Having read Daphne by Justine Picardie and Before I Say Goodbye her sister Ruth's book, I was intrigued by My Mother's Wedding Dress ,The Life and Afterlife of Clothes, not least for the mention of the search for Charlotte Bronte's garnet ring.
Clothes become the medium through which Justine explores her life and her family and also her own grief over the loss of Ruth and so this book fits in well alongside others I've mentioned recently. Amongst other shared pleasures Ruth and Justine loved clothes and had always shopped together and advised and cajoled each other into buying. You can barely begin to imagine the chasm that opened up for Justine when Ruth died and what a journey it has been to build around that sheer drop that was left in her life as a result.
It ambushes Justine at every turn but woven in alongside are reflections on so much more as I was escorted on a behind-the-scenes look at the world of fashion.
Now I know diddly-squat about the fashion world, but Justine, having been in the thick of it, knows plenty and shares it all with great honesty.The interviews with Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace make for poignant reading as Justine, not in the least over-awed by the encounters, gives a warts and all account of how strangely sad and fickle these lives of glamour, fashion and wealth can be.
Cleverly woven in are literary lives too, Women in White, the Bronte's, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Emily Dickinson and I'm going on a Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald binge any day now.
Why on earth haven't I read Tender is the Night?
Scott and Zelda the archetypal fashionable 'it' couple of the 1920's and how tragically life came tumbling down around them in the 1930's.
Then there are the Best-Dressed Heroines and there she is, Pippi Longstocking, my favourite, first on the list along with Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's and Flora and Elfine from Cold Comfort Farm. Then there's Mrs Ada Harris from Paul Gallico's Flowers for Mrs Harris and I'm reminded that the last time I heard that book mentioned I meant to get it and didn't, but this time I have.
Along the way Justine offers little gems of fashion advice that are even down to earth enough for Devon. There's no point in telling me not to mix Versace with Gucci because they don't sell either in Tavistock to my uncertain knowledge but thankfully Justine's advice is far more practical.
I'd already unwittingly taken the advice on work uniforms and think I may be OK with my budget-loving black trousers (Dorothy Perkins, wide leg £15) white untucked Zara cotton shirts (bit expensive these at £15 each) with short V necked jumpers in assorted colours (Dorothy Perkins 3 for £20). My favourite and most comfortable red Pikolinos boots are de rigeur too apparently and was I thankful for those visiting a farm high on Dartmoor yesterday.
I had the wrong farm.
They never have signs and, like yesterday, I can guarantee the wrong farm is always miles down a pot-holed track with three huge heavy gates to be opened and closed, rampaging sheepdogs biting at your ankles and it's always pouring with rain. When you get to the wrong farm the only person to tell you so is way across the other side of a farmyard sea of mud and I looked a disaster by the time I arrived at the right farm bearing in mind that by this time I had got in and out of my car twelve times. I'm sure the hand-knitted socks would be coveted too if the London fashion world only knew what it was missing, but I was glad of warm fashionable feet yesterday especially as I felt obliged to take the very muddy boots off as I went into the right farm and could have done with putting my feet up and having a snooze on the sofa.
Clothes, colour and jewellery connect the women in Justine's family down the years and this struck me as an unusual but perfect way to reflect on the lives of those you love, and the Charlotte Bronte connection? Well I couldn't possibly spoil that one.
It's also a book that had me wincing at the value of all the clothes I've long discarded, what might that old Biba shirt be worth now? Did I have a Mary Quant anything at all?
I'm also mortified to think I knitted a poncho and hand knotted every single tassle, we all did.
Justine says NO.
Meanwhile I'm looking forward to taking the blog along and meeting Justine at Fowey next week and it'll have to be that trusty old red Monsoon jacket yet again for me, and probably the red boots to cope with those hills.
If anyone else would like to go Justine has kindly offered four free tickets for her talk on Daphne, Saturday May 10th, 11.45am in the Festival Marquee at The du Maurier Festival, Fowey, just e mail her here and hie thee to gloriously beautiful Cornwall via very muddy Devon.