The Case of the missing bride and the forgotten couturier

When I conceived of Fashion Detective I hoped that our investigations would turn up some interesting facts or (fingers crossed) provide some possible answers. I never thought that we would crack a case: especially one so open-ended.

Typically when a work is exhibited, we don’t display any ancillary material. However lure of this tattered and torn photograph of an anonymous bride was too great. The enlarged image was pasted up on the wall behind the Wedding dress leaving visitors to speculate on the who, when and where.

Yet less than two weeks after the exhibition opened, I received an email from someone who believed that the photograph was of her cousin. She promised to do some sleuthing.

A month passed and I waited with fingers crossed. Then the email arrived…

“Hooray! Yes the dress and photo in your Fed Square exhibition is of my cousin Judith (Musgrove) Cobden at her wedding to Richard Cobden.”

Further digging soon revealed the wedding was held at All Saints’ Church, Woollahra on the 22nd of February, 1950. The Sydney Morning Herald’s society pages described the bride’s attire in great detail:

‘a lovely bouffant-skirted dress… flown from Mattli, London, last week.. (featuring)… a  three-tiered cape collar below a high-buttoned neckline…and a full skirt of petalled tiers.’

Suddenly, we also had a designer!

Giuseppe, or ‘Jo’ Mattli (1907-1982), was a Swiss-born couturier. He worked in Paris, at the couture house Premet and designing collections for Chanel, before opening his own London atelier in 1934, offering both haute couture and ready to wear lines.  When Judith Musgrove’s gown was ordered, Jo Mattli headed one of the top couture houses in London alongside the likes of Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies.  Yet after his couture line ended in 1955 followed by the ready-made line in the 1970’s, Mattli’s name slowly fell from recognition.

Until recently, that is.

There has been quite a revival of interest in this little-known designer with extensive scholarship on Mattli appearing in the U.K.  It transpires that many of his designs are held in the Victoria and Albert Museum and an exquisite drawing for a day-dress may be seen here:

Fashion drawing | Fromenti, Marcel | V&A Search the Collections.

Now there is a Mattli in Australia.  Perhaps more may come to light…