This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I have just put the phone down after interviewing a wonderful 82-year young lady. She is the irresistible, tireless, impetuous and ‘mad as a box of frogs’ dress designer and fashion guru of the ’60’s ’70s and ’80s and the favourite of the debutants in my day – the one and only Wendy Darling (Wendy Lewis may be how some will remember her) and author of, No darling, it’s called …. Bad organisation. She has a fascinating tale to tell.
Wendy Darling may not mean much to many of you; you are probably too young to remember the wonderful Harriet Boutique in London (Gregory Place, just off Kensington Church St. Average prices were: 14 – 20 Guineas for a coat and dress.). But I do! And so will anyone who remembers the naughty ’60’s in London. Whilst chatting, though to tell you the truth, we both talked at the same time! We had so much in common! By that, I mean 50 years ago, we had both eaten at the same restaurants, both danced in the same nightclubs, and even had “friends“ in common because, of course, we were Chelsea Girls.
Now of course we are both, Gracious Old Ladies, ho ho!
This book is NOT just for the oldies. It is a wonderful refreshing example of a girl who came from a thoroughly ordinary background. She is the first to admit she wasn’t particularly good at anything! With a business studies course tucked under her belt, she learnt that with hard work or “gumption“ as she calls it, lots of lateral thinking and (she obviously was a lot of fun) you can achieve anything. I endorse that, and Wendy certainly did achieve a brilliantly successful life.
The book is littered with photographs and amusing asides, and I would recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in fashion.
Wendy partied with Princess Margaret and nicked John Lennon’s specs. She made dresses for the stars and narrowly missed getting arrested at Cliveden the night the police raided it and arrested Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. She bopped in and out of relationships as we all did in the 60’s – travelled to Rome, La Dolce Vita Roma, and bewitched Ava Gardner’s boyfriend from under her nose. She also became a well known and very successful model.
I’m not going to tell you anymore, but if you love fashion and the fashion industry’s machinations, this book is a must-read for any age group. More importantly though, it’s a wonderful example of how you can start with nothing – no background, no help – and achieve all that you set out to achieve, having a lot of fun on the way.