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Many 1960s designers used Op-Art inspired fabric designs. While true optical art was often stark white and black, other colourways were used. The London boutique Biba, notorious for its murky colour palette, used a brown and black Op-Art textile for this mini-dress. Clothing bought from Biba was famously inexpensive and regular customers were prepared to put up with faults. Barbara Hulanicki, the designer-creator for Biba, remembered in her autobiography From A To Biba:
'Sometimes there were disasters with dyes. The paint just washed out, as the printer had forgotten to give it the final bake that fixes the pigment to the fabric. People were walking around in faded grey Op-Art print dresses. It never occurred to them to return them.'
Barbara Hulanicki and her husband John Fitz Simon set up Biba in 1963 as a mail order boutique. The success of their affordable, youthful designs enabled them to open a small shop in Kensington the following year. They attracted glamorous pop stars, bohemian aristocrats and impoverished students alike. In April 1966, the American news magazine Time published a special edition celebrating ‘London: The Swinging City’. It named Biba as ‘the most in shop for gear’.
Straight-cut mini-dress with a high neck and long sleeves. Brown jersey with black Op-Art geometric print. Back zipper.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Object history note
This Mod style stretch jersey dress with Op Art motif was produced during the short lived Op Art fashion trend of 1965. A horizontal stripe version of the dress was also produced.
Commentary provided by Angela Smith, Biba researcher and scholar, 01/06/2016
Registered File number 1986/1897.
Historical context note
This brown Op Art print dress zips up at the centre back. In her book, Barbara Hulanicki recalls that:
'Sometimes there were disasters with dyes. The paint just washed out, as the printer had forgotten to give it the final bake that fixes the pigment to the fabric. People were walking around in faded grey op art print dresses. It never occurred to them to return them.'
Clothing bought from Biba was famously inexpensive, so regular customers were prepared to put up with the odd glitch.
Straight-cut mini-dress of printed jersey, designed by Biba, London, 1965.
Reason For Production: Retail
Fashion; Women's clothes; Day wear; Shopping; Europeana Fashion Project
Ready to wear
Textiles and Fashion Collection