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It Started With A Dress: Beatrice & George X Childrensalon Collection

Every successful business has a unique story to tell, and ours began with one woman and her love for dressmaking. Back in the early part of the 20th century, our founder, Sybil Harriman (née McGowan), fell in love and married French jazz pianist, René, who shared her love for elegant attire, and took delight in introducing her to the world of 1930s Parisian couture.

René's career took them to Austria with their young family where Sybil – highly skilled with a needle and thread and influenced by Vienna's high society – reignited her childhood love of making clothes for her dolls, by remaking used fabrics into beautiful dresses and clothes for her children. 

15 Sep 2022

From Small Beginnings

There was one intricate detail on her dresses that became Sybil's style signature: the art of hand-smocking. “I remember Mummy would be at home, smocking our dresses by hand,” recalls Puppe, one of Sybil’s three daughters, who still works at Childrensalon. “She had a team of helpers, and we would go and pick up the pins from the workroom floor with a magnet.”

It was when the Harriman family relocated from Vienna to Royal Tunbridge Wells that Sybil became known locally for dressing her children beautifully, outfitting them from head to toe in her beautifully crafted designs. What was originally a local ladies’ sewing circle became a substantial operation, with Sybil and her growing team of seamstresses working hard to fulfil commissions from across the country, including requests from royalty and film stars of the day.

One item in particular, became Sybil’s signature design: an elegant dupion dress adorned with flutter sleeves and a hand-smocked bodice. 

An Iconic Dress Reborn

This iconic dress has been lovingly reimagined for the 70th anniversary of our first shop The Children’s Salon in Tunbridge Wells. For the special Beatrice & George X Childrensalon collaboration, the piece, coming soon to Childrensalon, has been named the Joy dress, after Sybil’s eldest daughter, and has been revisited (alongside a buster suit, aptly named René) in this exclusive partnership between Childrensalon and the British childrenswear label Beatrice & George

“We knew it was something we just had to recreate,” explains the Beatrice & George design team. “From the smocked panels and colourings to the pretty angel sleeves, we’ve zoomed right in to match details and bring this dress back to life.”

In a shoot that pays homage to the photograph of Michele and Puppe, Sybil’s great-granddaughters Rose and Cyra recreate the scene on a set that took inspiration from Sybil’s original fashion show. “Going to the shows was very exciting,” remembers Puppe. “We got to stay up instead of going to bed.” Today, we hope children will love wearing these special pieces.

The Perfect Print

The creative journey into Sybil’s legacy didn’t stop there. Gaining exclusive access to the family archives and flicking through swatches of vintage fabrics for inspiration, the team at Beatrice & George were inspired to honour Sybil herself – and the Sybil print was born. Its timeless painterly florals and palette of tonal blues originally began as an exploration, but as the colours and details came together, it became clear that the print had star potential. “It went from being a small detail to the main event almost overnight,” explains the Beatrice & George design team.

The Sybil print now sits proudly centre stage of the Beatrice & George X Childrensalon collection. From a beautiful accent on a ruffled cuff to being offset against a contrasting neckline and embellished with signature smocking, this special print and the collaboration as a whole is a sartorial tribute to Sybil herself. Perhaps it is not too much to imagine she would be proud to see her legacy lives on, inspiring future generations to dress their children beautifully.

Read more about our 70th anniversary HERE.


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