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Dreaming of Dior: Every Dress Tells a Story Kindle Edition
Then she discovered that she had inherited a priceless vintage clothing collection from her American Quaker godmother, Doris Darnell.
When the boxes started arriving, they were filled with more than three thousand pieces dating from 1790 to 1995, from Dior and Chanel originals to a dainty pioneer dress.
But when she unearthed her godmother’s book of stories, the true value of what she had been given hit home. This wasn’t merely a collection of beautiful things; it was a collection of lives. Women’s lives. Tiny snapshots of our joys and disappointments, our entrances and exits, triumphant and tragic.
This is a book for any woman who knows a dress can hold a lifetime of memories.
About the Author
Charlotte's fascination with fashion began with a special vintage dress at the age of three. Since inheriting her godmother's vast vintage clothing collection, her passion for fashion has grown to include the history of fashion and its significant impact on society. Charlotte is involved with exhibitions of her collection around the country, gives lectures and talks, works with fashion and design students and is featured on television and radio.
Grant Cowan has worked as an illustrator on magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour and Red magazine. He studied fashion design and lived in London before moving to Australia to teach fashion illustration. Grant is a freelance fashion illustrator and works with fashion schools in Sydney. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
But all I could think after my American godmother Doris Darnell told me her invaluable legacy was on its way across the world to me was: ‘What on earth am I going to do with it?’
Doris’s collection had been a lifetime labour of love for her, more precious than any treasure I knew of, and she had chosen me as custodian. I was simply overwhelmed.
That is, until the first box arrived at my home in the Blue Mountains. I peeled back the packing tape, pushed aside layers of white tissue and caught my breath at what lay inside. It was a gown of gossamer silk in the palest cream with silver beads glistening over and beyond the bodice; panels of frothy chiffon slipped through my hands as I raised it to the light. I had unearthed my first treasure. I was instantly enchanted, as Doris knew I would be.
For the next three months Christmas came every day. Out came strapless ballgowns with vast, sumptuous skirts of taffeta and moiré silk, velvet hats bedecked with exotic plumes, organdie party dresses in every style and hue … and every stitch, every sequin, ribbon and silk petal reminded me of Doris.
When I was a child growing up in Philadelphia, Doris was the ultimate fairy godmother. Tall and elegant, flamboyant and utterly charming, she was exotic and unpredictable in a thrilling way. She always dressed in clothes from a time long ago, swishing bustle skirts, lace blouses and trailing feather boas. Clothes that no one else wore, and no one else could wear with quite the sense of drama that Doris did.
I grew up thinking everyone had a special room in their house full of nineteenth-century hats and crocodile handbags, and that every woman had - or should have - wardrobes and trunks filled with rainbows of shimmering gowns.
Each time I visited Doris, the two of us would climb the impossibly narrow and steep staircase to the top floor of her townhouse and lose ourselves for an hour or two amid her latest acquisitions and old favourites. For me this was where magic happened, brought alive by Doris’s wonderful stories about the dresses and the women who wore them. Her eyes would sparkle as she recounted the adventures of 1920s flappers, Edwardian ladies at high tea, new brides, debutantes and pioneer women. And it is these stories that make her collection unique.
Doris’s collection is a spellbinding journey spanning two hundred and five years, from 1790 to 1995, and encompassing famous couturiers like Lucile, Madeline Vionnet, Dior, Galanos and Jean Muir, but not one bit of it was purchased by her. They are all gifts from friends and acquaintances who either knew or had heard of her legendary ‘hobby’. As the Quaker saying goes, every piece was ‘given in love and in trust’. Doris was a Quaker her whole life, and while her passion for clothes and accessories was frowned upon as immodest and frivolous by the elders of her religion, her passion remained as irrepressible as her character.
In the spirit of love and trust, Doris devoted the last few decades of her life to sharing her collection with the world. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Doris became well known throughout the east coast of the United States and beyond for her ‘living fashion’ talks, which she would give in museums, college halls and even on cruises around the world, including the QEII, donating her speaking fees to the Quaker Society of Friends. Her audiences were invariably so enchanted by her shows that they would donate some of their own treasures to the collection, from a great aunt’s pair of Victorian dancing slippers to the latest designer gowns by Chanel and Dior. And so the collection continued to grow, more and more stories were added to share, until the baton was passed on to me.
The treasures that lay before me were worth a fortune. Selling them would set me up for life, but enticing as that thought was, I could never consider such a thing or the idea of them being broken up by donation to museums or other collections. I still had no idea what to do with the collection, but somehow, like Doris, I would find a way to share it, and to keep it growing. Over the years, Doris had loaned me some of these gowns to wear, for a ball in Oxfordshire, a wedding in Monaco … I had so many stories I could add too.
Then, among the last of Doris’s boxes, I found her catalogue notes - the notes of all her stories, of the dresses and the women who wore them. As I pored over Doris’s words - her wit, wonder and wisdom - the true value of what I had been bequeathed hit home. This wasn’t a mere collection of beautiful things, it was a collection of life. Women’s lives. Tiny snapshots of our joys and disappointments, our entrances and exits triumphant and tragic - and sometimes tragically hilarious.
And so, in the spirit of love and trust, I - and the inimitable Doris Darnell - share some of those moments with you now.
You cannot imagine how happy I am to learn that you are thrilled to have me pass on to you my collection of clothing and accessories of other eras.
Ever since I was a teenager, I have loved to dress up and I still do! Family and friends and friends of friends heard of the old trunk in my attic where I stored my dress-up clothes and started adding to my collection as they cleared out ancestral attics and wondered what to do with all that stuff. That’s when my collection really started to grow!
It’s been hard, if not impossible, for me to turn down any gifts, because I soon discovered that I was not just collecting dress-up clothes, but, in addition, each piece was a springboard to history. Each donor told me the story of the woman or man who wore the clothing, fascinating stories of other times, sometimes full of joy, other times grief, sometimes bitterness, other times heartache. In my opinion these stories make my clothing three dimensional and in some odd way the people who wore the clothing come alive again in the telling. I am giving you all the stories so that they can continue to be an extension of each outfit.
You ask me what everything I am giving you is worth if you have to declare a value. I have a hard time with that question. I have never bought a single thing nor has anything been appraised. I am giving you a part of my life. I have been a trusted custodian and I am delighted that you see yourself in that same capacity.
The contents of our home are insured for a modest amount with no mention of my clothing. If our house burned down and we lost everything, all of the stories, the glimpses of history, would have no value without the clothing. Money could not replace what I had lost, so why insure?
If I had to come up with something, I would call my gift to you ‘Old-fashioned clothing with stories about the people who wore the clothes’. They have been treasured by me, but never evaluated. I had planned to leave everything to you in my will, dear godchild, but I am 87 years of age and feel now is the time. So here it is with my blessing!
Love, love, Doris
© 2009 Charlotte Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B003FLPW36
- Publisher : Atria Books (April 6, 2010)
- Publication date : April 6, 2010
- Language : English
- File size : 10909 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 297 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,499,003 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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The woman who started this collection sounds extraordinary. The older I get the more I appreciate history, and this woman did an amazing job of truly treasuring the gifts she was given by recording the stories behind them.
I learned about this collection from the TV show, “Strange Inheritance” (on Fox Business), but the book takes this incredible story to the next level.
I bought both my copies used, but both were in very good condition!
Imagine having a godmother who loves fashion as much as you do, and when she goes to fashion heaven leaves you an amazing legacy.
Quaker Doris Darnell collected vintage clothing and accessories (dated 1795-present.) The pieces came from acquaintances and friends who also sent letters, stories and photographs about each piece Doris received.
Charlotte Allen inherited the collection and began chronicling the pieces - especially the dresses and the personal stories that came with them. This first book in the series shows stories on one page in paragraphs and snippets with beautiful illustrations of each dress by Grant Cowan.
What we really get is a view of social history from the stories - how women lived in different centuries and decades and what they endured to keep fashionable with their times.
Whether you are a fashion historian, fashion designer or a fashionista, Dreaming of Dior and the follow up book Dreaming of Chanel belong in your fashion library.
The hardcover book is bound nicely as well has having good quality paper. The images are also very crisp and colorful.
As the title states, this is a great little book to get for your loved one as a "just because" gift. It's priced great, and with Prime you can't beat the free shipping!
Amazon also has special boxes that they use for their books, so you're not getting some huge box just for a book. Good job Amazon!
I wish that the gowns had been better organized in years from old to new, but not every single one has a date listed so maybe some were unknown. Every single one comes with a story and the few that I read are pretty inspirational. I'm not sure if all the dresses are merely Dior, the title would suggest it, but it states in the cover flap that it includes pieces from Dior and Chanel originals. The book won't really tell you which designer the gown came from, just the story of who had it.
The illustrations are very inspiring and I've had a few friends who are artists become easily inspired for clothing when they looked through this.
I really love this book and it will wear out soon from my constant shuffling through the pages.
Top reviews from other countries
My only complaint is that throughout the book Smith does perhaps a little too much name dropping and bragging that somewhat distances you from her as a narrator.
Reviewed in Spain on March 2, 2020
Après c'est un livre super intéressant avec un bel couverture
Parfait pour un "Coffe table book"
Pour le prix tout est oki, un coup de chiffon/produit/huile coude
Si vous avez la chance comme moi de le trouver à 6€ faut pas hésiter à le prendre