Vivien of Holloway’s designs are probably the most instantly recognizable within vintage/retro styled circles. Her trademark polka-dotted creations with full fifties circle skirts preferably filled with a confection of netted petticoat can be spotted at most vintage events. This popularity had initially put me off buying one I find it off -putting when strangers point to you and name your dress manufacturer before you have even been introduced. Then there was the fact that I am concerned there is actually a limit to how many polka dots one should own. I currently possess thousands and feel like a lyric in a Libertine’s song already. Also I had heard that it was quite difficult to judge the fit and sizing on-line. Several girls I knew had to return their orders and had become frustrated. Personally I think this is simply an innate risk with mail-order goods and you just have to try until you find the right size and learn to love your local Post Office. The fact that many V of H items are boned gives them a three dimensionality that is hard to reflect in flat measurements of inches and cms.
Recently I have increasingly felt that it was time to give this popular brand a whirl, and there were a number of reasons for this. One was that I have seen the titular Vivien around and about, a glamorous voluptuous blonde lady and a fine advertisement for her wares. I believe you should judge the dress by its maker, I was always going to like Lulu Guinness bags because I like the way Lulu Guinness looks.
The proprietress at her counter.
Another was the ever widening range of tea dresses, forties dresses and sarong dresses. The range of fabrics has also expanded with plenty of non-spot choices. The final impetus to buy was the opening, last year, of a new shop located naturally enough, in
It was actually really interesting to observe others changing. A group of blonde, faintly chavvy girls in Allsainty clothes were instantly transformed by the polka-dotted circle dresses into extras from a Dennis Potter drama. What I noted immediately was how much the designs showed off all figures. Stick insects suddenly achieved curves and the curvy girls were clearly made to fill these frocks. I enjoyed seeing the staff persuade recalcitrant twenty somethings into belts to remind them their waists didn't sit right under their busts. Paradoxically the bridesmaids seemed more feminine but also more sassy. Another peculiar thing was that they seemed cleaner and fresher. That shabby jersey jeans washed - out look makes girls look dirty as well as scruffy! The Vof H dresses are actually a great idea for weddings, inexpensive, flattering to most shapes, you can do the same dress in different colours and they can be sold on.
The fact I had to loiter for a while was a good thing because I decided to try on more than I intended and picked a couple of random choices. The dress I had my eye on was not available in my size in the fabric I wanted, I was advised that new stock came in mid-week and that was the time to come. I anticipated that the sarong dress, with its tapered skirt and flattering wrap detail was likely to suit my figure which strays into ...ahem ...rubenesque territory. I chose a couple of these. I also tried a bolero top. This is a stroke of genius. Bingo wing sheafing is important, those with busts also have to sigh and accept that bra straps are a necessary evil. Also a little shoulder coverage is just simply elegant. However I grabbed a couple of the circle dresses. I had always thought these, with all their fabric would be unflattering to anyone who was not thin or tall. The 'sugar plum fairy fear 'I call it. However a Mexican day of the dead dancing skeleton fabric dress called out to my Goth nature. Having picked one of those to try I thought ‘what the hell, I’ll try one of the ultra-satiny bright ones,' mentally I had discounted them because on the hanger they looked slightly stage costumey.
Upon trying the dresses I was surprised to find that the internal bodice was sturdy enough alone to cope with my considerable prow. This was assisted by the fact the bodice area is designed to fit quite snugly. None of this was uncomfortable. The sarong dresses were good, providing a curvy elegant silhouette however the size was a bit too tight, however if I lost even a kilo or two it might sit quite nicely. Then I moved onto the circle dresses, I loved the skeleton one. The halter top is very flattering and the swish of the skirt deeply satisfying on a girly level. The wild card was the vividly coloured silk dress. Not what I would usually wear, but when I came out in it the response from the assorted vintage types waiting was ‘buy that one!’ So having walked in intending to buy a sharp silhouetted deeply coloured dress I emerged with two swishy circle dresses and spent more than I intended (boleros were of course needed to accompany them). I am wearing the brightly hued one this weekend and we’ll see then if I look like a jolly green giant!
The green satiny circle dress.
I don’t have any gripes about the clothes at all, within the reasonable price range the finish, production and fabrics are what they should be. What I would like to stress is that the range, although comparatively limited is very flexible. It occurred to me that a lot of the simple block colour fabrics could be dressed up very well using trimmings. I am think of doing this to the sarong dress and bolero in black which I think might work really well with a fringed trimming I have seen. Vof H’s clothes are also becoming very popular with other alternative groups in
Vivien of Holloway homepage here: http://www.vivienofholloway.com/
All photographs copyright Vivien of Holloway.