Ossie Clark was the fashion king of ’60s and ’70s London, dressing Twiggy, Bianca and Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Talitha Getty and Patti Boyd, to name just a few of the Beautiful People. I love his floaty chiffon and moss crepe dresses with ’30s references, plunging necklines and sashes that tie under the bust.
The elaborate prints created by Ossie’s wife, textile designer Celia Birtwell, enhanced his designs. For a time, Ossie and Celia were quite the happening couple; David Hockney’s portrait of them and their cat, Percy, now hangs at the Tate. The couple divorced in 1974, and Ossie — who led a complicated life — was murdered by a boyfriend of his in 1996.
If you’re not an Ossie fan, you might recognize Celia’s name anyway, thanks to her capsule collection for Topshop, worn memorably by Kate Moss last year. If you missed out then, you have a shot again as more designs are rolling out right now. I’ve always had mixed feelings about this Topshop project. There’s no doubt that Celia is very talented in her own right. There’s also no question that the collaboration allows Topshop to create an inexpensive “Ossie” line with without the fuss of using â€“and paying for — Ossie’s name. Was that the intention? Who knows. But much of the buzz around Celia’s Topshop project came from fashion editors tripping on the evocation of Ossie. And just take a look at eBay, where the Topshop offerings are routinely described as “Celia Birtwell/Ossie Clark.”
As I said, I have mixed feelings about this. I am an admitted Ossie obsessive; Ossie and Stephen Sprouse are the only designers I’m truly dedicated to collecting. Also, I know a person who has a financial interest in the Ossie Clark label and I would have loved to help him revive the the line — if only I could have scrounged up the necessary megabucks. On the other hand, Celia should certainly be able to do her own work and make a living. Considering how horribly Ossie treated her, by his own admission, maybe she is owed this by him. A little posthumous payback, if you will. Plus, as you can see from the dress above, he copied ’30s and ’40s designs so assiduously himself that he really couldn’t point any ghostly fingers.
At least the Topshop clothes are an open homage to Ossie, from a genuine Ossie collaborator. I prefer that to other designers who buy up the vintage dresses, cut them apart to make a pattern for themselves, and sew their own label on the result. I’m not going to post the many pictures I have of Ossie clones. We all copy, there’s nothing new under the sun, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, etc. I just wish designers wouldn’t hog or hurt the originals.
If you want to look at some vintage Ossies, try the V&A site. A great book is also available on Amazon. I’d recommend skipping his diaries, which are agonizing to read. C20 Vintage in England has a great collection of Ossies for sale; good for window-shoppers too. And my dear friend, the lovable and heavily tattooed Evan Ross, always has some Ossies at his store, Frock NYC.
I love that picture of you in febuary so cute and your outfit is perfect!
Those dresses are so cute.You have good taste.
Thanks for stopping,I love the Golden Girls…my fav is Dorothy!I may be like her in another 30 years and my mom is a definite Sophiya!A lot of their fashions are coming back!!
You have great style!!! Nice to read this post, since i didn’t have proper information about any of this (it’s fashion history!). Thanks for your comment on the 90s supermodels post.
Your jewelry is absolutely stunning, I’m in love with it all!!
And you’ve got great taste, awesome blog :]
Bobble Bee says
I didn’t know who Ossie Clark was until my latest trip to London where the V&A was hosting an exhibition to the great master of color. I went TWICE! and still had the thing inside me that i wanted to see it more more and more… LOVE Ossie!
Thank you, peeps, for all the nice comments. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the dresses. I want Ossie to get the credit for his great work. Not Topshop! @ Bobble Bee, the V&A really has some superb Ossie in its permanent collection and it borrows fantastic pieces when it does a bigger exhibition. Did you see any of his snakeskin work? You know he started working with it when he found all these skins for cheap…no one else wanted it. When it gets cooler out, I’ll post a picture of my snakeskin jacket.
oh yes yes yes. especially that red & tan one with the puffed sleeves! how simply and yet creatively cut it is!
You own that many Ossie Clark dresses?!? I would do almost anything to even own only one:D! Lucky you! Where have you buyed them?
Nano, I’ve been buying them for a long time from a lot of different places. Different stores, eBay, vintage clothing shows and so on.
you look fantastic in ossie, if the line is ever revived they should hire you as their model!
what a fantastic collection you own!
In Yr Fshn says
Wendy, that is a drop dead gorgeous collection of dresses. I don’t know much about Ossie Clark, but you’ve provided such a great intro…
What a wonderful post to read. You have an amazing collection. I cant even begin to imagine what you didnt show us!
Lovely and informative homage to Ossie Clark. I never knew he and Hockney were competitors…
Why oh why is not TOP SHOP in the US 🙁
wow… what a great post. not only do you have great taste in jewelry, but gorgeous dresses in your wardrobe!
i just love the orange dress!
Candid Cool says
Beautiful collection of dresses
OMG! You must have a hell of a collection of dresses. All of these are so beautiful!
i just happily stumbled across this post and thought i’d offer my two cents… i too love ossie, but as i live paycheck to paycheck it’s something of a miracle that i’ve been able to collect two of his dresses. sad to say neither feature celia’s prints, though as you know, the garments are still quite incredible. i understand your mixed feelings about the celia/topshop collaboration, but for purely selfish reasons i have to say i love it more than i hate it– it’s the only way i’ve been able to afford her prints.
thanks for posting all those pics– you have some showstoppers!
thanks for visiting me 🙂 i can’t believe your Ossie Clark dresses. amazing. and yes too bad they are too small for you. you have such a nice wardrobe to pair them with!
miss cavendish says
Gorgeous dresses! And I didn’t know that you collect Stephen Sprouse . . . I used to have a jumpsuit–from Paris of all places–that was inspired by him (a boy from Michigan). It was a red halter style with black graffiti. Wish I’d kept it.