Dress

1949-1950 (made)
Dress thumbnail 1
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Lady Alexandra Howard-Johnston (later Lady Dacre) was the wife of the Naval Attaché to Paris at the end of the 1940s. She required an extensive wardrobe for the many formal dinners and state functions that she had to attend. She dressed exclusively at the French couturier Jacques Fath (1912-54).

In 1949, Lady Alexandra commissioned one of Fath's most popular designs of the season, but requested that it be made up in her husband's family tartan. She purchased the hand-woven and naturally-dyed fabric from Scotland herself. The design features typical Fath motifs such as a flying panel at the back and decorative buttons and bows.

Lady Alexandra wore this dress frequently, especially to lunch, and accessorised it with a black hat and pearls.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Wool lined with net and silk, petersham
Brief Description
Day dress of Johnston woollen tartan, designed by Jacques Fath, Paris, 1949-1950
Physical Description
Day dress of green woollen tartan in blue, black and yellow. It has a high neck with a mandarin collar. The front of the dress has a right flap, overlapping left cut diagonally from shoulder to waist and is secured in place by black petersham flat bow threaded through top left. It has long sleeves with an underarm gusset, tapering to the wrist with a zipper fastening.



The skirt is of an A-line shape with folds of material at the back left, secured in place by buttons and button-holes, and sewn through a couple of layers. A further fold hides the extension of the centre back zipper into the skirt, attached to the waistline with a hook and eye. There is a pocket on the right side of the front of skirt. The skirt is lined with black net and grey silk to the waist. All natural vegetable dyes.
Dimensions
  • Waist circumference: 60cm
Production typeHaute couture
Gallery Label
Dress and hat Jacques Fath (1912-54) Paris 1949 This dress was made for Lady Alexandra Howard-Johnston (later Lady Dacre). The Johnston tartan was made in Scotland, using natural colours as synthetic dye made the yellow too bright. Dress: woollen tartan, lined with net and silk Hat: velvet Given by Lady Dacre V&A: T.180, 270A-1974(22/09/2007)
Credit line
Given by Lady Alexandra Trevor-Roper
Object history
Lady Alexandra, (married first to Captian (later Rear Admiral) Clarence Howard-Johnston), purchased the Johnston tartan in Scotland for this dress.



Her daughter recalls that she wore it very frequently out to lunch, most likely with a black hat.



The textile is made with natural vegetable dyes as Lady Alexandra favoured the yellowish colour created.



It is very typical of Fath's style - tight fitting, with flying panels, and decorative (or exaggerated) bows and buttons.
Historical context
Lady Trevor-Roper favoured designs by Jacques Fath for her wardrobe, and contributed the vast proportion of the V&A's Fath collection.
Production
The textile was manufactured in Scotland by Johnson.



Reason For Production: Commission
Subject depicted
Association
Summary
Lady Alexandra Howard-Johnston (later Lady Dacre) was the wife of the Naval Attaché to Paris at the end of the 1940s. She required an extensive wardrobe for the many formal dinners and state functions that she had to attend. She dressed exclusively at the French couturier Jacques Fath (1912-54).



In 1949, Lady Alexandra commissioned one of Fath's most popular designs of the season, but requested that it be made up in her husband's family tartan. She purchased the hand-woven and naturally-dyed fabric from Scotland herself. The design features typical Fath motifs such as a flying panel at the back and decorative buttons and bows.



Lady Alexandra wore this dress frequently, especially to lunch, and accessorised it with a black hat and pearls.
Bibliographic References
  • Lynn, E., 'Lady Alexandra' in Wilcox, C. ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 (V&A Publications, 2007), p.172-3 & pl.7.15.
  • Cecil Beaton gift Registered Papers F/5, November 5 1971:
  • Cecil Beaton gift Registered Papers F/5,1971:
Collection
Accession Number
T.180-1974

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record createdJanuary 11, 2006
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