Remembering Laura Ashley

Remembering Laura Ashley…

n 1953, a young (twenty-eight) Welsh secretary, Laura Ashley, living in a small flat in London with her husband and two little children, was working on a quilt project; a craft she had learned from her grandmother. She was looking for certain kinds of Victorian fabric designs to use in her quilt but couldn’t find the colors and patterns she wanted.

nspired by printed fabric she had seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum, she designed what she was envisioning, which her husband, Bernard Ashley, then printed on a few yards of linen on a machine he made himself in their attic apartment. That was the beginning; the original investment was about $20. But worth a gazillion in display of faith and pluck.

ooking at her work, I think her fabric designs were inspired by the old quilts she grew up with; the clear yellows and blues, soft romantic pinks, old fashioned milky greens; and the simple florals and prints you see in vintage quilts. I think maybe she was also in love with old China dishes. These two inspiration assignments are just conjecture on my part, because these are things that inspired my watercolors and I always felt she and I must be some kind of kindred spirits when it came to the colors and patterns we love.

he cotton scarves Laura and Bernard made in 1953 were an immediate hit in local stores. People fell in love with their style and color sense. Soon Bernard left his job to print fabrics and run their blossoming business full time. They did it all themselves, built their business slowly, and at the same time, continued to grow their family. It was Bernard’s idea to call the business Laura Ashley; he thought it should have a feminine name.

Behind every great woman, there’s a great man (if she’s lucky), preferably one who cooks.

y the 1980’s, there were over 200 Laura Ashley stores all over the world, filled with the most wonderful things you’ve ever seen: cotton and linen dresses, crisp white blouses, nightgowns, straw hats, lampshades, flowery umbrellas, dishes, fabric, wedding dresses, sheets and comforters, and wallpaper all in the softest, most beautiful colors and classic styles. Laura Ashley was shabby chic before shabby was chic! Maybe she was a tad chic-er than shabby, but her things all had a very soft romantic feel to them. I still have decorating books she produced that show her classic design sense in the houses she and her family lived in. Laura and Bernard Ashley changed the way millions of people decorated and thought about the comforts of home.

discovered Laura Ashley when I first came to New England. Whenever I left Martha’s Vineyard, I was always lost on the roads, especially when I got into the bigger cities, but still, like one of those beach geiger counters, the beep-beep in my head got louder and stronger as I honed in on the Laura Ashley store on Newbury Street in Boston. I never missed an opportunity to visit; would go to Boston just to go to that store, to be surrounded in the fresh colors I loved. I wallpapered my bedroom in my first house on the island in a sky-blue Laura Ashley print, and loved to wake up, still dreaming, in that blue cloud and listen to the birds singing, or watch the snow falling outside my windows.

remember one spring day, it might have been the first mild day of that year; I drove to Boston because I had a hair appointment. The daffodils were in bloom in The Common; I bought new dress at Laura Ashley. I wore it out of the store, walked up the street (thinking myself adorable, like Diane Keaton), went to my hairdressers where I got my hair cut — all clean and shiny, I then took myself and my Country Living magazine to lunch at a sidewalk cafe. That day is fresh in my memory; I remember feeling so happy and free and lucky in the sunshine with my new dress and haircut!

he Laura Ashley store was small, very close to The Ritz Hotel. The first thing you saw when you walked into the shop, was a table in the window set with Laura Ashley dishes for a tea party, on a Laura Ashley linen table cloth, with linen napkins and etched glassware. A person wanted to sit right down, drape herself with a napkin, pour the tea, click the cups into their saucers, but you couldn’t stop because there was more…

Just behind that was the clothing, rows of pure white cotton blouses, fitted with details such as capped sleeves, darts, covered buttons, some of them slightly gathered at the shoulder, some with stand-up collars; labels reading “cotton,” and “linen;” Made in Great Britain. The dresses were along the wall; skirts fluffed out like a colorful flower garden. The wedding dresses were toward the back in a glass case, like dessert, all whipped cream and lace; the furniture, wallpaper, and bolts of fabric, were up on a raised platform. It was heaven in there. I could’ve lived there.

ou won’t find Laura Ashley on Newbury Street anymore, because (big disappointment to find out, I’m quite against it) nothing stays the same; the store is gone. In 1985, there was a terrible accident. On her sixtieth birthday, much too young, Laura Ashley fell down a set of stairs at her daughter Jane’s house and died a few days later of a brain hemorrhage. Even though her name lives on, the Ashley family is no longer associated with the company. The heart had gone out of it for them; the designing woman, cherished wife, and mother of four children was gone, taking the color sense, the genius that was Laura Ashley, with her.

irls, if you never saw a Laura Ashley store you don’t know what you missed. I still have this wonderful hat, which I’ve never looked good in (I look like a bowling ball in it, it covers my eyes down to the tip of my nose). I knew I’d probably never wear it when I bought it, but I still could not resist such an adorable hat; it must be twenty-five years old now. I keep it in my studio, have painted it many times.

hen I think of inspiration, I think of Laura Ashley. She made the world a prettier place to live.

Are you a kindred spirit too? Comments…

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661 Responses to Remembering Laura Ashley

  1. Joanne says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful blog. I didn’t realize Laura Ashley died in 1985, the same year my daughter, Lauren Ashley was born. I shopped in several of her stores in New Jersey and still have many of the items I purchased. My daughter’s whole room was Laura Ashley when she was a little girl. I beleive the pattern was ‘Castleberry’, the soft pink & green design; I still have it in my guestroom. Miss her quality.

    • LJ says:

      Lovely to find this BLOG!

      I worked at a Laura Ashley shop in the UK and then in the states…..

      I loved being surrounding by all of the beautiful things…..and my wedding dress was a “sample off the peg” that was slightly soiled…..took it to the cleaners and it was just beautiful……too bad I cannot fit into it any more.

      Recently I found a hat that I had always loved on e-bay. I was thrilled to purchase it……..

      My pillow covers are still the “palmetto” print and I have others as well.

      AND, oh, my, the catalogues……gorgeous.

      Thanks for creating this site.

      Best Wishes,
      LJ

    • Kelley Martin says:

      Both my college graduation dress and my wedding dress were Laura Ashleys. I couldn’t have imagined wearing anyone else’s dress for those big days! I had the fortunate experience of visiting the factory in Wales (a relative worked for the company) and buying sample dressed for 15 pounds a piece. 20 + years later I still have a few of them!

  2. I just read this today…extra time on my hands awaiting the arrival of Irene.

    Goodness, I remember that store, and one similar in Rhode Island. I had many Laura Ashley dresses and hats, and remember the jumpsuits? I still have mine somewhere with old clothes in the basement. Boy, now I really miss that store. The elegant simplicity of her designs.

    I keep a “crafternoons” area in my home office where I work on homemade cards and other little projects, along with a sewing area (not used much, I am terrible) But now you have inspired me to look for some Laura Ashley fabric and make something! I guess the closest thing we have now to Laura Ashley are the fabrics by Vera Bradley. I do like her aprons. But nothing beats Laura. Thanks for the memories!

  3. Kelly Hathaway says:

    What a beautiful time in history! I absolutely love(d) the femininity of Laura Ashley. I will cherish my Laura Ashley straw hats, curtains, crisp white blouses, sheets, and comforters. I consider them my own heirlooms. I always felt like a little piece of heaven had been granted to me when I walked into the Atlanta Laura Ashley store. It always, without fail, lifted my spirit the moment I set foot in the door. I miss it terribly and now search for her products at thrift stores, online, yard sales and any other place I can think to try and find them. I love the way they make my home feel; just like they made me feel – pretty!

  4. Jane Hulslander Goff says:

    I fell in love with Laura Ashley as a young woman and furnished and built three homes based on the soft and gentle style of Laura Ashley. Upon my first visit to the Laura Ashley store in Birmingham, Alabama I was so taken with the fabrics, dresses and linens that I nearly went crazy trying to decide what I could afford to buy. My darling husband told me to get what I wanted as long as I did not go way over board and I left the shop with a dress, which I still have, a double bed set with two pillowshams and a bedskirt. I still have the set, white and trimmed with the most beautiful 100% cotton swiss or maybe french lace and double entredeux and embroideries. The set has been mended a few times and I know that Ms. Ashley would love that! As she said in her book, ” The Laura Ashley Book of Home Decorating ” ” I am more an applicator than a decorator, tending always to go for effect rather than a perfect finish.”
    How much I have used that book for inspiration as well as practical application.
    The back of the book has a section called ” Decorating and Soft Furnishing ” it was my guide for drapes, pillows, everything that I believed would make my home as beautiful as the photos and fabrics that inspired my efforts.
    Many trips back to the Laura Ashley store and learning to do more on my own I can only hope that I have come close in achieving this wonderful style that is so close to my heart! How much I miss her, thank you Ms. Ashley for your amazing contributions in making a home.

  5. Hello Susan I loved the post and love the site and all things Willard. I’m writing from the UK and I thought you might like to know the next chapter in the story. When Laura died the family settled back in their beloved Wales, a place that Laura always loved.
    They founded a new company Elanbach http://www.elanbach.com and despite Sir Bernard’ death two years ago are still manufacturing fabric. They never discontinue a design as they undertand that fabric is part of the story book of our lives. Additionally there is a gorgeous hotel on site where you can stay when you visit.
    Love Jacqui x

    • Sheryl from Chico says:

      Thank you Jacqui for giving us the email address of Elanbach. The fabrics are so beautiful. It’s nice to know about this company.

  6. Valerie says:

    I have gorgeous white on white design tile in two of my showers in my home (both different designs). Just love the subtle feminine look without being to “sweet” if that makes any sense.

  7. Valerie says:

    …and yes, those are Laura Ashley tiles! Seems I forgot to mention that :-/

  8. Paula says:

    I became a Laura Ashley fan in the ’80’s. I never missed a chance to visit a store. I couldn’t afford most of the things in them, but I loved to visit and look. I would buy a small handkerchief or some small item. When I got married in 1992, I chose a Laura Ashley wedding gown, and my bridesmaids had light pink Laura Ashley dresses — So beautiful! I wore her Dilys perfume that day, and it is still one of my very favorites, although you can’t buy it anymore. I decorated my daughter’s room in LA wallpaper and made nursery items for her out of LA fabric to match. I bought LA dresses for her ( which she did not like then and does not appreciate now) I have kept every one of them. My fancy was her Bramble pattern. I still like it today. I collect those clothes now that I could not afford back then, and I wear them almost every day. The petticoats, pinafores, nightgowns, robes, shoes, the beautiful suits and party dresses — AH! I even have a few of her earlier creations from the 70’s. I have even seen your green striped dress on vintage clothing websites. I have the catalogue it is advertised in — I believe it was 1985. I bought the catalogue in one of the London stores on a visit to Britain that year. I keep a LA fabric stash, and am constantly on the look for ANYTHING Laura Ashley. Just a bit of heaven right here on earth! 🙂

    • Paula says:

      Oh, and my good friend and partner in crime made me a quilt out of YOUR fabric a couple of years ago. I LOVE it, use it every day, and take it with me on all trips!

    • Toni says:

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. I was and still am CRAZY about anything LA. My husand and I had a lay-over at the airport in Atlanta. “I” hired a cab for the LONG ride to the LA store. The cab cost $40.00 each way!!! My hubby was seething…needless to say I didn’t buy anything.(spent it all on the cab:-() I saw her first dress in 1988 and it was ‘curtains’ from then on. BTW..my shower curtain is made of LA curtains. A friend(who named her third daughter Lauren Ashley) and I shared this passion and we were just shoppin’ fools! In 1987 my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and my friend and I copied 2 different dresses from catalogs and made my LOVELY, GENTEEL, VICTORIAN, BEAUTIFUL dress. We’ve just celebrated our 50th anniversary and again wore my lovely, genteel, victorian, beautiful Laura Ashley dress.
      I have a closet full of beautiful dresses, jumpers,scarves,and even a long navy wool coat. Still wearing her lovely perfume and admiring the beautiful floral bottles. Thank God that HE gave her to us, even though it was way too short a time.

  9. Deborah Celtic Heart says:

    A wonderful tribute to one of the most notable Welsh women of all time . . I grew up with Laura Ashley . . her ‘less than perfect’ handmade style was so quirky and original in a time when machine made perfection was so in demand by the masses . . nothing beats Vintage Laura Ashley . . sadly, I feel they have somewhat lost their way . . I treasure my tiny stash of original Laura Ashley scraps of fabric and will one day incorporate them into something truly special. Always on the hunt in charity shops and jumble sales for a vintage item or two. I cried the day I learned she had died . . she lives on in the hearts of those of us who remember the Laura Ashley heydays of the 60’s 70’s and 80’s . . Thank you, Susan, for this tribute . .

    • sbranch says:

      My pleasure . . . I was so happy to see how many people feel about her the way I do! Have enjoyed all the stories! As you say, I also loved her “less than perfect” handmade style.. real, human, soft and wonderful.

  10. Tracy Nassau says:

    Susan, you never cease to amaze me. I have to hold back…I COULD comment
    on ALL of your posts! ……. Laura Ashley will forever be (to me!) synonymous with great style and romantic charm.
    I too went crazy over all things Laura Ashley….my little daughter, (“Ashley”, of course….now age 31) had Laura Ashley sheets and a comforter and a little round table cover in her bedroom. (my favorite fabric was the white
    with little pink buds on stems with usually one leaf….forgot the name of the pattern). I had the pink chintz dishes…(well HAVE! why would I ever get rid of them! they are in the “rotation”….and you know what I’m talking about, we who love dishes for all reasons and seasons) …My husband made a table out of an old sewing machine and the top was LA pink and white tiles.
    Thank you for the history and pics of Laura and her husband, I so enjoyed reading things about her I did not know. I still have some of her books and even
    a few old catalogs on my shelf, endless and timeless sources of inspiration.
    omygosh! I’m almost forgetting to tell you one of my “proudest” Laura Ashley inspired stories…..one time I bought a large LA sheet and made two little girl
    dresses out of them for my daughter and my niece (I’m guessing they were probably 5 and 7 years old)….those dresses turned out SOooo amazingly cute and the
    sheet fabric was actually a dream to sew on! They wore them for Easter that year and I felt just like Maria in the sound of music, making clothes for the children out of the curtains!! One of these days I’ll figure out how to get that old pic on my computer and send to you. 🙂
    Just recently I FOUND….in my stashes of fabric…..a package of precut pink fabric squares I bought in one of the Laura Ashley stores a gazillion years ago…. (for making pillow covers or quilts) and ODDLY ENOUGH, never used! I plan on making a crib quilt for the world’s cutest baby, my first grandchild Molly who is now 3 mos old!

  11. Rosemary London says:

    We still have many Laura Ashley stores locally (Norfolk, England) and the housewares are still excellent,but the clothes are no different from the boring stuff you can get anywhere.I loved the clothes,and still have some keepsakes,of household items I have many, dating back to the first beginnings of her career.So sad that it all ended too soon.

  12. Linda Hanway says:

    Susan, Your article reminded me of how much I loved shopping at Laura Ashley which I discovered on my first trip to London in the summer of 1985. On subsequent trips Edinburgh, I always went to the Laura Ashley shop on Princes Street. Living in Rhode Island, with its close proximity to Boston, as well as being married to a native Bostonian, I had many opportunities to shop at Laura Ashley on Newbury Street over the years along with the two RI stores.
    My daughter wore a beautiful Laura Ashley dress when she was my maid-of-honor at my wedding in 1989. She, also, wore a deep teal-colored damask print dress to a college semi-formal in the 1990’s. Both dresses were very feminine, classy, and understated–unlike what so many young women wear today.
    I still wear 3 beautiful wool sweaters I bought at least 15 years ago at a local Laura Ashley. I loved the sweater so much that I bought one in navy, dark green, and red. It’s a lower-hip length sweater with silver filigree buttons on the green and blue sweaters and gold filigree buttons on the red sweater. Actually, my favorite Laura Ashley item is a large blue-print canvas duffle bag that I bought, on sale, on Newbury Street several years ago.
    Well, my friend in California directed me to your lovely website because I love train travel…but I spotted the Laura Ashley link, and was intrigued.

  13. Beth says:

    I still have, and cherish, a set of Laura Ashley curtains and the beautiful tie backs hanging in our little guest room that started as a nursery. Laura Ashley brightened my life too. I can close my eyes and remember walking into her shop and wanting to transform my home with her beautiful fabrics. Thank you for remembering!

  14. Lucia Macedo says:

    Hi, We do not have her store here in Brasil… fortunally I happened to visit Laura Ashley store while traveling to Milwaukee!!! My uncle asked me to buy a parfum… number 1… I never forgot the smell!!! I worked for an american company in Brasil for a long period of time and had the oportunity to buy evry other time I had to travel to the US… Aparently they do not produce it anymore or sell in their stores and at ebay costs much to much!!! It’s a sin!!!! I love it!!!

  15. Jo Cooper says:

    How lovely to read about and remember Laura Ashley! My first quilt was made entirely of Laura Ashley fabrics many years ago, and I still love it even though the quilting is a certainly very much less than perfect! It has been much used and washed countless times. Now it is your fabrics that I find myself buying, even from way over here in Australia!
    I, too, have a lovely light summer dress circa 1970’s which I wish I still fitted into!

  16. Janet Allen says:

    I had the same blue wallpaper print in my daughters room and loved it for many years. I must say you were an perfect model this the great green dress “sunglasses” and all. I do remember going in a store here in CA as I remember and her clothing line was terrific. Thanks for sharing her story, I didn’t know anything about her and her family just loved everything she did. Rather like YOU…

  17. Jane Hambly says:

    Dear Susan: Your comment and article about Laura Ashley was wonderful and filled me with memories when my Mom and I would travel to Vancouver Island (with my two children in tow)to visit my brother and his family. En route we would never miss an opportunity to “aim the car” in the direction of the Laura Ashely shop in Vancouver. It was magic to see fabrics and clothing that “belonged” in our homes! I continue to use placemats my Mom made, curtains that I “forged”, pillows and quilts that cover our beds with prints and colours that delight. Every now and then I pull out the basket of fabric that I haven’t used and wonder how I will create something new.
    Last year I made “french bread bags”… reduce, reuse and recycle friendly for my sister, sisters-in-law, nieces and daughter for Christmas. On the side I printed in my best grade one teacher printing “La Baguette”. The wonderful Belgian bakery I shop at was delighted with the result; I was too!
    Laura Ashley continues to be a mentor to me for her spirit of individuality and creativity. Her books remain on my shelves for easy reading; her ideas are still as fresh as ever; it was so good to watch her business grow and have her as a part of my life as a woman, wife, mother and homemaker.

  18. diane says:

    Susan, your blog is wonderful and your musing of Laura Ashley bring back so many great memories. I, too, loved the Newbury St. store in Boston and visited it often. My favorite pillow is a faded lily of the valley print with a large wrap around bow that has always graced a bed in my home and will continue to forever.

  19. Dinahsoar says:

    I think you look ADORABLE in the hat!!…BTW–love your blog, am a new reader having only discovered it recently.

  20. Denise Burns says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading about Laura Ashley and about everyone’s thoughts/memories of this remarkable woman. In the late 80’s, I was in search of the perfect wedding dress. Knowing that there was a Laura Ashley shop in San Francisco, we (my mom and mother-in-law), decided to take a jaunt into the city. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the city was, as always, beckoning with other adventures besides looking for a wedding dress. We ‘refrained’ and went straight to the shop, (I believe it was on Maiden Lane?). In the shop’s window, I was taken aback by the wedding dress that was on display. I was completely giddy as it was the perfect dress that I had been looking for……elegant, romantic and refreshingly classic…typical of all Laura Ashley designs! Fast forward as my wedding dress is in the attic and is ‘preserved’……maybe one day I’ll have a granddaughter or great granddaughter that will fall in love with just as I did so many years ago. Maybe I should put a note in with the dress as to the ‘who, what, when, why and where’? Thank you Laura Ashley and family for so many years of beautiful fabrics, designs and ideas! You certainly made my wedding memorable! P.S. The marriage continues to be just as amazingly wonderful as the dress! I’d like to think that Laura Ashley designed it with a young bride ‘getting off to a grand start’ in mind…….

  21. Susan, thank you for the insight to Laura Ashley. Both of my grandmothers are from Wales. My grandmother is even named Laura. I just purchased another Laura Ashley book to leaf through on rainy days. It keeps the spirit alive. Thank you again janet

  22. cynthia ruth nicholson says:

    To Dear Susan You Couldn’t Have Picked A Better Subject Than The
    Beloved Laura Ashley ! Thx

  23. Dena Ferguson says:

    Loved your article about Laura Ashley. My new daughter came home from the hospital to her Laura Ashley Bunny Jo crib ensemble. I still have the whole set. Maybe I will use it when grandchildren come to visit….

  24. Paula says:

    Thank you for your loving memory album on Laura Ashley that so many of us have enjoyed. Your words echo exactly my own memories of transforming my home and wardrobe and my daughters’ wardrobes and bedrooms with her fabric, comforters, lampshades, pillows, shams, draperies and valances. When I was a young girl I had a sweet bedroom in a Cape Cod house with a dormer. It had the ugliest green wallpaper. After four years, my mother and I bought a soft yellow flower print wall paper. It brought such sunshine to my life to live in the glow of that pretty wallpaper. A young girl’s romantic dreams from reading Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. We moved from that house the next year so I was only able to enjoy that wallpaper for one year. I always thought it a shame that we had not fixed up the room and made it pretty when I was younger. Four years to endure something ugly only to have that yellow sunshine beauty for one year. Many years later my first daughter Chidi was born in l989. I was first introduced to Laura Ashley fabrics and beddings in l994, when Chidi was 4 and immediately decided to make her room over in the sunshine yellow and periwinkle blue print, Charlotte, and complementary wallpaper borders in the sweet pea pattern of and sheets of the confetti print with the same yellow and blue. The fabrics were just pieces of Heaven. I wanted to do it differently for my own daughter and give her many years to enjoy her happy sunshine yellow room. I don’t blame my own mother for not knowing what my soul craved in beauty. But I wanted to be a different mom who would use Laura Ashley fabrics and designs to create little piece of heaven for my little girl. My husband was a graduate student and we were poor. How could I afford it? I would escape to the Laura Ashley shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan and dream. Occasionally I would splurge. Then I discovered that TJ Maxx carried Laura Ashley comforters. I found a Laura Ashley outlet store in our state and had such a craving just to go in the store that I would drive the hour and a half north to the outlet to get my Laura Ashley fix. There I found the sunshine yellow comforter and confetti sheets to match. I discovered that there were a dozen or so Laura Ashley outlet stores around the country. I made an index card with their locations and phone numbers and would phone them periodically to check for accessories in the quartet pattern I had selected for my own bedroom, and for Chidi’s sweet pea pattern. Sure enough one store in some other state had a ruffled valance in the yellow and periwinkle confetti pattern. Then I found a lampshade to match in a garage sale for 5 dollars and confetti sheets on clearance at TJ Maxx. Now, 17 years and two houses later, the confetti valance, the original bedspread and lampshade still bring joy when Chidi comes home from college. Now I have discovered ebay and occasionally type in my favorite patterns and find a valance or lampshade or sheet to add to our home’s Laura Ashley themes. I highly recommend this for you ladies out there that still want to decorate with Laura Ashley fabrics. Laura Ashley culture is still alive and well. I have seen stashes of fabric from vendors in Australia, France and other countries. If you need it, it is out there. Jusst be patient. Last week there was a shower curtain in the sweet pea pattern listed on ebay. I have been dreaming for years of having a shower curtain in that pattern to complement the wallpaper border I had saved when we moved from house to house. The bathroom walls are painted in the Laura Ashley periwinkle blue and the bedroom is in the sunshine yellow matching the fabric. The auction for the shower curtain would end 5 days later at 2:30 am. I played my index card game of years ago, wrote down the time and date and put it up on my kitchen cupboard to remember the time and date. I set the alarm and got up to guarantee that I would get my wish and win the auction by bidding and clicking one minute to the end of the auction time. Getting up at that hour seemed a bit crazy to me, just for a shower curtain, but the pull that got you to the Newbury street Laura Ashley shop years ago is still just working its miracle for me through the internet. Now that is loyalty to Laura Ashley and a tribute to to affection and love that Laura Ashley shoppers share for the beauty she created! She has left a little piece of Heaven behind that we continue to tend, like a beautiful Welsh or English garden, using her amazing floral prints. I too have my stash of Liberty of London grade Laura Ashley cotton, matching sets for mother and daughter. I have kept the woven Moses basket with the Laura Ashley fabric in the ruffle and comforter, the matching lampshade and even unused left over wallpaper border that my second daughter, Chinonye, received at her birth. I too have a hat, a navy blue velvet with a large brim, matching a simple navy blue cordoroy sailor dress. I loved reading your blog with all the comments. It reassures me that my hidden guilt at spending money I did not have back then is now melting away. I had wondered if my being pulled to the Laura Ashely shops was not somehow compulsive. Was it an addiction? Your blog has realigned my thinking. I now realize that we all share something in common, something very precious and lovely in our appreciation for the heritage Laura Ashley left for the world. My home has been graced with her lovely prints for almost 2 decades now. the comforters, washed many times, are still like new and unfaded. I have no desire to decorate anew, redecorate and change themes and colors with each passing fad. Current muddy and gaudy colors and designs in many mall stores this year, using fabrics that are cheap, cheap, poorly woven polyesters blends make me appreciate the gifts Laura Ashley gave us. My prayer is that the fashion and decorative industry will turn again in their cycles, to recreate her true style anew. Paula

  25. Anne Rowe says:

    I never had the pleasure of shopping in a Laura Ashley store, but I certainly read every article and book about her, and own several of both! Recently, I found a LA gown in the most beautiful pink, flowered fine cotton with a huge bottom ruffle…completely lined in pure white fine cotton. This was in a thrift store and because I sew doll clothing using vintage and/or fine, new fabrics, I was overjoyed! A woman nearby heard me reading the label and that it was made in Great britain, and said…”Ohhh, what a WONDERFUL Halloween costume that will make for you”, and I immediately said I was going to take it apart to use all the beautiful fabrics! The shocked look on her face was priceless! I think I will have enough to also make a fine, floppy brimmed hat for myself to wear next summer! Thank you for this great reminiscense about Laura…it is how we all live on, in the memories and experiences of others. I am new to your blog also, and just love the journey pictures from the train and your home and yard. You are indeed a special “sister”!

  26. Marion Powell says:

    Loved reading your Laura Ashley story. She was a marvelous designer of fabrics, clothing, wall paper, linens, dishes, and other treats for the home. When I think of the days of the Laura Ashely stores, I have a warm place in my heart. Her dresses truly did make one feel very beautiful and special! I still have some of her dishes and they are so much fun to use, very special. Thanks for bring back all these memories!

  27. nancy jane says:

    Yes, Yes, Yes, I have loved Laura Ashley for a long time. I have several of her books. I have been in a Laura Ashley store. I did not want to leave. Her things to me are timeless, they speak to me. I see her fabrics, hats, etc and just want to clutch them to my heart. Her designs just make me feel happy and at home, comfortable and content. thank you for your article about her. We like so many of the same things. You are Gladys Tabor meets Laura Ashley.

  28. Krista Barrett says:

    Hi Susan: I so appreciate how you have enlightened and enlivened my life with your beautiful thoughts and creations these last few years. As I read your thoughts about England, Beatrix Potter and Laura Ashley, I am moved to thank you for confirming that I am not alone in this world! I have made the pilgrimage to Hilltop Farm as well as to Laura Ashley shoppes in London. I have a Beatrix Potter bathroom now. Though the Laura Ashley bedroom and bathroom is gone, I still have some of her linens and other fabrics. Thanks for spotlighting this timeless art. Krista

  29. Mary says:

    I’ve just come across your blog, and I’m sure I’m going to be a “frequent flyer” here!

    I have been a Laura Ashley fan forever! I used to walk over to the store on Newbury St and make purchases. I thoroughly enjoyed that store. I wall papered my bathroom in my apartment with her wallpaper! I have one book that of her’s from the 80’s that I still cherish.

    I’ll never forget when she passed away. I was vacationing in Ireland, I was devastated. I’m sorry to hear that the family is no longer involved in the business. She died far to young.

    Thank you for a lovely post on one of my all time favorite designers!

    Mary

  30. karen saunders says:

    reading your blogs is such a great opportunity to see just how alike us women are. isn’t it great?? why can’t we run the world…..it would be such a great place and the white house would have such great fabrics….much softer and more romantic. (all this nonsense about wars and who gets what….and money.) WHY CAN”T WE GET ALONG???

  31. Linda says:

    This is the first I have heard of her death as well–so sad the family is not carrying on. When I first discovered LA I was a young housewife with no extra money for anything remotely like LA. So I sent away for her catalogs and copied the dresses with patterns from Joanns and felt I looked like an English country Maiden!! I also found a bedding set (pink floral, stripes) from Croscill that I could afford so felt like I had her in my bedroom as well! I still have the bedding as I never have felt like I wanted to part with it–it has traveled from Seattle to Alaska to Washington and now to Idaho and I finger its’ softness from countless washings where it resides in my linen closet. I still have all the catalogs as well–they have made all the moves as well. I still can’t afford to buy LA but maybe I will now look on EBAY as suggested by others! Thanks for your loving rememberances of her and all the other letters.

  32. Lorraine says:

    My girlfriend and I were talking about all the beautiful Laura Ashley clothes we used to wear in the 80s. We were students then and couldn’t afford much. We used to buy what we liked and then share the clothes. We each have honeymoon pictures where we are wearing the same aqua blue sundress with flowers. She borrowed it from me for her honeymoon. It was the classic sundress. Good times. I still have all my Laura Ashley clothes hanging in my spare room closet. I couldn’t bear to part with them as they are just too beautiful. Every now and then I take them out and try them on. Thanks to my time on the treadmill, they still fit!

  33. stacey says:

    I have the yellow bunny jo crib set, I am setting up for my new daughter that came with a lot of scrap material. It appears there are curtains and a shower curtain also. Does anyone have a picture of what it looks like set up?

  34. Lauren says:

    Love the blog. I am still a great fan of Laura Ashley. I remember lining up in London to buy a dress in one of her first stores. Cost 7 Pounds. Everyone could afford one. I still have piles of vintage and new Laura Ashley fabrics in my stash and continue to use them in my quilt designs. Cheers

  35. Sue Rideout says:

    I too am a Laura Ashley fan! I have many of her decorating books that I still use. I also was a lucky bride and got married in a Laura Ashley gown and veil. My honeymoon dress was also a Laura Ashley dress! She will always be a part of my life and an inspiration!

  36. Nancy says:

    I had the pleasure of working for Laura Ashley from1985 until 1992. I started part time in Hackensak, NJ just out of college. Laura Ashley had just died and I quickly found a great place to work, enjoy and embrace a lifestyle. As my husband and I moved for his job around the country , so too did I and my Laura Ashley “family”. Each new city we went to I just relocated to the area’s Laura Ashley. In Chicago at the Watertower there was Barb, who ran a tight ship, but didn’t mind a new person. Charlotte’s store was run by Beverly and she was a real mother figure to all of us young twenty year olds under her care. I also got to run my first store there, a Mother and Child. Before we opened that store, a bunch a ladies came down from corporate and we sat on the floor of the store sewing curtains for the front windows. That’s when I learned you could sew without using pins (a trick I still use today). It was bittersweet when we had to move to Houston, but Laura Ashley went with us and not only did we decorate our house with the lovely designs, but still more new friends were made. There I worked at the Galleria and WestOaks. Catherine was our manager at WestOaks and she was such a character. A lovely person who embraced the Laura Ashley lifestyle and once again keptt all of her young charges in line! My final journey with Laura Ashley was to Los Angelos. I worked at two stores there, with the last one at the Beverly Center. I was made manager of that store and found wonderful friends there who threw me a babyshower for my firstborn. We were in the store during the riots of 1992, with those big plate glass windows and I was so afraid someone would break into our precious store. We survived those trying times, but I left the Laura Ashley family after that for my own.

    As someone who served you all those years I know that you loved the products. There was nothing like them out there and when the company left the US they took a bit of loveliness with them. Enjoy all of your vintage Castleberry sheet sets, Lyme Regis wallpaper and beautiful dresses. I must be waiting for a return to ‘loveliness” because I have about eight bankers boxes filled with clothes. My hope is that one day my daughters will discover what all the fuss was about.

  37. Christine Anderson says:

    Thanks for the wonderful story of Laura Ashley! I made a point of visiting Laura Ashley stores where ever we visited, from London to Hawaii! I have a collection of hexagon cut fabrics I always intend to make into a quilt. Now I am retired it must be time to start!!!

  38. Jan says:

    I loved Laura Ashley, too. Her stores were amazing! I named my daughter Ashley Lauren in 1988. Once I found a beautiful french blue cordoroy dress for a two-year old and both my daughters wore it. I still have it waiting for a much-longed for grandaughter. Thanks for sharing this about Lauren Ashley.

  39. Maggie Cook says:

    I became a fan of Laura Ashley when I was younger and I was addicted to her perfume, EMMA, which is no longer manufactured 🙁 I have never found a perfume quite as wonderful as that one. Tried similar things, but can actually say I am grieved that I have not been able to find its equal. It was the most delicate floral fragrance. Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts on Laura Ashley

  40. Carolyn Meadows LaBruce says:

    First of all, Susan, your website is wonderful. I love all the time and thoughtful
    ness you put into it. I could spend hours here, but today is Christmas and my family is calling…I will be back. I want to order some things, especially your
    beautiful calendar for 2012. I love all of the old movies you recommended and
    watch them all the time. Did not know about Laura Ashley and I often wondered.
    I still have some of her nightgowns and I take care of them faithfully. I love
    them, the fabric is so soft and lovely. I am down South in Summerville, S.C. and
    we put Christmas lights on our Palm trees!!!!!!!!!
    Merry Christmas !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. Suzanne Michelle Harmon says:

    So there ARE other Laura Ashley kindred spirits alive and well!!! I love you all ~ Mmmmwah !!!

    There was just something unexplainable about going into her store and purchasing a crisp, fluffy, white, billowy blouse and a cotton pinafore frock that just made everythng in the world right. It was bliss. I would go home fill my tub and pour a generous amount of ‘Emma’ scented bubbles and soak until I was all pruny. Then I would lavish on some Emma lotion and perfume and put on one of her nighties and curl up with some Earl Grey. I loved those days.

    Laura Ashley is no longer the same. Not even close. I still have all of her old patterns with the beautiful puff sleeves and old romantic English country feel to them along with some cherished sailor dresses and a few velvet frocks that are family heirlooms (as far as I’m concerned!)

    Just an FYI girls! You can get her original dresses on ebay that are still in fabulous condition. I have a whole new collection started just from my eBay, and so many of them coming from England.

  42. Summer says:

    I loved Laura Ashley and shopped at her stores all the time! I didn’t realize she was a real person. So sad to hear of her death. I miss her stores terribly. I’ve got a whole living room couch, chairs etc., in Laura Ashley’s “Chinese Silk” pattern. I need to replace some of the cushions, but of course, no place to find this pattern. She and I were kindred spirits!

    Thank you for sharing with us!

    • Trish says:

      I have a bedroom in the Chinese Silk pattern!! The original bedroom I got it for I did the wallpaper from the chair rail to the crown molding, and the pale green between the baseboard and the chair rail. Not I just have the linens, but I do have curtains to match. I just love that pattern, and I’m going to paint the walls in the new bedroom a smoky lavender to match the color in the comforter.

  43. Dorothy says:

    I remember a Laura Ashley store in either Arcadia or Glendale, Ca. a number of
    years ago & the lovely fabrics & that Chic design. Bring back that look I still love to have at least one cozy room, need a do-over this year. Thanks again

  44. Leslie Towne Kearney says:

    I always wondered what had happened to the Laura Ashley business. I went to the Portland, OR store many times, sometimes just for the ambiance. It was there I realized that there were others who also loved this style. I owned a few of her dresses and tea dishes. They were special to me, they enhanced the joy of being a woman. The year I married, my mom made me beautiful curtains from LA fabric. They are still in the master bedroom and in are excellent shape. The curtains have brought Laura to mind many times. It is interesting that Laura passed away the year I married and began creating a beautiful home that welcomes people. And now, 26 years later, my 15 and 20 year old daughters also think highly of Laura Ashley. It is delightful to see loveliness, grace and beauty passed on : )

  45. Suzanne O'Brien says:

    One of my first purchases when I got my very first job out of college..was a christmas dress from the laura ashley store in the Burlington Mall in Burlington MA.. It was to big for me (and thankfully still is) but I wore it faithfully for many years. It is in my closest still! One of the birthing rooms at my obgyn’s was the Laura Ashley room..

  46. Lois says:

    I got married in 1983 in a Laura Ashley dress. I still have it. I’m saving it for my granddaughter (due in February) to be able to dress up in. I loved her fabric. It was feminine, but not foofy.

  47. Barb Walsh says:

    I love Laura Ashley. I still have her comforters from my daughters rooms. I still have the tea set I bought in Annapolis, Md at the Laura Ashley store. We did bedrooms and bathrooms and my girls had Laura Ashley dresses for all the best occasions. We recently decided to sell our home of 40 years and had to give up my shabby wallpapers and pink and white tile floor. The dresses I’d saved for so many years went to the hospital resale shop. I cried when I let them go.

  48. Pamela Jo says:

    I’m still getting to all of the pages on your website, and just discovered your Laura Ashley page this morning. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the blue and white daisy print across the page! Back in the 1980’s, my Nana bought a Laura Ashley sundress for me and it was the exact same print! We found it in a shop at Beach Haven, N.J. How I loved that dress, with the 3-tiered full skirt and ruffled top! I wore it so much that the straps became threadbare. My Nana repaired it with blue ribbons so the top would still stay up, and I wore a little white jacket with it after that. I could NOT part with that dress, so kept it all these years. I think it will remain with me for the rest of my life….I also have to say the same thing you did: “If only I could still fit into it!” Surely our dresses shrank, don’t you think?? LOL!!! I really miss the Laura Ashley stores, too. So sad that they are gone.

    • cindy savoroski says:

      love the comment on theLaura Ashley dress that was purchased in a Beach Haven shop. Have been in that same shop many years ago. Just adore any thing that is Laura Ashley. But i only have one item, a cloth travel bag. Will look for more though. Thank you so much Susan for the interesting blog.

  49. Cindy says:

    I love your website! Back in 1984 when I was extremely limited on funds, having just moved to a new apartment as a single Mom, I was trying to “decorate” my new bedroom. I found a comfortor in the Ming pattern for $20. I was in love with it! I also found king size sheets, but no full size sheets. I bought the sheets and took that material and made curtains, a bedskirt, pillow cases and 3 small throw pillows trimed with lace, the cutest being heart shaped. When I bought my house I reworked the curtains to fit my new windows. A close friend went to the Larua Ashley store on King Steet in Charleston,SC and bought me a lampshade for my nightstand lamp for Christmas. It was blue, but not a good match. When I went to the store,which I was in love with, to look for a better match the wonderful clerk told me about the shop, I think that was in Maine, that had all the discontinued patterns. I was able to use my store credit to get a bigger shade in the Ming print. I loved my Laura Ashley. But as with anything thing that is loved and used it wears out. I cried when the lampshade had cracked due to age and had to go. I carefully packed up my comforter, pillowcases and curtains that were so faded anyone but a true Laura Ashely fan would understand why I keep them and put them away. The throw pillows I keep on my bed so when I buy new bedding it has to in some way match the color and style. I have had 2 other Laura Ashley sets, and have enjoyed them. But they say you never forget your first! I spent many times browsing the Charleston store with my daughter and we even went to Hilton Head and found a wonderful silk blue blouse and a even more wonderful silk dress. My daughter lives in a differnt state, several years ago she called to let me know about a similar Laura Ashley pattern she had found. Next thing I knew I had a new set of sheets, curtains, comfortor and throw pillows at my door step. She too has the appreciation.

    • Judy E. says:

      I always find more reasons why I am drawn to you and your books, Susan. I have loved Laura Ashley for quite a long time too. In fact, I registered for the Bramble pattern comforter, sheets, shower curtain and towels for my bridal shower (19 years ago!) and received all of them. Also, the first year my husband I were married, he got me a tea set from our local Laura Ashley store (sorely missed by many) in the “Alice” pattern. I love this tea set and use it for tea parties with friends and neighbors. My daughter, who is now 16, also loved having tea parties with these dishes, which I hope to pass on to her someday.

      Thanks again for being such a great girlfriend!

  50. Blenda Berry says:

    I got a set of the pink rosebud bedding for my daughter many years ago and it set the bar for her as she was decorating her own place as an adult. We have not found anything as nice as that bedding. It was beautiful!!

    Wasn’t there a LA perfume?

    • christie ray says:

      Oh, there were a few fragrances…Emma, Laura Ashley… the other names have left my memory, but they all were timeless and beautiful. I remember treasuring the tiny bottle of one I had for several years….
      What a treasure we lost, when she passed…

  51. Mary Ann says:

    Looking through this wonderful website I just now found the Remembering Laura Ashley page — it brings so many memories! I had started working in London in 1985 and every step I took in ‘downtown’ London brought me to the historical events, and places I had so much enjoyed through literature – and then I found the Laura Ashley store – I think it was on Regent’s Street between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus. The clothes were so beautiful! The store itself was a revelation – Coming from Argentina, I had never seen a store decorated according to the fashion it was selling. Warm colors, feminine though traditional. I bought a Laura Ashley red corderoy jumper for my baby niece and shipped it to her in Argentina, and bought for myself a gorgeous flowing light wool skirt in tones of gold, old rose, and soft browns. I was sharing a flat with a few other girls, and one day the fire alarm went off. One of my roommates seemed to take her time “Bridget, Bridget, hurry, please!” “I’m ready,” said Bridget, a tall elegant young lady who appeared with her arms full of clothes “I’m not leaving my Laura Ashley clothes” — and she had a varied collection of the white, ivory, ruffled blouses, patterned skirts, and dresses piled high in her arms! I rush to say that when in a situation like that you do not stop to gather anything, but this is just one more example of how loved was her fashion! There were Laura Ashley stores in the DC/Northern Virginia when I moved there in the 90s, and I loved the ginger jar lamps, and the decorative velvet pillows, as well as the clothes and everything else!

  52. Annie Gruber says:

    Laura Ashley is such an icon. I have never gotten rid of any of my Laura Ashley dresses, several of which I puchased in England. A hat that I adore too. What a great tribute to her! She embodies romance and femininity

  53. Joan Lesmeister says:

    I remember walking into the Laura Ashley store the first time – it took my breath away & I felt like I’d walked into a beautiful, gardening book from England! The charming displays, sweet display of dishes ready for tea, gorgeous clothes, wallpaper designs, fabric………..and THE hat, of course I had to try it on – yup, bowling ball look here too! No other store has ever come close to Laura Ashley! Thanks for the memory! xoxo

  54. Marcia says:

    I fell in love with Laura Ashley’s sense of design decades ago. Adored her genius.

  55. Marion says:

    For many years my sister and me are a fan of Laura Ashley. Many years ago we decorated all the rooms in our house with LA wallpaper,drinked tea in ‘Alice’ teacups,put on her perfume and had great afternoons reading the books with her newest designs. Also here in Holland we had a Laura Ashley store in Amsterdam,and we went there once every month.not always buying something,but sometimes only for to breath the atmosphere of the interior. Shame the shop has gone…

    • sbranch says:

      We had the same thing in Boston, a wonderful atmosphere. My kitty Jack is sitting on a pillow I made with Laura Ashley fabric right now!

  56. Amanda McClain says:

    As a young woman trying to find my own style, my own feel, I was always drawn to things by both you and Laura Ashley. Many times I would think something by you was Laura Ashley until I looked at the tag and saw your name. You both have creative minds with a great eye for color. Thank you for allowing her to inspire and influence you. Your styles helped encourage me to embrace more of my feminine side (which was difficult since my mother is definitely not feminine and did not encourage that in me growing up). As I scroll through your website my 5 year old daughter (all girl) oohs and awes at all of your little personal touches. She is already a Susan Branch fan and loves to look at your pictures as much as I do. Thanks for being you!

  57. Courtney says:

    How wonderful to learn the history of Laura Ashley. We had a store here in Charlotte, NC where I grew up. They had one in Charleston, SC where I went to college too! They were my favorite! Reading these posts takes me back to my pre-teen years when anything Laura Ashley was extra special. I had forgotten all about the perfume until I read these posts, but I can smell it right now. Not only was the store so beautifully feminine, but it smelled that way too. I have saved many of my dresses that were always VERY special even though I grew out of them years ago, I’m 35 now. I have a two year old daughter that will hopefully want to wear them one day. Susan- I love reading through your blog and website. It always makes me happy and inspires me to make a cozier home for my family. Thank you. ps- my 2 children thank you for the pics and videos of Jack!

    • sbranch says:

      Jack is happy to do it!

      • Courtney says:

        After I wrote earlier, I remembered 2 books I wanted to mention in case you have not run across them. First is “The Cozy Book” by Mary Ann Hoberman, which is actually a children’s book but is a feast for the senses and a delight to anyone who loves all things cozy! Also, have you read Sena Jeter Naslund’s book, “Ahab’s Wife”? It is a fascinating novel by a contemporary author, and part of the story takes place in Nantucket.

  58. cj says:

    I was living in Australia in 1973 and expecting my first child. I bought a Laura Ashley dress as it was a great pregnancy dress and I still have it. It is marked “made in wales” very beautiful cotton, I wore it all through the 70’s and then put it away in my cedar chest. Whenever I pick it up I’m flooded with memories of australia and the baby and how darn cute I looked in that dress. Thanks for letting me “remember”.

  59. Dorothy says:

    Oh boy do I remember Laura Ashley’s stores, I too had the same feelings you did, I was in dreamland when I walked into her stores, just touching the fabrics & I too had the feeling of “gee,wouldn’t it be nice to have a cup of tea
    and sit in a comfy overstuffed chair & enjoy that cup of tea right now?”
    When I was a little girl I remember my
    Grandmother’s BIG comfy bed with crisp white cotton sheets that had been hung out to dry & the wonderful smell of the outdoors & a big comfy down
    comforter & big down pillows, I would take a bath when staying with her & we
    would have tea (she taught me to enjoy tea) still do. Then we would go to bed
    & tell funny stories & laugh & giggle & then we would say our prayers & fall asleep, Gee I really miss those days & my Grandma. I still have a comfy bed & love my tea. I’m much much older now, but I never forget those wonderful times That in my opinion is what the kids need today. A really sweet Grandma to do these things with.

  60. LilyOake says:

    I used to work for Laura Ashley in the Sseattle shop on University Street and I can’t tell you how much I miss it! I miss the shop, the beautiful dresses, the straw hats and silk scarves, the lacey cotton or wool scarves, the china and the bolts of home dec fabric. We scented everything with Laura Ashley #1 parfum. I loved the rose floral dressing room curtains and the back store room packed with fine cotton or wool dresses, depending on the season.
    I have kept every catalog and postcard from the clothing to home furnishings and have many of my dresses and scarves. Of course I can’t fit them any more but I hang a few of my favorites on a couple of hooks in my white painted and paneled upstairs studio.
    Recently I have begun designing my own fabric which I upload designs to online at Spoonflower.com and you can betcha Laura Ashley fabrics are a huge inspiration!
    I have just begun uploading my new floral colection from which I will make curtains, pillows and bedding for my little yellow “Elinor Cottage” here in Seattle, with Laura Ashley’s ideals in mind. Currently I am redoing my bedroom in my faded blue watercolor roses. Maybe I should name them old English names like Laura Ashley used to!!

  61. Cynthia Clement says:

    I thought no one else had a Laura Ashley peak experience in their girlhood! Discovering the first store that had opened in Bath — I fell in love with those crowded racks of white and prints. I found a square yoked, lawn dress with a lace border and I was married in it in 1975. Heavenly! Only later did I see the same garment in the shop on one of my visits with a tag saying “nightgown.” I am still seeking some of those early prints, especially the swan one. I lost my swan dress and I want to re-create it. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

  62. Julie Thompson says:

    Dear Susan, Thank you so much for the wonderful memories you shared with us about Laura Ashley! I still have her set of blue floral sheets(with the ruffles of course!) that I purchased at a store in San Francisco sometime during the mid 70’s. It is the material seven down in the stack that you have shown us.I can’t bear to give them away.I even made myself a small pillow from some of the yardage I bought! My friend covered her daughters bedroom walls with another blue floral(soft batting underneath)pattern.Her beautiful yardage ,clothing and linens always comforted me.She had such style,such class! I was so sad when I read that she had died. I hope her family knows how much we miss her and her beautiful treasures! I so enjoyed reading about her and her husband~Thank You! Julie B.T.

  63. Mary Vona says:

    Just catching up on your blog. thank you soooo much for solving the Laura Ashley mystery for me. I have been searching high and low for some products. Found lots on ebay. Redecorating…here I come. P.S. Love the hat.

  64. Helen White says:

    Must get out of my cave more often, as I did not know Laura Ashley had died. Was attending university, divorced and raising a daughter at the time of her death. Also working nearly 40 hours/week. Loved her fabrics and her entire line.

    When I was growing up, born in 1942, my mother purchased Lanz clothing for me.
    Then when I was living in England in the mid-60-s heard of here and fell in love with her things.
    What a genius! Such as yourself, my dear Susan!

  65. I was a young Mother of Four girls When I saw My first Laura Ashley store.My heart broke because I knew My daughters would look ethereal in the dresses but I could not afford them.That started My love of a certain style that I carry with Me to this day.Denise from Denise’s Delights in her Coffeeberry Cottage.

  66. christie ray says:

    This is exactly where I can share with you what I found today, strolling through the Old Ice House Antique store here in our little historic town. Your darling little hat pictured above, has been on my mind ever since I found “home” here on your blog….I have googled and searched and surfed all over the world here on the computer, to no avail. But today…my seriously lucky day…I walked along side a booth …and there she was…that sweet little Laura Ashley hat that had evaded me for so long! I threw my hands up and had to testify in the middle of the antique mall…to a couple of ladies working diligently in their booths across from me:)) They know, all too well, what it is to find a treasure…for it IS all about the search:) But I am such a hat person, Sue, and this one fits me perfectly! (Now, of course, I had to wear it with the label to the front, instead of the back, for that is more flattering to my profile, you see;) ANyhoo…I just wanted you to share that little thrill with me, for I too, was a Laura Ashley girl of the 80’s. The prettiest dress I have ever owned…hands down…was the sweetest softest lawn cotton floral, of the softest feminine pastel colors, with a big white ruffled collar and bow. I wore those white canvas Ked tennis shoes with cotton ankle socks…and felt like a million dollars. I wore it when I was pregnant, when I wasn’t pregnant…I wore it when we attended a big tennis tournament to watch a tennis player who was very famous at the time, but for the life of me I cant remember his name….I was just feeling so lovely in my new dress! I had quite a few more after that…but that was my “first love”…and I would give my right arm to remember which pregnant friend I loaned it too. Thank you for “listening” to my memory of that incredible woman who rocked my world as a young mommy…and for sharing my delight at finding my new favorite hat:))

  67. Vickie says:

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you so much for your article about Laura Ashley. If you watch rerun episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” you will see their daughter “Allys” room is decorated with Laura Ashley…the same fabric I used in my daughter’s room in the early 90s. I sooo miss the decor of the 80s and early 90s because (except for the ultra contemporary) it was soo much homier than it is today. I like the idea of neat and clean, but now it seems that everyone, rich or poor, wants to dress, decorate and be alike, without any thought to personal preference or personality.

  68. Susan,
    I used to shop in Laura Ashley’s store in Atlanta. I loved her clothes. I stubbornly held onto several of the dresses long after they were out of style and I no longer wore them. What a tragic story…how her life end. Definitely left us way too soon. I love your sense of style, the playfulness of your designs. Such a treasure finding your lovely blog.
    Susan

  69. Sandy Callaway says:

    Susan – You answered my question…I had no idea Laura Ashley passed on but I didn’t see her stores any longer and I missed them. Such beauty was expressed in every item in her stores. Our favorite store was in St. Louis, Plaza Frontenac. We found ourselves in the store for special occasions and also as many have mentioned just found ourselves going to the store just to enjoy the lovely things in the store. elanbach.com is continuing the quality tradition and so delighted to learn one can find LA clothing/quilts/fabric on ebay. Thanks to all who have shared on this blog.

    • Christine Aschbacher says:

      Oh my!! I grew up in St Louis and remember visiting this store often. it was a beautiful store!

  70. Margo says:

    I just came upon this website today as my daughter was picking out clothes for her “Victorian” tea at school discussing the Bronte family. I ironed the skirt and cotton blouse with ruffles and ties and she added a crinoline for fullness. She was twirling in front of the mirror and said very sweetly and innocently, “Mom, is this a costume or did you wear it for real?” She doesn’t remember all the frilly cotton dresses she wore as a toddler, and let’s face it, children her age don’t wear these styles anymore, ever. I posted a note on my FB to share her question, and so many people responded saying how much they remembered me wearing Laura’s clothes through the 80’s and maternity-time. My little guy at age 2, wore a Beautiful Blue Velvet outfit I splurged on in 1989, with blue and white saddle shoes. She DID make little boy clothing. And, my son had no say in the matter. 🙂 My spare bedroom has a comforter and matching lamp-shade I found at a yard sale. And our first comforter in 1981, was one. Unfortunately, I gave it to a family member long ago… I am so very sad to hear she died so tragically. It would be nice to be able to post some pics on your site. Thank you for sharing the memory and beauty of this woman and her gifts of color and comfort.

  71. Christine Aschbacher says:

    I too love Laura Ashley decorating. My first sofa and love seat were covered in Laura Ashley material. When my daughter, Heidi was born she had Laura Ashley wallpaper in pink of course and the bedding and curtains were Laura Ashley. Of course the bed was white rod-ironed! I loved all of her prints and wallpapers. So many homes now all look the same, no individual tastes anymore! Not me still pastels, lots of flowers, beautiful china, and old hand painted plates hanging on my walls. I still have a set of Laura Ashley sheets!

  72. annie says:

    I don’t think we would have Martha Stewart today if we didn’t have Laura Ashley first! I loved all of her decorating books and fabrics but I was never able to go to one of her stores.

  73. Christina H. says:

    I was teary reading your blog post about Laura Ashley. I am thrilled to find out that you love her and her creations as much as my mom and I do. She was brilliant and, as you so aptly said, truly did make the world a more beautiful place! In the early 90’s my mom had our entire house professionally decorated with all Laura Ashley prints. It was gorgeous! We felt like we were living in English garden everyday! It has made me so sad to see that her stores are no longer here in the U.S. However, this past March, my husband and I went England and found one in Shrewsbury. I was thrilled but must admit that I was disappointed that the floral patterns that I have so loved all these years are there no longer. Finding out that she passed away and that her family is longer a part of the company explains that now. Thank you so much for honoring Laura Ashley on your blog. She was truly, truly lovely!

  74. Paula Arndt says:

    I agree with every word you said. I loved Laura Ashley too – so much so that I worked there for years. They were the happiest work days I can remember. I lived close by the Seattle shop on University Street and every day I’d float down the hill to work in the shop in my flowery dresses and espadrilles, a straw hat on my head (in spring) and in a dark flowery corduroy Welsh farmhouse dress in winter. I was the lucky one who unpacked the new clothing boxes at the start of each season and stayed overnight to transform the store into the new season (and got first dibs on stashing away my next purchase in the employee holds). I loved the dressing rooms with the cream, pink and pale green floral wallpaper. I always spritzed the flowery dressing room curtains with Laura Ashley No1. Holidays were my favorite time with traditional English holiday music playing while happy people bustled about chooses velvet dresses and matching Mother & Child dresses to wear to their family events.
    I also loved the bolts of fabric lined up against the wall in Home Furnishings and rearranging/dusting the chintz china was not a chore at all.
    I have pretty much everything I ever had bought or received, associated with the shop, including every flier, postcard, catalog and of course, straw hats, flowery cotton dresses, scarves and babywale corduroy Welsh farmhouse dresses. Even an old pair of worn out, white espadrilles. The thrill of seeing Made in Great Britain or Scotland on your label is and was worth something! (Spode learned this when they tried to move production of their china to Asia a few years back – no one bought it and they went bankrupt after 230 years in business)
    I was with Laura Ashley long enough to see its demise and watch the quality deteriorate as they moved production to asia. The old Laura Ashley lived on only in our hearts and the precious items we were able to acquire up to the point when first we lost Laura, then we lost the company to outsiders bent on making a buck and not on keeping true to the spirit and quality of the brand.
    I miss it so much…not just the retail store or brand name, but the way of life and attitude it put one’s mind into.

  75. Mary S. says:

    I always loved everything “Laura Ashley”!! thank you for telling us all about her!!
    The pics of you are soooo beautiful!!!

    Love from Mary S. in Fresno, CA

  76. Gerri says:

    Yes, I remember the store in New Haven and West Farms Mall in Ct. My mom went with the girls to the store in New Haven and bought them two pretty dresses each. One was a soft corduroy dress..navy and one was a pretty green soft party dress. And both my daughters wore Laura Ashley Wedding dresses. They married in 1993 and 1997. They were simple and beautiful and with fresh flowers in crowns on their heads..it was sublime!
    I also had some clothing…I think a jacket and pants. The store in West Farms Mall had a more extensive collection. The cut was great and the fit too.
    Miss it..there was one in London I remember in1994…is it run by another company with a different name now?

  77. Yes, I loved Laura Ashley – her fabrics, wallpaper, lamp coverings, dresses, everything!!! I am very sorry to hear that she passed away at such a young age. I wondered why her dresses and bedding just didn’t seem the same . . .
    My older sister, who also passed away at a the young age of 52, loved her style and clothing, too. I clearly remember going shopping with my big sister at the Bridgewater Mall in NJ, and spending what seemed liked hours in a Laura Ashley store. Also, my cousin had a Laura Ashley bedspread (green and pink) with all the “fixins” in her beautiful bedroom and I could spend hours there, too.

  78. Bell says:

    Laura Ashley fan also,I Also worked in the store in my city. we were required to wear
    The clothing. they even gave a free dress once a month. my daughter and I had matching
    Dresses. I started to give all my dresses away. But I have decided to make a quilt
    Out of them whenI retire from teaching. All the teachers called them teacher dresses.
    Like all the other comments the fabric was very good quality.
    Thanks for letting me share.

    • sbranch says:

      You should have heard me just gasp out loud …. they gave you a free dress once a month!!! There must have been a line of people trying to get jobs there! Chawton, the home of Jane Austen, is completely (and might I say, charmingly) wallpapered in Laura Ashley!!

  79. SHARON ROBBINS says:

    I love this story! I have always been a big fan of Laura Ashley, love her style. I shopped in several Laura Ashley shops in the past and always enjoyed it. So sorry to learn about her death. In my mind…The world is a more beautiful place because of her. I have to pass this page on to my niece, which is named Laura Ashlee! She’ll love it too! Thanks again for sharing!

  80. Shawn Coyle says:

    Excellent story… I stumbled across a Laura Ashley store in Greenwich, Ct years ago. I bought a beautiful cloth shower curtain and matching window valance. The colors, the print it seemed it was made for my bathroom. To this day they both still hang in my bathroom. I shop around thinking of redecorating but I can’t find anything that comes close to the Laura Ashley curtains. As you I went back to Greenwich Ct one day and the store was gone. Such disappointment.

  81. Trish says:

    Thank you so much for your blog. I, too, love Laura Ashley, and in the 90s my entire house (well, two houses, and bedrooms from several more) was decorated in her patterns. In fact, just this past weekend I said farewell to my old master set (all I can remember is one of the patterns was “Carnations” in the plum and teal) in favor of Kate Spade’s Florence Broadhurst’s Japanese Floral pattern. In two houses I installed plum-colored carpet to match the old linen, and it looked so pretty with the pattern.

    I still have two other bedrooms decorated in Ms. Ashley’s prints (Chinese Silk and Quartet – I have the Quartet shower curtain in my guest bathroom, and have painted it the periwinkle along with the bedroom, and I have the “Laura Ashley Color” book on one of the nightstands). I remember fondly in the kitchen of one house I did the Alba Roses Smoke pattern for curtains, and did the matching wallpaper and backsplash tile. Armstrong also had a coordinating inlaid vinyl flooring (white with smoke borders in about a 4″ square pattern) I did the countertop in smoke-colored formica, and had a white breakfast set with cowslip seat covers.

    I had I think all her books – the one you mentioned (“The Laura Ashley Book of Home Decorating”), and another larger book (“Laura Ashley at Home”), along with her Bedrooms, Living Rooms, and Bathrooms books I found in the discount pile at the old Books-a-Million in Knoxville, along with many of her catalogs, which I treasure. I remember before they had their Knoxville store, I used to have to drive down to Chattanooga to the one there. I was SO happy when they finally opened the Knoxville store, and I remember spending so much time looking at all the pretty wallpaper and fabrics.

    I remember putting the wallpaper in the kitchen of my first condo with the coordinating border, and the guy who put the border up didn’t use Ms. Ashley’s border paste, and within a couple hours of his leaving, the border had “blown off” the walls and was only hanging in the corners!! He came back and re-hung it using the proper paste. He said he never experienced anything like that.

    Oh, what memories!! It’s SO nice to find others who love and miss Laura Ashley as much as I do. Thank you.

  82. Debbie says:

    Thanks for dedicating a special section to Laura Ashley. LA always brings back the best memories from my childhood with lunches on Saturdays with all the girls in the family at the mall and an obligatory stroll through the Laura Ashley store. My grandmother bought me my first gown for cotillion, crinoline and all at Laura Ashley. Honestly, it was a quiet bribe to get me to go, awkward at 14, too tall too soon but all that fell away when I put the gown on. I think that was the charm of Laura Ashley; it just brought out the “pretty” in everyone. I moved on to the entire bedroom wallpapered much to the chagrin of two wallpaper hangers that discovered it was real paper and required a liner with special paste. 🙂

    I later took it to college. Ironically, I now live literally across the street from the mall that was home to our Laura Ashley store. The store is gone but they left the original hardwood floor and when I stroll in the store, the floor still creaks and with the creaks brings back pretty and fond memories both of family and a time gone by.

    It is heart warming to read all these wonderful messages of fellow LA fans!
    Thanks

  83. Lesley says:

    living in the Uk I discovered one of Laura’s first shops in the Fulham Road, London c 1971/2. A huge juggernaut used to deliver the next batch of clothes in the early days to the rear of the shop, the clothes then were taken down to the changing room in the basement where lots of us were eagerly waiting to try on anything!! I purchased lots of corduroy skirts & jackets & frilly blouses (similar in style to those worn by Diana Princess of Wales) and multi layered dresses. There was this delightfully eccentric lady who used to sit on ‘guard’ at the front door of the shop – she used to check your bag before entering! I still have a couple of dresses from those days. I also started collecting fabric when the home decorating stores opened….. still cut into little squares….. I must make it into a quilt someday!!

  84. Lisa14895 says:

    Our guest room is still done in Laura Ashley’s taupe tulips fabric, with a coral colored complimentary Ashley fabric (name forgotten). At our country wedding, in 1996, our bridesmaids wore tea-length Laura Ashley dresses, and I wore LA dresses at the rehearsal dinner and the post-wedding brunch. Can you tell that I am definitely a kindred spirit? :+)

  85. Lisa14895 says:

    Ahh. Name of complimentary Ashely fabric remembered: Sycamore!

  86. Dee says:

    Love Laura Ashley’s designs. When I’m buying home decor…I look for her designs in the stores …always. Beautiful designs/ fabrics.
    I have alot of her items in my home. Thanks for telling us about her : )

  87. Barbara says:

    Hi Sue,
    Did you go to any Laura Ashely stores during your trip to England? What was your impression of them? Do they still hold that magic? Did any find any other stores with that Laura Ashely spirit?

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, I did, in the first town we stayed in … and there really was some magic there! Not the same as on Newbury Street, not the way it used to be, but still pretty things, nice heavy linen and flowery dresses. Here, you can look for yourself . . . I haven’t checked yet to see if they sell to the USA.

      • Barbara says:

        Thank you for the link Sue! I am currently trying to find a dress to wear for an for an upcoming wedding. The ones in the link would be perfect! Matched with the shoes you showed in your blog – too cute!

  88. Ginger says:

    Back in the 80s, I bought Laura Ashley dresses for myself and daughters for our family pictures. I had no idea why this lovely store closed. Thank you.

  89. Kate Choi says:

    I love “Laura Ashley” stuffs and I missed that brand so badly. When I realized the nearest store I used to go closed already, I was about to cry. My most favorite dresses for my daughter were “Laura Ashely”‘s. I absolutely understand your feeling. I’m happy to see the comments. Thank you.

  90. Karen Joyce says:

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you so very much for telling this inspiring story of Laura Ashley. I loved the store near me so much and never missed an opportunity to stop and dream and shop. I adored how the store looked and loved all the attention paid to the fabrics, clothes and furnishings. I really cashed in on rolls of my favorite wallpaper years ago when Bullock’s went out of business in Westwood, CA. There was a Laura Ashley store in the Bullock’s Store. I love them both. I must have purchased 10 rolls of that wallpaper that I had dreamed of having for a long time. It was l/2 price and I went for it. It lined my long hallway for years. It finally had to go as it had worn well for a long, long time. I never knew why the stores closed and the wonderful clothes and goods were gone. I still have a Laura Ashley dress or two that no longer fit. Can’t part with them. Thank you so much for this interesting information about a favorite of mine for years. So sad to see it end. Cheers! Karen

  91. Lynnette W. says:

    Wow, I just found your blog post about Laura Ashley while Googling her periwinkle fabrics. I loved Laura Ashley, her stores, her fabrics and just about everything she touched! I also loved going in her stores (had several in the Dallas/Fort Worth area). I painted my nursery periwinkle & used her periwinkle and white baby bedding. It was adorable. When it was time to sell the house I lady bought it because she liked the nursery so much! (she painted over it because she only had a 16 year old son). I painted my bedroom in the same periwinkle when I built again in 1992 (20 years ago) and bought her adult bedding to match. Though I have redone every room in my home I can’t bring myself to redo my bedroom. I still love the periwinkle. (I did have to get new bedding but kept the wall color).
    Thanks so much for the post reminding me of such a talented lady and all the beauty she brought to not only my life but the world. She is greatly missed by many.

  92. Paulij says:

    Oh, Susan! I do not know exactly how I ended up at this post about Laura Ashley, but I am so thankful I did! Biographies are the best! Each person has a life story to tell, so varied and interesting. I had never read anything about Laura Ashley–just admired her taste and products–before reading your account. I love the photo of you in the Laura Ashley dress and the drawing beside it. I have always loved your drawings of that hat. 🙂 Thank you for writing this.

  93. Michelle M says:

    I remember the Boston Newbury Street store. For a time in the 90s it moved to the corner of Arlington and Stuart Streets to a teeny tiny store. But it was there that I found some lovely maternity-type dresses to wear during my pregnancy in 96. I still have those dresses; they were a soft corduroy, empire cut, one in green and one in blue. They were the most lovely and comfortable dresses I could have ever owned.

    Thanks for bringing back some lovely memories. It was indeed a sad day when Laura Ashley disappeared from Boston.

  94. Karen says:

    I will ALWAYS love EVERYTHING Laura Ashley, and wish she were still with us creating.

  95. Julie says:

    When I became engaged in 1984, I wore a Laura Ashley dress for my engagement picture. I loved seeing myself wearing it in the local paper’s announcement. It was my favorite dress!

    I still have a Laura Ashley wallpaper on my foyer wall, too. I used to have matching sofas, but they had to go. I still love the wallpaper!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Susan! When I think of holiday’s, I think of you by always pulling your books out.

    xx, Julie

  96. Bethany says:

    OH I loved Laura Ashley as a teen and bought some red poppy-colored cotton pants in my early twenties– they were covered with flowers and I adored them! I still talk about those pants. I wish I’d kept them. When my daughter was pretty little, I found a whole Laura Ashley doll house with interchangeable wallpaper and borders, and curtains! It was a budding decorator’s dream. My daughter didn’t find it as wonderful as I did… I regrettingly donated it when she got too big to play with it. I wish the store was still around.

  97. Sharon Lynn says:

    i loved everything Laura Ashley, Sisters! i was so sad when they closed down the stores in the malls. if you can believe this, i still have one of her most classic prints on her shelf paper that still lines the shelfs of my antique armoire in my guest bedroom. it’s been there for over 25 years! Ha! i just hate to change it out because it is so classically beautiful and it is Laura Ashley.

    Thank you Susan for all that you do to bring back the beauty in our lives and in our homes, to reliving cherished memories and enriching the Holidays with Loving Spirit! Merry Christmas, evyerone !

  98. Debbie says:

    Oh I totally hear ya, Sister! I was so sad when Laura Ashley stores closed. I used to go to the shop at The Atrium in Chestnut Hill, MA. I probably still have my deep pink cordoroy dress, and I know I still have a couple of other things. Books, fabrics, I was all about Laura~ Thanks for writing about her and her designs <3

  99. Anthea Milton says:

    Just today discovered your blog awhile trying to find your books for my Christmas list and couldn’t believe it when I saw your article about Laura Ashley. It took me straight back to my early 20s when I lived near Bath, UK and loved the fashions and patterns of Laura’s.I would save to be able to afford just something that sold not just a product but a bye gone lifestyle where life was full of sunshine, gracious living, flowing dresses, romance and leisurely living. When I could I bought her long dresses, in an age that was driven by Saturday night fever and disco, I even remember wearing one of her long floral dresses out dancing…..I am sure there were lots of snickering……but I felt beautiful. My first daughters bedroom was decorated in her wallpaper and I made her first bed over from matching fabric. With all her popularity it never occurred to me that she was popular in other countries as she was so typically British, being Welsh myself I thought of her as a ‘local’ girl, and its only now reading the article and the comments it has hit me what a universal influence she was. I hated the news of her death and the ultimate change in the style of the patterns brought out in her name. I have now been living in Seattle for over 13years and am heartened that people over here loved her as much as me………memories are made of this…….Thank you.

  100. Linda says:

    My local Laura Ashley store was in St. Louis. I used to escape into it during my Saturday errands! Thank you for helping me remember those trips!

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