Amy de la Haye

In 'The Cutting Edge: 50 Years of British Fashion' exhibition staged at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1997, four key themes of post-war national fashion identity were identified: Romantic, Tailoring, Country and Bohemian. The latter category embraced the work of designers that drew upon classical and medieval revival styles and ethnographic sources. The striking, mainly exuberant exhibits included ensembles by Thea Porter, Yuki, Zandra Rhodes, Mr Fish, Charles & Patricia Lester and Georgina von Etzdorf. Remarkable for its understatement was a layered linen ensemble in a neutral palette consisting of an 'Abba coat', jacket and vest, teamed with linen trousers incorporating an apron front by Shirin Guild for Spring/Summer 1996. The coat was derived from the black gauze holy garment worn by Iranian men, whilst the trousers referred to the habit of peasant women to wear skirts and dresses over their trousers to obtain maximum protection from the harsh climate.

This article defines and sites Shirin Guild's work within the contexts of dress reform, avant-garde clothes, British fashion and minimal design in the twentieth century. It also analyses the designer's inspiration from her own clothing traditions in relation to the broader 1990s vogue for cross-cultural references within international fashion.

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