Dreaming of legends

Writer Charlotte Smith pays loving tribute to another fashion icon

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04:14 AM August 31st, 2012

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By: Paul Albert Palmero, August 31st, 2012 04:14 AM

“DREAMIN’ of Chanel” ILLUSTRATION BY NATASHA RINGOR

In a follow-up fashion masterpiece to her debut “Dreaming of Dior,” Charlotte Smith still finds herself on cloud nine.

Prom, men, diamonds, luxury cruises, a priceless lotto finish—fairy tales are made of these—are just among life’s rewards. For curator and fashion lecturer Charlotte Smith, fairy tales mean a 1937 Chanel couture wedding gown, an 1860 plaid crinoline dress, or even a 1920s beaded dress easily capturing her heart along with over 3,000 vintage pieces worth tons and tons of gold stars in today’s fashion currency. This  is the subject of her second book, “Dreaming of Chanel.”

Life was pretty good for Smith, the Hong Kong-born, Australia-based writer. Things were  mundane until the day her American godmother Doris Darnell, renowned fashion collector, surprised her by making her custodian of her truckloads of vintage frocks and dresses spanning 205 years, from 1790 to 1995.

Smith instantly found herself daunted—and smitten—from dress to dress. Every beadwork, button, appliqué that went into each outfit was  more than just about style—they collectively signified the colorful lives of the women who once owned and wore them.

Compiling selected pieces—ranging from vintage to contemporary, from haute couture to basic—Smith again collaborates with fashion illustrator Grant Gowan to translate this once-in-a-lifetime surprise into another 290 pages of wonder. Smith goes through her godmother Doris’ accounts of each dress and retells each tale in a refreshing manner, making “Dreaming of Chanel”  easily another collectible.

Available at National Book Store

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