Thea Porter

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Thea Porter, photographed by Joe Gaffney in 1973.

Dorothea Noelle Naomi "Thea" Porter (24 December 1927 – 24 July 2000)[1] was a British artist, fashion designer and retailer who in the 1960s brought opulent Middle East fashions to London.

Early life[edit]

She was born Dorothea Noelle Naomi Seale, on 24 December 1927, in Jerusalem,[2] and raised in Damascus.[3] She was the daughter of Morris S. Seale, the Arabist and theologian, who was a Christian missionary in Syria, and his French wife, who was also a missionary.[1] Her brother was the journalist Patrick Seale, and her sister Barbara "Bobbie" Seale married the yacht designer Beecher Moore.

Porter was educated at the Lycée Française in Damascus, Fernhill Manor, then for a short time at Royal Holloway College, London, before being expelled.[1][3]

Following her brief art studies, she worked as a librarian in Beirut, where she met her future husband, Robert Porter. She travelled to Jordan and Iran, had holidays in France and Italy and "went to nightclubs every night and had millions of clothes."[3]


After she separated from her husband, Porter settled in London in 1964. Her first job was in interior design, working for Elizabeth Eaton.[1] She opened her first shop, an interior decorating business offering imported cushions, fabrics and hangings called Thea Porter Decorations, in Soho's Greek Street in 1966, which soon became Thea Porter Couture.[1] She realised that rather than just cutting up her imported kaftans to use the fabric for cushion covers, they were fashionable in their own right, and began making up her own in mixed fabrics and antique trimmings.[1]

From 1967, she expanded internationally, first in Paris and then at I. Magnin in San Francisco and at Giorgio Beverly Hills.[3]

Her customers, some of whom also became her friends, included Baby Jane Holzer, Lauren Bacall, Talitha Getty, Bianca Jagger, Mick Jagger, Inaara Aga Khan, Jutta Laing (the wife of R D Laing), Pamela, Lady Harlech, Veronique Peck, Princess Margaret, Edna O'Brien, Elizabeth Taylor, and Pete Townshend.[1][3]

In 1971, Porter opened a store in New York financed by Michael Butler, the producer of the hit Broadway musical Hair. When this failed, she returned to London, but Thea Porter Decorations, eventually went into receivership. Later, Porter had a short business partnership with Princess Dina of Jordan in a smaller shop. Zandra Rhodes has stated, "Sadly, one didn't hear of her after that".[3] In her obituary, The Guardian noted that Porter had little interest in marketing and was generally poor at business.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1953, she married Robert "Bob" Porter, an economist with the British Embassy in Beirut.[1] They divorced in 1964 or 1967.[1][3] They had one daughter, Venetia.[3]

Thea Porter died in London on 24 July 2000.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Barr, Ann (26 July 2000). "Thea Porter". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Porter, Thea". Vintage Fashion Guild. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Trebay, Guy (27 July 2000). "Thea Porter, 72; Dressed the Elite of the 60's in Hippie Chic". New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2014.