The Collection: A Novel

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Isabelle Varlet, charming and naïve, comes from a long line of seamstresses in a small town in France. A series of unfortunate events and her prodigious sartorial talent carry her to Paris, which in the wake of World War I is electric with new life. When Isabelle takes a job in the atelier of Coco Chanel, the rising star of haute couture, she finds herself in the heart of a glamorous and ruthless world filled with arrogant designers, handsome men, beautiful women, and fashion thieves who prowl Paris hoping to steal designs before they hit the runway.

In Chanel's workshop, Isabelle thrives on the time-honored techniques of couture -- the pains-taking hand stitches, the perfect fall of fabric -- and the sleek, pared-down lines of "Mademoiselle's" revolutionary style. As Isabelle brings an exquisite dress to life for the fall collection -- from its embryonic origins in humble muslin to its finished form in the finest silk -- she navigates the tempestuous moods of Chanel, the cutthroat antics of her fellow workers, and her own search for love.

Just as she did in her critically acclaimed novel I Am Madame X, Gioia Diliberto brings a rich historical moment to life through her vivid and compelling storytelling. Her penetrating research and imagination are gracefully woven together in this poignant story filled with larger-than-life characters embroiled in scandalous tales, passionate love affairs, and extraordinary careers. The Collection is an exuberantly entertaining read.
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About the author

Gioia Diliberto has written biographies of Jane Addams, Hadley Hemingway, and Brenda Frazier, as well as the critically acclaimed novel I Am Madame X, based on the life of Virginie Gautreau. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Sep 11, 2007
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781416546245
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / General
Fiction / Historical
Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this masterful biography, Gioia Diliberto brings Diane’s extraordinary life into focus, from her post-World-War-II childhood in Belgium, through her rise to the top of the fashion world during the decadent seventies and glamorous go-go eighties, to her humiliating failures both professional and personal, and her remarkable comeback in the nineties. Like Coco Chanel, Diane has always been her own best advertisement. Morphing from a frizzy brunette outsider in a sea of sleek blondes to a stunning pop cultural icon, she embodied the brand she created—“the DVF woman,” a model of self-sufficiency, sensuality, and confidence.

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Madame X caused an immediate furor when Sargent unveiled it at the 1884 Paris Salon. The subject's bold pose, provocative dress, and decadent pallor shocked the public, and the critics panned the picture, smashing Sargent's dream of a Paris career. The artist soon relocated to England, where he established himself as the favorite portrait painter of the wealthy.
In this remarkable novel, Gioia Diliberto tells Virginie's story, drawing on the sketchy facts of Virginie's life to re-create her tempestuous personality and the captivating milieu of nineteenth-century Paris. Born in New Orleans to two of Louisiana's prominent Creole families and raised at Parlange, her grandmother's lush plantation, Virginie fled to France with her mother and sister during the Civil War. The family settled in Paris among other expatriate Southerners and hoped, through their French ancestry, to insinuate themselves into high society. They soon were absorbed into the fascinating and wealthy world of grand ballrooms, dressmakers' salons, luxurious country estates, and artists' ateliers. Because of Virginie's striking appearance and vivid character, her mother pinned the family's hopes for social acceptance on her daughter, who became a "professional beauty" and married a French banker. Even before Sargent painted her portrait, Virginie's reputation for promiscuity and showy self-display made her the subject of vicious Paris gossip.
I Am Madame X is a compulsively readable immersion in Belle Epoque Paris. It is also the story of a great work of art, illuminating the struggle between Virginie and Sargent as they fought to control the outcome of a painting that changed their lives and affected the course of art history.
A sweeping biography of one of the most influential and controversial legends of late twentieth-century fashion, an iconic designer whose colorful creations, including the “wrap dress,” captured the modern feminist spirit.

The daughter of a Holocaust survivor and wife of an Austrian nobleman, Diane von Furstenberg burst onto New York’s fashion scene in 1969, and within a few years became an international sensation with her colorful wrap dress in printed jersey. Embraced by millions of American women of all ages, sizes, and shapes, the dress became a cult object and symbol of women’s liberation, tied inexorably to the image of youth, independence, and sex Diane herself projected.

In this masterful biography, Gioia Diliberto brings Diane’s extraordinary life into focus, from her post-World-War-II childhood in Belgium, through her rise to the top of the fashion world during the decadent seventies and glamorous go-go eighties, to her humiliating failures both professional and personal, and her remarkable comeback in the nineties. Like Coco Chanel, Diane has always been her own best advertisement. Morphing from a frizzy brunette outsider in a sea of sleek blondes to a stunning pop cultural icon, she embodied the brand she created—“the DVF woman,” a model of self-sufficiency, sensuality, and confidence.

Diliberto’s captivating, balanced portrait, based on scores of interviews with Diane’s family, friends, lovers, employees, and the designer herself, explores von Furstenberg’s relationships with her husbands and lovers, and illuminates fashion’s evolution from rare luxury to marketing monster and the development of a uniquely American style. Lively and insightful, the book also explores the larger world of the nation’s elite, where fashion, culture, society, politics, and Hollywood collide. Diane von Furstenberg is a modern fable of self-invention, fame, wealth, failure, and success that mirrors late-twentieth century America itself.

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