Dorothea Naomi Seale was born in Jerusalem in 1927. She raised in Damascus, Syria.

She studied French and Old English at the London University from 1949 to 1950. Later she studied art at the Royal Holloway College in Egham, Surrey.

In 1953 she established Greek Street in Soho, a boutique selling textiles from the near East and clothing of her own designs. She sold bedspreads, pillows and caftans. The caftans were selling so well, she couldn't keep her store stocked, so she began designing and producing them in England. Her designs were met with tremendous success, and a fashion empire was born.

In the late 1970s she also maintained a shop in Paris. In 1969 she created at henri Bendel in New York an in-store Thea Porter Boutique.

Furthermore she worked as an freelance fashion, textile and interior designer in London from 1969.

Porter, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, died in July 2000 in London.

In 1972 she was awarded the English Fashion Designer of the Year.

The Look

An ancient, loosely cut ankle-length garment, the caftan lent itself to opulent decoration and luxurious fabrics. Porter's evening gowns were made from silks, brocades, velvets, even crepe de chine and filmy chiffon, embellished with metallic embroidery and spangles or braid. While not strictly native costume reproductions, the caftans captured the spirit of mysterious harem allure. Wealthy international clients comprised Porter's clientéle, as much for the exoticism of the clothes, as no doubt for the comfort. Porter had long admired Arabic clothing, entranced by the rich embroideries and fabrics, in shapes producing a protected and secure feeling of being able to hide in one's clothes while feeling like a princess, in the richness of execution of her romantic fantasies. Porter's nostalgic sensibilities also extended toward the Renaissance and the Edwardian periods. During the 1970s she offered high-waisted midi-or maxi-dresses with voluminous sleeves. These simple historic shapes also lent themselves to luxurious brocades, tapestries, velvets, and embroidery. Her Edwardian looks featured vintage trimmings, and sailor-collared or lacy dresses recalling the last days of the Imperial Russian Grand Duchesses. Porter claimed Chekhov as an influence as well as art déco. Gypsy dresses with their full-flounced skirts allowed for romantic play of colorful patterned fabrics. Again, the shapes were easy, flattering.

Who Wears It

Taylor, Raquel Welch, Charlotte Rampling, Barbra Streisand, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Donovan, Princess Margaret, Jessey Norman,

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