Ah…old-fashioned, romantic English-style dresses…full of showy garden florals, cozy calico prints, giant puff sleeves, ruffles, roses and quaint country charm.
Though vintage Laura Ashley fashions were always popular, it seems more recently that for many, the pandemonium brought on by the pandemic has seen a return of femininity at its fullest. A staple of the cottagecore movement, Laura Ashley’s vintage designs harken to a simpler time.
What’s Not to Love About Vintage Laura Ashley Style?
Floral dresses beckoning to by-gone days have seen a comeback – and instead of simply watching Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden, women want to wear those endearing frocks – every day.
Fitted and flowing or loose and comfy, simply perfect for summertime – and quite honestly, any time – the yearn for a touch of the past has vintage Laura Ashley dresses and flowing prairie skirts in deep demand.
The popularity of the iconic feminine prairie dresses full of fancy trims, ruffles, lace and buttons is similar to the Gunne Sax line, another favorite in the cottagecore aesthetic.
A Little History on the Real Laura Ashley
And, yes, there was a real Laura Ashley. She was born September 7, 1925, in Wales, and served in the royal naval services during WWII. After the war, in 1949 she married Bernard Ashley and the two started printing small tea towels and napkins in silk screen.
She started printing Victorian style head scarves in 1953 which were immensely popular, as were her aprons and housedresses. Early on, many of Laura’s clothes were sewn by women in their own homes, who were looking for extra earnings.
Their first factory was in Kent, then they moved to rural mid-Wales, which became the center of their business. Originally the company was called “Ashley Mountney” but later her husband changed it to Laura Ashley.
It Wasn’t Always Frills & Ruffles…
Ironically, Laura was not always thrilled about frills and ruffles. Growing up in a strict household, plain, modest clothing was the rule. But she loved quilting, a love that came from her grandmother.
Some of the tiny floral prints were no longer being made, so Laura made her own with silk screen and dyes, in addition to working as a secretary. In 1955 – by now she had four children -she produced her first factory-made fabrics.
It was during the iconic era of the hippies that Laura Ashley made her first dress for social wear. The first Laura Ashley store opened in Pelham Street, South Kensington, in 1968. In 1974 she opened a shop in Paris, then one in San Francisco. Her trademark quickly became noticed: long old-fashioned, flowing, flowery frocks, coinciding perfectly with the blossoming hippie culture.
It was actually in the following decade – the 1980s – that the Laura Ashley fashion empire experienced peak popularity.
Laura Ashley, A Family Affair
A family run busines, Laura’s daughter, Jane, was instrumental in marketing the family’s textile goods. Jane took amateur photos of her friends modeling the long cotton dresses.
Their popularity soared – and during the 1980s, Princess Diana – who adored Laura Ashley dresses – wore one – and naturally, women everywhere wanted a Laura Ashley dress.
Friends say Princess Diana had no interest in fashion until her wedding. Anna Harvey, Diana’s former stylist, said, “Diana started off being really safe with her style. It was all very ‘Laura Ashley’.’” And her wedding dress reflected that old-fashioned look – a look that endeared her to nearly everyone. Princess Diana also wore many Laura Ashley dresses during her pregnancies.
The Iconic Laura Ashley Legacy Lives On
Laura and her husband expanded from dresses into home furnishings during the 1980s, with wallpapers, paint, curtains and other home décor. The couple opened stores around the world. Her designing and decorating career abruptly came to an end in 1985. At the age of 60, Laura passed away after a fall at her daughter’s home.
Her legacy lives on, and the now-iconic Laura Ashley look continues to be popular around the world. Feminine and fashionable, women can express who they are with their Laura Ashley style.
Exuding romance, country charm and nostalgia, Laura Ashley brings back memories of a simpler, happier time – long walks in the garden, chatty tea parties, and plenty of carefree, happy-go-lucky days.
And surely, during these challenging times, we all could use more of memories like that.
See what Laura Ashley frocks we’ve got in our cozy cottage closet…