Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes
published 2004 chapter 10
When Jazz Conassey called me a few days later to say she’d been asked to be a muse for Valentino, I wasn’t surprised. I mean he hires a new one every five minutes. Still, I was thrilled for Jazz. She worships Valentino dresses more than life itself. Now she wouldn’t have to pay retail for them….
The bar at the Plaza Athenee feels like a 1930s boudoir. Whenever I’m there I half expect to see Jean Harlow appear from behind a pillar smoking a bright purple Sobranie cigarette. Jolene, Lara and Jazz – all in their “Vals” as they call their Valentino frocks – were sitting at a corner table like the chicest trio you can imagine when I arrived. Jazz looked spectacularly high-end in a simple black lace shift. It had a satin bow under the bust and splits at each side. Lara’s and Jolene’s dresses were pretty as well, but not a patch on Jazz’s. It’s protocol that the muse gets the best outfit and their friends have to look slightly less gorgeous, like ladies-in-waiting.
observations: What a very strange book this is. It is most certainly not chicklit, nor is it a takedown of New York/fashion life in the manner of Sex and the City or Devil Wears Prada (not as good as the former, much much better than the latter). It has, of all things in a frothy beach read, an unreliable narrator, and seems to be a combination of two separate novels. The book it is most clearly emulating is Anita Loos’s masterpiece, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, except that the heroine/author keeps backing off and trying to give her character a little heart, a little less ruthlessness. There are bits straight out of Bridget Jones’s Diary, and surely the strangest suicide attempt in all literature. It is entertaining enough to pass the time, but cried out for a bit more editing – it’s very repetitious, and harmless word play and key phrases become very wearing at the 50th reading. It’s fairly obvious how the plot is going to play out, and that the weird, silly heroine is going to find a man who really appreciates her charms, but the trouble is that the charms remain much less visible to the reader.
Links up with: Bridget Jones’s Diary. Henry James has a very different kind of rich fashionable female with a New York connection here, and there is a real Princess as opposed to a Park Avenue one in this entry.
The photos, taken by Loquax & Annalisa Califano, are of dresses at a Valentino exhibition in Rome.