July 14 2010
Lucia van der Post
If you happen to spend your summer in an enchanting French farmhouse, a Spanish finca or even just pottering around the English countryside, you don’t, I imagine, want to be prancing around in Prada or any of the other fancy names. What you want is something easy, pretty, something a little bit laid-back that doesn’t shout too loudly or look as if its owner should have taken it for an outing to The Ivy.
Something, in other words, like the enchantingly pretty collection that Celia Birtwell has done for the John Lewis chain. The young probably think of Celia Birtwell and the iconic painting by David Hockney of her and her husband Ossie Clark and Percy (the cat) that hangs in Tate Britain. Those of us who are older remember those dreamy chiffon prints that Ossie turned into ethereally beautiful dresses in the 1960s.
Celia Birtwell has managed to capture something of that 1960s magic in this new collection of 16 pieces. She drew on the original cutting techniques that made Ossie Clark’s clothes so memorable and she had in mind clothes that could be worn by anybody from 17 to 70 and that were, essentially, pretty and flattering, rather than trendsetting. It’s flirty, wearable and distinctly feminine and has a strongly nostalgic, vintage feel.
There are floaty chiffon dresses, neck-tie blouses (including a classic version of one of the definitive Ossie Clark flared-sleeve chiffon blouses, £75), delicate embroidered knitwear and intensely feminine maxi dresses, all made from those romantic prints that are the Birtwell trademark. Prices range from £65 for a blouse to £150 for the maxi dress. Prettiest, to my mind, is a short-sleeved, typically Ossie-shaped dress in white crêpe with a blue, red and green Birtwell print (second picture, £125).
Also pictured: first picture, Queen of the Night silk pussybow blouse, £69; third picture, cardigan, £75.