Monday, April 30, 2012


Designer Clare Press on mode, manners and her new book

    Fashion designer Clare Press
  • Esteemed fashion designer Clare Press has conjured a sense of feminine and sartorial magic with one of Sydney’s most charming stores, Mrs Press, and her exquisite new style guide, The Dressing Table. Although Press’s piquant wit and clotted cream skin (reminiscent of a 60s Julie Christie) are ineffably British, during her thirteen years in Australia she has become a star in the local firmament.

After her tenure as Features Director at Australian Vogue, she launched Mrs Press, an unabashedly feminine line with handcrafted detailing and lovely pieces that accentuate the female form. As she sees it, it was a career shape shift that captures the current moment. Press chats about why manners still matter, the life affirming joy of dolling up and fashion’s new golden age.
Bridie dress
I started making silk slips while still at Vogue, then decided to jump into a new world and leave the office behind. The old idea of having a job title or label is becoming less relevant: these days, lots of people have several careers, some of them all at the same time. I would call myself an author/designer/stylist/shopkeeper, but I’m not really into labels – unless it’s Mrs Press! (well, maybe Lanvin and the odd Miu Miu bag.)

Mrs Press customers are women who enjoy glamour, gorgeousness and the drama of dressing up, and in some cases a bit of girlishness. Certainly we make pretty, lacy things but I also design dramatic dresses, statement sleeves and stronger silhouettes. What ties it all together is the love of dressing up. I have no interest in the casual whatsoever: I can’t stand denim. Why wear a T-shirt when you can wear a ball gown?
Although I will always love the 30s bias cut, only the pin thin can wear it. We tend to make 50s shapes: nipped-in waists, fuller skirts. But while the Mrs Press label is vintage-inspired in its sensibility, our clothes are no longer that way. They have grown into themselves: they’re just fabulous modern dresses. What’s vintage about Mrs. Press is the ambience, the service, the obsession with glamour and grooming.

Although online shopping brings massive changes that are ringing through the retail world globally, I believe there will always be a place for unique stores that offer high-touch service to customers that they can’t find anywhere else. Of course, we sell online and I shop online, but I still love the idea of a beautiful space that delights all the senses. We need shops – the beautifully curated kind – to delight and inspire and as places to socialise and take solace.
    Holiday dress
Iris dress
Just as I pay homage to retro style icons like the Duchess of Windsor, in the future we’ll still be talking about contemporary stylish women like late great fashion editor, eccentric and hat fan Isabella Blow. I’d call aristo-muse Daphne Guinness the current equivalent of Daisy Fellowes or Mona Bismarck from the 20s. Iris Apfel, the nonagenarian textile collector has lately become something of a cult fashion figure, proving that it’s possible to be a serious style setter and be a grown up.

My book,
The Dressing Table deals with the broader ideas of being chic. It’s not enough to buy an expensive dress; it’s about understanding how to carry yourself in it, how to decorate the space you occupy in said dress, and deal with others who come into that space. Manners will always matter, because they are about making our experience in the world kinder. And in a way clothes can do that too, make the world kinder, by which I mean they lift the spirits, they bring joy. Never underestimate the power of a beautiful dress.

    Laura dress
  • Alicia jacket in blue tweed, basic cami in berry & Posh skirt
  • Alexa dress


  1. Beautiful picture of you above!! Also love the new collection!

  2. This collection looks fancy but fabulous. Other than the best, the drawing is best.
    Angelina Clarke from Bride Clutch .