Victor Frank Stiebel was a South African-born British couturier. Born at Durban in 1907, he arrived in Britain in 1924 to study at Cambridge. Having designed for theatre wardrobe at university, he worked in dress design at the House of Reville for three years until opening his own house in 1932. He enlisted for the Second World War in 1940, closing his house, but he returned to designing in 1946, working for Jacqmar, and becoming Chairman of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers to promote British fashion around the world. Together with Hardy Amies and Edward Molyneux, he created clothing ranges that could be mass-produced using minimal materials and labour, and selling under the CC41 Utility label. It is clear that the fabric-saving styles of the 1940s were a thing of the past by the time Stiebel designed this sophisticated gown. The long, full skirts of the mid-1950s reflect Britain’s post-war optimism and prosperity, as fabric and labour were no longer reserved for the troops, and rationing had at last become a thing of the past. He reopened his own house in 1958, having great initial success, but being forced to close after only 5 years in 1963 on health grounds. Stiebel was commissioned to design new uniforms for the WRENS (1951) and the WRAF (1954) whilst also creating the going-away outfit for Princess Margaret on her marriage to Lord Snowdon in 1960. He was for many years the companion of composer Richard Addinsell. His clothes were romantic, and at times experimental with his use of stripes, plaid and pleating.
Pieces by Stiebel are rare. Famed for his inventive use of fabric, this dress shows a lovely contrast to the floral print with the contrast bias binding trim on the jacket and hemline. The ensemble is beautifully made, with a subtle, flattering gathered shelf bust and superb tailoring in the jacket.
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