mr blackwell

Exquisite 1960s Mr Blackwell One Off Highly Detailed & Embellished Ivory Sheath Dress

The Mr Blackwell label was launched by Richard Blackwell in the late 1950s and even at that time his dresses sold for between $800 and $1000 which in modern dollars converts to up to $10,000 a dress. He dressed many of the big stars of the day including Jane Russell, Dorothy Lamour and Jayne Mansfield. His 'custom' label were the pieces that were made-to-order and were one-of-a-kind pieces that were fitted to a specific client in the couture tradition. During the 1960s he became the first in history to present a collection during a television broadcast and he is also the first to be attributed  making for his line available for plus-size women. This is an extraordinary dress from this time period and really showcases the length he went to for his clients. 

This is a stunning dress. This is the kind of piece that you only find in vintage because they just could not make things at this level anymore. The price would be too cost prohibitive. The dress is made from an ivory silk that has an extensive design done over it. The design covers every inch of the dress. I have never seen anything like it. The base layer of the appliqué work is an ivory silk cord that is hand stitched in vertical rows so that they curve and loopier the dress from the shoulder to the hem. Little silk ribbon runs down each row and then is brought in with gold thread. Then on top of all of that you get the elaborate floral design. On the body of the dress this is made from green and embroidered raffia that has mother-of-pearl feeling sequins that are cut so thin they have a touch of transparency to them. Big green beads highlight the design along with knots of silk cord and big prong set glass rhinestones. These trail down the front of the dress and then there is more near the hem and even more curve over the shoulder. A large design of the same runs down the centre of the back. The dress zips to close at the front and then on either side of that is a wide band that has a double row of the big prong set glass rhinestones. These are all set on top of a silk ribbon and then there are rows of pale pink beads set around pink silk flowers that sit up and off the fabric. These are interspersed all along and mixed into the rhinestones. This goes all the way around the collar and all the way around the hem and then around the end of each sleeve. They add a glorious bit of shimmer as they catch the light from every angle. The cut of the actual dress is very simple so all of that extensive hand-work and detail can take centre stage. It has little cap sleeves and then the dress falls in a simple open sheath from the shoulder to the hem. The neckline has a tiny V front where it goes down to meet the zipper. It zips to close partway down the front and then the bottom under that is left open a bit so you see some of your lower leg and you can walk. It is magic. This might even make an amazing wedding dress for the bride looking for a non-traditional choice or as an alternative dress in a more extended wedding celebration. And of course it could also be worn to any event. Excellent condition with a minor note below

Fully lined in a pale pink silk and it closes partially down the front with a painted metal zipper. All of the cording, ribbon, beading etc., have all been set by hand onto the entire surface of the dress. I do see the occasional loose thread and minor fraying to some of the cord, some old restitching of the cord and a tiny bit of fraying near a seam around the arms. This is all very minor and reflective of its age and minor wear. Please see the photos after the label shot. It is truly amazing.

Sleeves: 7" and the opening is 15" around
Shoulders: 16"
Bust: to 21" flat across from side seam to side seam
Waist: to 21" flat across from side seam to side seam
Hips: to 22" flat across from side seam to side seam
Length: 54" from neck to hem
Slit: 22,5" from hem up

Modern Sizing Equivalent: MED-LRG

Item# DD4565

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Please review all measurements carefully. More often than not, vintage garments do not fit any size category exactly. If in doubt, measure a garment of your own that fits and is a similar cut and compare it's measurements to the listed measurements below.