c.1972-73 Zandra Rhodes 'Shell Collection' Embellished Ivory Silk Dress
In 1972 Zandra Rhodes was visiting New York on a regular basis and was good friends with a couple named Donna and Jo Lomardo. The three of them would often go antique hunting and on one such foray Zandra found a shell covered wicker basket and it is from this little object that her entire 1972-73 "Shell" collection was born. Pieces from this collection are held in museums world-wide and are coveted by collectors. This exceptional gown could potentially play double duty as a wedding gown on the right girl.
When this dress was designed runway shows typically ended with a finale gown that was appropriate for a wedding dress and Princess Anne wore that final dress finale from this collections runway show for her official engagement photos. A year or so later Bianca Jagger also wore a gown with similar design elements. I include these as it really shows how these ivory dresses by Zandra can really work for a range of occasions. The neckline of the dress dips very low and ties with a cord on both the front and back with a bit of a cross over of itself near the base. The edges of the gown have a hand painted border in a same tone as the dress. The front is hand embellished in a pretty spray of seashell shaped beads, pearls and other iridescent bead work that catches the light and adds a layer of texture. The waist is caught up in an elastic and then the skirt sweeps to the floor in a cascade of feather light silk that is entirely hand painted. The edges of the hem of the skirt are finished in a series of jagged points The dress has its original underskirt that you can wear to add further shape and volume. Without the underskirt the entire dress is slightly transparent. The skirt has enough volume that you can also add a fuller skirt to get a real bell shape if you want it to have a more formal gown feel (Which is what I did for the photos of me in the dress so that you can see how full it can go). The sleeves pick up the hem detailing of the skirt and are absolutely incredible. Each starts from the waist, has tremendous volume through the sleeve and ends in an elaborate cuff with the same pointed finish as the hem. Each cuff has three full layers of silk and the end of each point of the bottom two layers are adorned with embellishment. The workmanship is incredible and it is a beautiful gown. Excellent condition.
The bodice is partially lined with an off-white silk chiffon and the rest of the dress is unlined for a semi-transparent effect. It has elastic through the waist and slips on to wear. Elastic at each cuffs above the layered tiers. The bodice is embellished with shell beads, pearls and other bead work. Hand finished throughout. Hand painted fabric. The underskirt closes at the waist with hook and eye over a keyhole opening. There is enough volume for a fuller crinoline. The underskirt skirt original to the dress is very tiny through the waist but the dress itself will work on a wide range of sizes. Note that the color of the dress is a light ivory with a slight grey undertone.
Shoulders: no defined seam
Bust lining: 18-20" flat across from side seam to side seam (there would be no defined side seams if this was removed)
Waist: 14-18" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: 16.5" from natural neck to waist
Skirt: 41.5" from waist to hem
Waist: 11.5" flat across from side seam to side seam
Length: 40" from waist to hem
Modern Sizing Equivalent: XS only (if planning to wear the underskirt that comes with)
OR will fit XS-MED or even LRG if you use a larger underskirt
Reference Photos: (1) Bianca Jagger for Cosmopolitan, 1974. / (2) Princess Anne & Mark Phillips by by Norman Parkinson, 1973. / (3) From the book "Zandra Rhodes; a lifelong love affair with textiles" originally from interview magazine, photo by Francesco Scavullo, 1973. / (4&5) Cherie, Owner of Shrimpton Couture, by Erin Leydon, note that in these photos, I am wearing a fuller crinoline then the one that comes with the dress.
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.
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