As its wedding week here at MSL, we thought it was time to appreciate the attentive and caring minds behind the most anticipated element of any wedding – the dress. Proudly set in the heart of Oxford, AnnaBelinda was a dress and bridal wear designer which made every woman’s shopping experience, unique, exiting and one to remember. Now, after 40 years of adorning women with their beautiful collections and dressing them for their special big day, AnnaBelinda is leaving the sketched designs and sewing machines to rest, allowing the memories of the shop to now live on only in the dresses themselves.
AnnaBelinda was created by the love and passion for dress making and the sewing machines of two women, Belinda Harty and Anita Woodhead, back in 1970. The shop grew as the number of orders increased, and soon, a team of dress designers and makers were conjuring up what turned out to be one of Oxfords finest dress and bridal wear designers. AnnaBelinda soon extended and had an outlet in Liberty’s designer room, selling and dressing the women of London with their gorgeous frocks. The designers embraced all the new trends and styles that came in and out of fashion and worked with some of the finest materials available – from ‘the Annabelinda pinafore’ in 1972 to AnnaBelinda’s very own Liberty printed silks in 1979. AnnaBelinda became well affiliated with Liberty’s and together, the Oxford store and London concession showcased some of the best bridal wear designs.
Weddings are symbolic of the love and unity between two people. However, we cannot deny that there is another affair involved – the love between the bride and her wedding dress. The wedding dress is one of the most anticipated dresses a woman will ever wear and so to find and have the perfect one is of paramount importance. This is something AnnaBelinda really took care of. My mother, Naomi Banks was a dress and bridal wear seamstress for this exceptionally elegant dress designers and so I grew up surrounded by their designs and fabrics. I witnessed the devotion, impeccable attention to detail and care that went into every stitch of the dresses. I saw how fashion could be to the pleasure of both the wearers and the creators, and this is something I believe is truly valuable to the industry and makes choosing that special dress even more perfect.
To commemorate the end of AnnaBelinda and in celebration of wedding week at MSL, we spoke to one of the ladies who worked at the shop to share the memories she will forever hold.
Naomi Banks – Seamstress
“My first memory at AnnaBelinda is of the first bridal order I took on a very busy Saturday when we had a fabric sale, and the buzz I got of helping the girl choose the dress design and then putting the fabrics together so she got ‘HER’ dress. What was most special about the Bridal wear was the detailing of embroidery or hand painting the use of another fabric as piping and binding and the originality of the designs. Also, all the fabrics were natural, such as silks and cotton wools which meant the bride could feel as beautiful as she looked.”
What is most special about this bridal wear shop is the extent to which their dresses were bespoke, personal and utterly beautiful. Although it may be too late to enjoy the wonderful collections by AnnaBelinda, the spirit of the shop will live forever in the dresses. AnnaBelinda is currently working on a book on the history of the shop which will be launched in the near future so be sure to keep your eyes pealed.
By Marni Banks