The Shape of Chanel

How the latest exhibition at the V&A is a striking reminder, that quality clothes are for keeps.

If there is one unfaltering fashion brand which has stood the test of time, it is Chanel. Consistently classic and continually coveted, this label has remained untarnished and pretty much unrivalled, for over a century.

I was lucky enough to go and see the latest exhibition at the V&A, in its opening week. It was as enchanting as I had hoped. ‘Gabrielle Chanel, Fashion Manifesto’ is a beautiful reimagining of an exhibition which originally took place in Paris, in 2020, showcasing 200 Chanel looks. Starting with her millinery boutique in Paris, through to her very last collection from 1971, which she was still working on when she passed away that year.

Not only is this exhibition a comprehensive curation of clothing, it also gives us an in-depth narrative on Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself, the woman who created this oh-so-iconic label. Raised as an orphan, and taught how to sew by Nuns, Chanel went on to become a successful socialite, with many still pondering if she was actually a wartime spy for the Germans. At the young age of 27, she opened her first ever boutique (with the financial assistance of her wealthy lover) at 21 Rue Cambon, in Paris. A pioneering business woman, she remained unmarried all of her life. She was as much an inspiration for female independence, as she was for fashion.

Her style and designs quickly became popular all over Europe, for their simplistic elegance and exceptional high quality. To see so many pieces on display at this exhibition is testament to just how long good quality clothing can live. Understandably, when you buy well made clothes, you look after them carefully, and they pay you back with durability. All the exhibits were in stunning condition. I’m sure some of the more delicate pieces wouldn’t fare too well if you were to pop one on today for an all night party, but, on the whole, they still hold their style, their wearability and all the wonderful details with which they were made.

The palette of this exhibition was delicious, like an ice cream parlour. Colour blocked by room, starting with creamy vanilla from Chanel’s early beginnings, sprinkled with some sugary sweet pastels. The room of suits (arguably her most iconic look, and the most talked about room in the exhibition) is a feast for the eyes. Show stopping cabinets of colour; sorbet brights and pops of bold berry tones, all standing to attention hoping you’ll choose them as your favourite flavour. It wouldn’t be a Chanel exhibition if it didn’t feature black. A colour only really worn for mourning until Chanel made it a go to look for understated glamour. We also see examples of Chanel’s skincare, bags and jewellery. This woman was aware that beauty and fashion sell, and she evidently knew how to build a brand which everyone would want.

The final room made me gasp out loud. I do like a bit of theatrics in a fashion exhibition. The sweeping staircase mimicking her original Rue Cambon boutique, made me feel like I had waltzed onto the set of a 1950’s Hollywood musical. Spellbinding. Exhibitions have a wonderful way of absorbing us into another time and place, and this one did that superbly. ‘Gabrielle Chanel, Fashion Manifesto’ is a gorgeous trip along the timeline of this brilliant brand. One which still has a heartbeat as strong as when it first began. Very much worth a visit.

‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ is at the V&A until February 25th, 2024.

All photos by me.

Scream Queen Dream


So, Scream Queens on E4, isn’t really aimed at me, surely I’m out way of their target age range, but, have you SEEN it? Oooof! I watched the first episode thinking it would just be a cute bit of easy breezy telly on a winters night, and, by gosh, waaah, I was hooked, it’s a dream to watch, it’s like candy floss for the eyes; a swanky pastel fash fest! Now, I ain’t seen styling as superb as this since Sex and The city, and that’s sayin’ somethin! It totally blows me away every episode, such saccharine sweet goodness in every look. It’s kitsch, it’s tongue in cheek, it’s hilariously written and it’s so overly styled it’s like watching a preened My Little Pony winning a show jump; SUBLIME. The set too, is impeccable, I gasp when I watch it. I adore trash TV like this, great escapism from my sofa with my kitty on my lap and hearts in my eyeballs. The look of this show is utterly faultless. I have one MAJOR bone to pick with it though, it massively mocks the issues of girls and eating disorders, which is ridiculously irresponsible, seriously NOT GOOD. The characters are seen eating cotton wool balls for lunch and appear sat at a dinner table eating thin air with knives and forks, frequent references are also made to dieting and making yourself sick. It’s more than crazy that they include this in a show which has an enormous young following. I mean, I totally get that this show is satirical, it parodies the genre, the style and the intelligence of shallow college girls, but the eating disorder thing, that’s satire gone crazy. Maybe girls these days respond more to the fear of ridicule than anything else so the writers feel the inclusion of stuff like this is a good way to educate girls on eating and body issues, I can’t figure it out. But the rest of the show is just SO damn good I can only hope they have a good intention behind their reason to mock eating issues. I’m stumped. But, still, pretty show, very, very pretty.

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The Call of Couture

If you’re a fashion loving gal, then chances are you swoon quite measurably over the very idea of Couture. I know I do, it fascinates me, totally. It’s where the heart of designer fashion beats, it’s where the real intricacies of detail and embellishment, the structure and shape of fashion is laboured over and given no restraints. Having been a girl who gazes longingly at all Couture, both modern and vintage, I have written about it before, but the recent Couture week in Paris made my heart swell all over again, heck, I was crushing hard on so many dresses!!

So, Couture, or Haute Couture by it’s proper name is pretty darn special; the best of the best, we all know that right? But what exactly is it that makes something Couture? Does it just mean made-to-measure and very, very expensive? Well, it is both those things, and more. With garments costing tens of thousands of pounds just for a day dress, it’s a craft that most of us will only ever dream of owning, but, in order for an item to be considered Couture, it has to adhere to three strict rules, rules set out by the French Ministry of Industry. To be truly Couture, the designer has to firstly offer personal fittings to private clients, so it really is absolutely made to measure, and the designer also has to have a full-time workshop in Paris, and show two collections a year; only then do they get Couture credentials! Anyway, enough of the official stuff, it’s basically all about amazing dresses, and here’s a selection of my favourites; from Chanel, Ulyana Sergeenko, Valentino, Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Giambatista Valli.

Oh. My. Word. Utter beauty.
ChanelUlyanaValentinoDiorJPGGiambatistaThere’s a whole lotta pink dresses in my selection….I think a pink dress must be my most cherished look ever! I totally adored how Jean Paul Gaultier had both older and bigger-than-your-regular-catwalk-model ladies in his show; brilliant and very important. And, Naomi Campbell looked absolutely sensational in his show, what an ageless gal!jpg

Yep, it doesn’t get much prettier than this, Couture is very, very cool.



An afternoon with Chanel & Dior

Couture Day

All sorts of excitement were inside my tummy when, a few weeks ago, I scooted off again to my most favourite fashion museum. Yep, I go there as often as possible and when I saw a chance to attend one of their small and personal Couture Handling afternoons….I whooped out loud and booked myself a space. Happy girl. They do this event every now and again and it’s basically a small group of people getting the lucky chance to touch, feel and examine the museum’s handling collection from the archives. Because of my vocation in life, I do handle vintage beauties on a daily basis, including a few designer and couture pieces, but, I never shy away from the chance to touch some more, and especially if it’s ALL couture! Hosted by Dennis Nothdruft, the museum’s very lovely and extremely knowledgeable curator; we got a conference room, him and the garments all to ourselves for the afternoon; and a pair of white gloves each so we could freely caress the items. We looked at coats, dresses, suits and jackets and were able to ask all the questions we wanted. As a vintage dealer I am well aware that used fashion often has marks and damage from age and wear. It was really refreshing to see that the museum held items in it’s archives that were stained or marked but still deemed them as great examples. This issue is something that I continually have to explain to some people unfamiliar with vintage; the items have lived a life and are older than you are, so will invariably have signs of their journey, it doesn’t make them any less fascinating or adorable. As with all the events at this place, it was relaxed and informal with the small group of us all mutually ooh-ing and aah-ing at what we were seeing. One lady did, to everyone’s horror, proceed to pull out a packet of crisps to eat whilst we were stroking Halle Berry’s actual won-an-Oscar-in-it gown, but apart from that, it was a gorgeous, fun, educational and privileged way to spend some time.

Couture Day

Haute Couture; it’s pretty special. In fashion, it doesn’t get any higher. A term first used to refer to the work of designer Charles Frederick Worth, it began in the mid 19th century. Worth was the first dress maker to create bespoke designs that customers could choose from and have made to their own measurements in their choice of quality fabric. Known more often as just Couture, this was the form of fashion which turned dress makers into artists and creators. Always using the most exquisite fabrics and trims, made by the most skilled seamstresses, using time taking techniques and with lavish detail and embellishment. The name referred to fashion made in Paris- where it had strict rules as to what could be deemed as couture- whilst in London it was still being referred to as ‘custom made’. The notion of couture eventually spread to London, Rome and Milan. Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Lanvin and Vionnet all followed in Worth’s footsteps to become well-known for producing exquisite haute couture. Today, only a few of the very large design houses still create couture; with their ready to wear, accessories, make-up and fragrances creating the mass volume of their sales. It was Dior who first started the whole idea of licensing products such as perfumes and make-up under his name, enabling the mainstream to buy into his brand, in effect, he changed the way the fashion world worked forever.

The first two dresses we looked at were both Christian Dior, and my goodness they were sublime. Having created the New Look silhouette in 1947, Dior was then quite possibly the biggest name in Parisian fashion until his early death in 1957. The two dresses we looked at were such beautifully typical pieces from him, cinched-in waists and full bodied skirts, so feminine and curve creating. As with much of Dior’s early work, both these ‘dresses’ were in fact 2 pieces; a skirt and a bodice. Both dresses we looked at were teeny and had been gifted to the museum by their owner, who was a member of the famous ‘Heinz’ family. All of Dior’s couture has a label with a serial number and a date on. The first dress, a white 2 piece was from Spring/Summer 1954 and had the most adorable stitched on little baubles. Both dresses had the underskirt attached to the bodice, made of tulle with a horsehair hem, and then the actual skirt goes over the top. The pale blue silk chiffon dress was to die for, stunning pleated bodice and the most intricate shepherd scene embroidered all around the skirt. This ‘Rococo style’ dress was dated 1957 and was part of Dior’s last ever collection.

Couture Day

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We also got our gloved hands on a classic cream wool skirt suit from Chanel. Having been in the fashion industry for over thirty years, Coco Chanel decided, after World War two, that women needed to step away from the corseted and restrictive ‘New Look’ which had been favoured and designed by men. So she created a look that was the complete opposite; loose, boxy and with sportive elements. Chanel is undoubtedly most famous for her suits. This cream one was in great condition and had a real weight to it, the chunky gold chain on the inside hem of the jacket is a classic Chanel element and the gold chain trim on the cuffs and neck were stunning.


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Looking in detail at couture makes you realise just how much painstaking work goes into each garment, like with all great vintage pieces the attention to detail and the precise workmanship is way beyond that which you would see in clothing today. One amazing dress we looked at was a Sybil Connolly one from the 1960’s. This full length black linen dress had been horizontally pleated by hand, with all the work clear to see on the inside, stunning.

Couture Day

This was the cutest and most probably pretty rare original Hardy Amies hanger.

Couture Day

Couture items that didn’t eventually sell would be moved into a showroom of the designer and become ready-to-wear garments, with one free fitting to whoever purchased it, kinda like a modern day outlet store! A Hartnell dress would get a ‘Le Petit Salon’ label to identify that it had originally been couture.


Designers also sold the pattern of a couture item to a customer who would then take it home and get the item made up in the fabric of their choice by a dressmaker, that item would then get a label from the dressmaker or shop which made it up, like this one from Bergdorf Goodman.

Couture DayThis fuchsia pink silk Balenciaga dress was beautiful, from 1967-68, this had a tropical feel and a Balinese influence, beautiful corset, but from the outside draped like a sarong. With this dress you can again see the intricate and precise work; the hand stitched over-locking on the inner seams was incredible.

Couture Day

Couture DayThe most modern dress we got to stroke was the gorgeous burgundy dress by Elie Saab, worn famously by Halle Berry in 2002 when she won her Oscar. This dress was opulence itself, the weighty luxurious skirt and the delicate sparkly embroidery made me melt. If left alone in a room with it I would slip right on into it and do a little imaginary red carpet saunter. Well, given half the chance I would have tried on every single one of those dresses. The perfect thing about all the vintage dresses I work with myself, is that I can indeed pop them on for a moment and feel pretty damn special.

Couture Day



For more information on this event and others like it, visit the

Fashion & Textile Museum website.

Forever Chanel

‘There are clothes which keep rejuvenating themselves instead of getting worn out’

Roberto Juarroz

As a fashion loving gal, I couldn’t not go to see the new Chanel exhibition that has been on this month at The Saatchi Gallery. Classic and timeless, this exhibition is as chic and iconic as the brand itself. Karl Lagerfeld took portraits, lots of portraits, of actors, musicians, models and fashion icons, each wearing the legendary little black Chanel jacket in a way they chose. Stunning. Mostly black and white, with a few colour images towards the end, the simplicity of this exhibit is perfect. For me, it was lacking the inclusion of a certain Kate Moss, but in a way it was kinda refreshing to see a fashion event that omitted her, just this once. Here is my selection of the shots, each of these portraits show astounding beauty.

  1. Anna Wintour, Editor of US Vogue
  2. Raphael Personnaz, Actor
  3. China Chow, Art Connoisseur and Fashion Muse
  4. Milla Jovovich, Actress and Model
  5. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Actress and Singer
  6. Vanessa Paradis, Actress and Singer
  7. Freja Beha, Model
  8. Leigh Lezark, DJ
  9. Aymeline Valade, Model
  10. Virginie Viard, Chanel Studio Director
  11. Mariacarla Boscono, Model

 The Little Black Jacket was at the Saatchi Gallery, London, until October 28th 2012

For more details visit and