Mary White (textile designer)

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For other people named Mary White, see Mary White.
Mary White in 1947

Mary White (born in Margate, Kent in 1930) trained as a textile designer and studied textile design at the Thanet School of Art and Crafts. She was one of the most iconic textile print designers of the 1950s.[1]


Mary White enjoyed a huge reputation as one of the leading fabric designers of the 1950s, and later became a teacher. Her work could be found in homes across the world as well as in cabins aboard the RMS Queen Mary and at Heathrow Airport. Her creations are now undergoing a resurgence of interest among the fashion conscious.

White was designing during the same period as Lucienne Day. To create her designs Mary drew on the work of William Morris, books of flowers and the countryside where she grew up and has lived throughout her life. In turn her work has influenced leading fashion icons such as Mary Quant, Laura Ashley and Sir Terence Conran.

White created hundreds of designs in her career (she gave up her career to raise her family). Some of her most famous creations such as Coppice, Cottage Garden and Zinnia were best sellers in leading outlets including Liberty and Heals.

The design Cottage Garden was one of White’s most successful designs. It was made available by Heals in 1955, at a price of 10s 9d per yard, coming onto the market at a time when a greater number of people than ever were accepting "contemporary" design.

Many of White’s designs are exhibited in museums all over the world including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Warner Textile Archive in Essex and the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

Collectors of fifties fabric continue to collect Mary White material. Mary's designs continue to be included in books on the subject of 1950s textile design such as 20th Century Pattern Design by Lesley Jackson, design curator, historian and author.

White was also involved in Thanet Pottery, having also studied pottery at Thanet School of Art. Thanet Pottery was a collaboration between White (then using her married name of Mary Dening) and her brother, David White. Thanet Pottery made hand painted slip cast earthenware pottery and their items were sold to High Street chains in the early 1960s.

White's Coppice print was reproduced as a rug and sold in John Lewis as recently as 2010.[2]

Mary White was interviewed and included in the BBC1 show The 1952 Show Episode 2 which aired on 27 March 2012.


  1. ^ "1950s Textile Designer Mary White meets with FashionCapital". Website. Fashion Capital. Archived from the original on February 26, 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  2. ^ 1950s-designed Honesty Rug from John Lewis. Retro To Go (2010-03-24). Retrieved on 2013-01-07.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jackson, Lesley: "Twentieth-century Pattern Design: Textile & Wallpaper Pioneers", page 99 and page 103. Princeton Architectural Press, 2002. ISBN 978-1-84000-371-0.
  • Fiell, Charlotte and Peter: "Decorative Art 50s", page 294. Taschen, 2008. ISBN 978-3-8365-0310-5.

External links[edit]