Happy Heart Musings: Valentino and all things Fashionable

Visions of sugarplums may dance in the heads of little boys and girls the night before Christmas, but last night I went to sleep with visions of lace, sequins, bows and luxurious fabrics dancing through my head.


My sister and I had been to visit the Valentino Exhibition in Brisbane on its final day.

It was a tad busy. Thank goodness we had pre-purchased the tickets and could breeze past the hoardes of women (and a few men) lined up waiting to get in. We actually had also gone with my mother and sisters in law, but we separated partway through the exhibit. Primarily because The Actress (sister) and I were going so slowly since we were taking so long to OOOOHHH and AAAAAHHH over each dress. In fact I think a family of fahion conscious snails would have completed the exhibition before us had they decided to view the exhibit. Luckily there were no snails present, which is just as well, since misfortune they would have surely encountered were they present. Inevitably a snail would be skewered by a stilletto or squashed by a ballet flat in the midst of the eager observants.

It was well worth dilly dallying though. Such gorgeous gowns, full of elegance, sophistication and glamour.


As I wandered around in awe of such beauty, I became quite contemplative as my mind wandered through the drifts of fabric. I should clarify, I became contemplative, probably after leaving the exhibit. I was far too busy talking with The Actress. I must say, our commentary was highly amusing, and not just to us. We even had a secret stalker, a bored Dad who kept on unobtrusively positioning himself behind us and smirking away. That was until he laughed out loud when I made in depth observations on the precarious walk that the models were doing in their slightly ridiculous footwear during video footage of a fashion parade. He was a little mortified that we had ‘just’ (so he thought) noticed him, that he disappeared into the crowd. Poor guy, his loss, our commentary was by far more entertaining then the official guides.

So firstly I was thinking about how we classified how much we liked the dresses according to how well we could imagine ourselves in the blessed creation. For instance, The Actress could totally see herself on stage in the black 80’s sequined number, lifting her arm out and exposing the exquisite beading whilst singing the dramatic final note.

Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future will be open at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, from August 7 to November 14, 2010. <EM>Photo: Katherine Feeney</EM>

She could also see herself swanning around in the pink dress with the matching overcoat with the glorious lining or in Audrey Hepburn’s number that we call the wattle dress, even though we discovered the flowers weren’t wattles at all. T’was a shame, really, it was quite un-Australian of Valentino. (Who does he think he is – like Italian?)


While I tossed up trying to decide the most appropriate dress to disguise my post-baby tummy,

or just wanting to wear something fabulous in the event of losing post baby tummy.

I would totally be motivated to lose weight, if someone were to give me a Valentino. In fact sister and I decided if someone were to bestow upon us even one Valentino gown each, we would completely renovate Mum and Dad’s house into a ballroom where we would host a grand ball, weekly, wearing our Valentinos. Of course you would never get sick of us wearing the same outfit – it’s a Valentino. Oh, unless it was the hand painted 60’s number. We thought our Gran would have been able to paint the swirly pattern onto it. Maybe she did? A secret rendevous with Valentino. What a great family secret. We unexpectedly met our cousin at the exhibit, and she wholeheartedly agreed that the hand paintings matched Gran’s capabilities.

Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future will be open at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, from August 7 to November 14, 2010. <EM>Photo: Katherine Feeney</EM>
For the record, the little black dress up the top right hand side of the picture was one my favs. The photo does it no justice, it was gorgeous. If you were there, hopefully you remember. The Actress and I noted that although we had seen pictures of some of the dresses before, being there, seeing them up close was a totally different experience, and they were all the more splendid in real life.
Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future will be open at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, from August 7 to November 14, 2010. <EM>Photo: Katherine Feeney</EM>
If only we were allowed to touch. Before we left, I seriously considered going back to a dress, probably this one with such intricate fabrics and folds to touch it. It totally would have been worth getting evicted from th

e gallery for. I’m to much of a good girl though. A bit too afraid of getting in trouble!

Valentino Evening ensemble (detail) Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2007–08, Model 170 | Collection: Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / Photograph: Jean Tholance
So back to my musings. Sorry, got a bit carried away remembering with all the lovely pictures. (I have a weakness for pictures, being a visual learner and all.)
The desire, even the feeling obligation to lose weight in order to wear these creations, was a little disturbing. The dresses are designed for the ‘ultimate woman’s body’. Tall, slim models are the ideals to display the pieces. It is not about the dress alone, there is a certain size – ie. small – that is a requirement within the fashion industry. While I could find some dresses that would be able to hide my lumps and bumps – were they in a greater size – the dresses have not been designed for the ordinary woman. They are made with the elite in mind. The ‘haves’ not the ‘have nots’. There is the element of snobbery of owning a designer gown.
Now I’m not meaning to be completely harsh. Viewing the dresses in total awe and amazement, I know there must be the brilliant minds that God has created, so that they can in turn create such beauty, a celebration of femininity. Valentino, Dior, Yves St. Laurent, Marc Jacobs, etc. are the trend setters. The wealthy wear the clothing with their labels on. However, we do to. The labels are not so grand, but the clothing that we pick up in the stores that suit our budgets, have nevertheless been influenced by the trendsetters.
I think as women we crave beauty. I think we have been designed to crave beauty. To take pride in ourselves, and our homes to aspire to become better and create an atmosphere for others to feel comfort in. My encounter with Valentino was beautiful and even though I will probably never wear one of his creations, his designs have touched my life.
Valentino Evening gown Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1971, Model 238.  Photograph: Jean Tholance

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