Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Biba brown chalk stripe dress

Dearest readers! I am looking for your help!

I'm currently reading A to Biba - The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki 
In the book she describes 2 dresses which essentially kicked off the Biba Boutique Postal Service 

The Sugar Pink Gingham shift dress and the Brown Pinstripe smock
There are limited images of the Pink gingham dress but even less so of the Brown chalk stripe dress. 

Google has so far been unhelpful. Granted it is an early item and therefore is as elusive as the gingham dress. But I thought perhaps someone may have found the original article and scanned it to their blog or Flickr?

The description in the book reads;

"Our next editorial write up was with Woman's Mirror. It was a drawing of a brown pinstripe smock with the eternal matching kerchief"

"... We had received two thousand orders by post for the chalkstripe brown smock with fluted sleeves and kerchief"

By the sound of the description all you have to do is turn the book over to see the little illustration on the back. 
The illustration has a small fluted sleeve and of course stripes - but what do you think? Is this the image of the Brown chalk stripe dress?

So why am I so keen to see this image? Well it may have something to do with a sewing machine and a modification of this pattern 

I'd probably start by changing the sleeves to a subdued bell style, removing the gathers in the bust, and also widening the neck slightly and changing the sleeves to gathered instead of set in. 

What do you think? Is this a similar image that you see in your mind when reading the description or perhaps something different? 

Hopefully I can make a faithful and honorable reproduction - especially as brown chalkstripe is the same fabric that her fathers suit was made from the last time she saw him. 

Thanks for your input 



  1. I've just had a look through my copy of The Biba Experience and it has that illustration with a note stating that the sketch was of "the first dress sold in Abingdon Road, 1964" so that could well be the dress! I hope you enjoy the book - it's one of my favourites x

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to check that! It seems by the description that it is that dress. Even still this is how I would imagine it to look.
      The book is taking ages to read - only because I keep stopping to look for the dresses and such she talks about.
      Thanks lovely!

  2. Thanks for the fashion history. I adore that illustration.

  3. Stripe dress is fashionable and stunning. I like the dresses styles.

  4. Hi Catherine,

    Quite a few old magazine and newspaper collections are being digitised by libraries these days, and also the text is searchable! For example, the National Library in Canberra has an archive project called Trove.


    Trove is only for Australian publications, but the librarians there are very helpful. I am sure if you contacted them and asked about finding Woman's Mirror digitised somewhere they could help.

    I also found a listing for some copies - it doesn't look like a particularly erudite publication you can see one says on the front 'wonderful skirt offer'.

    Cheers, Sarah

    1. Thanks for the tip! I have tried looking in the V&A archives and there are many Biba enthusiasts out there who haven't been able to find it themselves. Perhaps ill just have to wing this one :)

  5. I know I'm late, but I just became obsessed with your blog. My mother-in-law OWNED the brown pinstripe dress. She was part of the entire London Swinging 60s scene and has been asked out by numerous rock stars and shopped at Biba all the time. She also described other outfits she had bought at Biba and ended with "I threw them all away!" :(

    1. oh darling! thank you and welcome!

      oh my goodness a real biba girl! oh the questions id love to ask her! And how frivolous for them to just get thrown away! such a shame. Biba gets such a huge asking price at vintage stores now.


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