Charlotte Smith is the author of One Enchanted Evening, a series of stories about selected items from her fabulous couture and ready-to-wear fashion collection.
In 2004, Anglo-American Charlotte Smith inherited a vast collection of vintage and historic garments and accessories from her American Quaker godmother, Doris Darnell. Along with 3,500 items of clothing came boxes of personal letters and Doris’ handwritten notes documenting the stories of the women who wore them. Charlotte quickly realised she had inherited more than a collection of fashion, but rather a collection recording social history and women’s journeys told through fashion.
As the current custodian, Charlotte has expanded the collection enormously, now over 9,000 + pieces, to include fashion from 36 different countries. She has focused on adding important designers from the 1960s to present day with ready-to-wear, couture and haute couture pieces.
As a “Globe Trotting Fashion Anthropologist’, Charlotte travels the world seeking out fashion’s history, inspiration, and sustainability. Of particular interest is the social impact of fashion, 21st century innovation, dressing to empower, and the importance of celebrating and showcasing multicultural fashion.
One Enchanted Evening is about women, fashion, fashion and social history. There are 127 stories written in a friendly, conversational manner. Facts are woven into personal stories about women. On the back cover I wrote: “Every woman knows a dress can hold a lifetime of memories. Or transport you back to just one enchanted evening”.
It is the third book in the series. This time, I wanted to focus only on 20th/21st century gowns and their stories, many of which have been gifted or bought for the collection since I have been custodian, and if the gowns didn’t have personal stories, then I wanted to write about the decade, the designer or something that made wearing the dress relevant.
I absolutely love researching, whether it is about a designer, or what colours were popular in a decade, or if there was a special event at the time, etc. This takes hours and often I save information that wasn’t useful for the book, but useful for future reference. It is incredible what can be found on the internet and in my library of fashion books.
The most challenging aspect of writing this book was the fact that each story had to be told in 250 words or less. That was tough!
I am working on establishing Australia’s first museum(s) dedicated to the history of fashion. It will become a home for the collection as well as an arts/culture and tourism/destination venture.
My book is all about women attending fabulous parties or special dinners, so yes, almost every story indirectly involves food, but there are no stories about cooking. There is one story, page 60, about a woman dining at Romano’s Restaurant in Sydney’s CBD in the 1930s.
I think readers will imagine or fantasise about the kind of wonderful meals or cocktail food that might have been offered at some of the parties mentioned in the book.
I love the luxury of having time to putter in the kitchen. I turn my Chill or Jazz music on, pour a nice glass of wine and enjoy the whole process. I’m not terribly exotic as a cook, but can make a good curry. I love to make huge portions that I serve out of enormous salt glazed pottery dishes and platters and ask people to serve themselves from the kitchen counter.
As a child, I loved my English godmother’s chocolate tea cake that she would serve outside as we sat on her outdoor garden setting near the tennis court (she lived in a beautiful Georgian mansion in Devon) and my grandmother’s delicate scones with clotted cream. Going to BBQ’s in the States, I would always have seconds of filet mignon cooked on the grill.
I remember when my mother was recovering from cancer in the early 1980s, I stayed home from university for one term. All I did was cook so that my mother had something delicious to eat everyday if she felt well enough. I remember making the most magnificent cheese soufflé. It was perfect for my mother, but my brother was horrified that that was all he was getting for dinner and didn’t appreciate it at all. I’ve never been able to make one as good again.
New York Parties – The Art of Hosting by Savoca Jean Michel Brawley Boyce. It brings back memories of my former life when I lived the grand social life in the 80s in New York city, so it is as grand and as opulent as the parties I frequented. It is by Rizzoli – they always make beautiful books and it is fabulous the way they have matched the stories to the decor of the venues.
A bar of Josophans plain dark chocolate.
A platter of the world’s best cheeses and a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir