A Tale of Two Knockoffs

1970s, celia birtwell, ossie clark, topshop, website listings

It’s not just Topshop in the Noughties who enjoy ripping things off. Sometimes it seems like every minor boutique in London, New York and Paris was taking more than a healthy dose of inspiration from Ossie Clark back in the Seventies. But it’s not often they went the whole hog when it came to the prints. Celia Birtwell’s handiwork is so distinctive, few decided to gamble with duplicating them wholesale.

I recently acquired two dresses at nearly the exact same time, both of which are direct copies of original Birtwell prints and which have been used in vaguely Ossie-esque designs. I thought it would be interesting to show you both of them, and to remind everyone to be careful of ‘unlabelled’ Ossie pieces which might look Ossie because of the Celia print…but are nothing like an Ossie original. They can be a brilliant alternative, so long as you know they’re just that and not the real deal.

The first is the Botticelli print (renamed Monkey Puzzle for the Topshop Celia range). An original Ossie example (and more gorgeous variations on it) is one of my many holy grails.

This piece is by Betty Barclay in a lovely light cotton, lined in the body, with a small keyhole neckline (with faux tie detail). Now available over at Vintage-a-Peel.

An original Ossie piece in Vogue: I would walk over hot coals and possibly kill someone for this dress.

This second piece is even more outrageous because it’s actually made in moss crepe, in a rather Ossie-style cut (although far too modestly done for him), by Emma (whoever they were). This is the glorious Floating Daisy print, most regularly seen in the tie-fronted buttoned dress [best demonstrated by the gorgeous WendyB in her red bodied version]..

The Real Deal. Sold over at Vintage-a-Peel a while ago

I’ve been hankering after an Ossie in this print which actually suits me, sadly the tie fronted one does not, and this dress is a little godsend. It’s a lovely soft pink version [which I’m sure Celia never did…far too insipid for her but I rather like it!] and the cut, whilst not up to Ossie standards, is very sweet and flattering. So I’m keeping this one. Sorry ladies! I’ll let you know if I ever change my mind….and I am giving up a spectacular Celia print Ossie dress in lieu (my wardrobe is a bit one in, one out at the moment…and it’s not really my colour…)

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