Rare 1968-71 Thea Porter Couture Unlabeled Silk Organza & Brocade Gipsy Dress w Balloon Sleeves
Thea Porter combined exoticism, embellished ornamentation and luxurious fabrics in her pieces and her work was a phenomenon during her day. This is one of her Gipsy dresses and it has been one of her most loved styles since it was first created in 1968. The Thea Porter book that accompanied the 2015 Fashion and Textile Museum exhibit "Thea Porter 70s Bohemian Chic" (for which over a dozen pieces were pulled from my archives) has many example of stars from that time period wearing their versions and Kate Moss is perhaps the most notable of modern girls who have one and caused a sensation when she wore her blue version for her wedding rehearsal in 2011. I was thrilled to find that The Met Museum has a near identical dress to this one on their archives.It is truly a very special piece.
The Thea Porter book states that the Gipsy dress was 'generally made out of A combination of three different fabrics, which give it an enduring variety. If the skirt was in plain cloth cotton, the bodice was usually in brocade… We made the dress in every conceivable fabric, from embroidered chiffon to liberty cotton‘s to velvet…. The silhouette of a slimmer torso combined with a full skirt (composed of 4.5 m of fabric) and sleeves became the basis for Porter‘s gypsy dress'. The book goes on to talk about the cut and design of these dresses saying that 'the bust became an integrated part of the body, ending directly below the breasts to create an empire line. The cut is such that the bust is held in securely, yet pushed up, removing the necessity of wearing a bra. The uneven hem of the Gipsy dress evolved as a form of collaboration between Thea and one of her first seamstresses, Meg Lake, who was self taught and didn’t realize that a circle of fabric cut on the bias would fall irregularly and need to be trimmed. Porter love that effect and the mistake became a design signature.' The bodice of the dresses often were crafted in antique brocade silk like we see on this dress and then Thea added velvet ribbon trim. This is a classic Gipsy dress that follows all of those design tenets. The bodice is fitted and made from and antique silk. A purple velvet ribbon details the cut of the bodice and also is set all the way around the hem. The huge balloon sleeves are a single layer of a printed silk organza and have a touch of transparency to them. The skirt is two layers, An inner deep purple satin finish rayon cut on the bias and then floating over that is the same printed silk organza as the sleeves. The silk of the skirt starts just under the bust and is cut to accentuate the waist and the flares out in yards of silk. It has that perfectly imperfect asymmetrical hem described above so one side falls slightly longer then the other. It is just wildly gorgeous. Great condition with minor notes below
The bodice and sleeves are unlined and the skirt is lined as described above. It closes with a back set zipper and each sleeve has elastic at the cuffs. Slight rubbing to the purple velvet here and there. I see stress at some of the vertical seaming around the waist mainly at the back. There is a bit of invisible mend tape inside the top of one shoulder and the top of the other shoulder shows stress to the fabric but is sound. Stress to the fabric and a signs on a small mend on the side seam of the bodice where the skirt attaches. The dress is sound and wearable and these are all minor but mentioned for accuracy. Please see the five photos after the shot of the sleeve.
Shoulders: no true seam
Seam under the Bust: 14" flat across from side seam to side seam
Waist: 12" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: 11" from neck to seam under the bust, 15.25" to waist seam
Skirt: 30" from waist to shortest points of hem, 41" to longest
Modern Sizing Equivalent: XS-SML
Reference Photos: (1-2) Kate Moss in Thea Porter, for her wedding rehearsal, 2011. / (3) 1970 Thea Porter Dress from The MET Collection Online. / (4) Jane Fonda in Thea Porter. / (5) Model in Thea Porter, credit unknown. / (6) Joan Colins in a Gipsy Dress, with her sister Jackie in a robe with trailing sleeves over trousers, in two versions of Sheila Hudson's butterfly print, at the opening of the musical "1776" in 1970. From the book "Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic" by Laura McLaws Helms and Venetia Porter. / (7) Floral cotton voila Gipsy dress, 1969. Photography by Willie Christie. From the book "Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic" by Laura McLaws Helms and Venetia Porter. / (8) Actress Sharon Tate arriving at a party with Peter Sellers. She wears a Gipsy dress with moire bodice and polka-dot chiffon skirt and sleeves. London, July 1, 1969. From the book "Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic" by Laura McLaws Helms and Venetia Porter. / (9) Charlotte Rampling in Thea Porter, 1970s.
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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