photo quiz related to fashion causing some amusement and frustration at name recalling!

Following this we watched a fascinating film “Dior and I” which gave a fantastic insight into the enormous and exacting amount of work involved into the lead up to the launch of a new collection and we were shown the end result of fantastic outfits.

A very enjoyable afternoon.

Mary Pudney

1920’s Jazz Age Fashion & Photographs Exhibition – November 2017

Our November meeting saw 8 glamorous ladies take the train to London once again. This time our destination was the Textile Museum to visit the 1920’s Jazz Age Fashion & Photographs Exhibition. It was just after the end of the war, the 1920’s was a decade of unprecedented change and young women found a new sense of liberation with clothing reflecting a dizzying social change on an unprecedented scale. Over 150 vintage garments were showcased from 1919 to 1929 – think plush velvet capes, silk pyjamas, glittery gowns and flapper dresses, all revealing the glamour, frivolity and modernity of the decade.

The exhibition was arranged in chronological order, starting with the gamine look and pretty tea dresses. Waistlines disappeared and frocks became tubular. Exotic pyjamas gained a new position and were of enormous chic and popularity. Used for lounging and all kinds of informal wear at home, these were considered by many to reflect a somewhat louche life style. Knee length evening dresses heavily embellished with gold lamé, rhinestones, beading and slits at the side were designed to reflect the frenzy of the newly discovered dances such as the Charleston and Black Bottom. Flapper dresses with a straight tubular shape and silk fringed skirt added freedom and exoticism on the dance floor. One sleeveless gold lace, dropped-waist evening dress with a V-neck had featured in the September 1926 issue of “Vogue” magazine.

Alongside the dresses were black and white photographic portraits of Jazz Age women, among them Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, Tullulah Bankhead and the Dolly Sisters, who we are all familiar with having featured in the TV series Mr Selfridge.

Sadly, however, as the roaring 20’s drew to a close, cracks began to appear in the glitzy and showy veneer and the era ended abruptly on the 29th October 1929 with the Wall Street Crash followed by The Great Depression.

We finished the day off with our customary meal and lively chatter and laughter in The Garrison, a nearby public house.

Another very enjoyable day and excellent exhibition. We are so lucky to have London on our doorstep with so many events to visit and excellent group leaders to put together an interesting programme. Thank you Mary and Ruth.

Pat Wickham

Biba Exhibition

This month saw the fashion group taking a walk down memory lane at the Biba: The Fashion. The Lifestyle. The Brand. Exhibition in the Beecroft Art Gallery and Southend Museum. There was a a display of some iconic outfits from the 60’s and 70’s, the Biba heyday. Some of our group had shopped in the Biba stores and much reminiscing took place.
The exhibition shows how the innovative Barbara Hulanicki and her husband started the Biba clothing range and then went on to include cosmetics and household items so that it became a lifestyle choice. The way they went about their business influenced the market and brought about many changes. Biba is making a comeback now as many of her pieces are collectors items plus there is a resurgence in some of the stores.

Ultimately, their original business failed but not before they had changed the face of the High Street forever.

Pamela Walters

Buckingham Palace

On Tuesday 20th September, the Fashionistas descended on Buckingham Palace. No, we had not just been awarded the OBE for promoting fashion, but were there to see “Fashioning a Reign: 90 years of Style from the Queen’s Wardrobe”.

We discovered how the Queen has dressed over the years in the largest ever exhibition of the outfits that have marked her private life and the official events she attended, from childhood to the present day.

We were able to view military wear, as well as garments especially created for weddings and christenings. These included the uniforms worn, both by Elizabeth and Victoria, for the Trooping of the Colour, as well as her christening robe, last worn by William, but now too fragile to be used.

Also on display was the peach coloured dress the queen wore when she appeared to jump from a helicopter to mark the opening of the 2012 Olympics and Mr Bond’s personal audience with HM. Lucky girl!!

It emerged that the Queen’s favourite designer during her early years on the throne was Norman Hartnell and on his demise, she has always favoured British designers, including Hardy Amies.

All in all, a wonderful display of day and evening wear, including a vast number of hats, as each outfit had to have a matching hat!

Another great day out with the Fashionistas. Our thanks, as ever, to Mary and Ruth for organising the trip.

Linda Beames

Secret Strictly

Ruth Lancashire, who, with Mary Pudney, runs the Fashion Group had requested a Group tour of the Strictly Dresses “factory” but ‘elf and safety’ decreed it wasn’t possible, so Ruth, never known to admit defeat, asked if they would come to us. Carole Williams who in off-peak times, speaks on Strictly Cruises, did just that and, on a beautiful sunny afternoon in August, the Fashion Group and invited guests were treated to a wonderful talk by Carole who, together with model Emma, drew us into their world of “Strictly” clothing. The BBC now uses their company DSI to design and fashion all the dresses for both the contestants and professional ladies and some of the male dancers too.

We were awestruck by their ability to complete a dress from scratch in four days from Monday, when they are given the designs, to Friday when they must be complete for delivery. This is down to the hard work of eight full time machinists, a pattern cutter and one “Stoner” who works literally round the clock applying all the stones by hand. The only concession to time is for the group dances where the attire is decided beforehand so these can be worked on from mid-July.

Carole brought with her a selection of original dresses from last year’s programme and explained their meticulous making. They were all “built” in layers on a leotard base which gave a core form and the skirts were varied by the use of godets (shaped inserts of material), a kind of mesh called crinoline used as soft boning and stiff layers topped by softer layers. Everything on the body is necessarily stretchy to facilitate movement. Meanwhile the Stoner works his magic which can take up to two days per dress allowing time for the glue to dry between the work on front and back.

Emma modelled a few of the beautiful dresses for us and we were told we could handle and even try on the dresses if we wished. Afterwards quite a few enviously slim ladies did so while the rest of us followed Marie Antoinette’s dictate and ate cake!!!

In response to questions we were told:

  • The reason shoes were so often flesh coloured rather than colour co-ordinated was to give the impression of a longer leg line;
  • When necessary, dresses were machine-washed in a mesh bag on a gentle cycle;
  • The Sunday programme does actually take place on Saturday;
  • One sample, a dress worn by Natalie, was worth about £2,300
  • Blackpool day is a logistical nightmare with the whole cast, crew, clothes and props decamping there which requires the dresses to be ready in 3 days instead of the already tight 4. Blackpool Tower and its ballroom, being Victorian means narrow corridors, poor reception and a myriad of other problems not encountered in a purpose-built studio.

Though Ruth tried a little gentle prodding, Carole was discreet and was not to be goaded into “dishing any dirt”. Apparently the celebrities and the professionals are all very nice and the atmosphere on set is as convivial as it appears on screen though Carole did admit it could get quite competitive.

Our delightful afternoon culminated in our all being offered tea and a delicious array of homemade cakes.. Wonderful all round!

Marion Stimson

V & A “Undressed” – a Brief History of Underwear

On the fourth Tuesday in July, seven Fashionistas once again boarded the train to London en route to the latest exhibition at the V & A “Undressed” – a Brief History of Underwear.

This exhibition chronicles underwear from the l8th century up to the present day and explores the beautiful and bizarre inventions beneath our clothes.

In the 18th centuries, women wore crinolines over a hooped cage and we learnt that knickers were not worn until the 19th century. Whalebone corsets were all the rage, and were designed in silks and satins to give the body allure and were pulled tighter and tighter to show tiny, tiny waists and you can understand why woman often had an attack of the “vapours” through their corset being pulled much too tight. We were amazed that this exhibition had so many exquisite examples of fine detailed corsetry, embellished with beautiful embroidery and trimmed with lace.

The first “Drawers” were large and made of cotton and were in no way glamorous. Women for centuries have been contorting their bodies into underwear such as girdles, roll-ons and full body corsets to meet the demands of fashion.

In the 20th century with the development of the bra, and materials such as satins and lace being used, underwear became more light and silky and softer to wear and less restrictive.

The exhibition is sponsored by Agent Provocateur, high end designers of beautiful camis, slinky nighties who boast their underwear can also be worn as outerwear.

We finished the day off, as usual, at a local restaurant. A good day was had by all.

Barbara Abrams

How to Look Good in a Photo

This month saw us trying to improve our image. Our photographic image. Thanks to Debbie Kirk of ‘itsmycolour’ she showed us ‘How to Look Good in a Photo’. It was a fun and informative afternoon. We learnt lots of tips on how to improve the results of the dreaded photo. Tips like if standing, stand slightly sideways 45 degrees to the camera with legs crossed hand on hip other arm down by side but not touching the body, holding something i.e. a clutch bag and the hardest part, a natural smile!

We then went on to other poses, the half body, sitting, two people of very different heights, and the group. We then got our cameras out and went on to play with varying degrees of success. We all learnt a lot, so now as soon as the cameras come out we will be sneakily shuffling sideways, leaning slightly towards the camera but never, never a pout!

Thanks to Debbie, for showing us so many hints and thank you very much for the superb cakes to sustain us during ‘playtime’.

Pamela Waters

Vintage Shopping

Seven members of the group met for a day out in East London, hoping to do some retail therapy. When we arrived at Aldgate East Station, there was what looked like a major incident – no it wasn’t us ladies, although, when we asked what the incident was all about, they did say they had been sent to look out for seven ladies!! There was a heavy police presence including two mounted policemen, an armed officer (gun at the ready!) and four or five policemen on foot and a City Police van ready and waiting…. We know how to start off days out with a bang (pardon the pun).

We made our way to Stepney Green (thanks to John Wickham for providing us with details of route etc) and our first visit was to East End Thrift Store. As soon as we entered the building, it was unanimously agreed that we wouldn’t stay there for too long. To say it looked like an over-sized charity shop was an understatement and it didn’t smell all that great either! We politely listened to the man who owned the store who explained how the business was run and had a quick look around and left – to put it mildly it was as Craig Revell Horwood would say a DIS-A-STER! Not to be too disheartened by this experience, we went to Brick Lane and visited a clothing store called BLITZ. This was like Harrods in comparison to the East End Thrift Store. A few of the ladies tried a couple of items of clothing on, but made no purchase. From there we went to a shop called Designer Pop Up Store which was very `interesting` – lovely shoes, vintage clothing and some weird background music being played – quite an experience.

By this time the rain had decided to settle so we headed for lunch where we enjoyed a very nice meal and beverages.

After lunch it was time to head off home – not too many shopping bags I must say, but a lovely day nonetheless.

It must be said that of course we spoke of our dear friend Shirley Britten who sadly passed away on 12 April and who will be sadly missed by the Group.

Jan Maiden


Today The Fashionistas had a lovely treat. We visited the National Portrait Gallery to see an exhibition that celebrates the 100 years of Vogue. We had an interesting journey getting there, travelling through the congested city streets on the upper deck of the number 15. We rode, we walked, we rode, we walked. What an amazing collection of over 280 beautiful photographs that have featured in this most iconic magazine over the years. Many of these timeless shots of famous models, in stunning outfits, classic and outrageous poses, looked as fresh today as they did when they were taken and appeared on the pages. The talented photographers included David Bailey, Anthony Armstrong Jones, and Cecil Beaton.

Browns for our lunch stop, catching up with everyone’s news, lots of fun and laughter before our journey back to Leigh-on-Sea.

Thank you Mary for a thoroughly enjoyable day.


“Liberty in Fashion” exhibition

As our visit to the “Liberty in Fashion” exhibition at the Textile Museum started at 2.30, we had lunch beforehand at Village East in Bermondsey Street. We had been there before on one of our visits to the Textile Museum and it was just as enjoyable as before.

Arthur Liberty opened his famous mock Tudor store “Liberty” in Regent Street in 1925. Incidentally, the store was constructed from the timbers of two Tudor ships. The name Liberty represents all that is best of British fabric and designers.

The exhibition begins by showcasing garments made of exquisite silk satin, designed to be elegant, classic, luxurious and easy wearable. In fact pieces that “slip on like favourite pyjamas”. The exhibition showed kimonos, pyjamas etc. We saw scarves made from silk which were very fashionable and popular. The silks were initially sourced from around the world but Arthur Liberty wanted to use British fabric, so using British Designers, the “Art Fabrics” were introduced.

The very popular tana lawn was introduced in 1912 and initially was only available as ready made garments. Eventually it was sold in lengths as its popularity grew, making it available for the home dressmaker. Tana lawn was originally produced using delicate floral prints on dark backgrounds before the war, moving towards pastel shades with lighter backgrounds in the 1940’s onwards. Florals, classical designs of William Morris etc were used and form part of the Liberty classical range, most of which are still available today. The exhibition showed many beautiful dresses of the 1930’s and 1940’s showing how Liberty introduced smocking to create the styles of the times.

As the years moved on, Liberty moved with the times, creating Art Deco prints, so that in the 1960’s prints were used to create the “mood of swinging London”, and the exhibition showcased some of the collection by designers such as Mary Quant and Jean Muir.

Liberty continues to be at the forefront of fashion linked to names such as Vivienne Westwood, Anna Sui, and collaborating with classic British brands such as Barbour, Harris Tweed and Dr Marten.

It was altogether a very interesting exhibition, enjoyed by us all and showed the use of “Liberty prints” at its very best.

Once again, we must thank Mary for her hard work in organising our “Fashionistas Day Out”.


Visit to Jewellery Design Centre, Leigh on Sea – January 2016

Our first visit of 2016 was to the Jewellery Design Centre in Leigh Road. We were welcomed by Allan and his wife, Cherry, who promptly made us a cup of coffee. Firstly, Allan ran through his career history, starting out at the age of 14 working as an apprentice in a shop in Hatton Garden, going on to the Sir John Cass College, London, where he attained his City and Guilds Certificate in Jewellery Design, Making and Engraving. Having spent 20 years in Hatton Garden, he decided to bring London to Leigh. Besides designing jewellery, Allan’s other passion is computers and technology, and he took a two year break to complete a Computer Aided Design course.

He then went on to explain the differences between the old handmade method of making rings and the modern method, the different carats and types of gold. He is particularly interested in what he called melt and make, and he showed us 2 short films where old fashioned or broken pieces of jewellery had been melted down and moulded into new items – 2 new bangles which his wife was wearing made from an old charm bracelet, and a money clip complete with sovereign on the top. In response to questions, he went on to explain about jewellery valuations for insurance purposes and laser repairs to broken claws on rings. At the end of the very informative and interesting meeting we were able to look at a selection of jewellery for sale in his shop. Later in the year we are hoping to return for a second visit which he entitled “here’s one I made earlier”, when he will show us a piece of jewellery at different stages of making.

No outing would be complete with something to eat and we all adjourned to nearby Damak restaurant for lunch.

Pat Wickham