In the basement to my home is a closet. A large closet. A filthy closet. To my British readers, this closet is so large it would make an ideal apartment for a first time buyer. Over an unspecified period of time, I plan to try to clear this closet space and I know for sure that, as well as some very strange books, it contains a multitude of oddities.
To begin with, I present to you a book.
First of all, I am greatly amused by the price sticker. It has the name of my bookstore on it, almost 20 years before I ended up working there. Actually, no. First of all, I am greatly amused by the title.
Princess Diana’s Maternity Fashion and Nursery Handbook. This version is published in 1984 in the USA – note the Americanese spelling of ‘color’. The book opens with the preface which paints a picture unrecognisable today and all the more hilarious for it.
“Both The Prince and Princess of Wales, obviously delighted with their young family, are determined to lead, as far as possible, a normal family life, and they are prepared to break with tradition to do so. Many people say that family life is under threat in the modern world. If so, the example of Britain’s most famous family will surely help to resist it. They can be an inspiration to us all”. INDEED.
“Their practical and stylish approach has also inspired both the dress making and knitting patterns included in chapter four”. Take me to the knitting patterns!! “The Princess’s natural style and flair never waver; they enhance and complement her decided taste and very positive views about clothes. She has lost none of the stylish elegance and naturalness of touch which distinguished her from the outset… Her radiance has been apparent in every picture, and the Princess remains one of the most photographed women in the world”. Especially in Paris. “Few women, of course, are subjected to such intense scrutiny as the Princess, but even under the continuous spotlight of public attention she has grown more relaxed and confident over the past three years, and the pleasure and enjoyment that both she and Prince Charles get from married life have been obvious… Charles and Diana’s secure and happy married life will be a source of satisfaction in the years to come, not just to the couple themselves, but to us all”. Now we know who to blame for the trends in divorce rates.
The book goes on to cover the historical fashions of royals, particularly royal children. Above are a couple of photos of Prince Charles wearing a dress and one wearing a coat that looks a little like it might be a dress. Or covering one. Or covering nothing *shudder*. In any case, these pictures explain a lot.
One third of the way through the book, almost without warning, we are treated to a few lessons in “Dancercise”. I know it looks like an overweight woman has tripped, tried to reach for a telephone to call the emergency services, thought better of it, tried to get up and then begun a combination of praying and diving. But, no. It’s “dancercise”.
Once we have these out of the way, it’s back to fashion for a while. Then we are onto decor. Specifically of children’s nursery rooms. There’s a couple of fairly boring rooms, even by 1980’s standards and there’s another one that I find quite terrifying.
I just hope that the toys from this room never spring to life a la Toy Story. The whole room looks in some way sinister and I can’t help but feel the lion is an evil bastard. The big rat thing carrying food for the lion hoping that he won’t devour her only remaining child. The lion, smashing plates in the middle of the night and locking innocent toys in the camper vehicle, driving around at break neck speed. The shit.
Finally we are onto the knitting patterns. They do not fail to impress.
Sailor suits, for making your kids look posh (during the 80’s) but not so much in the 2000’s. Not outside of manga conventions and Japanese pornography, anyway. Knit this. I dare you.
And what of this little number? Prince William as a baby is pictured wearing a coat that looks somewhat similar to this, but even the one that he is trapped inside of has a few less garish letter and toy emblems dotted randomly around it. Even a Scouser in the 1970’s wouldn’t be caught dead in this.
This book is a lot of things, but there is one thing it definitely is not.