“Long before ‘fashion meets art’ became a catch-cry, I knew how empowering it was to wear a masterpiece.”
One Enchanted Evening is the story of an inheritance that is every woman’s dream come true and a window into an era of unsurpassed glamour and style. This beautifully illustrated book features a sumptuous collection of vintage clothes including designs by Chanel, Dior and Valentino, fabulous Gatsby-era dancing dresses covered in crystal beads and stories of the famous women who wore them. One Enchanted Evening is full of beauty and history as it chronicles the fashions and incredible style of the last 150 years, as collected by an extraordinary woman. One Enchanted Evening is just that – enchanted.
For many, God parents are distant figures who may give you the odd treat or piece of sage advice, but in the case of Charlotte Smith she was bequeathed an extraordinary 3000-dress collection by her American godmother, Doris Darnell. Unsurprisingly, Charlotte, who led a pretty humble life as a Blue-Mountains based antique dealer, was daunted and overwhelmed by the idea of possessing such a magnificent vintage collection. Where on earth would she put it? Other than admire it, what would she do with it?
‘I couldn’t understand why Doris had chosen me to watch over her precious horde,’ said Charlotte. ‘I had never worked in fashion…and here I was, now a single mother in my forties living far away from the fashion capitals of the world.’
In One Enchanted Evening Charlotte recounts her childhood: the glamourous lifestyle of her Quaker godmother and her unquenchable thirst for vintage clothes, her charmed relationship with Doris and the memory of magical times when almost any unhappiness could be cured by getting lost for a few hours in the Darnell collection.
When the priceless collection of vintage couture finally arrived, Charlotte was awestruck all over again by the beauty and history of each piece. It began to consume her and she became committed to exploring the tale behind each dress and the bewitching stories of Doris and the many women who spent a night in one of the spellbinding gowns. Before you could say ‘Dior,’ the inheritance changed her life, and became her career. One Enchanted Evening is Charlotte’s first step towards sharing the collection on the global stage. Her next dream is to open Australia’s first fashion museum and use the enchanting power of the Darnell collection to support young people in the fashion industry and build appreciation for what has been described as one of the biggest private fashion collections ever.
For every dress there is a story, like the time Naomi Campbell fell wearing sky-high, blue ostrich leather Westwood platforms, or the renowned trend setting abilities of Coco Chanel. Each anecdote transports us to unforgettable evenings spent floating about in these fabulous gowns, and provides fascinating insights into the personality of each woman who wore them.
Grant Cowan’s endearing illustrations are paired to every anecdote, with depictions of Belleville Sassoon designs, and Vietnamese designer Dang Thi Minh Hanh among some of the most spectacular. Thanks to Charlotte’s devotion and fine detective work, One Enchanted Evening is an unforgettable depiction of fashion history, and of how fashion can uplift and empower.
Above all, it’s a testament to Doris, to her doggedness as a collector of quality fashion and how she, an influential member of a non-materialist religion, remained absolutely and unequivocally adored for it.
Brava, Doris Darnell.
About the author:
Charlotte Smith’s English mother moved to the US in the 1940s where she met and fell in love with her American father. It was Doris Darnell who introduced them. Charlotte has a daughter, Olivia, to her ex-husband who is Australian. Charlotte is the owner of The Darnell Collection and the author of One Enchanted Evening, Dreaming of Dior and Dreaming of Chanel. Inheriting a vintage fashion collection of more than 3000 treasures from her Quaker godmother Doris Darnell in 2004 changed her life. It is now her career. Her collection has grown to more than 9000 pieces, including originals by Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Prada and Akira. Charlotte curates museum exhibitions and hosts events to showcase the collection in Australia and overseas, and is a regular guest on radio and television.