Friday, December 10, 2010

Vintage dreaming

Last night I went with three girlfriends and my two daughters to a book signing at The Black Cat book shop in Paddington, Brisbane.

They had invited Charlotte Smith there to talk about a collection of 3,000 vintage dresses and accessories that she inherited from her god-mother Doris Darnell, a Quaker from Pennsylvania in the US. The collection is known as the Darnell Collection.

Charlotte was a completely delightful and charming speaker and had the large audience of (pretty well exclusively) women enthralled at the stories behind some of the clothes. Doris sounded like she was quite a character and it seems she chose wisely when she left her prized collection to the safe-keeping of an equally fascinating and enthusiastic woman. I would have loved to have heard more about Charlotte’s own life story, for example.

Charlotte talked about the serious responsibility of looking after such a collection which details a social history of women for around 250 years. She explained how Doris had left a detailed story of the history of each item, its owner, when the item had been worn (or not in some cases), all meticulously hand written. It is these stories that were used in her two books, Dreaming of Chanel and Dreaming of Dior. Charlotte could have kept on speaking so spell bound did she have her audience.

Charlotte has added to the Darnell Collection in the time she has had it. And in so doing has added to the stories of the women who wore these clothes.

I didn’t hang around afterwards to buy the books, the queues were too long, but they are both definitely on my Christmas list.

After Charlotte there was a small fashion show by the vintage clothing shop, also in Paddington, called Adornments. (My daughters and I have decided we have a date there next week!) I have to say that the clothes that Adornments owner chose to showcase were exquisite. The tailoring, the fabrics, the design and dare I say the sizes! They were enough to make a girl swoon. I am definitely going to get another couple more kilos off so I can get into those mini sized dresses!

My friends and I all commented that we would love to be able to wear clothes like that today if we could but find them. I am sure there is a market for making replicas that would fit today’s larger woman. And although they were obviously vintage clothes from another era, all of the show pieces could have been worn quite happily to a special occasion today.

And the thing I liked best about the evening? The fact that my daughters, 15 and 17, enjoyed it as much as we older girls did.

Thanks Black Cat - a great evening.