Last month I was invited to the opening of ‘Laura Ashley: The Romantic Heroine’, an exhibition at the Bath Fashion Museum.
Laura Ashley has a unique place in fashion history, drawing on the past to design patterned dresses and womenswear from 1950 onwards. Admirers believe she created a style that allowed women to dress how they wanted, not how men wanted them to dress. During a time when women were beginning to break out of their ‘housewife’ stereotypes and enter the working world of men, Ashley gave British women a sense of confident femininity.
To open the exhibition, it was therefore rather an appropriate choice to invite Felicity Green, one of the first women to conquer Fleet Street when she joined the Mirror Group as Associate Editor in 1961. Having grown up in Dagenham avidly admiring the Hollywood film stars of the 30s and 40s, Green started as a humble secretary at Women & Beauty magazine, and is still working in fashion journalism at the glorious age of 86. She emphasises the importance of style over fashion and trends, and opened the exhibition with a warm and witty speech about her friendship with Laura Ashley and her husband.
(Above photo courtesy of BBC Radio 4)
Born in the Welsh village of Dowlais in 1925, Laura Ashley opened her first shop in 1961 in Machynlleth, running the business with her husband Bernard and their four children. Britain in the 1960-70s was a place of modernity, scientific advancement, space travel and nuclear warfare. In the face of this, Ashley looked back to the rustic idyll of old Britain as a form of escape from the modern world; simultaneously, however, she looked forward in terms of feminism, dressing women without the influence of men. Felicity Green believes that one of Ashley’s greatest strengths was having a good husband: he was a business man who took her talent and turned it into something fantastic. They were a great team with mutual respect, and when she was offered an OBE, she would not accept it unless her husband got one too. Green remembers this with a crooked smile, stating that this was one of the only times she felt rather cross with her…
The evening was very pleasant, and the nibbles were divine. I managed to catch Felicity Green at the end of her speech to congratulate her on such a fabulous career, and she offered me the advice that if I wanted to succeed in journalism, all it required was hard work.
The exhibition will be running in Bath until 26th August, before it then moves to the Bowes Museum in Durham from 21st September – 5th January 2014.
You can visit the website here!