- Place of origin:
London, England (made)
early 1950s (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Dr Beryl Gilroy
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
This black-and-white checked Krimatex woollen coat formed part of an outfit worn by Dr Beryl Gilroy and displayed in the exhibition Streetstyle, From Sidewalk to Catwalk, 1940 to Tomorrow held at the V&A in 1994-95. The complete outfit consisted of the coat; a scrim and velvet hat; a plastic mock-croc bag and a salmon pink cotton mix two-piece suit by Nat Gaynes (Guyana). The outfit reflected a style of dress worn by West Indian women in Britain in the early 1950s.
Dr Gilroy travelled from Guyana to England in 1951 to continue her studies in teaching. Her wardrobe consisted of brightly-coloured tailored clothes, which she had made by local dressmakers who copied styles from American fashion magazines. She wore the suit in the Caribbean and bought the hat and coat in London because of the colder climate. She recalled that her clothes were significantly more colourful than standard post-war wear and included items such as peddle-pushers, which had not previously been seen in Britain. Dr Gilroy became London's first black headteacher in 1968.
Black and white checked woollen coat.
Place of Origin
London, England (made)
early 1950s (made)
Materials and Techniques
Weight: 1.38 kg
Object history note
Worn by Dr Beryl Gilroy in Great Britain after she moved here from Guyana in 1951. Part of woman's 'Caribbean-style' outfit (T.132 to 136-1995).
"'Everyone was wearing grey and black and we brought bright colours. We were used to wearing beautiful colours. We would walk along dressed to the nines and bouncing with confidence - people had never seen the likes of us; they'd never seen black people smart. In England people had television and they had a stereotyped idea of black people, jumping around naked, then they would see a group of beautiful girls all dressed up and they would stare]'
'Our style was unusual because lots of the girls from the West Indies would make their own clothes. Once I made an evening dress out of yards and yards of blue gingham because I couldn't afford anything else. And people were astounded because it was the first time they'd seen gingham used like that. We used the cheapest material in the way that you would use silk or satin - that's how we brought style. We also mixed fabrics so you got unusual textures. We really enjoyed our clothes.' Did she feel any tension dressed up in London?
'Well, we couldn't win, you know. If you were dressed up, people would think 'you are wearing our clothes', but if you were in bright clothes from the (our) country, it would be 'look at those foreigners]'"
(Dr Beryl Gilroy, interviewed by Sarah Callard for "The British supermarket of style", published in The Independent, Saturday 25 September 1994)
Registered File number 1994/1209.
Coat, black and white checked wool, British, early 1950s, part of woman's 'Caribbean-style' outfit (Streetstyle exhibition)
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
De la Haye, Amy and Cathie Dingwall. Surfers Soulies Skinheads & Skaters, Subcultural style from the forties to the nineties. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1996
'Caribbean style UK early 1950s. Black-and-white checked woollen coat, Krimatex, London; scrim and velvet hat; plastic mock-croc bag; cotton mix two-piece suit, Nat Gaynes, Guyana
Dr Gilroy came to England from Guyana in 1952. Her wardrobe consisted of brightly coloured clothes, which she had made by local dressmakers, copying styles from American fashion magazines. She wore this pink suit in the Caribbean and bought the hat and coat in London because of the colder climate. She states that her clothes were significantly more colourful than standard post-war wear and included items such as peddle-pushers, which had not previously been seen in Britain.
Worn and given by Dr Beryl Gilroy.'
Streetstyle, From Sidewalk to Catwalk, 1940 to Tomorrow (Victoria and Albert Museum 16/11/1994-19/02/1995)
Fashion; Black History; African Diaspora; Women's clothes