Gina Fratini dies, remains eveningwear influencer

Gina Fratini has died. The retired designer was 85 and died at the end of May. She had been one of the best-known names in the UK eveningwear industry before closing her business in 1989 and frequently made dresses for high profile royalty including Princesses Diana, Anne and Margaret. She was also patronised by celebrities and made the famous tie-dyed Kaftan in which Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton for the second time.


Fratini's 1975 Dress of the Year, along with Tommy Nutter's suit - Costume Museum, Bath


Fratini, whose surname came from her second husband Renato Fratini, was born Georgina Butler in Japan in 1931 and was brought up in India. But she attended the Royal College of Art in London from the age of 17, studying fashion in the department headed by the famous Madge Garland.

She began her career designing dance costumes with costume design remaining a feature of her work in the ensuing decades. Her credits included the clothes Raquel Welch wore in the film Bedazzled during the 1960s.

Despite being a full-time homemaker during the 1950s, she returned to the business world and set up her company in 1964. Her designs immediately stood out as different from the dominant style of the time that was driven by the modernist looks of designers like Mary Quant, André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin,

However, while she went against the prevailing trend, in many ways her use of sheer, floaty fabrics and her love of loose, fluid silhouettes pointed the way forward. Her designs looked to the more eclectic hippie-esque styles that characterised the late 60s and early 70s, a style that was also embraced by fellow British designers such as Bill Gibb and Zandra Rhodes.

During the 1980s she was a favourite of Diana, Princess of Wales. And while her designs at the time followed a more traditionally 80s ballgown style, they still featured her trademark love of decorative sheer fabrics.

After closing her business at the end of the decade she also designed for Norman Hartnell where her creations continued to be bought by British royalty.

Fratini remains an influencer for the work she did during the 1960s and 70s and her dresses can be found in a number of important costume collections in Britain. The V&A has some, as does the Costume Museum in Bath. Fratini has a place in the Costume Museum’s central exhibit, its long-running Dress of the Year section, with a 1975 Gina Fratini wedding dress having been chosen and teamed with a Tommy Nutter suit.

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