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  • Elizabeth Little

Our Favourite Historical References in the New Laura Ashley x Batsheva Collection

In 1953, on a small kitchen table in Pimlico, London, the classic British textile and fashion brand Laura Ashley was born. By the 1970s and ‘80s, the brand was synonymous with mainstream British fashion and was a mainstay brand for years to come. Whilst today, the brand is now mainly known for their fabric patterns, it-designer Batsheva Hay saw that brand through the lens of nostalgia and was eager to collaborate. Now, the Brooklyn based designer has a 15-piece collection with the British heritage brand, filled with whimsical and historic details. We’ve gone through the collection to find some of our favourite pieces with amazing historical references.

“The Lady of Shalott” by John William Waterhouse, 1888. Image via Wikipedia Commons Public Domain.

This image is the main visual for the new collection, and when I saw it for the first time, I couldn’t stop thinking about this pre-Raphaelite painting. Painted by John William Waterhouse in 1888, it depicts a scene from Alfred Tennyson’s poem of the same name. Set in Arthurian times, this woman with flaming red hair sits in a canoe whilst catching a glimpse of Lancelot. The woman’s face has an air of sadness, as she knows she’ll never be able to get any closer due to a curse that was unfortunately thrust upon her. Meanwhile, the collection’s image features a woman emerging from a lake, who’s face carries a similar expression. Her wild hair can’t be tamed and once again resembles the colour of the hair from the painting.

If you’re based in London, then you’re in luck; “The Lady of Shalott” is owned by the Tate Britain. Sadly, you’ll have to be patient, as it’s not currently on display.

Robe à la Français, 1750-75. Image via The Met Open Access.

This stand out dress is clearly a 21st century version of the Robe à la Français. Though not containing the numerous under layers or the extravagant panniers (an early version of a hoop skirt worn underneath the gown to exaggerate hip shape), the cut of the waist line and ruffled sleeves are clear indicators. Batsheva’s v-shaped waist gives the illusion of a stay being worn without having to wear the no doubt unpleasant undergarment. Worn from the 1720s through to the 1780s, the robes were known for their renowned for their impressive and detailed fabric. By working with Laura Ashley – who is known for their fabrics – Batsheva is achieving their modern take on these classic looks.

“La Mousmé,” Vincent Van Gogh, 1888. Image via NGA Open Access.

“Girl in White,” Vincent Van Gogh, 1890. Image via NGA Open Access.

This top looks as if it’s stepped off the pages of Thomas Hardy’s Tess d’Urbervilles. With its high neck and slightly puffed shoulders, it resembles the classic tops for women that were popular during the 1870s and ‘80s. It’s no surprise that this is one of the tops we see in the collection as Batsheva Hay stated that one of her main influences was Victorian fashion. Usually worn as a day time item, this button up blouse can be seen in many paintings from those years, including these two by Vincent van Gogh. However, the peplum waist seen on the top could also be influenced from some jackets of the 1780s, but those usually featured more ruffles along the waist (examples can be seen here).

The rest of the Laura Ashley x Batsheva collection can be purchased via or on MatchesFashion, Nordstrom, and Net-A-Porter.


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