Ossie Clark for Radley 1970s Chocolate Moss Crepe Lulu Maxi Dress
The youngest of six children, Raymond ‘Ossie’ Clark showed a propensity for creative flair and capacity for knowledge, when at aged nine, he designed and produced children’s swimsuits, before studying architecture at only thirteen.
As a former graduate of the Royal College of Art, London, Ossie developed close friendships with contemporaries such as Celia Birtwell and Alice Pollock, and wasted little time in gaining the attention of fashion magazines including Vogue, who showcased one of his earliest designs along with most tabloid newspapers of the period.
With a lucrative design partnership at fashion house Quorum, Alice Pollock brought in the textile genius of Celia Birtwell, a move that was to mark a successful range of dresses, which are still very much sought after, even today.
A self-described ‘master cutter’, Ossie’s popularity continued for almost ten years, with shoe, dress and jacket designs relatively unrivalled within the industry, as well as gaining a reputation to transcend class and wealth barriers.
Unfortunately, with no financial grasp, Ossie and Alice’s fashion label began losing money through poor administration, thus becoming part of the Radley fashion house, after which the ‘Ossie Clark for Radley’ label became known around the world, and saw the brand reach a new mass market.
Known to have designed for the likes of Mick Jagger, The Beatles, Marianne Faithful and Liza Minnelli, Ossie’s prolific drug use gradually overtook his artistic abilities, and following a painful divorce with Celia Birtwell he began to disappear from public view, before becoming bankrupt sometime in the early 1980s.
With a brief return to the fashion world, but finding himself unable to replicate his previous acclaim, Ossie wound up designing pieces for a select number of wealthy private clients, although perhaps more out of sympathy than respect.
Having sunk into a prolonged depression, Ossie Clark later enjoyed mentoring fashion designer Bella Freud, until in summer of 1996 he was found stabbed to death by a former lover.
Clearly a purely inspired 1940s flashback gown (which was trending at the time), this remarkable dress is made in Ossie’s signature moss crepe fabric in the most luscious chocolate hue.
A barely plunging neckline shows just enough skin, with a most amazing collar, cuff and waistband that adjusts to the back with a resin buckle.
The panelling to the bodice draws attention to the gloriously intricate cut, and so clearly this gown becomes a demure yet sassy statement in itself, while also an early piece put together by inspirational artists and designers in their own right.
This dress is without question, an absolutely fabulous example of Ossie Clark’s genius, and is now both very rare and highly collectable.
Designer Ossie Clark
Fabric Moss crepe
Size Label reads UK 16 but will fit UK 12-14
Very Good (see condition chart)
Imperfections There is a small circular mark to front left panel, which is hidden within the skirt fold of fabric, while mild age-related colour variation to the brown moss crepe is evident but not noticeable, as this just looks like the colour of the dress rather than a flaw
The satin trim has subtle colour variations as do the under arm areas, however many moss crepe Ossie Clark pieces have barely visible watermark areas, and this dress is no exception, while the garment (sourced directly from the original owner) was hemmed to suit and so can always be taken up if too long
Measured flat without stretching (please double for complete size)
Neckline Opening 7″
Shoulder To Shoulder (across back) 13″
Bust (at widest point) 19″
Under Bust 16″
Length (collar to hem) 58″
Sleeve Length (underarm to cuff) 16.5″
Sleeve Length (collar to cuff) 28″
Mannequin is UK 8-10 | Bust 31.5″ | Waist 24″ | Hips 34.5″
The dress was pinned for photography purposes