"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Duchess on Shopping

Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire

In her British tweeds.
 "I buy most of my clothes at agricultural shows, and good stout things they are.  Much better than the strange looking garments in desperate colours at 1000 pounds each in the Knightsbridge shops.  In the unlikely event of falling for one of those, you will find that all the buttons come off the first time you wear it, which is disappointing.  After agricultural shows, Marks and Spencer is the place to go shopping and then Paris.  Nothing in between seems to be much good...
...beautiful and always comfortable... my idea of what clothes ought to be."
-The Duchess of Devonshire in her book All In One Basket


I've just given this book to a friend but before I did I jotted the quote, above, into my agenda notebook. Such sensible advice on fashion and shopping from a woman who has had a fascinating and busy life.  Her clothes could not fail her and I'm sure they didn't, she clearly wouldn't have tolerated it.

For my everyday clothes I want things that are sturdy yet comfortable above all, and I find that these items are typically from Brora for winter, Eileen Fisher for spring and fall, and a combination of those two with some older J.Crew pieces added in for summer.
For my dressing-up clothes, well, I can't afford to buy them in Paris though I do own two Chanel jackets so I can attest to beautiful Parisian construction.  Everything else in my dress-up category is from J.Crew or Brora or Kate Spade, and I am working on making some of these items sturdier with new linings and reinforced seams!

Have you read any of the Duchess' books?  What do you think of her views on shopping?
xoDani

43 comments:

  1. Dani, I was wondering what kind of price quote you received for re-lining the Lexa dresses. Were you going to do the Lilabeth too? Even though that was "Collection" I don't think that it had a silk lining. I found it was unduly expensive to get a simple pencil skirt relined, so I was curious about the price for a tailored dress. I'm not sensitive to a poly lining myself, but I wonder whether it would be more cost-effective to cut the lining out and find a sturdy silk slip instead. Not that finding a slip is an easy task these days!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hexicon I haven't even been to my tailor yet! I am planning to go today or tomorrow so I will let you know. I thought I'd do a Frock Rehab post on the weekend after I go so I can show the new linings and break down the prices.
      I would love to have the Lilabeth done, I thought I'd start with a sleeveless silk taffeta but I'll bring a Lilabeth in as well to get the quote. I'm sure the sleeves will make it more expensive.
      Sturdy silk slips are really hard to find these days, it's sad but true!

      Delete
    2. They are not pretty, dainty finished lingerie or satin, but for everyday wear Winter Silks does a decent charmeuse everyday one (proper stitching) in ivory and nude - or at least they used to a couple of years ago. www.wintersilks.blair.com

      Delete
    3. I second the wintersilks recommendation! I have a camisole from them that I live in during the winter, because it keeps me warm and is thin and nice against the skin. I have worn it so much that it is nearly in tatters.

      Delete
  2. That's the general consensus amongst a certain class here, they don't buy a lot but what they do buy is well made nd lasts for a long time, I do think buying clothes all the time is a bit vulgar although I appreciate that for some it's a bit of a hobby. There is definitely a shopping divide, Europe, US and the Middle East all have their own shopping patterns.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tabs I would say that shopping patterns vary greatly.
      I love this idea of clothes that last and last and aren't bought too frequently, it's the opposite of consumer habits that have been heavily encouraged here over the last 30 years. We are brought up to shop, as teenagers the ultimate hangout place was the mall. Now I despise shopping malls, they are so boring!
      I think my Brora sweaters and tweeds are the equivalent of the Duchess and her agricultural show finds. I love those sturdy British clothes.

      Delete
    2. Shopping, in non-souk Dubai at least, is a true "more money than god" sport. Probably most conspicuous because it is all assembled in completely OTT malls.

      Delete
    3. Tabs - you are right. Even not shopping this month has been really interesting! I am re-looking at my own clothes with much greater interest. Many are being found wanting. I realized in November that shopping had become a stress releaser for me. Once the stress was gone (or at least reduced) whoosh - no burning interest. Having said that, I am sure I will buy a few things in NYC or even try on things that I might want to order later.

      Delete
    4. I agree that the regional differences are really interesting.

      I would love to know the shopping stats for here (Switzerland). It seems like people have an attitude of less is more, but it also seems like they are constantly shopping! A lot of it is really poor quality too.

      The fact that stores have limited opening hours and online is quite limited too probably really affects the shopping rates and maybe makes the stores appear more full of people.

      Zurich is totally over the top glittering wealthy (teenagers with real LV, etc.) and I'd love to know how much those people actually shop - a lot? Minimally but buy nice things? A ton and buy nice things?

      Delete
  3. CLOSET OF A LADY Ah Deborah, the youngest of the six famous sisters. I love that she (and her DH the Duke of Devonshire) turned Chatsworth into one of Britain's best restored and most financially successful great homes. Dani, I think there is a show series about it on over here right before Downtown - have you ever watched?
    Oh, and the Nancy bag is named after her eldest sis, another writer.
    I wish M&S quality had held up way it was when I was a kid. IMO, other than the food, it's a bit like Hunter (made more poorly in China) these days.
    Must look for that book...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dani you would <3 Chatsworth's farm "shop". And, to be correct, her son is the duke now.

      Delete
    2. I actually have that series DVR'd so will have to eatch as it is miserable rainy here today!

      Delete
  4. What a great quote! I haven't read that book, but I did read her memoirs, "Wait for Me!" Very entertaining.

    I am now very curious about the kinds of clothes someone would buy at an agricultural show. I wonder what the U.S. equivalent would be - maybe Orvis?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbour/Hunter/tweedy stuff, the sad thing is that in her day the quality at M&S was wonderful, but not any more.

      Delete
  5. Hi Dani - I have not read her autobiography, but I must, as she gets less airtime in most biographies of the Mitford sisters since she was, well, rather dull compared to the others' shenanigans! WOuldn't you love a cloak like that? I would never have a place to wear that, but wowza!

    ReplyDelete
  6. That she shopped a agricultural shows must translate to Barbour or Hermes!
    Sensible for her everyday life but look at that blue frock. That must have been found in Paris!
    Her books are so entertaining I love her wit.
    I wonder if Lady Carnarvon has the same philosophy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, her seamstress will have run that up, we don't have that fascination with Paris here - it's 50 mins away from us, it would be like you mythologising two states/counties away.

      Delete
    2. That's so funny, Tabs. It's like somebody in Pittsburgh getting all hot and flustered over a fantasy trip to Cleveland! (Both lovely places I'm sure, but not a million miles away).

      Delete
    3. A few of my friends here "hate" Paris. It's funny after having become accustomed to the reverence for it in N. America (myself not excluded).

      Delete
    4. Yes, this mythology and obsession about Paris should be ended. It's beginning to really turn me off what's great about the city. I have been to Paris (and all over France) countless times and NEVER shop there - except for a pretty ring the first time I went to St. Tropez and a painting of a cow from a railway station on a bike trip through Bordeaux. Both purchases happenstance.

      Delete
  7. Dani I have not read her book or any of the other Mitford sisters, they are at the top of my list though!

    Love and hugs,
    Karena

    Art by Karena

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have seen her being interviewed and she is both very practical and funny. I liked her. Dani, I am now fascinated that you have an "agenda notebook"! Such organisation and forethought. I have scraps of paper and scribbles on the back of receipts. You're one of the bloggers I wish would write a book of some sort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree SK - 'Frock Rehab' could be a chapter of 'Frock Philosophy'!

      Delete
    2. Sulky I find her funny and no-nonsense. I love people like that, they remind me of my Grandma. HA! I wish you would write a book! Sulky you could teach the world to laugh.
      See explanation of agenda notebook in response to Jennifer! I highly recommend it, stray scraps of paper send me into a fit.

      Delete
    3. Patricia that's a good idea thank you. I'm supposed to be fleshing out FrockPhil into something longer, just for my own good, but I haven't even started.

      Delete
    4. We've been watching a series about Chatsworth about its renovation, which included gold leaf on the window frames. Bill keeps saying how the Duke (Deborah's son) is a 'proper country gentleman'. No idea why he says that except the man comes across as sane, business-like, enthusiastic and approachable. Have added his mother's books to my Amazon wishlist. Sad about M&S quality, isn't it?

      Delete
  9. I've not read this or any other book on or by her. I'll pop over to Amazon for a peek. Quality daytime clothes are a must for me, because that's what gets worn the most. I must admit I have not tried any Brora, but have now read enough mentions about it that I think I'd better check it out. Kate Spade has some brilliant things, I'm just careful not to buy the retro looks I remember my mother wearing.
    I agree with Sulky...an agenda notebook?! Please explain more.
    Jennifer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jennifer, I have a Louis Vuitton agenda book (it was a gift from a good friend!) and it has my calendar in two forms, daily (for activities) and month-long format (I keep track of any health issues on this one) it also has a notebook section where I organize my budget for the house and business and any shopping I do. I wrote this quote next to my wardrobe shopping list for the year to keep me on the straight and narrow! The Duchess can surely whip me into shape and stop any silliness in its tracks. ;)

      Delete
    2. I do Filofax; all kinds of sections you can make up. This is where I records clothes prchases, too. Always had a black leather one-- called Mom's black book, in "have you seen?", but now I have a new brown one to mark a big life change. Essential.

      Delete
  10. I like her as a personality and her shopping philosophy suited her position, lifestyle and financial means. But I am afraid that the he idea of buying very little of only the best quality and still looking fabulous is as unattainable for those of us that had to 'buy out own furniture', as a Barbie figure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ajc I know what you mean and I sure love that expression, my friend Christopher uses it all the time, he gets away with it somehow!
      I do like that her shopping philosophy indicates that she was happy with what she picked up and wore it to death. She had a certain distrust of shops that tell a woman what to wear, I like that.

      Delete
    2. I'm with ajc on this one. The Duchess of Devonshire is a remarkable woman and I like her shopping philosophy as well, but she spent half of her life on a "farm" and the other half in high society, rubbing elbows with crowned heads. I'd love to garb myself exclusively in thrifted tweeds and Chanel, but that wardrobe is about as far away as one can get from the one that I need for my typical day, rubbing elbows with the hole punch in cubicle hell :p

      Delete
    3. Whitney you crack me up, rubbing elbows with your hole punch! She definitely had a very different life than we have, and that farm was no farm!

      Delete
  11. I am a huge Debo fan! Named one of my hens for her. I don't know this book, but "Wait for ME" and "Counting My Chickens" are both v. entertaining. She has wonderful tweeds on the cover of the later, holding a big buff Orpington. I suppose you can visit there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Lane, even stay (on grounds), popular for weddings as well www.chatsworth.org In season, hear it can be very busy with tourists now since the latest version of Pride & Prejudice shot there (I first visited before the film). Some Jane-ite scholars believe Austen actually modelled Pemberley closely on Chatsworth since she was actually in Bakewell, Derbyshire when she wrote it. For immediate fix, there is/was also a PBS series on it running just before Downtown.

      Delete
    2. Oh Lane, as I noted to DBP, think you would appreciate their "farm" market too. Not at all same league as our general version on this side of pond. Employs 100 people or so, but gardens, produce, products stunning.

      Delete
  12. Well I'm just that redneck American. I know nothing of this chick. Time for google! Do love Barbour though.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think the second picture of her in her British tweeds looks just like AJC.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love her thoughts and relate this some a couple I now. They have four children and are from a certain class. They buy very few clothes but the ones they buy can go from the first child to the last without being either outdated or in bad shape. I try to follow this even if it means more classical clothes, far less in fashion trends. In the end, my body shape is rarely adapted to the fashion :-)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Such a fun post. I can't wait to read more about her-she sounds like a hoot. I haven't shopped in ages, but fell off the wagon today with a mad dash in J Crew-lots of new arrivals were out in the downtown store-but I was pressed for time. The brocade top is now mine along with the pearl twisted hammock necklace-they looked great together. I feel they are both classics that will get years of wear-assuming I don't damage the delicate brocade.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have read U and non U by Nancy Mitford, but not this book. I am going to look for it immediately. I am a quality and textile snob, and find it harder and harder to purchase well made pieces, even at the better stores. I like Eileen Fisher too. I miss the days when Sigrid Olsen and Dana Buchman pieces were made of incomparable fabrics with exquisite workmanship. Once they became swallowed under the Liz Clairborne label they lost all of their character and eventually both lines disappeared. In their heyday, they were wonderful.

    ReplyDelete