Good Reading : February 2011
16 goodreading ı FEBRUARY 2011 occasion, from a little black dress by Dior to a glittering ball gown fit for a princess. All these memories came flooding back as I unpacked the thousands of treasures she had so lovingly passed onto me. After the initial excitement subsided however, the sheer volume of gar ments and accessories intimidated me. I had no knowledge of fashion history so I would read late into the night every fashion book or museum catalogue Doris had sent. Often I would turn a page and find myself staring at something almost identical to an item in my collection. One night I was leafing through a catalogue from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when I saw a stunning cream gown featuring a distinctive patter n of scallop- shaped waves, created by long silk threads attached to the delicate crepe fabric -- it was identical to one I had inherited. Then I read that it was designed by Madeleine Vionnet, a pioneering dressmaker in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s who created the revolutionary technique of cutting fabric on the bias. Suddenly I realised that my dress was worth a fortune. As I uncovered more treasures I lear ned more and more about my ad s I later di s co v e r ed w er e a m u st 'widow's weeds' -- 19th-century ourning attire -- and I also learned out the severe wire-hooped inolines, bustles and corsets wor n by ictorian women under their gowns. Many of the gossamer silk 1920s resses seemed so fragile that I was fraid to handle them. As I began to atalogue the pieces I noticed that by the 1930s hooks and eyes and other simple fastenings were being replaced by zips. I wondered at the clever tailoring on suits worn in the early 1940s and revelled in the sheer decadence of full skirts seen in late 1940s and 1950s. When I unpacked dresses from the 1960s and 1970s, memories of my mother wearing her favourite vividly printed hostess gowns came flooding back. And the vast array of vintage dresses allowed me to feel as ifIwereonthesetofsomanyofmy favourite movies and television series -- Breakfast at Tiffany's, Death on the Nile, To Catch a Thief, Pride and Prejudice, Little House on the Prairie and The Avengers. Over the past six years I have worked tirelessly to promote the collection and make it accessible to everyone. Like Doris, I travel around the country and overseas with selected pieces to share at events at schools, museums and vintage fairs. The size of the collection has almost doubled to just under 6000 pieces, most of which has been given by people who have heard of the collection and want to find a home for their family heirlooms. Inheriting Doris's priceless clothing collection has taken me on the most incredible adventure. It has completely changed my life. I am now as passionate about the collection as Doris was, and as deter mined to share its treasures -- as she knew I would be. Dreaming of Chanel by Charlotte Smith is published by HarperCollins, r rp $35.00. Having lived through the swinging sixties and the aftershock of the sexual revolution, Wendy’s parents wanted to be prepared for anything the seventies had in store, especially when it came to their beloved daughter. So, concerned that Wendy’s wild friends might lead her astray, her parents went to a psychologist to get some tips on how to avoid their little girl becoming a ‘hippie’. These were just some of the warning signs they were told to look out for: • An intense interest in ‘funky’ art and poetry • A preference for group love rather than individual love (I’m not at all sure how one’s parents would check for that) • Reluctance to get a job but enjoying spending money and just ‘hanging out’ • Boyfriends or girlfriends who tend to be of other races and religions • And, last but not least, unkempt hair and psychedelic patterned clothing – a dead giveaway. Wendy could certainly never be accused of looking anything but kempt and cool in this totally on-trend seventies number. And what Wendy’s parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.
December January 2011