August 12, 2009

Designer fashion crush: Laura Ashley’s summer into early fall looks

Many (one might argue far too many) eighties looks are experiencing a massive revival as of late, from acid wash jeans (*shutters*) to shoulder pads of linebacker proportion, punchy neon hues to tiered and ruffled skirts. Yet, by and large, the looks of the 1980s that I favoured the most have not resurfaced thus far (think girly, pastel pieces; Edwardian inspired blouses, full skirts, fifties inspired dresses).

There are countless styles to both love and loath from the decade of excess, and in the adore category I firmly put the wildly feminine, often floral print bedecked, somewhat preppy styles from UK fashion designer Laura Ashley. Her company’s spin on the romantic nouveau style of the era carried with it a timeless grace and beauty that I would blissfully usher back as a way of counterbalancing the tough street styles of the 80s that are tumbling off of the runways these days.

Yet, as fashion seems intent on dredging up all the previously shunned looks of the 80s with disturbing zeal, I fear that the womanly, alluring, elegant styles that brands like Laura Ashley were famous for three decades ago will remain hidden in the back of the proverbial closet for a while longer.

{A marvelous example of the charming country rose style prints that were often seen on Laura Ashley dresses of the past shines prettily in this 1980s number. $24.00 (US) from etsy seller The Vintage Mistress.}

Luckily however, the Laura Ashley brand still exists and its modern iteration is every bit as committed to creating superbly pretty, very feminine pieces as it was thirty years ago. In my opinion the brand has cast off the preppy/Sloane Ranger element of its styles and taken on an even more refined, yet still immensely easy to wear sensibility that makes the Laura Ashley dresses and separates of today perhaps even more lovely than their predecessors.

While various shops carry this line, it is also available from the official Laura Ashley website, which offers online shopping. I’m particularly smitten with the stunning dresses – many of which I feel channel a wonderful vintage vibe – that are currently listed, but also swoon over a lot of the skirts, sweaters, shirts, shoes and other separates as well. Below is a selection of pieces currently on offer from Laura Ashley that I would love to own from their fantastic end-of-summer line (please note all prices are in UK pounds).

♥ ♥ ♥

{ Grey “Ariella”, pink rose print prom dress, £150.00.}

{Silver grey jeweled pleat front clutch bag, £35.00.}

{“Bloomsbury” fine check white and grey jacket, £99.00.}

{Black skirt and white blouse dress, £85.00.}

{White and red sailboat print cotton blouse, £11.00.}

{“Marciana” red and white floral print umbrella, £15.00.}

{Silvery gray jacquard skirt prom dress, £99.00.}

{White/soft cream ribbed waist tie cardigan with bow, £13.00.}

{Grey floral antique rose print pencil skirt, £55.00.}

{Plum-purple short sleeve shift dress with flared skirt, £75.00.}

{Grey and pink short-sleeve bow tie neck sweater, £45.00.}

{Soft caramel wheat coloured wool and cashmere overcoat with turnback collar and button front, £150.00.}

{Black and white floral print short sleeved dress with pleated full skirt, £80.00.}

Assuming one is shopping from within the UK, these prices are what I’d classify as being in the “middle of the road” range. More expensive than H&M, but far less than most items picked up from Browns. The looks above retain a darling essence of their 1980s counterparts thanks to feminine cuts and the use of some floral prints (such as in the pencil skirt); they are gorgeous, timeless and redolent of vintage pieces.

Though I’ve never had the pleasure of owning a Laura Ashley piece (past or present), their iconic beauty and sophisticated styles have a soft spot in my fashion loving heart. Do you also adore this wonderful British brand and its floral print filled history?


  1. I used to love Laura Ashley! The new line is fine, but where are the florals?? I'm still a fan.

  2. Hi Jessica, Wow, this post brought back memories, so I had to tell you about my love affair with Laura Ashley garments. I know I'm showing my age but in the early and mid 80s, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in London, both as a resident and a frequent visitor. One of the highlights of being there was shopping at Laura Ashley. Often my friend would pick me up at Heathrow airport and we would head straight to one of the Laura Ashley boutiques, like on High Street Kensington or King's Road Chelsea, and have an absolute blast shopping. If there was a SALE, oh my, we would spend the entire day and hit every Laura Ashley boutique in London, getting incredible deals on cute little peplum jackets, cotton floral day dresses and beautifully tailored blouses. Sadly, when Laura Ashley herself passed away, I feel the design direction of the company changed a lot. It was continued to be run by her husband, and then her son Nick, but he went on to other things. Eventually parts of the company were sold to overseas conglomerates. It is still possible to get wonderfully styled clothes, however. They are just different.

    You've inspired me to go up in the attic and pull out the boxes of my precious LA floral dresses, jackets and skirts. I have a divine black cocktail dress that still looks fab, unfortunately, I am not a size 4 anymore!

    But I loved Laura Ashley clothes, loved shopping for them and loved how I felt wearing them – feminine, pretty, romantic and poetic. Thanks for this post!

  3. Hi Sweet Lady!

    What a fabulous post! Your post are always so interesting and well written.

    I was in high school in the early eighties and I cringe every time I see a photo of me wearing acid wash jeans and shoulder pads that were so big I look like a linebacker on a football team!

    I did have a fabulous red 50's inspired dress that I adored. I love Laura Ashley and her feminine florals. Your photos are just lovely and I'm drooling over the two gray dresses...they're stunning!

    Karyn (French Charming)

  4. I remember Laura Ashley! The patterns reminded me of cottage prints. Like wallpaper and throw pillows. Just so pretty :)

  5. I love all those pieces! I really don't like the clothing from the 80s....I guess because I grew up in the 80s? For me, that stuff is outdated :-)

  6. p.s. thank you for adding my button! :-)

  7. Thank you for your lovely comment...

  8. I had Laura Ashley clothes too -your lovely post has brought back many memories of those florals! btw in the UK press, Cath Kidston is being touted as the new LA - her latest annual turnover has shown a significant increase despite the current British credit crunch!

    xxxLOL LOLA:)

  9. Hi friend,
    I love the boat neck w/tie blouse lots. I wore a beautiful Laura Ashley dress for my H.S. graduation, I should upload one 4 U or send it 2 U so U can ;-) xoxo

  10. Such beautiful things! Makes me long for fall even more, especially the cashmere coat! It's amazing.

  11. i also shuddered at the thought of acid wash jeans and shoulder pads (ahh!). but the pieces you displayed are beautiful. i especially love the bow-tie neck sweater and umbrella. i need to get a pretty umbrella!


  12. These are some beautiful items. I love Laura Ashley. I don't have an opinion one way or the other about the 80's revival. It seems like every other decade makes a resurgence. The 80's might as well get its due.

  13. Oh man, I have not thought about Laura Ashley in YEARS! I used to wear her dresses all the time when I was a little girl. I had the most amazing strapless blue floral number when I was about 13 and I thought it made my non-existant boobs look bigger. I also used to wear her perfume- it was the best- very similar to the Kai perfume I wear now. I wonder if they still sell it.....

    Thanks doll,
    The Glamorous Housewife

  14. I still adore the flowery dresses. They are so romantic and innocent, which appeals to me. What a beautiful blog you have. I have enjoyed spending time here reading and looking at all the gorgeous pictures. What a labor of love!

  15. Oh wow, I had no idea Laura Ashley still had a line! I truly love the 50s shapes and inspirations in this line. The overcoat is stunning! I am most definitely going to need to check this out! After every piece I thought, "hmmm, I think I need that!"

  16. i love both grey prom dresses. so very pretty and simple styles i think they are styles that won't date.

  17. i'm basically in love with that first dress.

  18. I don't really know much about Laura Ashley but I've seen the name about here and there and, from what I've seen, it really is so lovely and feminine! Thanks for this post. =D
    -Andi x

  19. that vintage dress is beautiful. And the camel coat!! It rivals the MaxMara ones selling for squillions more . . . you've really tempted me here Jessica! xxC

  20. Oh I loved so many pieces in this post! The first is so pretty.

    Hope you have a lovely day,

  21. Lovely post and pictures. Please tell me big shoulder pads are NOT coming back! I don't think I could stand it!

  22. Dear Jessica!

    Have linked back to your lovely site in my current post!

    Hope you enjoy the fun there as much as we do!

    Hope you're having a great day too!

    xxxLOL Nora & Lola:)

  23. It's very interesting and true, you really can't say you don't love 80s fashion, cause there were so many iconic styles and details during that decade it's not really possible you don't like at least something! I'm with you, the revival of 50s is definitely something I save from the 80s.
    I've never paid much attention to Laura Ashley of today, but there are at least three dresses I want from the ones you featured here...Must check the website :-)

  24. Jessica,

    Once again your blog has sent me into hyperventilation, LOL! LOVE Laura Ashley! I adore that dress that you shared! And I have a black and white number from Kohl's that's a one-piece dress that's just like the white top and black skirt that you posted. Give me a high waist and some heels and I'm good to go. Awesome earrings are icing.

    Great post!

  25. Great finds! Love that Laura Ashley dress, and what a pretty umbrella!

    Hope your having a great day. :)

  26. Popped in from Dawn's! I love how ladylike and cute everything is!

  27. Such lovely pieces! I really love the umbrella.
    I found a 50's style dress at a thrift store that is now one of my new favourites. Its floral print is reminiscent of the eighties, however, like these!

  28. @ K @ Blog Goggles, there are still some floral prints in the LA line, but indeed, they have scaled them back significantly. Perhaps in an attempt to distance themselves for the 80s, which until rather recently, wasn't seen as always being the most fashionable of decades. Whatever the case may be, I agree with you and really hope that they bring back more the "cabbage rose" style florals that helped to make them a household name 30 years ago.

    @ Georgianna, thank you very much for sharing your wonderful memories with us. I so wish I was old enough to have made my own journeys to London during the 80s and shopped at Laura Ashley, too. I think that had I owned any of her pieces, I would have loved them too much to have given them away as the styles changed, too. Hold onto those treasures in your attic, you never know when they may come in handy (props, lending out to a size 4 gal, simply to photograph as the beautiful creations they are, etc).

    @ Karyn, thank you very much for your comment, sweet dear. I was born in eighties so I can't say as though I rocked too many of the fades of that decade, but goodness knows I had some very "shutter worthy" early 90s fashion moments (scrunchies out the ying-yang, denim on denim, over-sized sweat shirts, baby doll dresses with workmen's boots, etc). Your red 50s inspired dress sounds fantastic!

    @ Sher, definitely, I agree, her patterns were often full of shabby-chic glamour.

    @ Kathie, I find that I either love or loath eighties wear, but no matter what, there's no denying that decade can be viewed as one long fashion exclamation mark. (You're very welcome, honey, thank you so much for adding mine to your site, too!)

    @ Gingyginge, you're very welcome, sweet dear.

    @ Nora & Lola, ooohhh, thank you for reminding me about Cath Kidston, she's a name I've been reading about more and more often lately, but haven't had a chance to Google yet. I'll definitely be doing that in a few minutes.

    @ Lagelle, I would love to see your beautiful LA grad dress, for sure, feel free to send that photo my way any time, honey.

    @ Lemondrop Marie, I adore that coat, too, it is the kind of truly timeless piece that will look as amazing in fifty years from now as it does today.

  29. @ MissRedLips, thank you, darling. I really need a pretty umbrella too, I've been using dollar store ones for far too long! :D

    @ Keith, good point, eventually nearly everything comes back into vogue. It's crazy to think that even the 90s are bound to find fans with those who are knee high at the moment in a decade or two.

    @ The Glamorous Housewife, oohhh, I didn't know she made perfumes, I bet they were gorgeous. Just as I'm sure you were in your lovely LA dresses!

    @ Melony, I still love them soooo much, too! This post has inspired me to start looking for LA frocks when I'm out thrifting. Thank you very much for your lovely words, honey.

    @ Leproust Vintage, I felt the same way, I would jump at the chance to won any of those wonderful pieces.

    @ Trishiekoh, I agree, their cuts are timelessly wonderful. Less what springs to mind when I think of prom dresses and more fabulously chic cocktail party worthy.

    @ Chelsea Talks Smack, most definitely, it's fantastic!

    @ Andi, I think you would really love some of the past and present Laura Ashley pieces, sweetie, especially the 50s inspired frocks she put out in the 80s. Thank you for your kind words, my dear.

    @ Christa Weil, great observation, that coat does look a lot like some of the similar big name ones selling for a king's ransom :D

    @ Dustjacket Attic, thank you very much, sweet soul.

    @ Randi, from what I've been reading in the glossies lately it's more the cut of the fabric on the shoulder that's over-sized (as opposed to huge pads under the fabric), but still, I've seen shoulder pads resurface in some pieces lately, too. Scary, no? ;D

    @ Nora & Lola, hi there again you lovely blogging duo, thank you very, very much for mentioning me, that's so wonderfully nice of you!

    @ AlicePleasance, well put, I agree, the 80s were a fashion entity unto themselves. I don't love all the looks from that decade, but some of them will forever have a soft spot in my heart.

    @ Kelly, oohhh, please let me know if you need a vintage paper bag :D You're so sweet, thank you very much. I've seen similar two pieces dresses at Sears here too, but haven't tried one on yet. They're tempting for sure, topped with a cute cropped cardi or bolero, they really could channel an alluring 50s vibe.

    @ Simply Colette, thank you very much! I really like that umbrella too, it would be the perfect thing to perk up the "blah" grey months of late winter/early spring.

    @ The Blonde Duck, thank you, sweetie! So delighted you popped by, it's wonderful to meet you.

    @ Cait, that sounds like an amazing find, hon! Please come let me know if you ever post a photo of your fabulous "new" frock, I'd love to see it.

    Huge thanks to you each for your wonderful comments! I hope you each have a marvelous Friday!

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

  30. Firsly thank you for your luck!! I hope my dreams come true too haha.
    Ooh, I'm kind of pleased the 80's is coming back - even if some of the fashion is a little bit of an eye sore; as I'm going to an 80's fancy dress part soon!

    I would also love to publish a book and see more of the world; and I think you are on your way to amassing a great vintage collection anyways ;).

    Speak to you soon :)

  31. Hi Madison dear, I don't have a burning hatred for the 80s - or the fashions of that decade - as a whole at all, I just think there were some really great fashion heights and some very, very low points. Perhaps too, I just wish the 40s or 50s styles would come back into vogue more, so that I could afford more pieces in the styles I so dearly love ;D

    Thank you very much for your sweet words - I truly hope everything you hope to do one day comes to fruition for you, sweetie.

    Big hugs & happy Saturday wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

  32. Wow. I never knew Laura Ashley had an online store. I wonder if they'll ship to NZ? All your pics are delightful. My favourite is the purple dress. I love floral prints so I'm still very appreciative of vintage Laura Ashley dresses. Sometimes all they need is a shorter hem, a change in waistline, and yanking out the shoulder pads and they're wearable again.

  33. Hi Ana, thank you very much for your comment! I am a total die-hard fan of floral prints, too. I really think they might be my all-time favourite print, followed closely by polka dots.

    I bopped around the LA site for a while trying to determine if they do ship outside of the UK, but couldn't seem to find out if they do send clothing abroad. I found this page (, but I'm kind of thinking it's about their home furnishings. I'd recommend emailing the folks at LA if you really want to buy some items online, to find out if they do ship to NZ or not (hopefully they do!).

    Have a beautiful Sunday, sweetie!
    ♥ Jessica

  34. Hello. Loving this blog!
    I am a collector of Vintage Laura Ashley,particularly the very early maxi Victoriana/georgian ones. Im obsessed with these designs and would absolutely love to see then resurrected into mainstrem fashion. I would wear these full length dresses everyday if I had the guts to. I used to wear laura Ashley in the 80's and felt incredibly special when I did. I disagree with your comments that the Laura Ashley brand of today has kept the quintissential vintage vibe alive. Their fashion line at the moment is almost indistinguishable from other fashion stores. It's gone mainstrem and as far as Im concerned has definately lost that historic soft, nostalgic style that made her and Bernard so famous. They have lost me as a good customer since the takeover and I have to look elsewhere for that fashion and homestyle vibe. I am currently setting up my own online store after illness forced me to give up my career and re think my life,so as a fellow chronic lover of all things vintage I will be selling vintage Laura Ashley as well as many other household and fashion items from other designers,mainly from the 30's-70's. If you like I could keep you posted? I love your blog however and wish you continued success and particulary renewed health. I have since made a partial recovery which is so wonderful,but know how incredibly hard it is for you being unwell. This blog is wonderful and so are you,NEVER EVER GIVE UP!!!!!!

    Best wishes

  35. I have a few Laura Ashley dresses of my own, and a number of similarly styled 1980's era dresses. I'm quite fond of the pastels, the floral prints, the full skirts, the puffy sleeves and Edwardian collars trimmed with lace--it's my daily wardrobe most of the time.