What Would Lady Julia Grey Wear?

by Deanna Raybourn, author of The Dark Enquiry (Book Five of The Lady Julia Grey series, available July 2011)

One of the things that readers seem to love about Lady Julia is her fashion sense. Her style is unique and completely reflective of who she is as a woman—so much so that every cover has featured an ensemble actually described in the book! Like any modern-day celebrity on a red carpet, her clothes always tell a story, where she’s been, where she’s bound, and who she is. In the first book, Silent in the Grave, Julia’s journey from not-so-grieving widow to lady of adventure is charted by her clothes. Under the critical eye of her most stylish sister, Portia, Julia’s depressing Victorian widow’s weeds give way to striking outfits in jewel tones, perfectly fitted to her and strictly tailored. And no designer united the elements of color and fit as uniquely as Alexander McQueen who surely would have been Julia’s designer of choice had he lived in Victorian times.

Last month I was lucky enough to visit the McQueen exhibit—“Savage Beauty”–at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the experience was astonishing, not just because the pieces were art but because they were so completely wearable. It was entirely possible to imagine a woman of style and sophistication wearing the garments as decoration, as armor, as shorthand stitched up to show the world who she really is. According to McQueen lore, he learned the art of severity in a tailor’s shop in Savile Row and the concept of lightness from Givenchy. These are qualities that Julia, like most women, tries to balance. A feminine woman in a very masculine world, Julia is the walking embodiment of yin and yang. She would have adored McQueen’s discipline, his stripping away of the superfluous in favor of lush color and exquisite texture. She would also have reveled in his romanticism, his ability to tell a story with his clothes and to cast the woman who wears them as heroine of her own tale. She mightn’t have gone for his more exotic designs—no armadillo shoes or razor clam dresses for her—but she would have doubtless swooned over his tulle underskirts, his tightly-fitted suits, his glamorous silk capes, and lush, corseted gowns.

Of course, she would never have found him on her own. Portia, Julia’s sister and style maven, would no doubt have been the one to discover McQueen and act as his muse, dragging Julia along for her first fitting and snapping up a few delectable things before Julia had a chance to see them. But I suspect McQueen would have been very happy to save back something just for Julia…perhaps a delicious tartan trifle with a black lace underskirt? Just the thing for the wife of a Scottish gypsy.

View the exhibit online.

(Note: Tremendous thanks to blog goddess Olga for posing the question, “Would Julia wear Alexander McQueen?” I think the answer is a definitive “YES!” If you’re planning to be in New York and would like to visit the exhibit, “Savage Beauty” has been extended to August 7.)

Photo Credits: © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce 2011

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