c.1968 George Halley Couture Crystal, Bead & Rhinestone Silk & Lace Dress
George Halley started at Charles James who said of the young designer that he 'was a genius at draping'. By the time Halley opened his own atelier in 1966 he was well on his way to fame. He won the Coty Award in 1968 and his work is on par with couture. He is one of my personal favorite designers. In 2015 I included him in my list of 'The 10 Designers to Add to Your Vintage Collection' for Harper's Bazaar, saying; 'If you want old school glamour and to feel like Hollywood royalty, look to this under-the-radar label outside of vintage circles... A Coty Award winner in 1968, Halley was one of the great American Couturiers and his work always feels grand and elegant. Think polished silk and fused velvet's and embellishments that have a touch of the Grand Old South to them. Silhouettes to look for are his sweeping ball gowns and hostess gowns. Rich fabrics and rich colors are used with a master's hand. Feathers, crystals, hand painted fabrics and fine workmanship are all things to expect from a George Halley gown. Slipping one on instantly makes a girl feel special and important. These are the showpieces and while you should expect to pay for the quality and beauty of what you get they are absolute jewels'. The best of his work are the pieces that show his love for Old Hollywood glamour combined with his love for over-the-top opulence. Women's Wear Daily called him 'a designer in a lovely world of his own'.
This gown is really quite extraordinary and almost outrageous in its level of opulence. It is constructed to couture standards and the workmanship and quality of materials used in its construction are amazing. The impact of the color combined with that refined and elegant cut are just wonderful. A George Halley design always starts with his fabric and embellishment choices and here he has gone above and beyond. The skirt is made from rich silk with a satin finish in a purple lavender color. It is set higher up the bodice just under the bust and has tremendous volume of fabric. An added, attached silk organza underskirt helps to hold the shape and fullness you see but most of it is created by the deep inverter pleats that sit at the back and the soft wide gathers at the front. I love the huge soft bow that sits at the front. This is attached to a band of matching silk that is attached partway around the waistline and then snaps into place on the other half, meeting and hooking into place under the bow. The hidden details are exquisite with each snap covered in silk and set into place by hand. The bow draws the eye up and assists in creating that beautiful silhouette. The bodice is a work of art with a floral design made entirely of heavy glass crystals, beads and rhinestones. These are set by hand and follow the pattern of the pale lavender lace underneath. The bodice has a high neck whose collar is densely applied with hand placed jewels. The beautifully cut sleeves widen as they near the wrist and each has its own densely beaded finish. In person the color is softer and has less of a contrast then how the light has made it feel. The crystals catch the light when you move. It is very heavy because of the dense glass bead work on the bodice but once on, somehow feels extremely comfortable. This is a remarkable gown that would be impossible to replicate in our modern work. This is almost certainly a one-off and a wonderful find. Excellent condition with two small notes to review below.
The dress has an attached inner stiffened organza skirt and the outer skirt is interlined with a matching purple silk. The bodice is fully lined in a hand set inner cream silk and layer of nude silk sits between that and the outer embellished lace layer. It closes with a hand set back zipper, The bow is partially attached and on the part that it is not sewn into place, it closes with hand set silk covered snaps around the other half of the waist and then hooks into place under the front bow. Each sleeve has a hand set zipper at its end. There are two small breaks in the netting close to each other on the back of one shoulder, see photo after the label photo. There is also a variation to the color under the folds of the pleats on the skirt, the silk is a darker shade of purple all along and under each fold. You do not see this when it is one as it is hidden under the folds. The color is also very soft along the transition and very even so it looks deliberate in many ways. Neither of these notes detract and the gown is extraordinary and very beautiful.
Bust: 16" flat across from side seam to side seam
Waist: 13" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: 11" from top of bodice to waist
Skirt: 47.5" from waist to hem
Modern Sizing Equivalent: XS-SML
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.