Following Gaudi’s thought “to be original, return to the origin”, following it down to Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire where William Fox Talbot invented the camera, Norman Parkinson photographed eight dresses conjured from pure air and gauze.
This is like an album where every song is a certified banger. From the model, to the frocks, to the photographer, to the photographer he’s referencing, everything is flawless. Except that I don’t own all these dresses.
Tessa Kennedy lives down amongst trees and flowers on the Bayswater edge of Hyde Park; on a broiling blue July day it seemed more like the South of France with mimosa yellow awnings over the windows, white iron table and chairs set up on the terrace. On the corner of a great white classical block of houses, it’s a garden flat — no agent’s euphemism — knocked together from two; in the centre are a pair of tiny courtyards Tessa is changing into conservatories so that flowers can flower all year round: her sons can also wheel their bicycles straight out of doors to play. They are Cassian, Damian and Cary Elwes., 11, 10 and 7, and there’s Dylan, the baby, 7 months old.
Inside, a dramatic maze of rooms opens off the central chocolate-varnished corridor; everywhere carpets, tapestries, tartan and Indian silks make endless patterns. The old wine cellars have turned into great scarlet felt lined storage cupboards like the ones she designed for the Donald Davies shop, no dust can creep in. The drawing-room converts to a cinema built when Stanley Donen lived there; Tessa has hardly changed this at all. The projection room has mighty machines like the Marble Arch Odeon, she has registered herself as Kennedy Previews and has a projectionist hired full time—to show films to friends after dinner once or twice a week, or a couple of James Bond epics for the boys: “They love it of course and get absolutely boss-eyed.” Her fascination with gadgetry extends to video tapes, high-powered headphones for the stereo, intercom and a splendid American push-button dial telephone you can ring in on but not out. With the push-button stuff are clumps of fresh flowers, dog roses, daisies, piles of cushions in antique fabrics or in the flame stitch tapestry she sews on plane journeys, her collection of walnut shell sewing boxes, photograph, paintings—including a quartet of Louis XIV’s wife and mistresses—and carpet in a different colour but the same pattern as the one she designed for Burke’s restaurant. Burke’s is one of her decorating jobs she likes the best—along with Sir George and Lady Weidenfeld’s house and the flat she made for John Barry in an office block overlooking the Thames: “We installed such powerful sound that it moves right across the river and people coming out of the Tate look quite dazed.” Now she is working on a couple of country houses, one is for John Aspinall, and offices for Polydor records, and several new ideas, like a sauna in a storage cupboard, to build into this family and garden flat.
Yes, that’s little Cary Elwes at the tender age of seven. And of course it goes without saying that I would kill for those Theas…
Fire red paisley for a Celtic summer: The haunted house at Parc, near Afon Crosesor, where ghostly things happen all the time. Wild red flickering skirt, paisley and red gold organdie blouse with gold Turkish bodice. Skirt, blouse and top to order from Thea Porter. Fire red boots by Elliott. Sash pin from Ken Lane. Amber beads ,wrist scarf and long red scarf by Ascher.
Place: Jane’s Harbour, at the house of Mr and Mrs R. Miles Warner. Dress: Fuschia chiffon over skirt, with leaf and flower liana. About £120. Pink net flower hat. Instant nymph. Pablo & Delia, both to order at Browns. Sandals by Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.
Photographed by Norman Parkinson. Scanned by Miss Peelpants from Vogue, July 1973
Needlepoint waistcoat by Kaffe Fassett for Beatrice Bellini, £25 to order, Women’s Home Industries’ Tapestry Shop. Suede gauchos, fine jersey shirt, both by Jean Muir. Perspex belt by Nigel Lofthouse for Jean Muir. Ghillies by Christel at Elliott. Panne velvet muffler by Veronica Marsh for Jacqmar.
Gauchos remain one of my favourite looks at the moment. Indeed, I am wearing a pair of tweed Chelsea Girl gauchos as I write this. It’s one of those looks which will, inevitably, make a comeback, and I will be tiresomely reminding people that ‘I was doing it ages ago!’. As it is, I am just continuing to enjoy wearing them, enjoying the curiousity and comments, and educating people to call them ‘gauchos’ rather than ‘culottes’. Then I will just have to move onto knickerbockers…
Photographed by Norman Parkinson.
Scanned by Miss Peelpants from Vogue, September 1970
“I have to have the best. Life is too short without it. What I really love is simple perfection…”
Marc Bohan in the courtyard of his apartment, with ” a completely different look for evening… It’s casual but very exciting. The whole thing has an idea of throwaway luxe which I love…” coral crepe lamé smock, deeper coral crepe georgette camisole over cigarette straight trousers.
Really this is more about inspirational architecture. How extraordinary is that courtyard? Like something from a fantasy film. Does it still exist? Anyone?
Photographed by Norman Parkinson. Scanned by Miss Peelpants from Vogue, September 1974