One Enchanted Evening

One Enchanted Evening


One Enchanted Evening

One dress can hold a lifetime of memories – or remind you of just one enchanted evening...

Every woman has a precious dress that can transport her back to one unforgettable night when she felt beautiful and anything was possible.

Charlotte Smith owns literally thousands. Having lived life to the full in London, Paris and New York, when she finally settled in Australia in 2004, she inherited a vintage clothing collection of more than 3000 priceless pieces from her beloved Quaker godmother, Doris Darnell. Since then Charlotte has built the Darnell Collection into an incomparable wardrobe of more than 8000 originals, from Dior to Chanel, Prada to Pucci, and Easton Pearson to Akira.

Along with these fashion masterpieces, Charlotte also inherited something even more precious: her godmother's book of stories of the women behind the dresses. Her inheritance was not just a collection of beautiful treasures, but a glimpse into the lives of the women who wore them – their stories of love, loss and everything in between.

Painstaking research and attention to detail had recreated, in vivid colour, hundreds of tiny slices of social history and stories of how fashion has empowered and enriched the lives of women over time.

From the Loris Azzaro evening gown that Veronique wore on the red carpet at a Shirley Bassey concert, to the Valentino dress that Edith Carmichael chose for her eighteenth birthday on a surprise trip to Rome; to the Leonard of Paris Op Art jumpsuit that Claudine wore to a Paris house party hosted by Count Guillaume, One Enchanted Evening takes us inside the magical wardrobe that every woman would love to own.

Charlotte Smith is the Curator of the Darnell Collection and the author of Dreaming of Dior and Dreaming of Chanel. She showcases the collection at events throughout Australia and overseas. Charlotte lives in the Blue Mountains in Sydney.

Grant Cowan has worked as an illustrator on magazines like Harper's Bazaar, Glamour and Red Magazine and teaches fashion illustration. He also illustrated Dreaming of Dior and Dreaming of Chanel.

One Enchanted Evening
Affirm Press
Author: Charlotte Smith
Illustrator: Grant Cowan
ISBN: 9781925584233
RRP: $35

Interview with Charlotte Smith

Question: What originally inspired your passion for fashion?

Charlotte Smith: My English mother loved to dress well and got me interested in well-made, elegant designer clothes from an early age. I grew up on the East Coast of America. Forty minutes from our home was an outlet called SYMs, near King of Prussia on the outskirts of Philadelphia. SYMs sold high end ready-to-wear and sometimes even couture clothes made by international brands and designers at ridiculously low prices. Back in the 1980s, this was the first designer outlet concept store in America, and maybe even the world. My mother, sister and I spent a lot of time there and a lot of money over the years. Many of the clothes I bought from SYMS are now in the collection. I bought and wore labels the average -high street or mall' shopper (at the time) had really never heard of, such as Lolita Lempika, Gianfranco Ferre, Jil Sanders, Guy Laroche. My mother inspired my preference to wear clothes of quality.

It was my godmother and her bequest (The Darnell Collection) that introduced me to fashion history. Thanks to my mother, I already appreciated beautifully made clothes, but now I had the opportunity to familiarise myself with designers' histories, social history, construction and technology, why women dressed in certain ways over the centuries and decades, etc. because I not only had historic and vintage garments on hand to study, but I also had notes my godmother had typed up about each of the donors and their stories. Anecdotes, trivia, facts and figures were fascinating to me.


Question: How did the idea for One Enchanted Evening come about?

Charlotte Smith: One Enchanted Evening is the third book I have written about special dresses in The Darnell Collection and which features stories about the women who wore them. My first two books were Dreaming of Dior and Dreaming of Chanel. One Enchanted Evening continues this fashion journey. I believe storytelling is a wonderful way to bring integrity to fashion and the perfect vehicle to bring fashion to life.

In this new book, 127 dresses in the collection are illustrated by Grant Cowan. They are rendered exactly as they look in real life. I have always admired the masters of fashion illustration, such as Erte, Rene Gruau, David Downton, as well as working designers like Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino. Fashion illustration is an art form that combines factual elements - colour, silhouette, texture, pattern, sleeve shape, buttons and so on - with something bordering on fantasy. Photography is literal and although I am looking forward to producing a photograph, coffee table book of the collection one day, I wanted this book to feature the dresses and their stories in equal measures. An illustration allows me this opportunity.

Alongside the illustration of each dress is a short story, a vignette, bringing each dress, and its wearer to life. The stories also bring to life particular memories about the era, place or moment the dresses were worn. Some of the stories focus on designers of the dresses, other stories relive moments in history that relate to the dresses or the women. All in all, One Enchanted Evening brings to life fashion and social history through poignant stories, anecdotes and researched facts. And, the book is beautiful to look at and to hold. It is like a very special -minaudiere'.


Question: Can you tell us about your Darnell Collection?

Charlotte Smith: The Darnell Collection is more than a fashion collection. It is a recording of social history, fashion history, a visual timeline of women's journeys - through fashion. The Darnell Collection includes every aspect of a woman's wardrobe: from undergarments to special occasion dresses to outerwear and then everything in between - hats, shoes, handbags, jewels, gloves, etc.

Recently, The Darnell Collection has been recognised as one of ten significant private fashion collections in the world. At over 9000 items, and growing daily through donations and purchases, it is Australia's largest private fashion collection and has the unique ability to tell a fashion story that includes over 36 different countries around the world. Establishing a home for the collection and Australia's first museum dedicated to the history of fashion is on the cards.


Interview by Brooke Hunter

One Enchanted Evening
Affirm Press
Author: Charlotte Smith
Illustrator: Grant Cowan
ISBN: 9781925584233
RRP: $35




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