Vivien of Holloway is considered by many to be the ruling monarch of the British reproduction vintage scene. All their pieces are designed and made in the UK, most of their clothing styles returning season after season in new colours and prints, with an army of avid fans happy to expand their Grace, Kitty or Sarong collections.
One of their most popular dress styles is the Halterneck Circle Dress, often referred to by lover’s of the style in shorthand as the HNCD. They watch the website keenly for the release of new prints, stalk eBay for signs of colourways they missed out on, and chat in Facebook groups about where they last wore their favourite dress. In terms of vintage style clothing, it’s a classic, one of those dresses that is quintessentially fifties. Almost every British pinup has one hanging in her closet, and I don’t know why it took me so long to try one.
Since all Vivien of Holloway pieces are UK made, I decided it was only appropriate to take my new dress to the seaside for a leisurely stroll with friends (and a sneaky helping of fish and chips, because if you’re going to seaside you may as well do it properly.)
Dress: Turquoise Floral Halterneck Circle Dress C/O Vivien of Holloway
Cardigan: Iced Blue Tootsie Cropped Cardigan from Doll Me Up
Belt: Came with a Bernie Dexter dress
Shoes: New Look
Hair Flower: Ivory Blossom Falls clip by Alternate Normality
Bangles: Wine Carved & Blue Narrow bangles by Splendette
Since it was the British seaside we visited, it was only to be expected that there ended up being some wind, a slight threat of rain, and a changeable waning light, but it was still a beautiful evening spent in great company and a pretty dress. Strangers smiled at me as we strolled past one another, but I can that, in reality, they were smiling at my dress, for which I can’t blame them.
The Halterneck Circle Dress is the kind of dress that makes you want to go dancing and is great fun when you do, as the full circle skirt twirls beautifully. It features a boned bodice to give you that great cinched waist silhouette, and a flattering wide-strapped halterneck that covers those little underarm bulges that almost every woman has. It’s an effortless kind of dress that gives the impression of being well put together no matter how little effort you really put in to getting dressed. Dressing it down for a more casual occasion, like I did, is easy with a cardigan, but any lady seeking arm coverage for a fancier event can pick out one of Vivien of Holloway’s complimentary Boleros.
For newbies to the brand, it’s important you know that Vivien of Holloway use vintage sizing for their size labelling. This means their clothing tags are typically numbered two sizes larger than your modern UK high street equivalent (so if you wear a modern UK 16, you might need a Vivien size 18 or 20.) The best way to figure out what size you will need in your VOH is to take your recent measurements with a tape measure and compare it to their size chart. The sizing drop down menu on their product pages always list by measurements to avoid confusion, not their vintage size number, so following the listed measurements should see you choosing the right size.
Since many of their dresses feature boning to create a cinched waist effect, they often recommend that you have someone else available to help you zip into a dress. It’s standard for these styles to need an extra pair of hands to help you into it, so if you try a piece on alone and don’t succeed at first, don’t panic, it might still be the right size for you. Saying that, if you’re between sizes or are worried about finding the right fit, they recommend you choose one of their styles made of cotton sateen, since this fabric has more give than a pure cotton dress would.
This turquoise floral colourway of the Halterneck circle dress is made from cotton sateen and I can confirm it has more give than any of my linen or cotton Vivien pieces. I wanted to size up from my usual VOH 18 to a 20 so that I had a more comfortable Vivien option to wear after some recent weight gain, but the team wanted to make sure I got the perfect fit so they sent me both sizes to compare. I’ve taken the measurements of both sizes and compared it to their size chart below to help you get your head around the sizing if you’re new to the brand.
The size 18, made for B42 W34 H46 on their size charts, flat measures 32 inches in the waist, with enough give that I flat stretched it to 34 inches. You can see comparing just the listed measurements against the actual dress that this style is cut to cinch you in, so that’s why you may have to size up if you don’t feel comfortable in a tight fit. Comparatively, the size 20 is listed on the size chart as being for B44 W36 H48, and it flat measures 34 inches in the waist, with enough stretch to get to 37 inches. Since the cotton sateen does have decent give, this is definitely a great style to try if you’re new to Vivien of Holloway and are worried about choosing the right size.
The 1950s Halterneck Circle Dress comes available in a variety of solid colours, prints and patterns, 84 at least count! They’re available in sizes that accommodate waists of 24-38 inches. The prices range from £89 to £99 for most of their cotton and cotton sateen varieties, with their luxury occasion pieces costing no more than £120 (Hello beautiful budget brides!) This Turquoise Floral version costs £99 and is available in the full size range.