04 May 2010

Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts Dreaming of Dior Gathering

Day 7: Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts

Somehow I open my eyes and get out of bed at 6:30am. I still need to pack my bags, eat breakfast, checkout and arrive at Penn Station to catch my 10am to Philadelphia. It's tough this morning I could use another few hours of sleep. The train trip is relaxing and I arrive by 11am. I take a taxi to my weekend accommodation – Loews Hotel on Market Street – very swanky and corporate. I have to admit, I like big hotels where a guest can become anonymous yet enjoy all the luxurious and perks a boutique hotel offers. I am given an executive suite on the 26th floor with views almost 180 degrees above the spectacular city. It is a huge room and I luxuriate in the comfort of it all.

My sister Sarah arrives for the night and after a quick shower and change we are collected by my driver and driven literally around the block (although it takes 20 minutes) to my next speaking engagement, The Philadelphia School of Fine Arts, in the most exquisite Frank Furness building on the other side of Town Hall. Talk about lavish paint work, sculptures, paintings and sheer grandness only the top buildings in the America know how to do - this is a perfect example. My talk will take place on the main floor reached by the grandest stone staircase in the world and under arched and domed ceilings. 

My hosts tonight are the Alliance Francaise and The School of Fine Arts. The cream of Philadelphia society are out in force wearing the most fabulous vintage garments, hats and furs. Everyone looks divine. My talk goes well and as is the norm now whenever I am with my collection, more stories are added to the wonderful ones I inherited along with the dresses. 

Tonight, in the audience are a number of women who worked as seamstresses for Ann Pakradooni. My fab lace pant suit , designed by Ann Pakradooni, which is illustrated on page 197 now has ANOTHER wonderful story. During the Q&A part of my talk a tiny hand raises and a woman quietly asks if she can look more closely at the suit. My sister takes it over to her and after a quick look at the stitching surrounding the hooks and eyes in the jacket she confirms her suspicions – she made the suit when she worked as a seamstress for 13 years for Ann Pakradooni in the 60s and 70s. She just can't believe, nor can I, that she is seeing one of her creations 50 years later. The audience claps and she and I have tears in our eyes!! And to top it all off she is called Charlotte too! We swap emails and will contact each other asap. I ask her to recall any stories which might give a better insight to this relatively unknown (outside of Philadelphia that is) designer.

The evening is a huge success and lots of books sell. Sarah and I crash in my executive suite happy to order room service and rent a movie. Of course, we turn on the news and see what could have been a horrifying terrorist attempt in Time Square, 3 blocks from my hotel. I am happy I am in a quieter city enjoying the twinkling lights of the vast city below my room.

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