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I RECENTLY LAUGHED AT A CARTOON which said something like: if you buy this dress it will make you into a beautiful, whole and complete human being. Don’t be silly, was the reply, a frock alone can’t do that...you’ll need the shoes and bag as well.

I must admit to a passion for hats. A nubuck stetson bought in Yellowstone Park in the Mid West kept me cool on dusty journeys as I crossed deserts in search of textile treasures. There was a Philip Tracey straw hat I wore to my wedding, and an almost sculptural brown felt hat that has kept me warm on the coldest days and always looks fantastic no matter how dishevelled I feel. One might say that the population can be categorized as hat, shoe or bag people, so we have asked some readers to tell us about their favourite accessories, pg 5. Kate Constable is a devoted bag lady but not just to any bag; Waldy bags, as carried by Princess Margaret, are her delight, pg 42. For Mary Lisa Gervase it’s the embroidered shoes of Shuzu cobbler in Shaghai, pg 32.

We take our own grand tour of Europe’s cultural hotspots both old and new. In Italy we trace centuries of sumptuous silk brocade and velvet production, and uncover modern sophistication in Italian designer Daniela Gregis’s billowing white skirts, pg 56. We also travel to Germany for grown-up intelligent fashion from Rundholz, pg 48.

A century ago you might well have bought your accessories from a haberdasher’s, a sight rarely seen in today’s high streets. These stores offered a visual feast of graphic design on tempting packages. This was in the heyday of home sewing when every household would have owned a sewing machine, pg 16 and probably bought Butterick paper patterns, pg 22. These industrial developments, not easily obtained, democratized fashion as never before. Today, with the press pushing one new trend after another, it’s worth remembering that fashion for everyone is a relatively new phenomenon.

Across the diversity of textiles presented in this issue the omnipresent element is subtlety. It’s a quality that takes time to reveal itself but is evident in the colour shifts in the pebbles in Sue Lawty’s installation at the V&A, pg 60. The exquisite craftsmanship of contemporary bamboo basketry, pg 64 and the weave of a Vaxbo linen towel, pg 72 are all worth the time it takes to unravel their beauty. I hope you enjoy the unwinding.

Polly Leonard, Editor

Never afraid to ask the difficult questions we track down the ultimate accessory...


I think shoes are essential both a fashion statement and essential for comfort. They are definitely the most important accessory for me. I particularly love boots; warm winter boots like Sorels and classic high heeled dress boots. I always wear my wellies in the countryside. Boots are so versatile. Casual or formal you can wear them with anything ...and I frequently I do!



In my post college days, I used to ’borrow’ toilet paper and canned peaches from my parents’ pantry. I was just not being paid enough as a librarian to have those luxuries AND red Spanish shoes with octagonal heels! Red is still my favourite colour and there are four pairs (shhhhh) of red shoes in my closet….love them all.

I like bags! The one I use now is rectangular in brown leather. This is a bag poem by my daughter: “There was a bag which had a snag The man who had it Went back to the shop They had a picnic and the man said Stop! Aren't I coming for a bag to swap?” By May Haddon (age 6).