In 2015 Curator and Fashion Historian, Laura McLaws Helms contacted me about the upcoming exhibit at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London on Thea Porter's work that she had planned. She ended up borrowing a dozen Thea Porter pieces from me for use in the exhibit and for the accompanying book 'Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic'. A close up of the fabric from this dress appears on p.84 of the book to illustrate the collaborative efforts between Thea Porter and textile designer, Hannah Meckler. The pattern on this dress is the 'Wave' design and in the book this is clarified as being done by hand and "painted onto meters of silk chiffon that were made into evening dresses and Abayas". This dress has the added provenance of being the same print and fabric of a Thea Porter owned and worn by style icon, Kate Moss
This is a wonderful Thea Porter dress that has a bare back and halter neckline. This more fitted shape is a bit unusual for her but that is part of what I love about it. It shows the range that Thea had while still staying within her wheelhouse of that bohemian feel. Thea's pieces often created sensuality by combining full coverage and flowing fabrics, so to see a dress that has far more 'bareness' to it is a bit of an anomaly for her and really showcases how multi-faceted she was. The hand painted Hannah Meckler wave design that covers the silk is appropriately named for its beautiful blue tones that are reminiscent of the ocean. The pattern has been set to highlight the lines of the dress which would have required much pre-planning and a disregard for the extra fabric needed to achieve this. The skirt is made from many yards of the silk and is set on a bias cut so that the movement it has is incredible. The fabric choice gives the dress an airy, floating feel. The bodice is fitted and cut with a high halter neckline that curves up and around the neck to tie at the back. There is a second layer of silk there that ties over the inner strap and trails down the back. The back is left completely open with a wide expanse of bare skin showing. Curved pleats, done by hand, angle up to the silk chiffon rosette details the neckline. It is very beautiful. A wonderful example of Thea Porter's work and her collaborative efforts with textile designers of the time period. Excellent condition with minor notes to review below
Fully lined in pale blue tissue silk. It closes with a low, hand set, back painted metal zipper. The halter closes at the back with hook and there is a panel of silk chiffon that ties into place over that. Light boning on either side of the bodice. All hand work. There is a slight discoloration to the lining near the top edge, the waist and inner skirt. Tagged a vintage UK 10. Note that it was too small for my mannequin and it does of course zipper and close properly.
Bust: approx 16" flat across from side seam to side seam but there is some play here as the back is open
Waist: 12.5" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: approx 13" from neck to slight empire waist
Skirt: 45" from slight empire waist to hem
Modern Sizing equivalent: XS-SML
Photo Credit: (1) From the Book Thea Porter; Bohemian Chic, p.84. / (2) Kate Moss in a dress with the same print
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival
When researching this dress I found the same print used on dress from one of Thea's very first fashion shows, held at the Greek street shop in London. The label on this dress is unusual and I reached out to fashion historian and author Laura McClaws Helms. She told me that in the very early days Thea would sometimes meet with boutique owners and agree to sell select pieces to them. We agreed that this must have been a very early collaboration resulting in this extremely rare label. I love that it uses some of the same fabric as the dress presented in the book.
The dress is stunning. It feels a bit like her 'Faye' dress in design, but with huge voluminous sleeves that are brought in at the wrists, and that fantastic panel of print that runs down the full front and back. The dress has been made from a fine black silk chiffon for the sleeves and outer panels of the skirt. The printed panels are also a silk chiffon and they are completely covered in a graphic, swirling pattern that utilizes a bright red, white and black. The fabric has a touch of transparency to it where it is a single layer like the sleeves. And because of how the sleeves are set, it leaves the entire upper sides of the bodice transparent as well. Which is just insanely sexy. The rest of it is lined for a more opaque feel. The sleeves are cut extremely full and each comes out from the sides of the dress right from the shoulder down to the waist. This fullness is then caught up at each wrist with a tie edging made from the same printed chiffon. The high set waist is highlighted with a banding of the printed silk and this extends into long ties that you can cinch to add more shape if you wish or wear it loose and easy. The neckline is cut high and that gorgeous panel of print runs down the front of the entire dress. It then circles the hem in a very wide band of fabric and another panels runs down the full back. The dress is absolutely stunning and an outstanding and rare example of Thea's collaborative work. It is also important for being such a fine and early example of her work. Excellent condition with one small note below
Fully lined in a black silk chiffon except for the sleeves which are unlined. The dress zips to close at the back. The band at the waist extend to ties that you can cinch in the waist as desired. Hand finishes throughout. One of the ties at the wrist has damage. When it is tied it is completely hidden within the tie. Please see the photo after the shot of the label.
Sleeves: approx 28"
Inset shoulders: 12"
Bust: no true side seams
Empire waist under the bust: 14" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: 12" from top of bodice to waist
Skirt: 45" from waist to hem
Modern Sizing Equivalent: XS-SML, Maybe a medium if the under-bust measurement will work
Reference Photo: (1) Chiffon Dress from a 1969 Thea Porter presentation on Greek Street, London. From the book "Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic". / (2) Model in Thea Porter, 1969. Photo courtesy of Laura McLaws Helms.
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.