Monday, December 27, 2010

My photo album of my favourite 'hair do's' and glam vintage dresses straight from my private wardrobe

A 50s Dorothy O'Hara cocktail dress - hair by Jani at Christopher Hana Hair

80s sequin dress and hair by James Willis of Blackheath NSW

A decadent silk velvet hostess gown from the 70s by Ann Pakradooni

A 70s hostess gown from Saks Fifith Ave

Pure and exquisite Dior owned by Sandie Bizy Hats in Sydney

Wearing a silk 20s inspired sheath dress

Riku Campo flew on from LA and along with his beautiful assistant created Hollywood glamour!

An elegant wool dress from the early 50s

Hair by James Willis Design, Blackheath

A pure polyester 70s hostess gown by meredith of Hawaii

Wearing a fab 70s silk pantsuit

I thought it would be fun (and also a good reference for me!) to post all my favourite looks and dresses. I will keep updating this. What I am loving about my adventure with The Darnell Collection is of course the HUGE choice I have each time I need a dress for a special event - and giving all the makeup and hair stylists I work with free rein to give me a dramatic look. WHAT FUN.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


MiSociety says "Dreaming of Dior, illustrated by Grant Cowan, is complusive and entertaining reading for anyone who has ever had a love affair with a treasured fashion item."  They took lovely pictures of the evening, The Darnell Collection, the models and, of course, us -- Grant and me.  Read the rest on their blog - click on this link - MiSociety!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010


Our magical journey to Christian Dior's family home in Granville, France now a museum displaying to-die-for Dior garments

The 3 hour rather flat and uninteresting train ride from Paris to Granville on the coast of Normandy did not prepare us for the twenty four hours of magic visiting the family home and gardens of Christian Dior - the sole purpose of our trip.

Dior's hydrangea pink house with white paintwork and a slate grey tiled roof sits on the clifftop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The large 3 story house has been turned into a small and elegant museum which displays over 60 sumptuously beaded, tailored haute couture dresses, gowns and suits in every delicious colour imaginable, worn by the crème de la crème of international society including Princesses Grace, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Maria Callas, and many more. A small shop in the foyer sells gifts, books and jewellery exclusive and very appropriate to the museum. A retrospective of Marc Bohan, artistic director of the House of Dior from 1961 -1989, was on. It was fascinating to observe the changes in lifestyle and elegance which occurred over the three decades M. Bohan was in charge.
And now for the garden .... it is a jewel of a museum in its own right with giant tableaux of photographs of Dior clients dressed in Dior – dramatic in black and white intertwined with glorious colourful flowerbeds, rose trellises and ocean vistas. Dior was inspired by scents of flowers blooming profusely in his garden. In a unique way of allowing the visitor the experience of smelling his many popular perfumes while looking at the flowers which inspired it, discreet stands with a 'lift and sniff' type format were placed throughout the garden. You were encouraged to lift the flap and a gentle waft of the perfume escaped enveloping you immediately in a cloud of Dior perfume. Even men's cologne wass displayed like this. A truly beautiful and memorable experience.

The town of Granville itself had a bit of an odd atmosphere. It doesn't quite make the chic seaside resort it might have been. It has a real serious purpose instead. One of the largest rehabilitation hospitals in France is here – with spectacular sea views and sea air to help the patients recover. The town is bustling with people – snazzy chemist shops selling Dior cosmetics, tourist shops with the typical array of souvenirs and a number of funky clothes shops. We stayed the night at the Mercure in an enormous room with a balcony.

This is a great overnight trip from Paris.


Rome - Our 3 nights in Rome is really an excuse to be a real tourist. So Olivia and I head off as soon as we land to wander through the Plaza Navone filled with artists, easels and some rather dire paintings just around the corner from our 'hotel', a convent presided over by a delightful American nun called Sister Katherine. (I chose a convent rather than a hotel just for the experience! Hmmm.) Rome is busy, full of tourists, HOT and expensive, but impressive with monsterously enormous blond stone buildings and complicated fountains. For me the highlight is the walk through the lengthy corridors of the Vatican into the Sistine Chapel. The other highlight centres around eating - our dinners which we eat al fresco at tables set up on the pavement of a narrow street running parallel to Plaza Navone are fresh, tomato-y and tangy with basil!

No fashion museums to visit here – just the experience of Rome, in all her majesty and plenty of shopping. Of course, one of my favourite stories in Dreaming of Dior is the one about our snazzy lunch at the top of the Spanish Steps and our wander along via Condotti into Zara where I buy (with Olivia's insistence) a stunning digitally printed long silk gown! Zara in Rome is one of the best.

Venice – really nothing more I can say to bring on the oohs and aahs – just so fabulous. And for me, truly decadent as I book Olivia and I into the Londre Palace Hotel, one of the Luxury Small Hotels right on the Grand Canal. I decide to splurge and enjoy Venice as the Romantics on their Grand Tour did. Even though our room does not overlook the Grand Canal it does overlook the most striking church whose bells toll sonorously on the hour and keep reminding us we are in Italy. The hotel is filled with an exciting mix of antique Venetian glass (mirrors) and new (chandeliers). As Olivia always says, “This is the life!”
We have come to Venice to visit several museums I had read about – 'must sees', it said in my guide book.
On our first morning (of torrential rain) we go straight to the Fortuny Museum. Isabelle de Borchgrave, an artist from Belgium, is renowned for her exquisite paper recreations of Fortuny gowns which she stencils, paints and pleats just as Fortuny did to his gowns. It is one of the most delightfully intimate and inspiring museum exhibitions I have seen in many years. Over three floors in the hushed and ancient house of Mario Fortuny, Ms Borchgrave has a display of her gowns, all made from paper and printed with hand applied stencils in the manner of Fortuny (knife edged pleats of silk cascading from the rounded neck to the floor in a sheath like column), within the darkened and Pre-Raphaelite feeling rooms of the Palladio and interspersed with real Fortune gowns. I bought the book, 'Un Monde Di Carta Isabelle de Borchgrave incontra'. It is the ultimate artist's book bound by a stenciled fabric cover filled with personal photos of the artist and her creations. Really wonderful.
Now, I have always dreamed of wearing a Fortuny gown, but I now conclude the shape, cut and drape of his gowns really don't suit my figure (one needs to be super tall and reed thin) so I would just like to dream of owning one in my collection. The museum is empty so I have a wonderful opportunity of just wandering silently from room to room.
We also visit a private museum housed in a palazzo which tells the story of one rich Venetian family of the 1700s. The house is filled with the original furniture and sumptuous silk dresses worn by family members. It is a bit historical society, fashion museum and a complete 18th century time warp. A rather creepy guard keeps a close eye on us – we turn around and there he is! (I will find the name of this museum and post it for anyone interested.)
Olivia and I visit an inordinate amount of churches – each frescoed and decaying in that wonderful European way. I rains non-stop so we are content to retat to our beautiful hotel room to dry off and soak in deep bubbly baths in our seriously marbled bathroom


And on to Florence
Now Florence is my dream destination. It is romantic, beautiful, historic and the place you want to visit with the love of your live!! So visiting with my love of the moment, my gorgeous daughter Olivia, we arrive in Florence by train on a hot, early summer's evening. We check in to our sumptuous hotel near the train station and flop onto the bed after turning on the air conditioning and gaze at the ceiling – decorated with the most beautiful subtle frescos of angels, columns and puffy clouds all done about 400 years ago. We are here in Florence to discover fashion as only the Italians can do. Our ‘rendezvous' include the Ferragamo Shoe Museum and the Pitti Palace. Our other mission though is related to one of the stories in my first book, Dreaming of Dior. We are searching for Lizzie Boott's tomb in a 'cemetery in Florence'. Now this is quite tantalising - I love a good romance and a good escapade. This story is one I plan to write about in depth one day.
So, we are off straight away to the Pitti Palace to see the button exhibition – every button you could wish to adorn any garment from painted porcelain, to gold bees, to portraits carved from semi-precious gems. Thousands of them. There is also a wonderful history of fashion display beginning with silk taffeta dresses from 1700s to wonderful surrealist embroidered capes by Elsa Schiaperelli. There is also a small display of ethereal gowns and capes of floaty chiffon portraying the fashions in Italy from the 20s to the 50s.
We next explore the Ferragamo Shoe Museum housed in the Ferragamo Headquarters and shop just near the Arno. Every decade of Ferragamo shoes, made in the factory in Florence from 1927, chronicles the changes in shoe styles. Wonderful black and white photos of famous star wearing their beloved Ferragamo's line the walls. I learned that Ferragamo himself always measured his clients shoes personally and with the belief the heel was central to the shoes character and the character of the wearer.

Our adventure finding Lizzie Boot's tomb is a truly remarkable experience which includes helpful bus drivers, directions like "get off the buss when you see a long row of Cyprus trees", many buses, a caretaker at the cemetary who doesn't speak a word of English and Olivia discovering the tomb first. I will save the story for my next book - it deserves a long and romantic retelling. But I will tell you Lizzie is buried in the Cimtiere Allori on the outskirts of Florence and I have beautiful photographs documenting our adventure.
The rest of our stay revolves around window gazing at mouth watering gowns by Roberto Cavalli, Pucci and Versace with dazzling luggage and handbag displays inbetween. We eat just near our hotel in a restaurant in the square under huge umbrellas. Swallows swope overhead as the church bells toll. Aaaahh. Did I mention the delicious wines?! Yes, I am definitely addicted to the luxury and elegance of Florence. Next time I go back I am staying at the Helvetia & Bristol Hotel! ....and I will buy every book on Italian fashion I can find and another 5 pairs of shoes!
Have a look at the Galleria del Costume Di Palazzo Pitti to see what is on.