“On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined”
I'm all dressed up, my date is here and the helicopter awaits. I pick up the beautifully embossed invitation to The Third Annual Willow Manor Ball which has been tucked next to the flowers on my bedroom mantle piece and with a whiz, a whir and a whoop we are on our way!
A little background first....
The lady who defined 20th century fashion was born in 1890 into a wealthy and distinguished family in Rome, where she spent her childhood. She was outrageous from a young age, offending the nuns who taught her in her strict Roman Catholic school and disgracing her family when she attended a ball in Paris wearing only a length of fabric wrapped around her body, which promptly unravelled! When she was 23, she travelled to Paris, and then to London, where she met William de Wendt, whom she married the following year. After the birth of their daughter – Gogo - in 1919, The marriage didn’t last - due to financial difficulties and William's unfaithfulness - and the couple divorced in 1920. This left Schiaparelli a single mother, and fuelled her determination to succeed independently in the fashion world. She moved to Paris and met the celebrated designer, Paul Poiret, who introduced her to the art of couture.
Elsa became famous for being superbly original in her designs and marketing. She printed press releases on fabric, for example, and produced fashion shows that were uniquely spectacular. These days such performance in relation to fashion is commonplace; in Schiaparelli’s time it was unheard of. Her collections and shows most often had themes. One collection was inspired by African iconography; another drew inspiration from sailors’ tattoos, and dresses bore snakes and anchors. Other collections included 'Musical Instruments', 'Butterflies', 'The Pagan Collection', 'The Astrological Collection' and 'The Circus Collection'. Each collection of highly original and the often eccentric clothes caused scandal and success.
She had a wide circle of friends, with whom she often collaborated. She was good friends with the writer, filmmaker and artist Jean Cocteau; Schiaparelli once reproduced a drawing by Cocteau on an evening cape in embroidery. She was recognised as an artist by such people as Marcel Duchamp, Picasso and Stravinsky, and closely connected to the Surrealist movement - for example, Schiaparelli’s 'Lobster Dress' was a collaboration with Salvador Dali. This connection with the wider art world set Elsa Schiaparelli apart from most other fashion designers - she was not merely interested in beauty or fleeting fashion trends, but in art, culture, ideas and innovation. Essentially, Schiaparelli was distinctive in her involvement with the wider intellectual and creative world.
I shall be wearing an Elsa Schiaparelli creation of course – she one of my all-time favourite designers. This bronze-gold gown is, I feel, perfect for the time of year. I shall wear it with these shoes – just for a bit of funk – and an African inspired necklet also designed by Schiaparelli.
As my hair is neither here nor there, I will have to wear a hat. I rather liked this one, but Ranulph said that I looked as though I was about to go on safari in the Serengeti.
So instead – and to link to the African theme I chose this…..er…hut. Perhaps a few little yellow diamonds scattered like moon dust would add a certain je ne sais quoi. What do you think?
I’d had decided some time ago to invite Ranulph Fiennes as my (hot) date. He accepted with an alacrity I found utterly charming. I do love the unique combination of reckless adventurer, intrepid explorer, acerbic wit, flawless raconteur, excellent writer and a man of deep – but not overt - familial love. I think you’ll all find him rather entertaining!
Last, but of course no means least, for our most sensational of hostesses, I have a little thank-you gift in the form of some rather luxurious personalized writing paper from the world renown Smythsons of Bond Street just because the lady loves the scent of old paper and words dancing on a page.
Dance, dream, discover, devour - and desire just a tad! Tess, this is too, too marvellous darling. Thank you!
Impeccable. You have impeccable taste, my friend. It's truly an honor to have you at the Manor Ball!
Tessa + Tess = TESSELLATIONS!!
Nay! Don't wear a hat! Wrap your head in a length of African fabric, and take your turbaned gloriousness out to dance the night away!
Oh, and don't forget to affix a yellow diamond on your cheek to sparkle like the beauty mark that you are.
Finally, write to me darling, and tell me how your night was!
Tessalations LOL! Love it!
the shoes are to die for....just die for...stunning dress ...the hat just is not me this year...but I must have those shoes...bkm
Ah, a whiff of class, with a history of intrigue to go with it. Charming and delightful. I wish I had accepted Willow's invitation now.
I know I'm going way out on a limb .. your gown may just be my favorite.
How exquisite! So glad to have time to hang out and talk - though the way you keep switching hats is a bit disorienting - and awfully fun!
I love each piece individually and think they will be a smash when all worn together!
I see how much thought you put into this. The dress is especially well chosen. You will look stunning. I hope you have a happy night. Do wear an African scarf around your head. It will be better than the hut.
i think, tessa dear, you could wear a cocktail napkin upon the top of your head and make it look delightful and charming. AND oh so chic.
could your mantle be any prettier?
Stunning! Yours is my favorite attire of the whole night!
Dear Tessa - yes, this is THE gown of the ball, without doubt, and I LOVE the hat! Thank you for your kind words on my blog. I was so happy to find yours and get to know you - and then floored to read of your illness. I feel as if we have so much in common - I'm a fellow South African- in-England and love that continent with a passion. I love your artwork which has all the vibrancy of that place! I hope we can stay in touch, even if only in blogland. Lots of love, usale kahle, Karen.
Why thank you Madame Willow! It was indeed a huge honour to attend such a truly magical evening. What a hostess you are...everything was absolute perfection. The people fascinating and beautiful; the food glorious and the setting..ah..the setting was simply heavenly.
Your Hollyness, my darling girl! Thank you for stopping by. I took your advice about the yellow diamond which I put in the middle of my forehead to dazzle all and sundry....and draw the eye away from the little hut on my head!
Bug - another wonderful visitor! Glad you loved it...I hope you join us next year at the Ball. Tess is, without doubt, the hostess with the most impeccable credentials. These parties will become part of the history of glamour!
BKM you SHALL have the shoes. They are marvellous for dancing - no turned ankles and do look most fetching with almost anything. Apart, perhaps, from pyjames...
Rosaria...next year, next year! A must that you attend. I can just imagine you, sitting on a sofa surrounded by a group of writers and artists spellbound by your wit and wisdom.
Hello lovely Helen, how wonderful to meet you. Yes, Elsa was certainly the forerunner of style and glamour, with just the right touch of the eccentric.
Reya, my darhling, how ravishing you looked last night. The belle of the ball by a long chalk. By the way, in case you were too busy - surrounded as you were by all those delicious gentlemen - I did in the end decided to wear my hut. It made for much frivolity and fun...some people looked horrified, but most rather enjoyed the oddity of it all!
Oh Carol, you are an angel heart. Thank you. Yes, I did feel rather slinky, especially with Ranulph wowing the crowds beside me!
Nora - yippee! So nice to see you round at the Armadillo again. Thank you for the compliment regarding my dress...it was a dream to wear. As for the hut...well, as I said to Reya, it caused quite a stir which was fun, fun, fun!
Hello lovely golden Lori...why weren't you there? (I speak imperiously!) I can just see you in one of Elsa creations...beautiful and ethereal. Next year perhaps?
Oh Yoli - coming from someone as elegant and lovely as you, that is indeed an accolade! Thank you. xx
Sawubona lovely fellow African! Unjani wena? Oh, we must most definitely stay in touch! Maybe even get to meet one day? I will keep visiting your blog so we can laugh and perhaps cry a little as we reminisce!
...and this post is just too marvelous! The dress is spectacular and of course, I think the shoes tres chic. Rest up today after a wonderful evening jaunt!
I'd give anything to have the kind of feet that could wear those button boots! Sadly, I'd be better off with the shoe box they came in! LOL.
You will be the belle of the ball. :)
OH - the dress and shoes - OH OH OH....(gotta have, gotta have)
I hope you had a lovely time.
Well, I am late with my comment, but I want to say that your dress is extremely stylish and elegant, I like the model and the colour! Dear Tessa, I am sure you had a wonderful night and felt like a princess at that ball. I have no doubts that you were beautifil and shining like a star!...Did you meet old friends? Did you make new ones? What kind of music was playing throughout the whole night? What an experience!!
P.S. After posting this, I am going to read the other comments and your answers!
those shoes, darling, are so you but even more so is that wonderful dress - it's color the color of gold, so beautiful for the skin, don't you think? yes, of course you already thought of that. Have a ball at the ball, my sweet, next year perhaps i shall join you... what an entrance we might make, two women without the obligatory man, now to me, that is The Entrance for such as this party.
What an elegant outfit- top to toe! Love the gown - such a gorgeous autumnal colour and it looks like it will rustle beautifully!
What fun! :)
Lizzy, me darlin’…thank you! Rest? Oh no, no time to rest!
My dear Jinksy, those button boots are made not only for walking but for dancing the night away. A shoe box is simply not the answer…we will have this make bespoke especially for your particular tootsies!
Mim, I could have danced all night as the old saying goes. In fact, I even had a whirl with Rex! Hugs to you from afar!
Rossichka…oh yes, old friends…new friends….fat friends…thin friends…clever friends and funny friends. Sheer delight, it was! The music was an eclectic mix of swoony blues, swaying oldies, booty wiggling indie and some very, very jazzy jazz. The tunes are still playing in my head – no doubt I shall be singing them all week!
Linda, you absolutely have to come next year…the imagination, the aesthetic delights are beyond delightful. And oh, the guests…what a combination of brains, beauty and wit. Too, too perfectly perfect.
Caroline, you are absolutely right. The rustle is spectacular!
Robyn, do please come along next year. I know Willow – hostess with the mostest in all of the US of A will welcome you with open arms and a glass of the very best bubbly. xx
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