Whenever the word 'eccentric' is pulled out to describe the look of the moment, so is Edith Sitwell, with her turbans and dressing-gowns and gnarled tangle of hands and rings resting in her silken lap.
'I am a Plantagenet,' she famously declared, and then proceeded to combine Pre-Raphaelite, Oriental, Arts and Crafts and Surrealist styles to make up her very individual version of day-wear.
She was lucky that during her lifetime she was surrounded by people who appreciated her and her two brothers as central to the artistic life of the times. Her style was an essential part of her character. But she had a mischievous sense of humour. Early on, Cecil Beaton noted 'the twinkle in her eye' . Much later, in 1962, she described a party given in honour of her 75th birthday as being 'like something macabre out of Proust'. Her love of dressing up was always an amalgam of peasant and grand, with a touch of baroque in those oversized jewels. Designers such as John Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix have always mixed the influence of different cultures and different times to produce their collections and both Gaultier and Lacroix love English heritage. So once again, Miss Sitwell is back.
You can see more of her and all the Sitwells in 'The Sitwells and the Arts of the 1920s and 1930s', an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London until 22 January 1995.
Left: velvet shawl-collared jacket, pounds 360, by G Gigli, 38 South Molton Street, W1; rust chiffon skirt, pounds 205, by John Rocha, from Liberty, Regent Street, W1; Joseph, 16 Sloane Street, SW1; Xile, Edinburgh; Pilot, Leicester; amber velour scarf worn as a turban, by Natasha Barrault, from a selection starting at pounds 120, from Liberty, as before; Browns, 27 South Molton Street, W1; Whistles, 14 St Christopher's Place, W1; amber resin necklaces, from pounds 45, by Dinosaur Designs, from Whistles, as before.
Opposite: gold and olive Indian-print silk padded lined skirt, pounds 219, and printed silk and embroidered scarf, pounds 143, both by Dries van Noten, from Jones, 15 Floral Street, WC2; brown pin-striped jacket by Katharine Hamnett, pounds 395, from 20 Sloane Street, SW1; 38 Princes Square, Glasgow; walking stick, pounds 25, from Cordings, 21 Piccadilly, W1 Above: georgette pin-tucked shirt, by Textile Treasures, pounds 150, from The Gallery of Antique Costume and Textiles, 2 Church Street, NW8; hat with stitch detail, pounds 65, by Miss Jones, The Hat Shop, 58 Neal Street, WC2, and branches, also to order from 071-734-9666; amber ring, from a selection at Liberty, Regent Street, W1 Right: paisley silk brocade coat/dressing-gown by Textile Treasures, pounds 495, from The Gallery of Antique Costume and Textiles, as before; green devore velvet empire-line dress by Red or Dead, pounds 285, from Thomas Neils, 36 Kensington High Street, W8; 70 Buchanan Street, Glasgow; 14 Cheapside, Manchester (Photographs omitted)Reuse content