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Fabulous Girls Wear Ossie Clark



Click to hear Cherie (on the left) and Wendy Brandes (on the right) comment on Ossie Clark!

Ossie Clark is a bit of a tragic figure. He got hooked on pills early and never did beat that addiction and he struggled with it for the rest of his life. He married a girl when he really just seems to have wanted to be with a boy. Yet he longed for a family with children and creating one seems to have been one of his happiest achievements. It must have been agonizing for all involved not to have been able to live their lives being completely true to themselves. He is said to have honestly loved Celia Birtwell and no matter what, the pairing of the two was pure and absolute magic from a design point of view. He spent most of his career in financial ruins as he was almost incapable of running a business and he spent most of it caught between great influxes of money and fame and the absolute lack of both. His career and personal life where strife with turmoil and it swung like a giant pendulum between moments of greatness and absolute rock bottoms. He finally died, far to young, at the hands of a former lover who stabbed him to death.

Much is made of his designs and I always find it a little sad that Celia is not given more credit as the best of his work is the pieces that have her prints. The picture of the two of them (above) seems to say it all — he stands in a cocky confidence and a posed facade, while she stands in a timid, almost forlorn stance. I always wonder when I see this picture if she was sad because she really could not have all of him — he belonged to boys, drugs and his creations really and only partially to her. Lucky for us, all that unused up joy and potential exuberance instead poured into her fanciful prints.

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... A couture Celia Birtwell print wrap dress.
This was available in the shop and sold within hours of being made available.
I often say that if I had 100 of these I could retire forever...

... Another past beauty that I was thrilled to find a picture of in a early 1970s Vogue editorial.
This dress is also pictured beside Ossie Clark in the VandA book on his work.
Also snapped up within hours...

Ossies are magic. Somehow, all that angst and his great swinging emotions and changes of luck poured into the clothes and he made dresses that are like no other despite how much they are attempted to be copied. The cut is made to follow a woman's body and they are designed to be worn on their own. No bra... no panties... just skin and printed crepe and attitude. Every picture you see from that time period is a dress and a girl and that is it. Manola Blahnik said "He created an incredible magic with the body and achieved what fashion should do — produce desire."
Their magical quality is the reason girls get hooked. And I do mean hooked. I know of girls that have 30, 40 or even far, far more Ossie pieces and hunt them down like they are a life saving drug. Girls that will literally not eat so they can scrape up the cash for the next one they MUST have. Ossie Clark pieces are the ones that I hear the word "Holy Grail" bantered about more then any other designer when girls talk about the elusive "one" they need to own next. "Ossie is one of the few designers who exceeds your expectations of him; even when the world around is, occasionally, going nuts for his designs and you might imagine they'd feel less special for this reason, somehow they don't. They retain a mystique and a quality which goes beyond trends and popularity. He was my starting point in the vintage world, and he still continues to inspire me years later. On a very basic level, his clothes are awfully pretty and they really suit my figure. Which is why I want to wear them!"
That said by my friend Liz, and fellow dealer extraordinaire, who runs Vintage-A-Peel and a bit of an Ossie expert and has a deep love for his designs. Quite a few of the pictures below are from her blog and I am happy she let me share them with you as she works hard to gather resources from old publications so we can all share Ossie's genius.
It's like an epidemic of love when it comes to Ossie Clark pieces. When I asked Liz to send in a line or two to share how she feels I also asked jewelery designer and blogger, Wendy Brandes. Both are girls in my circle that I instantly think of when it comes to Ossie Clark. With Wendy I decided to debut my new audio feature so I hope you take a minute to click the play buttons in the top side bar to hear my thoughts and Wendy's too! Wendy is a die hard Ossie lover and has a fabulous collection in her own right!

Celebrities and fabulous girls wear vintage Ossie when they want to be noticed. Tell me you don't remember when Emma Watson's Ossie flew in the window and flashed her panties. Ossie probably rolled in in his grave that she was even wearing any panties under one of his dresses. Courtney Love was blasted for her over-exposure but that is the way it is in an Ossie Clark. Check out the original girls who wore Ossie the first time around in the pictures below — boobs galore! Cate and Iman glow in red — can you even look at another red dress after seeing those ones?? Nicole Kidman is said to have swept into a high end vintage store one day and cleared an entire rack of Ossie out — all sizes and cuts — in the space of ten minutes — just to add to her already massive collection.

You get noticed in an Ossie, You get talked about in an Ossie. You feel fucking great in an Ossie.
Celebrity after celebrity. Fabulous girl after fabulous girl.
Ossie Clark baby.
Long may we love him.

(This is if course not the full history of the man's life — read his published diaries — The Ossie Clark Diaries is the title I believe — and the VandA published book on his work titled Ossie Clark 1964-1974 — mandatory reading for girls that love vintage- you can pick up decent priced copies on eBay)

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... Marissa Berenso...

... Stunning examples of the genius of the Celia Birtwell print...

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... From Vogue mid 1970s...

... An early Ossie Clark for Quroum and a second shot of that same
Ossie Clark print dress worn by Marissa Berenson above..

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... The same wrap dress as my long gone and sold version, but in a graphic Celia Birtwell print...

... Ossie was also a master of silk chiffon and his eye for combining prints was extraordinary...
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{{photos from Vintage Peel Pants, Wendy Brandes, The Shrimpton Lookbook, and from my own gathered collection — apologies if I have missed a credit — just send a note if I did }}

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Fabulous Girls Wear Ossie Clark + wendy brandes