John Bates: Fashion Designer

A major fashion retrospective of the work of John Bates, who designed under the name Jean Varon from the 1960s to the 1980s, took place in July and August 2006 at the Museum of Costume.


John Bates was acknowledged as one of the big four names of British fashion in the 1970s along with Jean Muir, Bill Gibb and Zandra Rhodes. Nowadays, however, his name is less well known amongst the fashion conscious, although ‘Jean Varon’ is a name with which women of a certain age will be familiar. John Bates had been under-valued in fashion history. This exhibition redressed this inbalance.


John Bates’ intention was to produce good fashion design that could be afforded on a secretary’s wage. This exhibition showcased 90 ensembles which bear out the designer’s words. From the Empire line styles and daring see-through mesh dresses of the mid 1960s to the bright prints, floating chiffons and couture clothes towards the end of his career, this was an exhibition for everyone, young and old, who is interested in fashion of the 1960s and 1970s.


View a tour of the exhibition here


View the 60s section here.

Image: black and white photograph showing designer John Bates and a female model working in the designer's stock room

Designer John Bates in the stockroom at Jean Varon Ltd, early 1960s


Image: black and white photograph showing two female models wearing light coloured crochet detail dresses

Models wearing John Bates dresses