Sunday, 4 December 2011

John Stephen of Carnaby Street - Womenswear

Much recognition and praise has been given to John Stephen's contribution to Men's fashion, particularly throughout the 1960s, however, very little has been said about his contribution to womenswear. And in spite of the intriguing descriptions of various women's clothing items by his biographer Jeremy Reed in The King of Carnaby Street - The Life of John Stephen, there appears to be limited access to any readily available photographic evidence. And by all accounts, it would also seem that very few actual garments from this era have survived. Or perhaps they have, but are yet to resurface onto the vintage market!  I'm hoping that the latter proves to be correct, because to date, the Sweet Jane household are the proud owners of only 'two' pieces of John Stephen womenswear, but they are indeed two that are truly worth owning! The first is an amazing mini dress in red velvet with contrasting white polka dots, which my sister purchased some time ago from Liz Eggleston at Vintage-a-Peel. And the second, was an unexpected Ebay find, in dark brown wool jersey, with contrasting detail in turquoise. Apart from these, the only other example of his womenswear that i've actually seen, is a fantastic deep purple 'moire effect' velvet dress, decorated with an ivory coloured silk jabot, edge trimmed in lace, which can be found over at Victoria & Albert Vintage Clothing. Nevertheless, as a long time collector of vintage magazines and books, I have managed to find some photographs here and there over the years. And thankfully, around half of  them are in colour, which was such a vital component in John's design aesthetic. I haven't had a chance to go through my entire personal collection yet, but i've uploaded the best of what I have found so far. I've also included examples of the three dresses that I mentioned earlier, which i'm sure will be of interest to other admirers of John's work...and I await the day when someone delves into the archives and publishes the definitive 'John Stephen of Carnaby Street' coffee table - fashion book (in colour).

Two wild outfits in fab colours - Left: the coat with a matching skirt is in cotton by John Stephen £9 19s. 6d. Right: blue and lime dress in pure silk by Dollyrocker 6½ gns.

Left: Leather maxi skirt 22½ gns., and jacket, 31 gns., from Tracy, 71 New Bond Street, London, W.1. Silk scarf by Liberty, 2 gns. Boots bt Elliotts, 14 gns. Glasses by 47 West at Corocraft, 35s.

Right: Maxi culotte suit by John Stephen, 40 gns. Sweater by Fantasia, 63s. Boots by Elliotts, 13 gns. Beret by Kangol, 10s. 6d.  The boy? Larry Smith of the Bonzo Dog Doo'Dah Band in his own rocker gear. The bike? A 500 c.c. Triumph.

Left: Bright orange chunky cord suit by John Stephen 10 gns. Picked for the super shade of orange, and a terrific belt fastening. Worn with soft cable knit skinny in sun yellow from Dorothy Perkins, 27s. 11d. Yellow beret by Kangol, 10s. 6d..

Right: Startling yellow cord coat with super zip fastening and zip-up cuffs by Mary Quants Ginger Group, 12 gns. Underneath, a lime stretch jersey skirt from France at Roberta Roma, 7 gns. Beret in lemon, 10s. 6d. by Kangol. Neat lime-quilted shoes by Lennards, 59s. 11d.

Left: A dream of a dress in a flare of ice cream colours by Mary Farrin, 9½ gns. at James Wedge. Shoes in soft pale blue leather by Gaby, 79s. 11d. 

Right: With it, a dress that looks tiny when it's off and stretches to your own size when you put it on!  it's by John Stephen, 89s. 6d.

                  Printed Cotton jacket and dress by John Stephen. Photograph by Mike McGrath.                      

           Crochet tops and striped cotton skirt and trousers by John Stephen, 1965 (Mike McGrath).

The Kinks drummer Mick Avory and *friend, modelling outerwear by John Stephen. Photograph by Mike McGrath.


        Deborah De Lacey and Mick Avory. Clothes by John Stephen.  Photograph by Mike McGrath.

Left: Art Nouveau print trouser suit in heavy linen by Hilary Floyd, 14 gns. Long line jacket with double-breasted look and wild, inverted pleat at the back—super colour combination, too! Purple trimmed shoes by Medway, 5 gns. Lilac beret by Kangol 10s. 6d.  

Right: Clinging disco-dress by John Stephen, 89s. 6d. Wrist watch by Old England.                                       

Beige and tan leather suit from John Stephen, 29 gns. Sweater in beige by Fantasia, 63s. Leather gloves by Dents, 45s. 11d. Cream beret by Kangol, 10s. 6d. Tinted glasses by 47 West at Corocraft, 35s.

Leather coat from John Stephen, 35 gns.  Leather skirt from Lewis Separates, £5 19s. 6d. Sweater by Fantasia, 63s. Silk scarf by Liberty, 2 gns. Beret by Kangol, 10s. 6d. Glasses by 47 West at Corocraft, 35s. Boots by Elliots, 89s. 11d

Left to right: *Alan Amsby, Eric Juhasz, Cindy Steeden.  Midi dress £7, Shirt £8, Blouse £5.
The garments were available in white with a contrasting design in red and black or green, available from the John Stephen Department store 33-34 Carnaby Street. 

I couldn't resist including this still from the Smashing Time movie (1967), which uses John's Tre Camp women's boutique as the backdrop to a Carnaby Street fashion shoot.

John Stephen dress in red velvet with contrasting white polka dots from the collection of Sweet Jane's Pop Boutique/Courtesy of Dandelion Sargent.  

John Stephen dress label

John Stephen dress in red velvet with contrasting white polka dots from the collection of Sweet Jane's Pop Boutique/Courtesy of Dandelion Sargent.  


John Stephen dress in dark brown wool with contrasting detail in turquoise from the collection of Sweet Jane's Pop Boutique/courtesy of Dandelion Sargent.

                     John Stephen purple velvet dress from Victoria and Albert Vintage Clothing.


Update: 23/6/2014: Purple Velvet dress by John Stephen of Carnaby Street currently available from Vic & Bertie Vintage here.

                                                         IMAGE CREDIT & LINKS
All images scanned by Sweet Jane from Rave Magazine May 1968, Fashion of the Sixties by Barbara Bernard, and Rave Magazine April 1967. John Stephen - purple velvet dress circa 1968 by Victoria And Albert Vintage Clothing. John Stephen - brown & turquoise/red & white polka dot dress photographs by Sweet Jane.  Smashing Time still scan from Sparks in Electrical Jelly. Alan Amsby also known as Mr Pussy, originally from London, but now a long time resident of Dublin and still looking incredible!  (The correct surname is  'Amsby' not Amaby as credited in The King of  Carnaby Street, obviously an easily made typo error which wasn't noticed before the book went to print). * The photograph of Mick Avory and friend..not sure if this is Kiki Dee, as there was no name credit given  to the model but it does look like her, and they did model a lot of John's collections together around this time. Read about John Stephen: Progenitor of a Custom-Built Design Movement. And finally, an interview with The King of Carnaby Street himself, John Stephen, on what the well-dressed mod was wearing for whit-weekend, 1964.


  1. Wonderful post! I have two John Stephen pieces I've kept; a dress and a mob cap, both printed in mad psychedelic swirls. I will have to photograph them properly and post on my blog (and, of course, link here) xx

  2. Ah thanks Liz, I'd been meaning to get around to doing this one for a while,
    the dress and hat sound amazing!..will be looking forward to seeing the post xx

  3. Thank you for crediting my purple velvet John Stephen mini dress. Love your blog! Angie (Victoria And Albert Vintage Clothing)

  4. Thanks Angie, long time admirer of Victoria and Albert Vintage clothing, my sis has bought some gorgeous pieces from you over the years, your purple velvet John Stephen dress is absolutely it!


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