What is it about?

Victor Stiebel was born in Durban, South Africa, and left when he was a young adult for England. There he became one of London society's foremost fashion designers. Ill health forced him to close his studio whereupon he wrote a memoir of his early life in South Africa. This article explores the themes of this memoir: masculinity, South African colonial middle class life, Stiebel's emerging homosexuality, private school boarding and the drive to escape his smothering but loving mother and wider family. Stiebel's later friendship with Vivien Leigh, written about in their correspondence, is linked to his London life and fashion career. His emotional distance from South Africa is evident but so too is his formation as a young man by British colonial culture. The thesis is that Stiebel's 'Englishness', which was commented upon by fashion editors, was exaggerated by his colonial and patriarchal upbringing.

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Why is it important?

This article explores a little known publication from the eminent British fashion designer, Victor Stiebel.


I had a personal interest in researching this article as Victor Stiebel was my father's first cousin. He originated in a small provincial South African town and rose to be one of England's best known fashion designers. His high career point was designing Princess Margaret's going-away outfit for her wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones.

Lindy Stiebel
University of KwaZulu-Natal

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This page is a summary of: ‘A quintessentially English designer’ from Durban: Victor Stiebel’s South African Childhood (1968), Fashion Style & Popular Culture, July 2022, Intellect,
DOI: 10.1386/fspc_00061_1.
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