I have always loved summer dresses. When I was about five or six, I remember watching my mother getting ready for a party; she had hair like Brigitte Bardot and an apricot complexion with a sprinkle of freckles on her shoulders. She slipped a soft blue and white print halter neck dress over her head and let her mane of beautiful healthy shiny blonde hair tumble down her back. Her glorious dresses always made me sigh, happily.
Another memory: my Nana made me a silk party dress. I must have been seven years old. It was navy blue silk, with tiny green and white flowers, and a sweetheart neckline. The skirt was full, with panels, which made it swish gorgeously when I walked, my patent navy pumps peeking out underneath. I loved that dress so much that I remember my Nana cleverly inserted more fabric into the bodice so I could continue to wear it for another year.
My two little daughters, Ophelia and Eleanor, love dresses and dressing-up too. They have soft vintage-inspired nightgowns with tiny buttons made by the British designer Valerie Goad. For Christmas, they have festive green and red tartan ones from London-based Rachel Riley, who trained in haute couture in Paris and is married to Daniel Jouanneau (best-known for his Chanel perfume bottle images). You may have heard Rachel Riley’s name recently as she designed the sailing boat dungarees for Prince George.
Valerie Goad has made a few special dresses for my girls. Valerie has been designing since the 1960s and has an exquisite eye and uses gorgeous fabrics and pretty prints. She also makes men’s shirts using the crisp Tana Lawn, the most famous fine Egyptian cotton in the world, from Liberty of London.
As a mother of six children herself (one of her daughters is Plum Sykes, the author of “Bergdorf Blondes” and contributing editor to Vogue), Valerie takes my daughters’ input into her designs very seriously, which I love.
Ophelia asked for a shimmery pale blue voile dress for her brother Daniel’s christening after seeing something similar in a book she’d just read. More recently, I took Ophelia to Claridges to celebrate her winning a “Golden Apple” award at school. We had ice cream, scones and jam and Ophelia wore a pink taffeta skirt that tied with a bow at the side and a flowery top with little capped sleeves, also designed by Valerie.
My youngest, Eleanor, is amusingly opinionated, and knows exactly what she wants to wear this summer. She comes down in the morning in mostly white outfits, alternating with pale pink and mint green dresses, sometimes with a fetching white bow in her curls.
I still love summer dresses for myself. In fact I have started collecting pieces designed and made by Alex El Bader, a Spanish-born designer, who runs her own label called “Soler” in Notting Hill. Her pieces are truly beautiful - romantic dresses, floaty kaftans and silk tunics in jewel colours or the softest white cotton.
I wore one of her yellow silk dresses the other day and felt drenched in sunshine all afternoon as it complimented my beach blonde lights. I’ve just ordered a very glamorous long white dress from Soler. There’s an all white party being thrown at a private house in Ibiza this summer and it’ll be a major occasion, so I wanted something special to make it a night to remember.
I love to celebrate other female entrepreneurs and it means a lot to me that Ophelia, Eleanor and I have dresses from designers with their own ateliers like Rachel Riley, Valerie Goad and Alex El Bader's.
Then there are the investment pieces that I will pass on to my daughters and hope they pass onto theirs, in time. Every couple of years I go to Chanel, I just love their Little Black Dresses. The last one I bought was from their stunning new flagship store on Bond Street, in London. It’s a very classic LBD: 1960s in shape, with a funnel neck and an almost imperceptible shimmer woven into the fabric. I feel so deeply glamorous when I put it on.
We’re having friends round for supper here tonight and the hot Ibiza sun is finally abating. I’m going upstairs in a moment to choose a dress to wear for this evening. While I get ready I’ll chat to Ophelia and hope that she’s storing up summer dresses memories, just like I did with my mother all those years ago in London.
A-List colourist Louise Galvin has tended the beautiful locks of many famous and fashionable beauties, including Sophie Dahl, Plum Sykes and Patsy Kensit, at her father Daniel Galvin’s salon. Now Louise brings her own Carbon Neutral, natural ingredients haircare product line to the global ecommerce market with the launch of LouiseGalvin.com.