Once the dread of bridesmaids everywhere, the floral-clad, puff-sleeve silhouette of Laura Ashley's dresses has become synonymous with the chintzy romanticism of the '80s. Set up by husband-and-wife team Bernard and Laura Ashley, the brand started out as a fabric company in 1953 and opened its first store in London in the late 1960s. As the inspiration for countless contemporary dress brands—Batsheva, O Pioneers and The Vampire's Wife, to name a few—and with a collaboration with high-street brand Urban Outfitters under its belt, Laura Ashley and its iconic frocks remain as strong as ever 70 years later.
"The move towards a more modest femininity has coincided with a throwback to the '80s and has given Laura Ashley a real reawakening," Urban Outfitters' womenswear buyer, Malika Zagzoule, told Who What Wear's Nell Block. "The prints are timeless, and coupled with those original design elements, they have an irresistible nostalgia about them. There's a naïveté and lightness about them that I think holds particular appeal when the world feels quite chaotic!"
Thanks to the accessibility that sites such as Etsy, Depop and eBay have offered the world of vintage, it's never been easier to find one of Laura Ashley's much-coveted dresses. There are also plenty of Instagram vintage sellers, such as Selena's Shop and The Pansy Garden, that regularly sell dresses from the brand, but keep your eyes peeled because these pieces can be snapped up super fast. To save you time, I've done a bit of digging and found 22 Laura Ashley originals that will give your summer dress collection that little nostalgic nod. From party-ready silks and white maxis (brides, take note) to candy stripes and classic florals, scroll down to see and shop my Laura Ashley vintage-dress edit.