Last month, on a sunny spring day in May, a few of us decided to go on a day trip. I found a mini-coach and a lovely driver and we trundled out of Paris and wound our way through the countryside to the far coast of Normandy.
It was French equivalent of a sartorial road trip: a 6-hour return journey to see the home and garden of a designer we all deeply adore.
Monsieur Christian Dior.
Monsieur Dior's childhood home isn't really on the tourist radar. It's really only for devoted Dioristas. But we had an extra special reason for going: a woman who made the entire day worthwhile.
Ms Doody Taylor.
Now Doody Taylor (such a fabulous name) is one of the most glamorous woman I've ever come across: imbued with the kind of innate elegance, style and grace you used to see in the 1950s but don't really come across anymore.
Her sense of aesthetics shouldn't have come as such a surprise, because her godmother, Diana Gregory (above), was one of Christian Dior's most loved mannequins.
Diana Gregory was one of the few Australian girls to model for Dior. She also became one of the couturier's favourites, thanks to her down-to-earth personality and refined sense of style.
Doody remembers living in Europe in 1968, when she was working in London and newly engaged to her husband Jim, and being invited by Diana to visit her in Paris for the weekend. Diana was, says Doody, "divinely eccentric".
"I remember she often wore a little black Dior shift dress with long string of pearls, which she wore draped down her back, with a choker at the front. And she loved to carry a long tapered tortoise-shell cigarette holder, which she waved all over the place, tossing ash everywhere! She was so effortlessly glamorous," says Doody. "She really had that kind of throw-away elegance that can't be bought."
Indeed, Diana only ever wore little black Dior dresses; "sometimes with heels; sometimes with long knee-high boots."
It was a wardrobe that was one part sophistication and three parts pure fun.
On the weekend that Doody and Jim travelled to Paris, Diana arranged for them to visit the Dior salon for a special showing.
"It was a tiny salon but oh, so elegant," recalls Doody, "and we sat perched on a staircase, goggle-eyed, as the impossibly tall, incredibly slim mannequins swished past us in swirls of silk. I remember their perfume wafting over us." For a relatively naive 21-year-old girl from Adelaide it was a wonderful experience. "I was in a state of euphoria!" she recalls.
Can you imagine?
For much of the bus trip back to Paris from Normandy, we grilled Doody on her glorious godmother Diana, and on Diana's wardrobe; shoes; boyfriends; job (imagine the fashion perks?), and her soignee lifestyle. It was a rare insight into the world of haute couture fashion, and by the end of it, we were as in awe of Doody as we were of Diana.
The tragic thing is, while Diana's archives are now with the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, nobody knows what became of all her Dior gowns. They simply disappeared.
But Doody remains philosophical.
"Wherever they are," she says, "I am sure they will be as loved as when Diana wore them..."
'Dior Impressions', an exhibition of Dior gowns through the decades, is now showing at Dior's house and garden in Granville, Normandy, until September 2013.