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1969 evening dress (1984.281)
1969 evening dress detail (1984.281)

This figure-hugging evening gown in rust-coloured rayon machine-lace evokes the glamorous, bias-cut dresses of the 1930s. Biba was wildly successful by 1969, and perhaps in recognition of this popularity, the lace fabric is composed of a repeating pattern of scrolling, art nouveau-style Biba logos.

Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki and her husband launched a home-based mail order boutique in 1963 and a year later opened the first Biba shop in the London borough of Kensington. Drawing on art nouveau, art deco and 1930s Hollywood influences, Biba quickly became known for its affordable, stylish and easily identifiable clothing which appealed equally to working teenagers, housewives, socialites or media celebrities. Biba's stage-like shop interiors, characterised by subdued lighting and a dramatic black and violet colour scheme, added to the label's image of re-vamped Hollywood chic. Dramatically extravagant, the store's success was relatively short-lived, peaking in the early 1970s when it overstretched itself financially by taking over the huge Derry & Toms building on Kensington High Street. Only a couple of years later in 1975, the whole Biba empire collapsed into bankruptcy.

Full item descriptions:

"evening dress" [1984.281], Biba, Hulanicki, Barbara

Related Themes:

High Street Fashion
1960s Fashion