Ossie, Ossie, Ossie

1970s, celebrities in vintage, doctor who, doctor who companion fashion, ossie clark
Jenna Coleman

Jenna Coleman: Maintaining the tradition of well-dressed Sixties/Seventies-era Doctor Who companions…

Intriguing times. Three different television starlets wore vintage Ossie Clark to the National Television Awards last night. All three were wrap dresses, all variations on Ossie’s signature design. I find it intriguing because the wrap dress is by no means Ossie’s only style, and none of them featured a Celia Birtwell print: Jenna Coleman and Kelly Brook both wore black crepe and Rachel Wilde wore iridescent satin. The similarities between the three ladies and the three dresses enable us to view Ossie’s designs through very different eyes at the same time.

Rachel Wilde

Rachel Wilde

Both Brook and Wilde were deemed, by the tabloids at least, to have suffered ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and their beautiful dresses garnered them places on ‘worst dressed’ lists. Indeed, the hysteria – a curious mix of lasciviousness and prim puritanism – surrounding Brook’s very visible nipples was bordering on the sinister. For why on earth, one wonders, is a 40-year-old dress causing such ripples of disapproval? In a world where you can – quite frankly – see Kelly Brook’s nipples any time you want by googling her Playboy shoot, and other starlets are wearing skimpier, shorter and more see-through outfits on any night of the year, why is a bit of moss crepe causing such a brouhaha?

It says something about the design genius of Ossie, and of his understanding of sensuality, that an artfully revealing floor length dress (covering all the flesh except a triangle of cleavage and an occasional flash of leg) is somehow being seen as incredibly rude and almost nude. It also says something deeply unpleasant about the unnecessarily bright flash bulbs of the modern press photographer, doesn’t it? Moss crepe is only transparent when you fire a bright light through it, and the bulbs of the Sixties and Seventies would never have caused such an effect. I think it’s pretty much obvious that such wardrobe malfunctions are a creation of the press; Brook’s nipples would not have been visible in person or on the television cameras.

Kelly Brook, and her nipples.

Kelly Brook, and her nipples.

Of course, Ms. Brook is famous for her curves and not exactly averse to a bit of publicity – whatever the cause may be. I’m not saying she did this deliberately from the start, but even if her stylist gently pointed out that there might (just might) be a bit of an issue, then she may well have shrugged it off as nothing to worry about. Which is fine and dandy.

In fact, without realising it, she was really fulfilling Ossie’s original intent. He didn’t like people wearing underwear with his clothes. He designed so that the breasts are supported by the garment itself, and he felt that underwear ruined the line. I don’t think he planned for flashbulbs, but I imagine he would have been delighted by the outrage his designs continue to cause.

Jenna Coleman

Jenna Coleman

Personally, I think the best dressed of the night – never mind the best Ossie – was Jenna Coleman. I don’t know how she underpinned her Ossie, but there are no nipples and no knickers involved. I also think that the way you style your hair and make-up, and the way you hold yourself makes a big difference; Coleman wins on all fronts. It might not be outrageous, rude or shocking, but ultimately I think Ossie would have been the most happy to see this gorgeous, talented young lady wearing his dress in a supremely sophisticated way. Similar dresses, very different styles…

4 thoughts on “Ossie, Ossie, Ossie

  1. That’s so interesting to know about Ossie’s intent to have the dress act as support garment. The more I find out about his clever little construction details the more i love him. Jenna is definitely my favourite Ossie Clark dress wearer of the 3. All gorgeous dresses but as you mentioned, she holds herself quite well.

    1. There’s a great interview with him on Woman’s Hour (an archive clip they played as part of another show) where he explains that he cut his clothes to ‘support the bosom’ because he felt women were too constrained by their underpinnings and he wanted to flatter the natural form. Things like that make me want to hug him across the dimensional divide… šŸ˜‰

  2. Jenna Coleman wins but I love Kelly Brook’s version too. I love risk takers. Anyway about the wrap dresses…I wonder what year these dresses are from because this puts Diane von Furstenbergs claim to originating her best selling wrap dresses into question. To me anyway.

    1. Indeed! As with most such claims, they’re usually a load of self-important tosh. Even Ossie would never have claimed to have invented the wrap dress. The style goes back through the 20th century, through cotton dresses (particularly American sportswear) of the 1940s, couture garments by Schiaparelli and Jean Desses in the 1930s, and beyond into the 19th and 18th centuries as a more ‘house dress’ dressing gown style for ladies to wear in the mornings. It probably goes even further beyond that!

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