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…

Miss Anna Mouse

anna friel, celebrities in vintage, miss mouse, rae spencer cullen, seventies fashion, website listings

I remember spotting this dress amongst Anna Friel’s stage door costume cavalcade over Christmas. At the time I wondered whether it was a Miss Mouse; I thought it looked a bit familiar.

Well I can confirm that it was, indeed, a vintage Miss Mouse (a.k.a Rae Spencer-Cullen) dress and you can now buy it from Vintage-a-Peel!!

Lily About The House

biba, celebrities in vintage, lily allen, man about the house, moss crepe

I still prefer the red version, but it’s nice to see someone else wandering around London in a flamboyant Biba dress…especially one seen adorning Paula Wilcox in Man About The House. And one I have flounced around in myself, although not nearly enough for my liking.

Nice one, Allen

celebrities in vintage, lily allen, ossie clark, sandie shaw

Looks like Lily Allen was out and about in a lovely black Ossie Clark dress last night. I suppose it might be a repro, or a Jimmy Choo for H&M, but I sincerely hope not. Googling around to try and find out, I see she’s planning to launch her own ‘vintage label’ at Goodwood this August. Hmm.

Sounds like a pretty awesome event; Sandie Shaw, The Damned etc. Though with that, Roxy at Lovebox and The Who at the Albert Hall….I am going to be stoney broke if I do everything I want to do this year.

Oh poo.

Ctrl Alt Ossie

billie piper, celebrities in vintage, ossie clark, seventies fashion, telegraph magazine, Vogue
Vogue 1972 

First of all, I would like to say ‘well done’ to Billie Piper for her gorgeous Ossie Clark on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross. Not quite so well done on commenting on how musty and old it smells, but she looked so damn awesome I will forgive her. I will also forgive her for Doctor Who-related things. Perhaps….


I love how swamped she looks in it. It reminds me of when I’m wearing dresses like that and how I adore that feeling of being swamped in fabric, so many things are so very skimpily made nowadays that properly billowing sleeves are something of a novelty.

It got me thinking of alternative Ossies. Because she’s really only wearing a ‘Model T Ford’ one. Plain black, buttoned front, billowing sleeves, puppy-ear collar. It’s a divine frock, but it was vanilla essence in fabric form really. I love getting one in to sell, I even love them when they’ve been shortened because they’re so plain I really can’t criticise someone for wanting to make it ‘their own’. They are the perfect vintage wardrobe basic.

But sometimes I come across Ossies in old magazines which you would just never have credited to him in a million years. Not because of any design deficiency, quite the opposite. They’re just not the convention. No Celia print in sight. No billowing sleeves or puppy ear collar.

I’m not even talking about the early pieces. The panelled mod gear, or even the frilly satin minis. I’m seeing it throughout the Seventies, when anyone might think he was surgically attached to rolls of moss crepe and silk chiffon.

He was a master tailor, and very innovative. As were so many designers. But when you become known for ‘a look’, it’s rather difficult to move away from that – or at least, harder to sell. So here are a handful I can place right now, but I will certainly post some more if I ever find them. I’ve not even seen anything remotely like these turn up in reality. If they did, would anyone believe they were Ossies?

The Telegraph Magazine, early Seventies

The palest of the pale

celebrities in vintage, emma peel, marisa tomei, pale skin, shirley manson, toby stephens

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Shirley Manson? It’s been a long-running affair (I dislike the term ‘girl crush’ so I’m not going to apply it here) based on first seeing her in the Stupid Girl video and realising that she was some kind of flawed, modern day Diana Rigg for me to admire. I could identify with the unusual facial features, the pale skin, the flat chested-ness…her general dissatisfaction with the world. It encapsulated how I, as a grumpy teenager, wanted to take the Emma Peel look and make it more my grungey own. I also loved the music. Still do in fact.

Time went on, we became more sophisticated (well, she did anyway….) and I still adore her. The most beautiful hair, the most inspiring make-up, the most interesting clothes and the fact that she’s still the palest of the pale. The queerest of the queer. Definitely something to admire in a modern world of orange-ness. She also looks half her 43 years of age, yes I do mean 21 and a half, which says something about the importance of sunscreen I’m sure.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this when I saw some photos of Ms Manson from some art event in LA (I’m afraid I was snoozing through the photos and description of Brad and Angelina at the eve….zzzzzzzz [whoops, did it again!] so I missed what it was precisely all about). Check out the sultry make-up. And the flaming hair and freckled arms (which in turn reminds me that I had a rather lovely dream about Toby Stephens last night. He was sat by a fireside reading his lines for some play or other to me, and I couldn’t stop staring at his freckles. Because of course that’s the kind of thing you would be doing if you had Toby Stephens sitting in front of you. Pfffft. I’m a lousy dreamer…).

I could do without the gown being Marchesa, but that’s only a brand issue rather than a style issue. And check out the gorgeous [and also very non-orange] Marisa Tomei wearing a vintage Dessès frock. Both flying the flag for natural skin tone and one flying the flag for vintage. It’s a good day.

EmmaWatsonPants in Ossie Clark

celebrities in vintage, ossie clark

Sorry. The temptation was just too strong. Someone called Emma, showing her pants. In an Ossie no less!

I can empathise as well, Emma. My Hockney portrait Ossie does the same thing. I also have one of those deep plunging halter crepe dresses, which doesn’t even button over that area.

And he wanted us to go without pants when we wear them??

Still….it’s all worth it!

Celeb Vintage Spot: Laura Bailey in Ossie (ish)

celebrities in vintage, ossie clark

Laura Bailey at the premiere of The Boat That Rocked (a film I actually want to see, for once….although I fear it might make me angry if it’s badly made or designed).

I’m sure there’s a gorgeous Ossie underneath that weird old black jacket….so why the weird old black jacket? Surely it can’t have been the cold London night air….I would happily get hypothermia for an Ossie like that…..

Leelee Sobieski: Very fab, not very fug

celebrities in vintage, Ms Peelpants' rants


Cherie over at Shrimpton Couture has already ranted about how wrong and occasionally narrowminded the Fug Girls can be. For the most part, yes the clothes are ridiculous and deserve a public fugging. Sometimes though, you can detect a mild aroma of desperation with some of the choices. After all, the girls must be struggling to fug enough times in a day.

Take, for example, this stunning red dress worn by Leelee Sobieski (errrr…who? I have a feeling she was in Never Been Kissed…..but that’s about it for my knowledge of who she is). I would point out to Leelee that visible bras are occasionally fine (just occasionally, mind!) but certainly not with a plunge dress. And certainly not with a plunge dress so damn fabulous in its own right. Is it vintage? It certainly has a slight Ossie vibe to it, but honestly I’ve given up trying to spot real vintage from the modern repros….I’m sorry, I mean, original designs which just accidentally happen to look like vintage designs. Cough.

Anyway, take away the cruddy bra and you’ve got a fabulous look there. The red dress, the red shoes, the billowing sleeves…mmmmm. The kind of ‘together’ look to which I aspire, and which the fug girls usually claim to promote.

Real Ossie Girls Go Bra-less

british boutique movement, celebrities in vintage, celia birtwell, ossie clark

Courtney, Courtney, Courtney. Now I do admire your choice of dress, it’s a fab Ossie and it’s definitely better than what I normally see you in…..but girl, Ossie didn’t like underwear. He never buttoned his dresses low enough for a gal to wear big pants. He never once put one of those little bra-holder loops in the shoulders of one of his dresses. The chiffons were sheer for a reason. Those skintight corset satin trousers simply don’t have enough room for knickers.

No brassieres with Ossies, ok? If you can’t get your tatas in your dress, get a bigger dress or some smaller implants!

[no one wants to catch a chill down south so I think we’re ok to wear knickers in the winter!]

Nice choice of arm candy though 😉