Monday, 16 April 2012

Last-Year Reads: Lilly Daché's Glamour Book


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Though less well-known now, French-born Lilly Daché was probably the most famous milliner in the 1930s and 40s. She designed hats for Marlene Dietrich, as well as many other stars, and put Carmen Miranda in her famous fruit turban. Read her autobiography, Talking Through My Hats, and you get a vivid picture of her whirlwind career. The world she described was so enticing that when I learnt she'd written another title in the 1950s devoted the elusive quality of to glamour I knew it had to be part of my Last-Year Girl book shelf. 

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Lilly Daché's Glamour Book was published in 1956. What's the purpose of this book? Well, Lilly says after years of supplying women with their crowning glory, she moved onto dresses and accessories, trying to perfect the appearance of the woman. And then she had a realisation: "The hat, the dress and the accessories might make a lovely long shot, but as I continued to observe and to study, I realised that the real focus point of glamour is the close-up."

The pursuit of glamour became her new mission, and she travelled the world trying to track down its secrets. She continues, "I am satisfied that at last I can give the recipe for glamour, supply the ingredients and hand out detailed instructions." Are you ready for her to dispense her advice?

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Well, if Eileen Ford's beauty tips left me feeling utterly depressed, these left me feel invigorated and determined to perfect a 1950s-style regime. I like Lilly's attitude. Sure, she does all the usual grooming and diet tips (how to avoid the dreaded "secretarial spread", for example) but there's also an emphasis on courage and action. In describing the first steps towards achieving glamour she writes, "Before you start any kind of diet or exercise plan, there is something that I believe in the bottom of my heart is much more important. It is what the Americans call fun, and Frenchmen call joie de vivre ...  If anything isn't fun, the heck with it." To her the developments of the 1950s - whether a washing machine or a face cream - are new, wonderful, exciting. Her enthusiasm is infectious. She urges you to say hello to strangers. So I did.


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Lilly recounts various anecdotes where she's has to dispense her advice - the content newly wed, gradually putting on the pounds, or poor lonely Susan, living in New York, who can't make friends or meet a man. She paints an amusing picture of herself of a bossy but charming woman in thrall to the 'truth' of her own advice. She even confesses to wagging a finger at one point - I bet she did that more than once. Sadly we don't get to hear the results of her advice and whether it was successful. They probably never dared report back.

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In her nine storey Manhattan building, the House of Daché, two floors were given over to her home, one floor to her hats and one to her general boutique. The rest of the five floors were given over to glamour, the physical version of her advice. It's described as being decorated in pink silks and leopard prints: how I wish more photographs existed of this. The ones that exist offer such a tantalising glimpse into her world, a heady mix of class and kitsch. 

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(Life, 10 September 1945)

Any style guru always has their own personal obsession. In Lilly's case, it's perfume with an entire chapter devoted to it. She writes, "when she walks into a room, the really glamorous woman is not only seen - she is perceived." To her perfume is essential to that perception, along with another personal obsession, cleanliness. Together they are, "part of a personal daintiness, your own aura of fragrance and immaculate cleanliness, the most fundamental element of glamour." 

Though she urges her readers to keep up with this "modern, wonderful world", I wonder what she made of the less cleanly rock 'n' roll idea of glamour that took over in the 1960s. She retired in 1968 so I don't know if she ever addressed it. Though obviously now dated, her slice of style history remains utterly delightful. I can only praise Lilly with what she herself describes as the highest compliment that can be paid to any woman: 

"She is charming!"

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Audrey Style

No, not that Audrey.

This winter has belonged to Twin Peaks. I've spent most of the nights hunched up, finally working my way through the series, craving coffee and cherry pie and falling madly in love with Coop. It follows that the Audrey I'm talking about is the divine Ms Audrey Horne - surely the coolest ever school girl - who holds unknown powers over me. Since watching it, I've definitely been looking for a black and white pair of saddle shoes, and form-fitting '50s knits, all fairly explicable. However, under her influence, I've also found myself feeling fonder towards midi tartan skirts and strange boxy jackets. Very strange behaviour indeed.

Here's my take on Audrey's greatest hits. If only I could be as certain as Audrey of getting what I want.

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Etsy, $90

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Kookai, £22

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Beyond Retro, £16.50

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When I finally get my own flat (see hopeful post about flat back here), my current flatmate and I joke we will hold a Twin Peaks party to mark the occasion. This does mean that we get very over-excited each episode discussing potential catering options and costumes. Of course, I couldn't go as Audrey - I would only succeed in not looking as good as her. My current plan is Nadine, circa her athletic area, while my flatmate would make a pretty nifty Norma (who gets to be Ed?).

If you were to come to our party, who would you come as? 
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