Erdem’s Spring/Summer 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Erdem Moralioglu’s spring collection was a tour de force, a very English romance and detailed love letter to the character and wardrobe of the late Deborah “Debo” Cavendish, the Mitford girl who married the Duke of Devonshire and famously took on the saving of possibly the grandest of all family estates, Chatsworth House. Debo’s practical country garb, her love of rare-breed chickens, her ’50s ball gowns, and her penchant for bug jewelry and Elvis Presley have inspired countless fashion designers, stylists, and photographers over the years. The difference is that Moralioglu had access.

Some of Debo’s 1940s floral curtains even got whipped up into the skirts of his evening dresses—and, by the looks of it, into the gloriously chintzy fusion of Barbour waxed jacket and voluminous opera coat that opened his show at the British Museum. “I was lucky enough to work with the textile and jewelry archivists at Chatsworth, and with Helen Marchant, [Debo’s] former private secretary,” he said. His research within Debo’s wardobe, formal portraits, family snaps, and the house itself blended into a collection where richly tattered fabrics—as if gently decayed over centuries—were mixed up with all manner of full-skirted, vivid-print frocks; jeweled lingerie dresses; kilt suits; unraveling tweeds; and Elvis-tribute, rock-and-roll, crystal-studded leather jackets.

It was peak Erdem, of course. The biographies of strong and unconventional women have always informed the background of the designer’s best work—and this subject, as aristocratic a chatelaine and hostess as they come, was also a robustly practical countrywoman and, as he put it, “a strict proponent of make do and mend.” Debo’s brisk organizing abilities helped save the house after steep death duties brought about the sale to the nation of the 15th-century Devonshire Hunting Tapestries (now hanging in the V&A). A blown-up image of the medieval scenery was there today in a blue and white printed dirndl. Her quirky penchant for collecting bug jewelry—which she passed on to her granddaughter Stella Tennant—was caught in dragonfly brooches and a two-pronged tiara that looked just like a pair of insect antennae.

Was there a bit of Mitfordian wit when it came to the shoes too? Something about the floppy fabric bows on the toes started to raise the possibility that Moralioglu might actually have been referencing the feathered feet of rare-chicken breeds—another of Debo’s great hobbies. There was serious chic involved as well, though, and an important sense of things being passed down, altered, and reused by each generation. At the end, when the antique flowery cotton drapes got mixed up in tulle ball skirts, there was yet another family contribution to the mix—some black lace embroidery hand-done by Stella Tennant’s daughter, Cecily Lasnet, Debo’s great-granddaughter.

This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.

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