Laura Ashley: The Romanic Heroine Exhibition

Bath Fashion Museum unveil the hugely anticipated Laura Ashley: The Romantic Heroine exhibition…

Last Monday was the opening evening of Bath Fashion Museum‘s latest exhibition ‘Laura Ashley: The Romantic Heroine’ and our archivist Angela and the Bath store team couldn’t have been more thrilled with the unveiling. Our largest Laura Ashley retrospective ever, the Bath Fashion Museum are marking our 60th year by celebrating the vision of the romantic heroine that Laura Ashley propelled in to fashion during the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition pays homage to Laura Ashley’s distinctive Victoriana inspired dresses, during a time when women were seeking escapism and solice in nostalgic days gone by. She recognised the zeitgeist of the time and prompted a generation of young women to dress as their romantic heroines (Thomas Hardy’s milkmaid from Tess of the d’Urbevilles, or Cathy from Wuthering Heights searching in vain across the northern moors for Heathcliff).

The evening started with a touching and resonant speech from Daily Mirror fashion editor Felicity Green, paying tribute to Laura and Bernard Ashley’s contribution to fashion, before inviting us into Bath’s grandest 18th Century room (housed within the Bath Fashion Museum) to explore the sea of Laura Ashley vintage dresses, each with their own background and history.

Rosemary the exhibition curator, dressed head to toe in a Laura Ashley vintage frock, gave us a walking tour around each of the dresses, sharing her insightful knowledge of Laura Ashley’s capacity to combine historic detailing with a gentle nod to the trends of the time. Walking in to the main grand hall complete with spectacular original chandeliers you are instantly greeted with Laura Ashley’s famous white smocks, only to turn a corner to be struck with an army of vintage mannequins clad in a kaleidoscope of Laura Ashley print. We were awestruck with the juxtaposition of the five virginal white smocks, met immediately after with a riot of print and colour.

The big opener: Our Laura Ashley smock dresses set against this poignant quote from the Bath & Wilts Evening Chronicle back in 1972.

Rosemary the exhibition curator in her Laura Ashley vintage finest.

Some of the exhibition guests threw themselves into the occasion by dressing in their old Laura Ashley treasures.

The 93 pieces showcased in the exhibition have been loaned to the exhibition from our London and Welsh archives, Bath Fashion Museum and The Bowes Museum impressive archive as well as kind donations from the public. This deep purple on bright purple needlecord dress was recently donated to the exhibition by a lady in Somerset who used to wear it as a student in the 1960's…

One of our very first Laura Ashley fashions. Our beloved 1960's cotton twill shift dresses in the Daisy D94 print.

This dress was purchased by Jacqueline Clark’s mum for her when she was just 15 years old (1974).

The popular Laura Ashley sundresses of the 1970's- mixing Laura Ashley rural romanticism with modern day trends e.g. the popular halter neck style. Several of the successful designs were also adapted with shorter hemlines, which made them even more popular with a young teenage customer.

Laura Ashley’s interest in Bath in the early 1970's, and Bath’s association with Regency living and the novels of Jane Austen may have helped inspire Regency-style dresses such as this.

A rag doll made using fabric from an old Laura Ashley pinafore dress – donated by Mary Dunn.

Cafe creme brown on natural calico cream Georgian-style printed cotton long dress from the early 1970's.

We couldn’t round off the evening’s events without mentioning our lovely Bath store team who all arrived excitedly at the exhibition dressed in their beautiful Laura Ashley frocks (old and new). Here is a picture of them outside our dedicated Bath store archive window before making their way over. Laura Ashley first opened in Bath in 1971 (one of the first stores outside London). The Bath and Wilts Evening Chronicle wrote at the time ‘There’s always someone at any party who is wearing a Laura Ashley smock or skirt’!

‘Laura Ashley: The Romantic Heroine’ exhibition is on from July 13th – August 26, 2013.


To continue the celebration stateside, be sure to check our Facebook page August 2 @ 2PM for an exciting reveal. Cheers to 60 more colourful years!

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Nerina Welman wrote:
I was married in a Laura Ashley cotton wedding dress,
mailed to South Africa from London, in 1983.
All the rage then, when satin was in!!
Such good memories, thank you for posting

Mon, October 21, 2013 @ 10:12 PM

2. Ellen Weilbacher wrote:
Just revisited my Laura Ashley dresses that I have saved from the late 80"s early 90's. What fun I had doing that and figuring out when I can wear them again.

Thu, August 28, 2014 @ 3:17 PM

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