This is a gorgeously illustrated ‘how to’ for dressing and taking care of your clothes written by Alicia Healy who trained at Buckingham Palace, before travelling the world, taking care of her wealthy clients’ wardrobes – in summary I couldn’t have been more excited about this book when I saw it on the shelves in Waterstones. The part where it has been published by The National Trust also greatly excited me as I spent a summer volunteering with The National Trust in their historical fashion collection and loved every minute of it.
However, I didn’t pay enough attention to the sub header on the front cover of ‘How to dress and take care of your clothes’ as this really did feel more like a guide on how to wash and care for your clothes and less like the royal version of Fashion Babylon meets Downton Abbey which is what I thought it was.
Part 1 How To Dress is possibly the most interesting as this deciphers dress codes ie what actually constitutes ‘Morning Dress’ and what to wear to certain events, however the events listed are ‘Royal Ascot’ and ‘The Royal Caledonian Ball’, not exactly everyday occurrences for most people?? However, as someone who’s main interest in horse racing is what the lady’s are wearing on ladies day I did find it all very interesting.
There is also ‘The Lady’s Maid’s Capsule Wardrobe’ which was the same tried and true pieces that always pop up in ‘capsule wardrobes’ or ‘wardrobe basics’ articles, which of course included the ubiquitous ‘white shirt’ – does anyone actually own one anymore? And if so, do they wear it???? I work in an office with a ‘smart casual’ dress code and will frequently wear a dress, topped with a cardigan and heels to work. But I can not think of any of my female colleagues who would wear a white shirt? If any of them do wear an actual shirt they tend to be black or brightly coloured?
In part 1 there is also the fascinating and rather insightful section on ‘What To Wear To Buckingham Palace’, which as someone who is probably never going to go to a Palace, I found very compelling and next time the media shows pictures of investitures or garden parties I will be looking to see who stuck to the dress code.
Unfortunately Part 2 and Part 3 ‘ Wardrobe Organisation’ and ‘Care of Clothing and Accessories’ all felt like information that I had either read before or if I wanted to know I could have googled when the need arose. I will keep this book to refer back to it as reference but I only skimmed through parts 2 and 3 as I didn’t really want to read about how to wash my clothes while I was having a nice relaxing bath.
As I have previously said I did imagine this book to be a mix of Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones and Downton Abbey as in I expected more stories and juicy titbits from the authors time working at the Palace or with her private clients. Nothing scandalous or salacious that would get anyone in hot water, as I am sure she has had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but just some tasty little extras such as ‘did Person A really spill red wine down Person B’s vintage Madame Gres gown?’ or how many of those black Launer bag’s does the HM The Queen really own.
There are five brief sections on the history of ladies maids and ladies maid with the National Trust which I found most enlightening, as these sections are referenced I think I will be looking further into the books that provided the information for this book.
Did I like this book? Yes I did. But would I recommend it to people to buy? No, not really, I’d just offer to lend them my copy as it wouldn’t take anyone long to read and I think it’s the kind of book you would only read once.