When I was at the BQSG seminar in Preston in October, I was very interested to hear about the Preston firm of Horrockses. Although Horrockses was a household name in Britain, not having grown up in the UK, this was new to me.
The Horrockses firm was founded in 1791 by John Horrocks and became well known for cotton goods and clothes such as pyjamas and shirts. The factory was a very large one, and was considered to be the largest factory in Europe in its time. Fabric were woven at the mills, and then made up into garments. Later, its woven goods were involved in the war effort.
After WWII, the problem was, how to stimulate demand for its cotton goods? Ready to wear dresses had become increasingly popular over time, and the question was, how to make cotton dressses, formerly considered rather pedestrian, into something more exclusive and glamorous.
The answer was to hire the best designers, and to produce a variety of garments for the mass market, from simple shirt waiters in a variety of coloured prints to glamorous evening dresses. Each style would be made in a variety of prints and colourways. In each town, only a few selected shops could stock the dresses. And, Horrockses was careful to ensure that each shop in a town had different stock from the others in that town.....the dresses sold for the then not inconsiderable price of £4 to £7. Clever advertising re-inforced the exclusivity message.
Of course, the main purpose was, to use the cotton fabrics produced at the Horrockses Mills in a proftable manner. The brand was at its height from 1946 to 1964. Unfortunately, the 70's and 80's were not kind to the company as fashions moved on, and the company went under.
Recently, the brand name has been bought and the archives used as a basis to produce housewares and bed linens in retro prints.
Having looked on Ebay, I find that the iconic 50's dresses sell for high prices! I am not sure whether these are for collectors, or for wear.