Monday, 20 September 2021

Return to the Fifties

Return to the Fifties

IF you wait long enough fashion trends come around full circle.

And for one dressmaker the Fifties revival shows no sign of slowing down.

Louise Allison loves big prints and bold colours and says the decade offers something for all women.

“The Fifties is so glamorous and timeless,” she says. “The style flatters all ages, shapes and sizes and, for me, it is important to cater for everyone.

“In the last few years the vintage look has become a massive thing. There are lots of festivals promoting it and people are dressing in more vintage styles.

“You notice it even with hairstyles — women are having victory curls put in to go with their overall look.”

Mrs Allison, 31, was born in Reading and loved dressing up when she was a girl. She attended the Emmbrook School in Wokingham and then studied fashion and textiles at Reading College before taking a degree in fashion at Southampton Solent and completing a professional sewing course at the London College of Fashion.

“Ever since I was little, I have loved dresses and prints,” she says. “I loved princesses and Disney, anything that was colourful and floral.

“This continued throughout my education. When I was doing GCSE textiles I was the only person who made dresses while everyone else was doing cushion covers.”

After finishing her degree she went to work for a clothes designer in London and then a production company.

Mrs Allison says that while she learnt a lot from these experiences, she wanted to be more creative by going it alone.

“The fashion industry is quite tough,” she explains. “If you work for other companies you don’t get to the stage where you have any creative input, you’re just doing the work that needs to be done.

“I was always working on other people’s designs. At the fashion production place I was sourcing fabric for the designers who were working for them. I arranged for the measurements to be made and would do fittings and spec.

“I learnt a lot but I wanted to do my own thing — I wanted to do the style that I wanted to do.

“I tend to lean towards colourful things. I wear a lot of patterns and colours whereas most people are drawn towards wearing black and neutral colours. I experimented at university. Fifties was a style I wore myself and I knew it was a style that all people could and would wear.”

Mrs Allison started her business, Louise Rose Couture, in 2013 but it has only been in the last 18 months that she has been concentrating on it full-time.

She produces bridal and occasion wear at her workshop on the ground floor of her home in central Reading.

She mostly creates dresses but also does skirts, tops and bolero jackets.

Mrs Allison says she is inspired by prints and fabric and looks through magazines for ideas.

Every now and then she will go to London to see the latest offerings around Soho and Goldhawk Road.

“I’ll see a fabric and then work out what I would do with it,” she says. “At the moment I am doing a lot of lace designs where I make a base dress and then do lace overlays. People can then add, take away or build up the design as they want.”

She says that floral prints and pastel colours work well in summer and are perfect for occasions like Henley Royal Regatta, Ascot and summer weddings.

Polka dots are also really popular, as are tulle dresses, which she has worked together.

Mrs Allison says: “Polka dots are in keeping with the Fifties and the tulle skirt keeps the silhouettes of the time so it is the traditional matched with a modern take.”

It can take her between four and 25 hours to make a dress, depending on fittings.

For occasion wear the turnaround is about one month whereas bridal wear can take between three and six months, as there are more fittings.

She says that she can attract “alternative” brides and likes a challenge. “I did one ivory skirt and sleeves with a floral lining with a high/low skirt so you could see the lining from the back. It wasn’t traditional but it’s a popular design. Recently I did a bespoke fishtail shape dress, which was different from my usual silhouette, with a long lace sleeve. I really enjoyed that.”

Occasion wear dresses with fitting starts at about £250 while bridal wear ranges between £900 and £1,300.

In April, Mrs Allison presented a business plan to the Prince’s Trust and received sponsorship for two years of business mentoring.

l Special thanks to Sir William and Lady McAlpine for the use of their Fawley Hill estate, our models Aspen Weatherburn and Rebecca Poole, photographer Charlotte Snowden, La Medusa hair studio in Station Road, Henley, make-up artist Adele Colby, and the clothing and hat suppliers, Louise Rose Couture, of Reading, Louise Claire Millinery, of St Mary’s Street, Wallingford, and Liz Felix Millinery, of Reading Road, Henley.

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