Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Darnell Collection vintage fashion parade


I joined the line about 10 people from the front, and within minutes it stretched all the way down towards Flinders St. We were all queuing for a vintage fashion parade of the Darnell Collection – and there was a lot of us!

buttons e

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I had heard about the Darnell collection for years. It sounds too impossibly good – over 5,500 vintage pieces, dating from, I believe, the 1720s, all the way to almost modern times. And it is growing. The custodian, Charlotte Smith – author of the books Dreaming of Dior and Dreaming of Chanel – inherited the collection from her godmother back in 2004. From having an interest in wearing one or two of the dresses, to falling completely for it all as a whole, Charlotte has been working with her amazing collection, storing, cataloging and supplementing, and then bringing it to the world.

I had the pleasure of seeing just a tiny bit of this collection on Saturday, where, as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, Charlotte gave an introductory talk and presented a fashion parade at Fed Square. With me was fellow blogger and all round top chick Joyce of Cyclestyle and Mel: Hot or Not, and, more recently, Tot: hot or not.

Charlotte's warm and engaging talk told us that the collection started back in 1937. Charlotte's godmother, Doris, then in her late teens, began to wear her mother's and grandmother's clothes. Over the years, people would give Doris their vintage pieces, along with handwritten letters about both the garments and their own lives. Doris kept all of these letters, and in doing so gathered an amazing amount of personal, social history. It is this connection to past lives that Charlotte, too, finds interesting, and is something I think many vintage lovers can relate too. I know I do.

After a wonderful talk by Charlotte, it was time for the parade itself. Seven outfits were showcased, including day wear, evening wear and one wedding dress. They were all spectacular – and all beautifully accessorized.

I want to make a special mention of the models. Now, I have done this kind of modelling (walking for an audience) a few times, and I can tell you that it's absolutely terrifying to step out in front of a crowd to casually yet oh-so-gracefully present your look. Here, for this parade, each model began her turn – solo – by walking down a loooooong flight of stairs.

In high heels.

With everyone watching.

The stuff of nightmares, then.

And they handled it with aplomb. They all did an incredible job, and looked stunning. I cannot speak highly enough of them all! It turns out that I'd met one of the models, Bianca of Miss Bias, just the week before, at Lady Melbourne's blogger networking day. You did a stellar job, Bianca – you were a star!

The outfits themselves were, simply, amazing. The parade was focused on Dior's New Look style – the fitted waists and full skirts that were so welcomed by a postwar public in 1947, and remained popular well into the early 1960s – and Hitchcocks's heroines. They were all absolutely beautiful, and somehow refreshed my love of vintage. I may have just bought three vintage dresses since. Oh dear.

I must warn you, this is a picture heavy post! But can you blame me, under the circumstances?! I tried to photo them as well as I could, but of course wanted more time, more daylight and another lens – isn't that always the way? – and here they are. There was so much more I could have snapped, and this is just the tiniest peek, really. I hope the Darnell collection returns to Melbourne soon so I can see more!

















That was the parade... and of course, it was a great photo-taking moment! I wonder if they are bloggers too?


And then, the details...












Emma said...

Wow what a gorgeous collection. I so want to see this for myself. I hope they bring it to Sydney! x

Sleekit said...

Stunning post, gorgeous wears

Sleekit x

Harlow Darling said...

Just lovely! The detailed shots are great, I love the photos of the model in the Dior looking dress, so pretty :)

khriste B said...

I had the pleasure of seeing 70 pieces from the Darnell Collection that are on show in Brisbane at the moment and was blown away by the beauty. The clothes come to life when they are worn and accessorized. Amazing.

Tikkitiboo + Ahka Vintage said...

What an amazing collection!! I can't wait to go through my grandmothers attic in London - she had many of the same stashed away - there will some treasures waiting!
Tikkitiboo + Ahka Vintage

Blithely Unaware said...

oh my stars that pink and chartreuse dress!! STUNNING!!


Hannah said...

Brilliant post what an amazing collection just to see a snippet of it is fantastic, particularly love the black ensemble.

Blue Fruit said...

This post is glamour on a stick! Beautiful gowns, beautiful accessories, but your photos are incredibly beautiful too, and you have captured a golden romantic light in all of them. In vintage heaven here....Thanks!

Miss Emmi said...

Oh wow, that is gorgeous~! I wish I had known about it :( I've read this woman's books and I can only imagine how amazing they would have looked in person.

Nelly said...

I read Dreaming of Dior and loved it I wish my Godmother (if I had one ) would gift me treasures like that.

sacramento said...

Wonderful pics, such a delight!!! I wish I was there.

JoJo Styling said...

Wow. Your photos are stunning and so is your writing. I really enjoyed reading the Darnell collection story as told by you. I actually thought you were one of the models and yes doesn't the divine Miss_Bias looking impossibly glamorous.

Davinia said...

Oh I wish I could have been there! These all look so astonishingly beautiful!

Esz said...

You did an AMAZING job with the photos! You can't tell that it was such low light like it was.

In awe of those dresses - I loved every single one. I can't believe some came from TASSIE! And Bruny Island of all places.

I would love to have Charlottes job! Wow. All those clothes. And feel so privileged to have worn some of the garments.

It's great to hear she is thinking of a permanently showcasing the collection somewhere. It would be fantastic to have a gallery type location where the dresses are safe from hands, but can still be viewed 360 degrees and in really great light.

faith said...

This post makes me astonishingly happy - so many beautiful photographs! Lovely :)

LandGirl1980 said...

Wow-wee! What a lovely collection and story behind it!

Schnuersenkelrolltreppentod said...

Awesome Styles!

Nicole said...

Gorgeous pics! So, so much better than the ones I took - it was lovely to see you there and I'm very glad you enjoyed it.

june said...

What a beautiful collection! And I really like the pictures you took.

Lisa said...

Wow! Those are so lovely! Your photos are great! Thank you so much for sharing!

BloodyHell said...

Nice pictures!

Mrs Amber Apple said...

What a lovely collection! I wish we had fashion shows like this in my city!

Helen said...

Wow, gorgeous and lovely! Wish I could see this collection!

Wild Tea Party said...

Such a beautiful collection. I love hearing Charlotte talk about it. It's sort of every vintage loving girl's dream.

Just as a little correction though it was her godmother's collection, not her grandmother's. :)

esme and the lane way said...

Wild Tea Party: oops, I could have sworn she said Grandmother! I'll correct it now :)

Sara said...

These are so amazing photos!!

AngeliqueDama said...

Absolutely amazing! Love the details! Oh, you're so lucky to be there! Wish that something like that will soon appear here in Serbia. Lots of kisses

Andi B. Goode said...

These photos are fantastic! Truly gorgeous - as are all the clothes and models. Oh, to have been there. And that collection must be astonishing - imagine being able to go through it all!
-Andi x

Charlotte Smith said...

What an absolutely gorgeous and fabulous blog about my talk at MWF talk. Did I meet you ? I hope I did - what a great writer and photographer you are. Thank YOU for telling such a great story and ensuring the models and their outfits will be remembered for ages to come. Please keep in touch. I am in Melbourne often so would love to meet you. All the best and THANK YOU, Charlotte Smith

BriGt said...

Woww Esme,
Those pics look absolutely fab !!
I got the chance to took pics of Charlotte's collection as well and low light + moving models... very challenging, but love the little details captured here, well done !!

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