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Top ten Christmas wishlist

If money was no object, what would you want for Christmas? Here's my top ten list.

DegasWell, Christmas is coming up, and my presents are all ordered, delivered, or have arrived already and only await packaging. This isn't because I'm well organised or anything, but because the DH and I don't buy each other much (and in this neck of the woods, nobody buys anything for friends as most people are too broke).

We find as time goes on that our tastes are so expensive that we can't afford to buy each other what we really want (I-phones, Ipads and Macbook Airs are reserved for business expenses), so it may as well be something token. Our holidays are really our birthday presents (I prefer to take mine in the dark months of winter rather than in April), and we sometimes go out for a nice meal, but other than that, it's usually a book or a magazine subscription. 

This year, the DH has treated us to the complete X-Files on DVD as our joint Christmas pressie. We'll start watching it in the new year, on 'X-Files night' once a week, when friends aim to come round, probably in their PJs, and we'll watch a couple of episodes. He also ordered his own present, handed the Amazon package to me and it's my job to wrap it. Romantic or what? 

Meanwhile, I strongly suspect he's got a book for me - possibly the one I sent him an email link to about six months ago, saying: "Get me this for Christmas or else..." As you can see, romance isn't my strong point either. I will also be treating myself to a bottle of perfume, probably from a niche perfumery.

When it comes to fantasy 'wants', however, that's a completely different matter. I asked the DH what his Top Ten Most Wanted objects would be (we're not going to include metphysical concepts like 'to see my dad alive again' or 'world peace' in this), and all he could think of was cars. Followed by watches. Clothes or art didn't figure among them, though at one time, when he still flew, he would definitely have had a Beech 18 on the list. 

For myself, the list is quite different, so I thought I'd share it on here. These are the 10 things I would like, if money was no object.

Mompesson House1 - Mompesson House, Salisbury

Mompesson House is owned by the National Trust and is one of those gorgeous houses you enter and you think: "Cripes, I could actually live here..." I love the Queen Anne style ('everything plain and simple, from a piece of wainscot to a lady's face'). The house is spacious but not overlarge like Blenheim or Harewood or one of those stately piles, and despite the gracious entrance hall, most of the individual rooms, such as the dining room and various studies, are quite small and cosy, with beautiful, elegant proportions: fires, fenders, high ceilings... It also has a gorgeous walled garden out the back, so maybe in my fantasy, the lovely National Trust old dears would also be there in their teashop, selling home-made cakes. If you want to 'experience' it without visiting, it features in the Emma Thomson version of Sense and Sensibility. Mompesson House, obviously, is not for sale. 

Rie bowl2 - a bowl by Lucy Rie

When Issey Miyake saw the work of Lucy Rie, he said: "My heart and mind were filled with the spirit of this woman," and when I see one of her works I simply CRAVE it. I don't know what it is about them, but they make me sick with longing: the biscuity glazes, the purity of the shapes. Aargh. They are the kind of pottery you want to put in your mouth, like a sweet. They are not completely out of reach, either, at about £1,800 a pop, but still totally unjustifiable on my budget. I satisfy my cravings with studio pottery with similar glazes and shapes, the latest being a peach-coloured raku bowl with applied abstract flowers by a studio potter from Locranon.

Aston Martin3 - an Aston Martin DB5 Vantage

This classic car was on both the DH's and my list, but we both want it in the reliable reworked version by RS Williams, as seen on Top Gear. A silver kestrel of a vehicle, these beautiful lines could be mine for a mere £355,000....

Degas4 - Après le bain. Un femme s'essuyant la nuque by Degas

I can't tell you how much I love this picture. It leapt off the wall at me at the Musée d'Orsay and I wish wish wish there was a way I could own it. If you are ever in Paris, please go and see it - a computer image, or even a reproduction, cannot convey the depth of colour and feeling of the artist's hand in this pastel. I literally burst into tears when I saw it, but I - like everyone else - must make do with only a print at home. I don't know how much a Degas would set me back, but my guess is a couple of quid?

Oxburgh Hall5 - Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

Another National Trust property, I figure this one could be my country house while Mompesson could be my town house. Oxburgh was built in the 15th century from gorgeous pink brick and was lived in for nearly all the centuries since by the Bedingfield family. It's positioned exactly at that point where the castle became the stately home. I love everything about it, from the moat to the Spanish gilded leather hangings to the leaded glass windows. I remember sitting on the oak window ledges as a child, with the light growing dim and gazing out at the rain falling into the water. Bliss.

 

Chateau d'O6 - Chateau d'O

Only up the road from here but sadly no longer open to the public, due to a family dispute, this mini-chateau is a folie de pleasance with everything a girl could wish for: pointy turrets, secret rooms, painted furniture, black swans on the moat, panelled boudoirs. Everything but Rapunzel, lowering her hair out of the window. This can be my French holiday home for when I get bored with my other moat.

Vionnet dress7 -  a dress by Madelaine Vionnet

Any dress would do, but the best would undoubtedly be one of her architectural marvels of the 1930s - essays in 3D design that are not merely beautiful, but intellectually satisfying too. I have a feeling that this red and black one shown may once have belonged to Tina Chow. Failing that, I'd like Vionnet's 153-seam 1920s bias-cut shift made up of graduated green velvet diamonds cut so the pile falls differently on each, and outlined in silver cording. Or anything else she ever made. Or the magenta silk ballgown by Balenciaga in the V&A; or a Balenciaga jacket of any description; or a Fortuny stamped velvet cloak...See, I'm easy to please.

Miyake coatMiyake coat8 - an Issey Miyake coat

This bronze Origami one at far right is quite nice, isn't it? About $4,000 I think (just right for walking the dog in). I can't afford Miyake garments, which I think represent the best that modern fashion can offer, so I make do with collecting his patterns. Here is my version (in pink tweed with abalone buttons) of his brown blanket coat. 

Reverso9  - a Reverso by Jaegar-le-Coultre

The only watch I've ever really wanted, a Reverso - again - isn't entirely out of the question, just entirely out of MY question, at between $4,000 and $16,000. Reversos, as the name suggests, can be flipped over to reveal another face, which can be either plain or a timekeeper. I fancy the type with a white face one side and maybe black the other (usually a man's watch), or daytime one side and evening the other with rows of diamonds. Supremely elegant, this watch design dates from 1931 and the firm has rung variations on it ever since. Instead, I wear a one-cent Cartier Tank knockoff from Hong-Kong. 

opal10 - an opal necklace

The specific necklace I have in mind is in the Geological museum, London. I can't show a picture of it, as it's copyrighted, but you can see it here. It has three tiers of cabochons, with the colour shading from blues and greens through to fire opals and whites, all joined by the daintiest of gold chains. Failing this necklace, I'd love the 1820s neoclassical bracelet fashioned from Roman glass I once saw on the Antiques Roadshow. Some of the techniques still remain unknown as the knowledge was lost with the fall of the Roman Empire. Semi-precious stones are my thing, rather than diamonds, for instance, which are a bit bling-y for me. 

So, that's my modest little Christmas sorted. How about you?

 

 

Style icons - Tina Chow

I thought I'd start an occasional series about my personal style icons, so let's start, for no particular reason, with Tina Chow

blog imageTina Chow died a premature death but her personal fashion sense remains an inspiration.blog image

Chow was a jewellery designer, model and wife of the restaurateur Michael Chow. She also collected vintage couture. Her collection contained both contemporary items by designers such as Azzedine Alaia and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and early couture pieces by the likes of Alix, Vionnet and Fortuny. In particular, her collection of Fortuny gowns and coats was unparalleled outside a museum, including both Delphos pleated dresses and fabulous printed velvet mantles.

Chow was born Bettina Louise Lutz in Cleveland in 1950. Although assumed by many to be Chinese, she was actually of German and Japanese descent. She became a model as a teenager and during her sporadic career her luminous beauty was photographed by the leading photographers of her day, including Helmut Newton and Stephen Meisel, as well as captured in paint by Andy Warhol. She married Chow, 12 years her senior, in 1972 and the couple became leading members of the contemporary glitterati and art scene.

Chow owned some of the world's most beautiful clothing and was photographed wearing it for the Rizzoli book 'Flair', which is one of the gems of my fashion collection. But despite her couture wardrobe, the image of her that is the most enduring is her great simplicity. Chow sported a daily uniform of close-cropped black hair, almost no makeup, a white vest or t-shirt and black pants. To top it all, she would usually wear jewellery of her own design - big bangles in rock crystal, or woven bamboo. Her elegant simplicity is still a great act for women to follow, whatever your age or size, and can be achieved on any budget. In my 20s I dressed like this in white vests and black jeans - in my 40s I'd add longer sleeves and some neck interest, but you can create a look that is basically the same, from chain store to high street to Bond Street. Acrylic bangles are a good substitute for those of us who can't afford rock crystal.

Chow died in 1992 at the age of 41 from AIDS. Nursed by her daughter China, she is said to have passed away peacefully wearing her favourite Fortuny Delphos gown.

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