As I mulled over the ins and outs and ups and downs of buying a grey T-shirt – I’m short of cool T-shirts as my clothes are still packed up in my old school trunk, (few people know what these are nowadays) where they’ve been since we moved to the forest. We’re building onto the little cabin we inherited when we moved here, and I’m still, as it were, existing on the iron rations I put into a small suit case when we came here. Somehow I hadn’t envisaged managing without my extensive wardrobe for months.
There’s a word for Foodies like me – is there also one for clothes maniacs… clothies? If there is, that’s me. But my frivolous machinations ground to a halt when I stumbled on an article about the latest exhibition of Diana’s clothes. Everyone knows who Diana is, don’t they? The ingenuous teenager who married her Prince, and discovered on their honeymoon that he was still in touch with his long- term married mistress? The anorexic skinny beauty who blossomed into a glorious woman, who wore heavenly clothes throughout the various stages of her life? She’d have been fifty-six this year.
The exhibition seems to chronicle the trajectory of the Princess’s life, from the ingenue soft blouses and dresses worn by the young bride, through to some of the ravishing evening dresses she began wearing as she gained her confidence. Then come the dresses which showed off her figure and astonishing beauty… and with the clothes, all those photos showing her a step away from Prince Charles, with symbolic distance between them, as they arrived together with her wearing these beautiful clothes.
She found her confidence when she embarked on her affair with her riding instructor, Guards officer James Hewitt, the man who’s since earned the well-deserved name of ‘Love-rat’. He wrote several books, and made millions out of publishing her letters and detailing their affair, which began when a miserable Diana had discovered that Charles had re-newed his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The legions of Diana’s admirers (I was one of them) were furious that, as the Guardian once put it: ‘an older woman with no dress sense and birds-nest hair had trounced the people’s fairy-tale Princess? Who did she think she was?’
The story goes that some of her infuriated supporters even pelted the hapless Camilla with bread rolls when she went shopping in her local Wiltshire supermarket. Which reminded me of a previous Charles and his mistress, the much more attractive Charles the second. His witty lover, Nell Gwyn, was subjected to much the same abuse, only verbal as her carriage passed. The angry citizens thought this was the carriage of Charles’ French Catholic mistress. Nell pulled down her carriage window, and smiling at the hostile faces confronting her, uttered the immortal words: “Good people, I am the Protestant whore.” Which dispersed the crowds.
There’s no record of Camilla’s reaction to the bread rolls – in fact, throughout the years, she always remained silent.
But back to our muttons–or moutons in French. The dresses chart Diana’s life, but don’t, I think, include the famous little black dress she wore the night Charles admitted adultery on television. The tall, slim ravishing blonde with legs to die for, stole his thunder effortlessly in the sensational black dress, which she had had in her wardrobe for two years and never worn before.
All her dresses had built-in bras, so no bra straps showing – and they were also designed so there was never the dreaded ‘visible panty line (VPL). Disappointingly to me, the red jacket and purple skirt she wore when sitting in front of the Taj Mahal, alone and making a statement, is not in the exhibition. Red and purple – who else would wear such a brilliant combination?
That was one of the things I missed after Diana’s tragic and devastating death, the fun of filling my eyes with her gorgeous outfits. And then the jewels – costume brooches worn in unexpected places, dancing with a priceless emerald necklace turned into an American Indian type head-band worn across her forehead, faux pearls slung backwards and knotted over a plunging backless velvet dress…
Diana’s successor, the ex- Kate Middleton, or Katherine as she is known to her family, often seems a careful, rather dull dresser, except on grand occasions when she looks wonderful. So I’ve become an afficionado of other less well known royals on the world stage, though apparently doted on in their own countries.
The most flamboyant is Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, former business woman and daughter of a minister in one of Argentina’s murderous and tyrannical regimes. She overcame this hurdle to marrying the heir to the Dutch throne, and has now evolved an interesting style of dressing. I marvel at her huge hats, ponchos, and daring colour combinations.
The Belgian Queen Mathilde, born a noblewoman in Belgium and formerly speech therapist and psychologist, is another blonde beauty with a great sense of style, and great legs too. She wears bright colours and elegant matching hats… the Royal way of dressing Queen Elizabeth has pioneered and perfected. Queen Letizia, the ex-television anchor and newsreader on Spanish TV, who also captured a Crown Prince, has a severe, solemn beauty. Her exquisite clothes have the same rather austere, elegant quality, but I don’t feel the joyfulness of Diana’s style – which for me was the benchmark of fun and fashion.
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, the former Australian PR consultant, who spent three years learning Danish before marrying her Prince, is an attractive brunette like Kate, and they look like sisters when seen together. She always looks stylish, poised, and wears interesting clothes. But somehow with all these lovely Royals, there’s none of the excitement and joie de vivre that Diana projected in her gorgeous clothes. Queen Maxima comes the nearest to projecting that excitement while doing her round of good works and international visits like all the rest of them – shaking hands with popes, presidents, sovereigns and sheiks.
Needless to say, all these women sport magnificent jewels and glittering tiaras when required. I doubt that the latest fashionista to loom on our horizon owns a tiara – but then again – her extraordinary husband may have bought one to demonstrate that he can mix it with the best of them! If so, it’s hidden away at the back of a wardrobe in Trump Tower – or more likely stashed away at the bank.
When Melania Trump appeared at her husband’s inauguration in that delicious, pale blue outfit, I thought, aha, another glorious clothes horse in the mould of a previous beautiful First Lady. But we see so very little of her. When we do, her clothes are gorgeous… yet there’s so much controversy swirling around her, that rather like Carla Bruni, President Zarkozy’s beautiful model wife, it’s hard to enjoy the spectacle whole-heartedly.
‘The apparel oft proclaims the man,’ Polonius advised his son Laertes, and like everything in Shakespeare’s famous speech, it still rings true. So how does my grey T-shirt stand up to all these gorgeous outfits worn by glamorous women?
I want to wear it with grey trousers brought from Marks and Sparks in Plymouth, Devon, over ten years ago when flares had come back briefly, and with flat, grey lace-ups which assist my broken leg to walk – a special offer from a mail order catalogue – two pairs for fifteen dollars – how could I go past them? I’ll wear a grey, black and red scarf to brighten up the grey – I’ve had it for twenty years – it was a Christmas present from a Dutch friend who told me she’d found it on a second- hand stall at the local market. And of course – red dangly earrings – all so appropriate in a remote forest far from the fashion centres of the world. But as you can see, I never give up!!!
Food for threadbare gourmets
Caught on the hop when invited to an impromptu lunch tomorrow by a bachelor neighbour. Can I bring something I foolishly asked? Yes, something sweet, was the prompt reply. We don’t want to go into town to shop for another few days and I haven’t bothered to keep all my stocks of goodies since we are staying of sweet stuff, and I only cook the barest minimum since my game leg finds it hard to stand.
I finally remembered my emergency store – tiny pastry tartlets in a sealed pack, and lemon curd in the fridge. I usually serve them with crème fraiche, and am leary of whipped cream separating. So will just have to bite the bullet and whip the cream with icing sugar which helps it to stay stiff. I simply use two tablespoons to a cup of cream… so much for giving up sugar!
Food for thought
Lift up the self by the Self.
And don’t let the self droop down
For the Self is the self’s only friend
And the self is the Self’s only foe.
Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, verse 5
19 responses to “Fashion and fun”
Diana would have been 56.
Thank you, you are so right… you could say that arithmetic has never been my strong point… I got eight per cent in school certificate….
Just for the record, red and violet is a favorite color combination of mine. Of course it’s no secret how much I love the latter and my wardrobe is littered with it.
I, too, enjoyed watching Princess Diana. She seemed to be the essence of grace and style.
You bring to the table things I either didn’t know or didn’t think about, ie Diana’s affair or how Camilla has handled being vilified. It’s so easy to take one side or the other without knowing the facts (or alternative facts as it were 😉 )
Thank you for a lovely read.
thank you , delighted that you enjoyed my little piece of frivolity ! Yes, I had somehow picked the fact that you were fond of purple !!!
Yes, there’s always a possibility of giving alternative facts.. but I try to stick to the script, and leave my imagination out of it !!!
I love the picture of you in your woods in your beautiful scarf – and the rest of course!
Always enjoy reading your stories and learning snippets of history. 🙂
Hello Sally, Are you still enjoying your holiday.. ‘oh I do like to be beside the sea-side’ !!!
So glad you enjoyed my bit of fun ! I always love your comments…thank you.
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We were just away three days and are back home but still only 10 mins from the sea! 🙂
I have always like Princess Diana, always. What a sad life she had …fairy tale princess married to man who didn’t really like her.
As for Camilla…she is NOT Princess Diana…she just doesn’t have it. But then neither does her now husband. So I guess they fit.
Like you I watch Princess Kate and our new First Lady…I find them very interesting, but that is all.
Thank you so much for this lovely read.
Dear Linda, so lovely to have your comment… and know you enjoyed my bit of fun… Yes, Diana was special wasn’t she,..apart from beauty it was her compassion and zest for living that lit up her presence…so glad you enjoyed reading, love valerie
You write about clothes as beautifully as about food and animals and people.
Thank you for a lovely bouquet… I had a lot of fun writing about something so close to my heart – clothes !!!!
I remember the day and time when I received news that Diana had passed. She was the quintessential princess. The world grieved that we had lost someone special but I think our grief went much deeper. She symbolized so many things: mother, wife, daughter, activist, artist – with her passing we felt a fairytale gone wrong. I have been going through my father’s photos. One dates back to 1956 when mom and dad travelled to Brazil by steamship. Oh, the dresses and suits. They and their companions travelled in style. Ties, lovely scarves, gloves – a jaunty elegance. They were not rich, but the way they dressed it looked as if they were on a yacht. By the way, I would love one of those steamer trucks.
Dear Rebecca, yes, I too remember the day Diana died… I think most people do… it seemed unbelievable that so much beauty, compassion, zest for life and fun had gone. And many people still miss those things that she brought to the world.- including the motto she had read somewhere, and used it for her own.. ‘compassion in another’s troubles, courage in one’s own…
Oh yes, ship board life.. I remember it well when we sailed for Malaya., including changing into evening dress for dinner every night… we took such care to be groomed in those days – I could just imagine your parents looking elegant and immaculate…
My trunk, with its brass lock and brass fittings, heavy studs and leather handles, has travelled well and still serves me well too !!!
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Skivvy; shorts; jandals.
Repeat every day 😉
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“shaking hands with popes, presidents, sovereigns and sheiks.” . . . And me.
My husband and I were introduced to Maxima and Willem Alexander at Rabobank’s Farm2Fork in Sydney last year. Both were charming and she looked elegant and stylish in blue and orange silk. Her family live in Pergamino where we have friends, I was wearing a silver necklace from there which she recognised and she laughed when I told her my shoes were from Buenos Aires.
How exciting, Ele, it sounds such an interesting encounter – you must have been thrilled – love your description of her clothes… I wonder what you chose to wear !!!
Yes I still have my old school trunk too…and that little black number you speak of Diana wearing!! Oh my…revenge of a scorned woman hey…didn’t she look magnificent!!
Stephanie, – delighted to hear from you – and that you too have your old school trunk !
Brass lock and brass fittings, studded, and leather handles ???
Yes, Diana that night did look magnificent, didn’t she? She’s wearing it in the photo I found… she made everyone wonder what was wrong with Charles that he was unable to love a woman like that !!! And the mother of his children to boot ….human nature, karma and destiny are so inscrutable, aren’t they …