A new exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum celebrates the spectacular gowns designed by Britain's leading couture house Bellville Sassoon
For more than 50 years, Belville Sassoon has been one of Britain’s foremost high-society couture labels, having dressed Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana, Princess of Wales among others. Now their gowns are on show at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations. The exhibition includes a selection of more than 150 dresses, materials, drawings and personal mementos from the 1950s to the present day Here, model Nena du Bois wears a romantic off-the-shoulder ball gown in silk tulle from one of the earliest Bellville shows. The dress attracted a well-connected clientele, and, as Women’s Wear Daily later observed, it didn’t take long before the designs entered the wardrobes of the best-known diplomatic, theatrical, and social circles in London.
The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon runs until 11 January 2014.
The range of gowns on show at The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon illustrates how the formality of the post-war years gave way to the
Swinging Sixties and a new generation of celebrities and aristocrats who
wanted to be noticed for their couture labels. Prince William and
Prince Harry lent some outfits for the occasion.
Here, Lady Londonderry, dressed in Bellville, stands left, with company founder Belinda Bellville at the wheel and David Sassoon, with Belinda's whippet, Albert, seated on the running board of the original Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, custom-built in 1907.
Photograph: John Cowan
This Bellville Couture embroidered organza design was created for Audrey Hepburn for the 1967 film, Two for the Road. Hepburn's empire line dress with intricate embroidery is typical of the designs that Bellville made for royalty, socialites and the international jet set at the time.
Here, a typically glamorous Bellville et Cie evening dress is modelled by Bronwen Pugh, who later became Lady Astor, in 1959. Belinda Bellville, the house's founder, hired David Sassoon after seeing his Royal College of Art graduate collection in 1958. The company changed its name from Bellville et Cie to Bellville Sassoon in 1970, and David took ownership following Belinda's retirement in 1981.
Photograph: Michel Molinare
This design is Bellville at its most spectacular: 'La Goulue', 'a slender black slip swept with a flurry of a white flamenco ruffles rimmed in black.'
Photograph: David Montgomery/Vogue. © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd
Mrs. Jane Stevens, lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret and wife of Jocelyn Stevens, proprietor of The Queen magazine, wears a Bellville Couture long slim dress in black givrine trimmed with black ostrich feathers.
Photograph: John French. © Fashion Museum/Bath & North East Somerset Council