9.21.2011

Blast from the Past - British Style





Last week, I found this remnant yard of "Sweet Pea" in a bin for $3. I was pretty impressed I kept my composure when I found it. I didn't squeal until I got to my car.

Who designed this yumminess?

Oh yes, none other than the Queen of romantic British style, Laura Ashley.
I was obsessed - obsessed - with Laura Ashley.
 {Hold on, let me take a deep breath. I'm hyperventilating recalling my obsession....}

Photo courtesy of rascalkosher.blogspot.com


Let me set the scene:
It's 1989 and I am walking into the Laura Ashley store in Cincinnati. It was a sensory experience like no other for a gal who loves fashion, fabric and flowers. The store front, with that solid, British-racing-green facade, was so grand and elegant. It was, at that time, quite revolutionary for a chain store to have a store front that was so iconic - so branded.

Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk

Walking in, immediately you were transported to Great Britain, with the sounds of cheery classical music and the smell of the sweet and floral perfumes that lined the glass counters. The "closets" that housed the crisp white blouses and the delicious tea-length dresses with their sailor collars or sweetheart necklines. The proper hats, sometimes straw and sometimes felt, lined the beautiful wooden shelves.

Laura Ashley Vintage Prom Dress 
Photo courtesy of Style Junkee

The wallpapers and fabrics and the lampshades and the towels and the linens - oh my goodness. It was all so matchy-matchy, but they were glorious in their ability to transport you to another time, another place. The little displays of wingback chairs covered in delicious striped or floral fabric and an antique coffee table stacked with decorating books and catalogs made me want to sit down and curl up with a book.

  My mother had our old Victorian house decorated in Laura Ashley.
Sigh.
Wallpapers, linens, draperies - you name it, every room in our house had a touch of Laura Ashley.  I still have remnants of sheets and dresses and comforters that I have used in some of my quilts. I made my daughter a quilt from the dress I wore to my high school graduation luncheon, summer weddings and sorority rush parties.

Photo courtesy of Frockery.co.uk


And for the next few years, it remained that I would covet nearly everything I saw in Laura Ashley. Every few months, I would turn in an application for a shot to work threre among the lovlies. You had to be pretty connected to get a job there - which I thought I was, but alas, I was just like every other teenage girl with a dream.

Photo courtesy of Linen Locker
This pattern was in my mother's room.

Photo courtesy of TheAtticPeople.co.uk

My friend Ali had this dress. She was just as obesessed as I was.


Now my fondness for florals and sweetness has been rekindled!! I MUST make a Laura Ashley inspired frock or quilt. I must.

How fun it's been to stumble onto a trip down memory lane. Seriously, every girl I knew wore these clothes. And when the grunge scene of the early 90s came along, Laura Ashley went by the wayside for a lot of us. But what fun it was while it lasted, huh?

Thanks, Laura. You inspired a generation of girls to wear big hats and floral dresses and dream of living in a cottage in the British countryside. And helped us define our generational style. Sigh.

Laura Ashley 1925-1985
Ashley's home in Wales


10 comments:

  1. I loved Laura Ashley too and wore it for every casual event that I had to look smart. If you are collecting for a quilt the next time I visit my Mum I'll see if I can find you anything!

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  2. I had Laura Ashley bedding back in the 1980s. Pure classic design. I see why you squealed. That's a find.

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  3. I still have a very precious piece of Laura Ashley fabric in my stash, and a silk dress somewhere in the back of my closet.
    I loved the shops, and especially the catalogs, and dreamt of a home decoratet in Laura Ashley.
    I remember that one year they had an old painted gypsy caravan in the catalog, and it looked so cozy and beautiful, completely outfitted in her fabrics, pillows etc. Oh how I wanted to have this caravan. :-)
    How cool that you found this fabric!

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  4. My obsession with ALL things LA led me to my job there!!! I worked in the Fairfax, VA shop and Mother and Child too. Such joyous memories of a sweet and precious time in my life.
    Thanks for making me remember it all again. XXXX

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  5. 2 words: Downton Abbey.

    And you're welcome!

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  6. What a fun post, Andie! I loved the find Laura Ashley fabrics and linens for my daughter when she was young. I visited a Laura Ashley store in France about 9 years ago and bought a pair of pajamas that were on clearance...I still wear them! The pink floral is overlaid with little embroidered flowers...awesome!

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  7. Wow! I've never come across an obsessive about Laura Ashley! Your post has been very informative. I hope you're able to find LA-obsessed relief by making a dress. Have fun, as I'm sure you will!

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  8. I would have been swooning and swooning!! What a lucky find AND great bargain you found!!

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