Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fairytales for Fashionistas & Vintage Vixens

This post began as a book review but evolved into something else once the research began. If interested in vintage fashion history or design education, this post is a must-read. About a month ago I stumbled upon a gorgeous not-for-profit used bookstore. Inside sitting on as shelf as if it knew I was coming, was this book, Dreaming of Chanel. How I didn't know about author Charlotte Smith, her two books or the fascinating story surrounding The Darnell Collection, is a mystery. But now that I know, I must share! 

BookVu: Dreaming of Chanel
Author Charlotte Smith
Illustrator Grant Cowan
Publisher HarperCollins, 292 pages

This gorgeous little book reminds me of a Hemingway novel with its breezy, vintage 
feel and dreamy stories about international diplomats, 
designers & socialites—and their clothes. 
Photo: HarperCollins
To give this book perspective requires a bit of background. 
Author Charlotte Smith inherited a vast collection of 
more than 5000 vintage pieces from her godmother Doris Darnell. 
The Darnell Collection as it’s known includes Dior, Chanel, Givenchy and 
countless other originals dating from 1790-1995. 
The Collection toured for many years with its original owner as a live “fashion talk.” 
The video below tells the story, but ends abruptly.

Author Charlotte Smith
Upon inheriting the collection, Smith found a catalogue of its history and presented this unique fashion perspective in her first book, Dreaming of Dior. 

Her second book, Dreaming of Chanel, is a follow-up that reveals additional snapshots of fashion stories that read like fairytales for fashionistas. 

Each page is a complete story, in 200 words or fewer, based on a person or an event with the clothing taking center stage. 

Grant Cowan Illustration from
Dreaming of Dior

The illustrations by Grant Cowan are undeniably amazing, and contribute greatly to this being not only a book on fashion, design and history, but also an art book.

If you are left like myself wanting to see actual photos of the collection though, pay a visit to the Darnell Collection blog for a peek. It would take years of work, but I would love to see the entire collection photographed with as much detail and information given as is available regarding designers, materials, value—online like a living gallery and design resource. So the world can see and appreciate it. 

I firmly believe a book should stand on its own and this one left me a bit confused at first, but always entertained. It was only after some research that I realized the gem I'd discovered in that little bookstore. 

This would be a lovely book club selection—seeing who selected which story as their favourite?! I can also see exquisitely fun dinner party based on its theme!

This is an absolutely enjoyable and delightful read with fascinating historical fashion value. Have a look at the blogs and video above and see if you agree.

Photo: The Darnell Collection

Photo: The Darnell Collection

1960's Pucci Shift Dress. Photo: Bertie Smith, The Darnell Collection
Vintage Chanel Suit. Photo: The Darnell Collection

Sleeve embellishment of a 1930's dress. Photo: Bertie Smith

_______________________________ Why not look your best every day?


  1. Great post! Thanks for the sharing and stopping by my blog:) Have a nice day!

    Fashion Cat

  2. I love this book review makes me want to go and get it. Thx for sharing doll.

    <3 Marina

  3. Thank you for your sweet comment!!
    I really like your post, so intresting!!!

    Come back soon, I'll be waiting for you!!

  4. thx for you nice comment on my blog..

    i hope that you gonna be my next follower...:)

    very nice blog

  5. these are really beautiful. i love vintage looks.

    thanks for the sweet comments on my blog..

  6. Exquisite post, darling!
    Love all these vintage dresses!


  7. What a wonderful, wonderful review. Between your descriptions of the history found within the book, and the whimsical illustrations, I will most definitely be picking up a copy of my own! :)

  8. I absolutely love the pink dress!
    Thank you so much for your adorable comment, dear! Would you like to follow each other? If so, just follow me and I'll follow back!


  9. Thank you lovely ladies for stopping in to comment. I always love reading what you have to say and what you think of my post/blog. This was a tough one because there was so much info! So I appreciate your taking the time!!!

  10. the darnell collection!!i died!!:P
    interesting post.♥

  11. What a great post!! I absolutely love fashion books, I'll have to check these ones out!

  12. Love it! ;D You have a great blog :) I follow you now, want to follow back? ^^

  13. It sounds like a must read ... dresses are stunning.

  14. @Songbird@Sam@Melanie--thank you all for stopping by, I will show the love in return & come by for a visit. Thank you for your comments!!

    @StyleID, it's always and honour & a pleasure to have you visit. I agree, I find the dresses stunning. I can't imagine how they wore them all day every day tho....bleh. ha ha!

    Thank you again for showing me the love. I'm not kidding, my heart skips a beat when I see a new comment!! Much love to you all!!! xoxoxo


  15. What? There are books about clothes? Lol. I'm kidding of course. This post makes me hate my own godmother, she never gave me ish! Haha. Well I would love to follow your blog. I find it highly educational and entertaining.