Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Fifty-Five


Yesterday we drove over the border to Derbyshire, an hour up the road, to visit Kedleston Hall, gifted to The National Trust in 1951.


Commissioned in 1765 by Nathaniel Curzon, Kedleston Hall was designed by celebrated architect Robert Adam as a house to rival the nearby Chatsworth. Intended as a temple of the arts and as the location for flashy parties, the main house was never meant to be a family home, but a show palace in which to showcase the finest paintings, sculptures and furniture.


Kedleston Hall is the ancestral residence of the Curzon family who came to Britain from Normandy during the reign of William the Conqueror, settling at Kedleston in the 1150s where the family still live in a private wing. The part open to the public, The West Wing, was never inhabited.


With freezing temperatures and torrential rain which sporadically turned to sleet, Robert Adam's Pleasure Grounds had trouble living up to their name. Although the car park was full, we were the only fools brave enough to do the three-mile Ladies Walk.


Despite the weather, the gardens were still rather beautiful in an elegantly faded and somewhat soggy fashion.












The Mediaeval village of Kedleston was demolished in 1759 to make way for Nathaniel Curzon's party palace and all that remains is All Saints Church, established in 1198 but rebuilt in the 13th Century. 



Mounted on the wall above the main window is a sundial with the inscription "We shall" and decorated with skulls and crossbones. As the sundial operates all day, the message was a play on words by the maker - We shall all die. A cheery greeting to any house guest looking out from the bedroom opposite.

Normally we'd have wandered around the graveyard and spent time reading the headstones but we were wringing wet and, worried my damp Afghan might start smelling like the old goat it came from, we made our way towards the Hall.


Lovers of clean lines, bare walls and minimalism look away now!



Twenty alabaster columns with Corinthian capitals support the heavily decorated, high-coved cornice whilst niches contain classical statuary. The floor is of inlaid Italian marble. The original designs for this room intended for it to be lit by conventional windows at the northern end, but Adam, warming to the Roman theme, did away with the distracting windows and lit the whole from the roof through an innovative glass skylight.



The hall symbolises the atrium of a Roman villa. The adjoining vestibule saloon, like the marble hall, rises to 62 feet, where it too is sky-lit through a glass oculus. Designed as a sculpture gallery, the room was completed in 1763, the theme based on the temples of the Roman forum. 



Ignore the tree (I generally do) and feast your eyes on those Adam-designed doorways. 


There's an Adam fireplace in every room, each and every one a work of art. There were security cameras focussed on the silverware, designed to remind diners of how wealthy their hosts were.


The ladies' salon, where the women would retreat to whilst their menfolk played billiards was my favourite room. The wallpaper is silk and the chandelier is made from Waterford crystal. Give me a silk damask settee with reclining gold Greek gods for arms over an on-trend grey one any day of the week. 








That's us under the masks!


 


This 18th Century Ormolu mirror is listed as one of the National Trust's 125 Greatest Treasures. Something else I wouldn't mind owning!


The aristocratic Curzon family held numerous titles from as far back as 1066, the most famous being that of the chap in the painting above, George Curzon, Viscount Scarsdale, the 1st Baron Curzon of Kedleston who was appointed Viceroy of India from 1898 - 1911.


In 1895 George married Mary, the daughter of Levi Ziegler Leiter, an American millionaire and co-founder of the Chicago department store Field & Leiter (later Marshall Field). Initially, he had just married her for her money so he could save his estate but ended up developing feelings for her. Mary had a long and nearly fatal illness near the end of summer 1904, from which she never really recovered. Falling ill again in July 1906, she died on the 18th of that month in her husband's arms, at the age of 36. It was said to be the greatest personal loss of his life.

Mary was the woman who commissioned - and wore - the legendary Peacock Dress. This painting by William Logsail was completed in 1909, several years after her death. Talking of which, here it is.....


As I mentioned in my last post, the chiffon fabric was woven with gold and silver thread by craftsmen in India then shipped to Paris, where it was designed and made into a dress by The House of Worth. It weighs almost 10lbs and those jewel-like beads are actually beetle wings that gleam like emeralds beneath the light.










It's beautiful now, can you imagine what it'll look like after restoration? I'll be first in the queue. The Museum of Indian Treasures was also closed due to restoration works and we're both very keen to see that when it reopens.


 
We dashed around in the rain for a bit longer, fondled a few Greek gods and goddesses and then sat in Patrice and tucked into cheese sandwiches accompanied by a flask of tea before driving the 38 miles back home.






That's my new birthday dress, by the way. The joy of being a grown-up means you can buy yourself presents! 

The evening was spent in pretty much the same way as birthdays have been spent since I was a teenager (with the exception of last year's lockdown), meeting friends, going to the pub, downing a few beers and having a curry.

Thanks so much for the birthday love! The comments, emails, Facebook messages, presents and both the real (and virtual cards) more than made up for the atrocious weather. I do wish Jesus would stop trying to take over - it's not his birthday for another three weeks and yet again he had to muscle in on my special day. A pile of Xmas cards arrived in the post, I had to endure a carol service in 'Spoons and an abysmal soundtrack of naff Xmas songs during our curry. After the third playing of Stop The Cavalry, I was ready to start bashing my head against the table.

A favourite pit stop taken on our travels in Bombay back in 2018

The celebrations continue tomorrow, I'm meeting a friend in Birmingham and we're off for a slap-up lunch in a Bombay-style Iranian cafe. See you soon!

60 comments:

  1. Sounds like you have thoroughly enjoyed your birthday Vix. 55 a mere snip :-)

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  2. Glad you had a fabulous day and good on you for braving the elements. I agree that the garden has a muted beauty to it in the rain. Fabulous peacock dress...the beetle wings remind me of the beetle dress belonging to Dame Ellen Terry at Small Hythe Place [also NT] Arilx

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    1. I'm off to google Dame Ellen Terry's dress right now....xxx

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  3. I actually love Stop The Cavalry. It's the Phil Spector Christmas album that makes me want to gnaw my own arm off. Sounds like you had a most excellent birthday. Please accept a belated Many Happy Returns from me. And OMG the peacock dress!!I had no idea the idea of using scarab beetles'carapaces as an emerald substitute went back that far in time.

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    1. Gnaw your own arm off - that's exactly how I felt after two bloody hours of Xmas hits!!!
      R=Thanks so much for the belated wishes, Fig! xxx

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  4. well done on your birthday dress!
    but it is - sorry - outdone by the peacock dress :-D
    thank you very much for the close ups!! what an incredible gown. absolutely stunning. the indian made fabric with metal tread and the beetle wings looks like not from this world...... and look at the extemely dainty lace decorations around the top!
    the palace is a stunner too!
    i feel with you about the x-mas terror - did switch off the radio many times today to avoid the "seasonal music"..... and some people will never check that i don´t want "einen schönen advent".
    have fun at the bollywood café! xxxxx

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    1. Thanks, Beate! I think the Peacock Dress - even before restoration - casts everything else into a shadow! I hope my photos do it justice. Lady Mary was apparently very tall so she must have looked like an absolute goddess when she wore it.
      Gah! Seasonal music does my head in! xxx

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  5. Hi Vix - that peacock dress is incredible just imagine how exotic it would have seemed in the days it was originally made and worn let alone now - beetle wings! The beautiful sofa and silk wall paper had my attention too. I can't stand all the Christmas music in pubs although I do like the bling and have to confess my tree has plenty, nonetheless I wouldn't want to go to a beautiful place like that and waste time admiring the tree - looks like you got the best out of it all despite the terrible weather today. Many happy returns.

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    1. Hi Betty! There's so mnay fabulous stately homes around the Midlands if we're still grounded next year you ought to have a few days up here. I'll be your guide!
      The incessant Xmas music is like some form of torture. I remember doing vintage fairs in December and being close to having a meltdown after nine hours of the tripe!
      The snippets of your Xmas decor look lovely but I get a bit annoyed by artifical, contemporarily decorated trees in historical building, if they have to put Xmas decs up at least have something authentic to the period. xxx

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  6. I will also take that blue and gold settee any day of the week! What a fabulous place! Pity about the Xmas tree - I wish they'd just tucked pretty holly and pine boughs around instead of going all commercial. I do love my Xmas decor, but Jesus isn't invited to my house! No offence, dude.

    Your birthday dress is a glorious shade of purple, Vix, and suits you to a T. However, WOW, that peacock dress! I can't believe those are beetle wings!! It seems like the silver has tarnished, turning it more brown than the lighter silver/shiny gold it's meant to look. I look forward to when it's restored too.

    Enjoy Birthday Week, my dear! Here's to ya!

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    1. I knew you'd approve of the gold settee - maximalism for ever!! I agree, nothing wrong with them decoaring the house for Xmas to appeal to the majority of visitors but make it authentic and natural.
      That Peacock Dress is something else, isn't it? I didn't mind being outshined by that masterpiece! xxx

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  7. Glorious house. The hall is amazing. In fact the house is pretty much Ch fabulous.
    The peacock dress is truly outstanding! Imagine wearing it! Thank you for sharing these pics.
    Glad to hear that you thoroughly enjoyed your birthday.

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    1. Thanks, Carol! I had the best time especially after all the restrictions of last year's birthday. Kedleston Hall is amazing, isn't it? xxx

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  8. Thank you, thank you , thank you for the photos of that freaking amazing dress.

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    1. My pleasure! I think you need to get yourself over here in two years time to see it after restoration! xxx

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  9. Thank you for taking such good pictures of the peacock dress - it is amazing and I will likely not ever see it in my lifetime, so appreciate getting to see it through your eyes. It is beautiful. I love the entire design of the dress, much less the fabric. I can't imagine what it would have been like to wear. Your new dress is lovely also and looks very nice on you. There is nothing better than getting to buy your own gifts. You get exactly what you were hoping for. I hope the rest of your birthday celebration is more to your liking. Ranee (MN) USA

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    1. Thanks so much, Rae! Isn't it stunning? Can you imagine how beautiful Lady Mary must have looked in the Peacock Dress with that gold thread and beetle wings shimmering in candlelight? xxx

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  10. Happy birthday! I'm glad you had a fabulous day x

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  11. A very Happy Birthday Vix! It sounds like a perfect celebration.
    I was just thinking how amazing the hall looked with the alabaster columns, but then I saw the Peacock Dress...Stunning!
    Enjoy your continued celebrations. X

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    1. Thanks, Jules! So much to love at Kedleston Hall. I was overwhelmed! xxx

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  12. What a wonderful way to spend your birthday lovely girl and for sharing it with us all.
    Sending our love
    Lynn & Philip xxx

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    1. And thank you so my amazing book, gorgeous bag and absolutely incredibly beautiful birthday card - the most admired one this year! xxx

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  13. Belated happy birthday. The birthday dress was a good choice, that rich purple looks great on you. Your pics of Kedleston Hall, the chilliest stately home I've ever visited, brought back such wonderful memories of my last visit there with an old friend who sadly died a few years ago. Every month we would go 'Downtoning' as she called it, to look at local, and not so local, stately piles and estates. We drove in her aged Mercedes with no satnav, and frequently spent half the day getting lost, tootling round country lanes, getting so deep in discussion we completely missed our turnings time and again. We were both very loud and opinionated, and she was fond of correcting the tour guides if she thought they had something wrong. I remember having a very spirited argument about the pronunciation of valet in front of the gorgeous peacock dress; nobody else I've known had such a wide range of knowledge and was such a cheerfully argumentative and disruptive presence, and I miss talking to her very much.

    The Ladies' walk is well worth it, but I think even I would baulk at doing it in the pouring rain. Everything in Kedleston is OTT but I do find the suspended white stone staircase quite soothing in the middle of all the gold and curlicues. Not minimal precisely but there's a note of cool austerity about it, and it is quite breathtaking in size. Perhaps one day I'll walk the crumbling gardens again... thanks for the memories.

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    1. Hello Fifitr. I love that you and your late friend did a spot of Downtowning every month especially arriving in style in an aged Mercedes and getting lost along the way (that's Jon and I every time we go anywhere!) She sounds like a real character and must be sorely missed.
      I was remarking to one of the guides about how warm Kedleston Hall was, not sure if it's because it was do dire outside, she did look at me in a strange way.
      I was really excited to see a modern dress in purple, I had to have it! xxx

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  14. Love your B-day dress, really love the Peacock Dress and even for the weather, what a great day you had. Oh and yes...being a grown up does mean we can get our own goodies, lol - I just bought myself a chromebook last week.

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    1. Thanks, Dawn! Was it your birthday last week? Happy Birthday and happy new Chromebook! xxx

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  15. Seems like you had a perfect day out, in spite of the weather, and well done for doing that 3-mile walk regardless. What a magnificent and opulent place Kedleston Hall is. As for the Peacock dress, there are simply no words! It is truly stunning! How incredible that those jewel-like beads are actually beetle wings! I wouldn't mind having that silk damask settee either.
    I'm glad to hear you were once again able to celebrate your birthday meeting friends and enjoying beer and curry. The eternal Christmas is doing my head in too, and how dare Jesus steal your limelight! xxx

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    1. I think you get to a point when you're so wet and cold you might as well just grit your teeth and carry on! My last three birthdays have been blighted with rain but at least I got to socialise this year.
      Can you believe those beetle wings? They really do look like emeralds!
      I swear Xmas starts earlier every year and it must be even more tortuous for you working in the city and all those sheep-like Xmas shoppers! xxx

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  16. that estate is a wonder and I'm tucking away to remember the name so if we ever do get to retire and spend months away at a time, we make sure to visit. It's amazing that the family still has a residence there. I think it was a stunning way for a stunning person to spend their birthday. I'm curious if you ever celebrated Christmas-which I realize seems to have taken over beginning November 1st lately. It has become an excuse for the worst kind of commercialism.

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    1. I hope you do get to retire early and spend months away at a time. I'd happily volunteer to be your guide around the British Midlands!
      We celebrated Xmas as children but as atheist adults I can't see the point in celebrating some random bloke's birthday - I'd rather have fun all the time than when Hallmark tells me to! xxx

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  17. Hi Vix, Happy Birthday. I love all the history you provided. Such a beautiful place.

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  18. You have the same birthday as my husband, how lovely! Such coincidences always endear people to me even more, especially when they were already wonderful beforehand. What an excellent day out you had.

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    1. Hello Laura! Sending belated birthday wishes to your husband. I agree with you, those concidences make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. xxx

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  19. That dress is so beautiful. I am so glad you got to see it in real life. The estate is lovely as well. I am glad you had a happy birthday. The dress is fab by the way. Says me wearing pu shorts and a shining top as I am getting to that stage we’re I don’t know what to wear.
    You should live in Japan we don’t celebrate Xmas. I just sold 8 boxes of decorations to the second hand store as well it’s a bit of a naff season now isn’t it? Even the kids think so.
    All I kept was a pop up tree and a few bits. But nah we are done as a family. Paul said he misses a ruby murry!! and I can’t eat spicy food at all. Keep safe and love and hugs

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    1. Isn't it gorgeous? I can't wait to see it when it's clean and bright white again.
      Much as I moan about winter, I do relish the opportunity to wear boots, my beloved Afghan and a big hat!
      I'd hapilly live anywhere where Xmas didn't last for three months and you're treated like the anti-christ when you say you don't see the point of it!
      Paul would have been in heaven if he'd joined us for lunch yesterday, Indian food of dreams! xxx

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  20. I'm happy to hear you had a lovely birthday day. I love that photo of you posing in the garden under the lion statue. It makes me think of Narnia films. The palace is nothing short of magnificent. So many works of art in there, paintings, statues, fire places...and that eighteenth century mirrow that made the list of 125 greatest National Trust treasures is absolutely gorgeous. Interesting to know about the owners. Mary sounds like a fascinating woman, it's a shame she died so young. The peacock gown is magnificent! It must be a joy to see it. So great you didn't let rain and freezing weather to stop you from visiting this amazing place. I love your birthday outfit as well. That dress is wonderful.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ivana! You're not wrong about Narnia. Me in my Winter fluff and that handsome lion faithfully by my side!
      Kedleston Hall is awe-inspiring, so grand and over the top, the perfect antidote to a miserably cold and damp day! xxx

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  21. Sounds like you had a lovely Birthday and the peacock dress is amazing. I'm sorry your not a lover of Christmas, unfortunately whatever you do at this time of year you can't escape it!

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    1. Thanks, Emma! I wouldn't mind if Xmas stayed in December, I feel like it's been rammed down my throat since before Halloween. We used to go to India and escape the madness but it was cheaper to battern down the hatches and fly out in the new Yera, not that we'll be going anywhere for a while...again!xxx

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  22. It looks like you had a wonderful birthday, and I LOVE your birthday dress.

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  23. Belated Happy Birthday, dear Vix, and glad that you had a lovely day and that you've planned more celebrations!
    Lovely photos of the magnificent building and gardens, and of you looking so fabulous. Your purple dress and matchy mittens and hat are so lovely!, You Totally Rock in your birthday dress, Gorgeous!.
    And totally agree about Ladies'Room, bring us some silk wallpaper, delightful chaiseslongues and glass chandeliers!. Same about the Peacock Dress, wowww, this is completely Amazing!. Thanks for sharing this with us!.
    Have a fab birthday time!
    besos

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    1. Thanks so much, Monica! I thought I'd better squeeze as much fun into the week, who knows what rules we'll be living under in a week's time!
      I had to have that dres when I saw it, I love the colour so much.
      I loved the opulance and grandeur of Kedleston Hall, can you imagine how incredible the Curzon's parties must have been? xxx

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  24. Gilt, damask, a crystal chandelier, grand paintings of grand people -- a winning combination to counteract a damp gray day marked for a celebration! The Peacock Dress is as much a work of art as Kedleston Hall itself.

    Your violet mittens and dress *pop* in that quiet building as do the light chains hanging in the stairwell. (Are those feathers wafting in the updrafts?) But Jon "dancing in the rain" with the brolly...! Please tell us he couldn't resist singing a few bars, just for you.

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    1. I don't think we could have chosen a finer interior when it was so miserable outside.
      They were peacock feathers suspended between the lights on that grand marble staircase, I'd love to replcate that at home.
      Of course Jon was singing, the rain and sleet were addling our brains and we got dafter the soggier we got! xxx

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  25. Belated birthday wishes from us. Seems like a nice way to spend a birthday to me. My own clashes with the festive period and so has always been swallowed up in the general merry making. I know who my real pals are as they remember to send a card or telephone to wish me happy birthday (I don't care about gifts but it's nice that people remember my birthday). It was tougher when I was a child (getting one gift instead of two etc..) but not so much now I'm older.

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    1. Thanks so much, VC. Sending the same to you when your special day rolls around. I'm with you, it's not about presents, its about people remembering and making an effort when most of the world seems utterly consumed by Xmas. Hope all's well with you both. xxx

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  26. Jon looked like he was auditioning for a part in 'Singing in the Rain'!!

    What magnificent interiors Kedleston Hall has. The Peacock dress looked absolutely astonishing and what skills those restorers must have. What a shame about the weather.

    Loved your new dress and many happy belated birthday greetings!
    xxx

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    1. Thanks so much, Vronni! He does look rather theatrical, doesn't he? I think the weather was getting to him, poor lad! xxx

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  27. A belated Happy Birthday dear Vix!!! Glad you had a good day. (I have missed too much this week - been bed bound with an awful lurgy). The gold peacock dress in stunning. Lulu xXx

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    1. I was wondering where you were, Lulu. I am sorry to hear that you've been blighted by that horrible lurgy, I think all those months of isolation totally buggered up our immune systems.Feel better soon. xxx

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  28. Happy birthday, Vic! I live vicariously through your narration and photos of these classic and extravagant examples of beauty. Thanks for sharing them. Next best thing to being there!

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    1. Thanks so much, lovely lady! It's good to hear from you! xxx

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  29. Happy Belated Birthday! I was thinking about you, and had planned to send a message on the day of, but it was a bit of crazy week and time got away from me. 55 and fabulous you are! That peacock dress is insane - I can't imagine how many hours of work went into creating the fabric.

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    1. Thanks so much for thinking on me on my birthday, Shelley! xxx

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  30. Belated happy birthday! I had to look the peacock dress up after you mentioned it in your last post - what a work of art it is.

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    1. Thanks, Mim! The dress was magnificent, I can't wait to see it after restoration! xxx

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Lots of love, Vix