British Style Through Time / Need to know

The Bloomsbury Group and Vita Sackville-West

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The Bloomsbury Group, so named for their location in London, were a group of artists, writers and thinkers in the early part of the twentieth century. Notable members included Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes and Lytton Strachey. They would discuss all manner of topics and they were all strong supporters of the arts. Their work has been greatly influencial in many areas from literature to economics.

In terms of a fashion influence theirs is certainly a style that we see shades of today in many catwalk collections. It is a style often referenced again and again by many a designer. The bohemian style that the Bloomsbury Group championed left behind much of the fuss and frills of early twentieth century dressing. It was a more carefree attitude to style, loose floral dresses and layers of knits. The mix of texture and layering is something widely recognised today, this was its conception.


There is an attitude associated with the style that is often lost these days and only the most truly bohemian among us can pull it off. It is a nonchalance about the way one is dressed. An attitude of throwing together a seemingly random combination of items to create something artistic and eclectic. It is an effortless romance surrounding the act of dressing that many of us wish to achieve.

Although perhaps on the fringes of the Bloomsbury Group, Vita Sackville-West remains a great influencer of fashion, being a forbearer of androgynous style. Vita Sackville-West was not shy about expressing her sexuality, although married both her and her husband openly had affairs with members of the same sex. Her most infamous affair was with Virginia Woolf, she later became the subject for Woolf’s novel, Orlando.

All catwalk images

As an avid gardener Sackville-West dressed for the occasion with breeches and wide brim hats. Forsaking the frills and straight laced dressing of the time, Sackville-West adopted many male influences in her outfits. In many ways she may be credited as the pioneer of androgynous dressing, her rather masculine features rather suited this style but once again it is all in the attitude.

Today we see influences of this style referenced time and time again. In bold floral prints, heavy tweed jackets, beautiful felt hats, masculine shoes and soft, draping layers. Everyone from Marc Jacobs to Anna Sui to Wunderkind have referenced the Bloomsbury Group’s bohemian style in their collections, from the cut of a dress, the length of a hemline or a vintage style print.

These styles quickly filter down to the high street and have become so much a part of our everyday style that we hardly even notice the origins anymore. If you have ever cooed over a perfect tea dress or longed for effortless layering it would appear that you have been bitten by the Bloomsbury bug.

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