Am I ever grateful to dgr roving reporter Adele Geras for agreeing to be a judge at the Costas just so we could get an insider view like this, yes yes book awards all very lovely but here's what you've really been dying to know.
know how it is: the room is packed. Your gold-and-silver sequinned handbag is
hanging from the crook of one arm; the champagne flute is clutched in your
other hand and your eyes scan the crowd for friends, celebs, famous writers,
and anything unusual which might be interesting for Dove Grey’s readers.
I had hoped to give long and detailed accounts of everything, but the truth is, what I got was a kaleidoscopic impression of many outfits and a good look at a few. The few belonged to the other judges, with whom I was closeted for a couple of hours and most were seen on people floating by, on the platform to get awards and at the party afterwards. I did try to mention winner Stef Penney’s apple-green halter necked taffeta dress and black shrug in the piece I wrote for the Guardian and they cut it. There you go! Dove Grey is more indulgent of these frivolities.
So here’s where you’ll get the lowdown. Or some of it…there are a few pictures up on the Costa website and I’ve asked for some more shots to put on my own website and I’ll alert Dove Grey’s readers to that when it happens.
Sophie Kinsella was the first judge I met. She has the tiniest waist and looks about sixteen. She didn’t appear to be wearing any make-up and has a flawless complexion. She was in a wide, almost crinoline-type black taffeta skirt which was caught up around the hem with black taffeta bows. Her top was black too, but that skirt was the thing. Very Gone with the Wind and she looked amazing.
Elaine Feinstein was wearing the best wrap. She was in a plainish black dress but over it…wow! All the glories of Byzantium seemed to billow from the folds of her long silk stole, which, when she was presenting the Poetry prize to John Haynes, fell from her shoulders like a stream of molten gold.
Carol Thatcher wore a black, Chinese-style silk trouser suit but the lining was lime-green satin which showed in wide, turned-back cuffs. She had a fuchsia silk scarf around her neck and that made a beautiful contrast with the black and the lime green.
Kate Adie was smart in a black taffeta suit, with the peplum and jacket revers edged with frills, over a pink silk t-shirt or camisole. She, too, has a wonderful figure.
Erin O'Connor is a model.Has any of you met a fashion model? They are a different order of creature altogether: taller, more elegant, more beautifully turned-out than any one else around.
Erin had a black hat covering her hair, trousers that seemed to go on for ever and I was mesmerized by her mouth: red and just the right red and the kind of make-up that mere mortals never seem able to achieve. She was also extremely sensible and had good judgement, I thought. If you look at her in the photo you’ll see that she’s quite unlike the rest of us.
for the men, Clive Anderson was short of
cufflinks and had them brought to him. Francis Wheen was sporting a delightful,
colourful waistcoat and Simon Mayo had on a Fifties-style thigh-length dinner
jacket: grey with a black velvet collar. Very dashing.
Bud McLintock, who organized everything most efficiently, also looked amazing. She’s very tall and statuesque and in clinging, black low-cut jersey (I think it was jersey…I couldn’t go and examine fabrics closely, you understand) she was a real knock-out.
Are you curious to know what I was wearing? I have to deal with shortness and plumpness and went for black velvet two-piece with Spanish-type frills at the hem and the cuffs, sprinkled with a few sequins. I had on beautiful teal suede shoes, too, which were fine at first but began hurting like hell after midnight.
we got out into the main crowd, things began to blur a bit. I did catch sight
of P.D James in the Ladies and she was looking lovely in a turquoise chiffon
blouse with long sleeves worn with black trousers.
Emily Maitlis from Newsnight was in the skimpiest black dress I’ve ever seen. It was like a short tube of satin, ruched and allowing lots of Emily to be seen. It struck me that she was much thinner than she appears on TV.
You couldn’t really talk to anyone properly. Jacqueline Wilson, the Children’s Laureate, is one of my oldest friends and I couldn’t do more than kiss her and notice that she was wearing a lovely, transparent blouse appliqued with flowers in red, and blue and green. It was super to see her in something other than black.
Anne Fine’s guest was her agent Anthony Gough and he looked less like a penguin than the other men, because he’d interpreted ‘black tie’ as meaning just that: a normal tie, only black. Anne herself looked smashing and I’m sure she was beautifully-dressed but she was sitting down and I only saw her face. The lights weren’t bright either, which was something I was quite pleased about.
Esther Rantzen was my neighbour at dinner and she was in navy-blue John Charles and some very gorgeous jewellery. A woman across the table whose name I never discovered gets the prize for the best necklace of the evening. It looked like small, irregular stones made of silver, strung together. Annie Eaton of Random House wore a necklace of pretty red discs, and I also spotted a few Chloe handbags and shoes that were so minimal they had to be Jimmy Choos or Manolos.
I went up on stage to present Linda Newbery with the Children’s books category award. Linda is enviably slender and she wore a tailored dark mauve brocade jacket over a camisole and her skirt was layers of stiffish black tulle. She looked splendid.
Mariella Frostrup was the Mistress of Ceremonies. She had on a dress in the shape of a long petticoat: white section on top and black below.
My guest was my agent, Laura Cecil, and she was wearing a beautiful skirt with lines of sequins running from waist to hem. Her shoes are always beautiful and on this occasion they were black slingbacks, powdered with some kind of discreet glittery stuff, which looked magical.
I wish I could have lined up every woman there and examined her closely…there was too much to look at, too much to think about, and far too many outfits to admire. These are just some highlights. It was, as they say, a night to remember, even leaving aside the books. And please do all read the winner. “ The Tenderness of Wolves” is superb. It will be made into a movie and they will leave out lots of things, so read it right now.
Thanks Adele, you clearly punished your feet in the name of dgr scribbles and they must need some soothing , that's a pair of socks I owe you!
Now who can I send to the Orange Prize ceremony?