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Rags to Bitches

Ellen Howe steps back in time to the 1950s

Published on June 6th 2007.


Rags to Bitches

There’s no denying that stumbling across that classic vintage dress ticks all the right boxes.

Firstly, there’s no way you’re going to spot someone else in the same thing (tick), chances are the quality of the original cuts and fabrics will be amazing (tick) and informing those who are digging your style with: ‘Oh this old thing, I found it in a vintage boutique’ sounds so much more sophisticated than replying ‘I got it in the bog-off sale at Dotty Ps’ (tick with bonus points).

On the flip side, finding this ‘wonder dress’ is never easy. That beautiful Hepburn style gown was made for a person of Audrey’s proportions and no amount of cutting out the carbs is going to get that zip past your waist. And for some people that musty whiff of a garment festering in a suitcase for fifty years makes their skin crawl.

Thank the heavens then for the clever cookies at Rags to Bitches up on Tib Street who have taken our tick list, thrown in our concerns and whipped up a series of five 50s dresses to suit the modern woman. Perfect.

Individually and delightfully named, Annette (the apron dress), Grace (silk tulle with sweetheart neck), Sophia (strapless silk with diamante detail), Suzanne (silk brocade), Charlotte (cotton over silk lining) and a range of the darn cutest '50s play suits (called Bettie of course), they are like nothing else you can buy in the city. Each one is made from high quality vintage fabrics chosen specifically for each style, and because large amounts of such material are so hard to come by they are each produced in limited runs. And here’s the best bit – they can be made to measure, so you know they’re going to fit you perfectly.

Proprietors Flic and Simon are keen purveyors of up-market vintage, ever scouring the globe for beautifully tailored items from days gone by and accessories and trinkets to complement. In fact it was on one of these globe-scouring missions that the duo discovered a set of over 100 original dressmaker patterns in a house clearance. Among shapes from every decade they found patterns for some 50s prom dresses and this is where the idea was born, Flic explains "The cuts are perfect, exactly as they would be in the '50s, it’s hard to copy a cut so we were really lucky to find these patterns. These are not ‘vintage inspired’ dresses they’re exact replicas."

All hand-made in a studio in Cheetham Hill – your social conscience can rest easy knowing that they are not stitched in a Chinese sweat shop by orphans, hence the name, ‘Made in Manchester for Rags to Bitches’. The quality is superb, but the prices are surprisingly only what you might pay at the upper end of the High Street, £75-£180.

Fresh back from a trip to New York, Simon has just purchased some more fabrics for their next collection which we’re told will include some '20s flapper dresses. They have a whole anthology of patterns to work through so we can look forward to different decades each season, "We’re choosing the patterns that suit women now. Vintage can be impractical, we have to take into consideration that you might need to run for the bus in it. They will appeal to women who love vintage and those who wouldn’t normally buy vintage but love the idea of getting something different."

Vintage shapes (tick), fabulous fabrics (tick), the perfect fit (tick), no chance of someone else wearing your frock (tick). We’re sold.

Available at Rags to Bitches (60, Tib St, Manchester, M4 1LG, 0161 835 9265, www.rags-to-bitches.co.uk)

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