A new home for an English garden

On a trip to NYC in 1975, at a long-forgotten boutique in Greenwich Village, I bought an empire-cut, slightly bell-sleeved, calf-length dress made in England (by a defunct label, C'est Moi). 

The dress is made entirely of pieced vintage silk scarves of fine quality. Constructed with harmony of scale and colour, it hangs as if one piece, swishy and supple.
 
The saleswoman told me that Anne Byrne, the ballerina then married to Dustin Hoffman, had bought the same dress. True or good sales pitch? I wore it to parties, weddings, and soirées for at least a decade.

If that dress could talk, it would say "Champagne on the terrace, darling."

By the early '90s, I'd gained weight in the bust, and, unable to part with its magic, stored my divine dress and occasionally loaned it to friends. ("No hanky panky in the dress", I warned, though there was probably some out of it!) Through decades of closet clean-outs, the dress stayed.

Our son Etienne's beautiful partner Tash inherited her mother's eye for textiles, and is an avid seamstress; I offered it to her. The dress fits perfectly. She's using its matching wide sash as a belt, I wore it around my neck à la Isadora Duncan.



A closeup of the florals and geometrics:






I'm delighted that the "English garden" has passed into hands that design (she even drafts her own patterns), and she's a lover of florals. Here's Tash in one of her own designs, in which she's mixed floral and stripe:



And she dyes; here, she's preparing shibori, a joint project with her artist uncle Nick:


You can see more of Tash's work at TashenkaSews.

And so, my adored English flowers have found a new home almost 40 years later!

A dress that transports you with joy is worth springing for. At the time, it was by far the most expensive item I'd ever bought (and probably still is, adjusting for inflation), but what a life that dress has had, and will now have, on Tash!

16 comments

Madame Là-bas said...

Your dress certainly suits Tash. Aren't you glad that you kept it? Some articles of clothing just keep on looking beautiful!

Anonymous said...

If only we knew what to keep!

Susan said...

What a lovely dress! And it looks fabulous on Tash. I'm going to her site to take a look.

In June, my new daughter in law chose to wear my 38 year old wedding dress. I never thought it would be worn again and sometimes wondered why I was keeping it.

materfamilias said...

What a beautiful dress and such a lovely story of it finding a new home, still in the family. You and your daughter-in-love have obviously developed a strong bond -- isn't it grand?! (Speaking as someone who feels incredibly fortunate in the partners my kids have chosen)

une femme said...

What a gorgeous dress, and how wonderful for it to find an appreciative new owner.

Marguerite said...

Wonderful story! You are fortunate to have a like minded DIL. I gave my DIL my diamond and ruby, diamond and emerald stack rings that no longer fit. I have yet to see her wear them! Btw, I recognize some of the fabric pieces in the dress as Liberty of London prints. Great that you kept it.

lagatta à montréal said...

Yes, it is lovely, and isn't it extraordinary that it doesn't look "démodée" so many decades later? A true classic.

I also have a cousin who wore her mother (my aunt's old wedding gown and looked splendid in it. And the cousin wasn't a young bride; she was almost 40. Her teenage daughter was in the wedding party.

Duchesse said...

Mme: Yes, though never thought of divesting it. I did think of having it made into a skirt but then did not want to cut into it.

Susan: Did she restyle it or wear as is? Such a sentimental touch.

materfamilias: She is a very special young woman; the whole family feels lucky.

unefemme: She is indeed, and though I could probably have given the dress to friends or vintage dealers over the years, happy I waited for the right person.

Marguerite: Before I give something special, I try to sound out if it will be appreciated and worn- I learned that lesson from my mother, who was forever giving family members things they did not really want. But maybe it's a matter of timing and she will 'grow into' them?

lagata: Wedding gowns are among the things most likely to be kept but not all survive long storage in good shape.

Anon@ 9:32: I'd say, keep the remarkable items that show superior workmanship and exquisite design. Keep the sentimental, even if not at that level, at least for awhile. I presently have two items like that:
1. A 55 yr old Scottish cashmere bolero appliqued with tiny hats, my mother's. In perfect condition but will take someone tiny to wear it.
2. Two fairisle cardis knit by my MIL for my twin sons, infant size.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Tash looks lively in your dress, it fits her like a glove.
I remember most of the outfits I wore for special occasions and this English Garden dress would certainly stand out.
I am going to pop over and visit her site....

Anonymous said...

Of course I love this story and its very happy ending. Isn't it wonderful when clothes are more than just clothes?

C.

Anonymous said...

A lovely post! ... the story of the dress, Tash looking beautiful in it and the meaning it will have for her. I think it's wonderful when clothing items have a "story"...a history. (which also ties in with your scarves that have found new homes....when people comment on their fabulous new scarf, doesn't the story make it all the more special?)
Cathy w.

Mardel said...

Tash looks absolutely lovely in your dress, and how fortunate for you to have her in your family, and that you can share your treasure with someone who appreciates it.

Susan said...

Duchesse, My dress had survived 38 years on good condition. It fit my daughter in law like it had been tailored for her. In 1976, it was a size 8 taken in upon arrival and was probably a size 6. Our daughter in law wears a size 4--and she says the dress was slightly tight. This gives a bit of information about the change in sizes.

She wore my dress as is without restyling. My dress was a classic in every way--A Priscilla of Boston silk organza dress with a short train and a long veil. It was high necked, longed sleeved and close fitting. She looked lovely in it.

Eleanorjane said...

What a stunning dress! It's nice to know that it's still being well used and enjoyed.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful dress from an era I remember well, and I understand the joy passing it on to one who will cherish it. I had a summer frock, one I'd sewn myself, from a fabulous Liberty voile, that always made me feel all sorts of special back in my 20's. I kept it and gave it to my daughter a few years back:).
Kathleen

LPC said...

Such a beautiful young woman.

And how incredibly heartwarming to have your son's beloved to wear a piece of clothing so dear to you.