The silk road . . .
In writing the post on balls in my past, my memory alighted on gowns. And I cast back to find the first instance of my love-affair with silk. It was when I was a little girl and Mum walked along the hall in her ball-gown to kiss me goodnight before she and Dad went out. I could hear the silk even before she reached my door, the whisper as folds collided seductively with each other, the shush as she sat on my bed, the cool feel of the folds through my childish fingers. And the fragrance of Crepe de Chine which was her favourite perfume.
An indelible mark had been made on my brain.
Mum was a seamstress par excellence when I reached my ball days. She and I would go to the fabric shops and spend ages looking through the Vogue patterns, because it was a given the patterns would be Vogue, and even more of a given that they would be couturier. We would then pick the fabric. And I would experience the revival of my childhood sensations. We still have all those patterns and I marvel at her skill because nothing in a couturier pattern is simple. Even a sash is comprised of multiple pieces.
My parents travelled to Asia frequently for holidays and my ball wardrobe benefited. There was the most diaphanous aqua sari silk, embroidered with swathes of gold that Mum turned into a dramatic gown with unpressed pleats at the waist, a big sash and a deep, almost disgraceful decolletage. The rich cream raw Thai silk that cut into a tiny full-length couturier gown (Remember the fall in the previous post? This was the gown). The black butterfly- patterned Thai silk that cut into a long halter-neck and which I wore again to a Malay wedding. The vermilion raw Thai silk that cut into a neat shell-top and a skirt of tucks and darts and with a massive sash. A silk shantung couturier LBD that took me around the world and held its own in Bangkok, Rome, London and Athens and which I adored because it was paired with wonderful black patent ballet pumps with silver heels. My wedding dress, another rich cream silk cut with godets and a square neckline designed to underline collarbones and shoulderblades.
My mother was prolific and brilliant and would still be so if macular degeneration and arthritis had not put a stop to her sewing. I still have one of her own gowns. It is the palest grey and is very Parisian in style with a fitted bodice and a softly gathered skirt. She beaded the neck with fine crystals and bugle beads and which I have since removed as they were breaking down against the fabric. The waist was encircled in a rouleau belt with beaded tassels on the end and it is tiny because at the time Mum made it she had a 22 inch waist.
These days I get a thrill from choosing silk for embroidery, buying shades of creams, taupes, browns, blacks or greys to act as backgrounds for sumptuous stumpwork. I still love the feel and the sound of the fabric; it seduces all my senses, even smell. I allowed Adelina to experience that in The Stumpwork Robe when she visited the Faeran market at Star on the Celestine Stairway. She couldn’t resist purchasing a length of the finest silk which of course became the infamous stumpwork robe.
Do I still choose silk for evening clothes? Most assuredly. Black shantung for a long skirt based on the patterns of old, cream silk for a similar design, black quilted silk for a jacket, the most delicate dove-grey silk for a pair of evening pants and a fine cream silk for a wrap-shirt.
When I pull silk on, my personality changes just that bit.
I stand that much taller, with my head tilted that bit higher and I walk as though I am a graduate from a deportment academy. Because honestly, one must never ever slouch when one wears silk. Not unless one has maid to press the garments for one. And this one most definitely does not.