The fashion houses of Knightsbridge came hand in hand with Royal Ascot, Henley and summer wedding territory, and so I became accustomed to the prim and proper of London’s social elite: the ladies who vied for matching two pieces to be topped off with flamboyant fascinators or a theatrical hat.
I couldn’t help but find fondness for one particularly affluent woman who would visit us each season to ready her wardrobe for the social obligations of the coming months. Like many others, she would plump for traditional cocktail dresses and matching suits and jackets, but each time she dented her bank balance, she would ask to see the in house tailor.
I soon ascertained that this wasn’t the usual alterations request where the customary motions of nipping a hem in here or tucking a dart in there were followed. This lady required something I imagine many of these socialites yearned for amidst their restrictive pencil skirts and their wiggle room only seams. She wanted each and every hem hacked at within an inch of her derriere.
As was deemed appropriate by the vast majority of our customers, the length of our dresses was accustomed to falling just below the knee. Nevertheless, this particular shopper, whom, might I add was some 70 years old, was not satisfied with anything that didn’t brazenly skim her knicker-line.
During their first encounter, the seamstress was understandably weary of cutting into several hundreds of pounds worth of fabric to create something she wouldn’t let her own teenage daughter wear past her front door, but nevertheless, after just one season we knew the drill: if all and sundry was not being flaunted, then this eccentric pensioner would not be satisfied.
In the decade where Ascot’s rules of dress were being published in every newspaper to avoid the faux par of a heaving bosom or an unashamed pair of bare shoulders, I only wish I could have witnessed one of her entrances into her world of cocktail parties and canapés.