Edwin Hardy Amies
The Victoria & Albert Museum
No Society lady of the 1950s would have been without a wardrobe of sumptuous evening gowns. Draped in these gowns and dripping with jewels, a lady made a statement as she entered a ball or visited the theatre or opera.
Here’s an ideal representation of the evening gowns of the fifties. Designed in 1950 by the London couturier Edwin Hardy Amies (1909–2003), this elegant gown is crafted of crimson silk satin. The shape of the dress is created by a lining of Vilene, a thick material with a paper-like quality. This was quite an innovation, replacing the layers of tulle and silk net petticoats which were traditionally used by French couturiers. Vilene had served Europe well during the fabric rationing of the Second World War, creating volume beneath more expensive materials, without exceeding an individual’s rationed amount of fabric. The sleeveless gown is heavily boned and wired at the bodice with a band of satin at the top. The shoulders are defined by draped straps from the front of the bodice to the back, terminating in a large bow. Two bows on each of the gathered skirt accentuate the hips.
This dress was made for Mrs. Jean Follett Holt in 1954 based on Amies 1950 design. Mrs. Follett Holt is notable as having been the President of The Red Cross, Chelmsford. She wore the dress to The Red Cross Ball in London and was painted wearing the dress in a portrait by Baron Killi di Pauli.