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Dress - Amorphous


  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1977 (designed)
    early 1983 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Swanky Modes (designer)
    Courtaulds Textiles (textile manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Machine-sewn lycra and nylon blend jersey

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Swanky Modes

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This black lycra disco dress was designed by Swanky Modes in 1977, and made throughout the 1980s. Swanky Modes was based in London's Camden Town district, and consisted of a team of four young designers: Judy Dewsbury, Melanie Herberfield, Willie Walters and Esme Young. For this dress, the lycra was draped on a stand and had sections of the fabric cut away to create the garment's distinctive look. When laid flat on the floor, the dress resembles an amoeba, or single-cell animal, which led to the designers naming the dress "Amorphous". The resulting form-hugging sheath dress became a popular choice for young nightclub-goers through the 1980s.

Lycra is an elastane-based jersey fabric that is easy to care for, crease-resistant, lightweight and comfortable. It springs back into shape and fits closely, which makes it popular for activewear and with body-proud athletes and disco dancers. Disco dancing became popular again following the release of the film Saturday Night Fever in 1978.

Physical description

Disco dress of black machine-sewn lycra-nylon blend jersey with five side fastening and a high neckline.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1977 (designed)
early 1983 (made)


Swanky Modes (designer)
Courtaulds Textiles (textile manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Machine-sewn lycra and nylon blend jersey


Length: 114 cm neck to hem

Descriptive line

Disco dress 'Amorphous' of machine-sewn lycra-nylon jersey, designed by Swanky Modes, London, 1977, textile by Courtaulds Textiles and made in 1983

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Mendes, Valerie. Black In Fashion. London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

Lycra jersey
English, London, Swanky Modes; Summer 1978 (this dress especially made for the Museum in 1983)

Made of a swimwear fabric (manufactured by Courtaulds) the dress clings to the body, and with its daring cut-outs, is the smallest black dress in the display. Its appearance five years ago co-incided with the disco-dancing boom.

Given by Swanky Modes
T.135-1983 [1983-84]
Designed by Swanky Modes, London
Machine knitted lycra and nylon

The style was originally launched in 1977 and remained in production throughout the 1980s. This version was made in 1983.

This form hugging sheath has found favour with young shapely club-goers for over ten years and has become a classic of its kind. In a versatile fabric associated with sports and underwear it is light, comfortable, easy to pack, wash and dry, and resists creasing.

The elastine fibre Lycra (trademarked by Du Pont in 1959) enables manufacturers to make a multitude of sleek fitting garments to satisfy the general keep fit boom as well as produce some startling attire to meet the highly specialised needs of the recently fashion conscious sporting professions. Its spring-back quality gives the clinging, non-sagging factor which body-proud athletes adore and Swanky Modes so cleverly exploited.

"We just draped the fabric on a stand and chopped bits away from it. When you lie it flat on the floor it looks like an amoeba which is why we called it Amorphous" - Willy Walters of Swanky Modes explaining the birth of the dress.

Given by Swanky Modes
T.135-1983 [1990]


Lycra; Jersey


Machine sewing


Fashion; Women's clothes; Evening wear; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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