Sunday, December 8, 2013

Replicating Biba's pink gingham dress

Back when this blog was just a twinkle in my eye (approx 10 min before registering it) I had planned on focusing on only reproducing iconic 60's dresses and other garments. But after a moment of panic about possibly being in trouble for breaching Intellectual property rules or being dubbed a lazy copy cat by other vintage lovers, I put that idea at the bottom on my 'blog post ideas' list

But now I've finally gotten over my initial worries and have decided to try replicating a dress which seems to no longer exist except in books and memories. 

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Biba's first dress, which was sold out of the Biba postal service in 1963 sold over 17,000 units and propelled Barbara Hulanicki into the spotlight.

Barbara had initially been asked by Felicity Green from The Daily Mirror to be featured in a piece on four career girls and Biba's postal service had piqued her interest.
Felicity asked Barbara if she would make up a dress for the feature and off the top of her head, Barbara suggested a pink gingham dress with a hole in the back and a matching Brigitte Bardot kerchief to be sold for the grand price of 25 shillings.

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The dress was so successful that the 400 yards of fabric they thought would be enough, wasn't and they resorted to petitioning all the gingham manufacturers in England and actually ended up needing 25,000 yards!

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To add to the madness, they offered their customers the opportunity to also buy a blue version of which they sold 5000.

Out of the 17,000 dresses ordered only 90 we're returned, but for such a low price and such a fresh new style, I cant blame all those ladies for not wanting to return their dresses

Despite being so many made, none of them seems to have survived, except for one of the kerchiefs which was displayed at the Biba exhibition in Brighton.

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My version will also be in pink gingham which I purchased from Lincraft and I've decided to use Butterick 4712 as the base pattern, mainly because it also comes with a pattern piece for the collar.


The other elements of this dress are the hole in the back (which you can see in my version above) and two darts in the back, but I've decided to omit them as I don't generally like back darts on my shift dresses

And for the sake of continuity, I'll make the scarf as well, though I don't think I'll get to wear it much afterwards

I'm so excited to share this with you all! I haven't had a new dress on here for a while so it won't be long now till you can see my goofy modeling poses again soon.

On another note, I was invited recently by M&Co to write a few words on 60's fashion along with Lana from Style High Club. Pop over here to read the full post and see which 60s style dresses I picked from their catalog 

Have a wonderful week readers! 

Cat xo

12 comments:

  1. I'm hooked on your goofy Sixties inspired modeling poses, dear Catherine, and I can't wait to see you in your pink Biba replica. Isn't it odd that of all the thousands of original dresses manufactured, none seem to exist today? Congratulations on being featured on the M&Co site. I found your remarks there interesting and spot on.

    Good night to you, dear friend, and have a happy Monday and a fine week ahead!

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    1. Thanks Shady! It is a funny thing that none of them exist, perhaps they were all worn to rags?

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  2. How sad that none of them survived! This is such a good argument for vintage home sewing, it is very cool to able to replicate an iconic dress that would be impossible to get otherwise. I wonder if the pattern still exists somewhere? Or maybe a knock-off pattern made after it became such a sensation?

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    1. i'm sure if someone found an original, it would be worth a mint! but for now we'll just have to copy! The pattern doesn't seem too fancy, I think its just a basic shift dress, but otherwise its quite easy to replicate.

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  3. I just finished reading Barbara Hulanicki's autobiography!!! This is indeed the iconic Biba frock, and I love that you're reproducing it. It's looking mighty fine!!! Shame none are about, but there are quite a few other Biba frocks about, luckily!!!
    Shall pop on over to M & Co right now! XXX

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    1. Isn't it a fab book? I've gotten so many sewing ideas from it! I think she mentions in the book that the Greek manufacturer had kept one of the dresses as a lucky token, I wonder if its still there?

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  4. I'm looking forward to seeing your dress! It's a shame that none of them seem to have survived. I saw the kerchief at the Brighton exhibition and it would have been nice to see the dress too x

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    1. Oh I would love to have seen just that little kerchief, lucky it still exists so we can at least see the original shade of pink. I always thought it was a soft baby pink till i saw the exhibit photos

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  5. I remember Miss Peelpants blogging about that dress, I still live in hope of finding one! The Daily Mirror is a really low rent newspaper, it's amazing they had such a classy offer. xxx

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    1. Yes I remember her post, which sort of spurred me on to recreate it. if you ever find one Vix, you'll be the most adored vintage shopper, not that you aren't already!

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  6. Oh Catherine this is such a wonderful idea! I am so excited to see the finished product and I bet you are too! Wouldn't it be lovely if an original was found? Creating one yourself is the next best thing. Fantastic on the M&Co write too!

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    1. oh imagine that! its like the holy grail of vintage fashion isn't it? simple and quite plain if you didn't know what you were looking at, but worth a mint for devoted followers. thanks for checking out the M&Co write up too!

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