In the Archive: Laura Ashley Reminisces

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Vivien McMurray travelled all the way from her home in Cornwall to Laura Ashley’s archive in West London to drop off five immaculately kept vintage Laura Ashley dresses from the 1960’s. We were so touched we just had to tell you all about it!

As we swooned over the dresses Vivien told us all about which Laura Ashley stores they were from and her memories of Laura Ashley back in the 60’s and 70’s…

Having started nursing training at St Thomas Hospital in London in October 1969 her nurses’ home was on the Chelsea Embankment, very near the King’s road. Her and her flat mates’ stomping ground was Carnaby Street (the ‘in’ place to go at the time) and they wore the mini skirts and the maxi fashion that was coming into style in the early 1970’s. Four of them rented a flat in Pimlico and used to go to the Laura Ashley shop in South Kensington. She recalls the racks of clothes in the very happening, once small and very busy store. One of her friends Hilly was permanently dressed in Laura Ashley smocks, smock dresses and long skirts and rode a Honda 50… no crash helmets back in those days!

(Vivien kindly dug out these old pictures of her friends in Laura Ashley from the 1970’s)

Vivien bought the long Victorian style dress around 1971 and wore it to a wedding with a boater hat. She also recalls how good the violet blue cord dress looked with boots. And as for the dressing gown, well she lived in it. As you can see below it is more worn out than the other clothes! (A short while after Vivien dropped by our archivist came across the original sketch of her dressing gown- we were thrilled to match the illustration with the real thing!)

In 1976 Vivien moved to Bath as a ward sister on a children ward. She describes the Laura Ashley shop as being iconic there and this is where she invested in the cord dresses.

Having kept the clothes in the roof of her current home and planning to move house shortly, she decided to have a clear out. Not wanting the dresses to go to just anyone, she rang Laura Ashley and asked if they had an archive. Now they will be looked after for posterity!

If you have any old vintage Laura Ashley dresses that you would like to kindly donate to the Laura Ashley archive where they will be looked after and treasured please contact our archivist at 020 7880 5379

21 Comments

The archive is a lovely idea, where can we view it? The photos of these dresses bring back so many happy memories. In the late 1970’s I was travelling around the country for work & it gave me great delight to visit the Laura Ashley shops in different towns to pick up a range of lovely cord dresses, which I wore for many years, latterly when I was expecting our first child, for several of them had smock tops & so fitted over the bump! ‘Bring back the old designs’ is what I say, they were so stylish & comfortable & I would be pleased to buy them again now, some 35/40 years later

Lovely to see the archive! I treasure a couple of Laura Ashley dresses from my nan and mom. One of my favourite childhood outfits was when my mom bought a gorgeous Laura Ashley dress, and then made me a matching dress out of the same fabric!

Such a pity that I didn’t keep my Laura Ashley clothes from the 1970s. I was a student in Exeter and went to Bath to buy clothes – they seemed very reasonable prices even on a tight budget with no credit cards! However, I donated them to the ‘costume department’ when I was teaching and they were well used in various plays.

I had an original deep burgandy russian velvet laura ashely wedding dress in burgandy , three quarter length ,leg of mutton sleeves and sweetheart neckline, velvet coated buttons I am so proud of it , please anyone who had patterns and or materials , can they contact me with patterns I have such a love of those dresses I would love to make one for my 16 year old size 8 daughter and me too size 20 bless you , Carolyn

I fell in love with Laura Ashley fashions & fabric’s,in the early 70’s the quality of the fabric was wonderful, I had the pattern for the dressing gown you are showing and maked several of them in the lovely cotton fabrics, I wish I still had the pattern!
I also used the wallpaper as it was so easy to match & hang, as I did all my own decorating (still do).
I’m still loyal customer, the clothing is very wearable for all ages, I buy the bed linen (so easy to iron)& I bought a sofa not so long ago!!
I will try to find some old photographs and send copies in.

Wonderful memories, I bought all my Laura Ashley clothes in Oxford. The long skirts with the frill at the bottom , I must have had about 10 to alternate with blouses. Absolutly loved them riding my old bycycle with my daughter Jane on the back of the bike . We used to ride up to Summertown to by the bread from the then new french bakery, and then on to Miss Bell and Miss Lemons pre school forthe day for Jane . Only the other day Jane asked me ” do you still have any of the laura ashley skirts, ” Oh how I wish I had kept them all. We now live in New Zealand, love the idea of the originals being displayed. I beleive the Oxford shop in the UK was the first store out of Wales to be opened. The 60s and 70s were magical times so glad I was a Laura Ashley girl. Should start a club ! Dr Jan E Rawlins NZ

I think it would be a good idea and a lucrative one if Laura Ashley did a re-run of some of those!!! A wise investment for the company and a great opportunity for customers. I articularly like the sound of that Burgundy Russian velvet wedding dress!!!! oh!the sound of those sleeves; style, style, style!………….

I have a laura ashley linen smock in rough linen it has a label Halles de villettes paris does anyone know anything about this garment?

I used to buy clothes from the Laura Ashley near Sloane Square in the mid 70’s, I adored them and wish I’d have kept them now. I agree it would be a good idea to do a rerun of some of the beautiful clothes from the past. I still have a lovely dress from the 1990’s which is now too small for me and I live in hope that I will find another one in my current size.

It is lovely to read all your comments and memories of the 1970’s since I took my dresses to Laura Ashley archive. I am glad that they are being looked after and appreciated. It was interesting to see the sketches for the dressing gown. Keep your comments coming !

Hi

have just opened a vintage fashion shop, The Eye of Time in Clare, Suffolk and have had a load of requests for vintage Laura Ashley. Have managed to get quite a few via people bringing them in, charity shops and car boot sales. It would be great if the Laura Ashley website had a section about your old labels so I can date the pieces. Let me know if you are looking for anything in particular for your archive.

I had the Laura Ashley housecoat in a dusky blue. I think it cost all of £8 – and I lied to my husband for the first time telling him it was just £5. Well we were newly married and mortgaged and broke with a capital B but the housecoat was beautiful. Shame the photo don’t show the gathers at the back. I loved it!

I had the Laura Ashley housecoat in a dusky blue. I think it cost all of £8 – and I lied to my husband for the first time telling him it was just £5. Well we were newly married and mortgaged and broke with a capital B but the housecoat was beautiful. Shame the photos don’t show the gathers at the back. I loved it!

If only Laura Ashley could return to providing women with the feminine, high quality vintage styles created by its founder. It was a sad day when the company decided to compete with trashy, trendy high street fashions; thereby completely losing its original timeless identity. Laura Ashley’s clothes flattered women of all ages.

I only wish I had kept all my Laura Ashley dresses and skirts from the 80’s – I fear their quality and charm will never be repeated.

I lovingly hang on to my 1970 dresses one green floral day dress and the other black and gold evening dress with the most butifull puffed sleeves. The thing i miss most are the childrens clothes when small girles where still aloud to be girles. Boath my daughters still remember the lovely dresses they had back then my grandaughter would off love them as she is realy girly but now my 8year old has choses more suted to an 18year old its sutch a shame.

I have a great memory of the day British currency went decimal in 1971. The Laura Ashley shop in South Kensington decided to sell all its dress fabrics for one day at (I think) 10p a yard. I bought enough that day to make several dresses and gave away several lengths as birthday presents for friends and family. I can’t remember how much Laura Ashley dress fabrics normally sold for, but I know this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Is there anywhere online to find out the names of the floral patterns on Laura Ashley dresses. I have collected quite a few but do not know the names of any of them!

Sent details of a few things I had in late sixties….. Not sure if received .. As comment box went blank?

I still have the burgundy velvet dress referred to above. I wore it to my grandparents’ 60 th wedding anniversary in 1986 and my daughters now wear it. One daughter has just worn the floral dress with matching jacket in a similar shape to a May ball and I still have several pieces from the 70s that I wore to school as we did not have uniform then. I had forgotten about the dressing gown until I saw it above. I wore several things out including the dress I bought after the interview for my first job. Really takes you back!

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