Monday, 23 April 2007


I couldn't put it off any longer. Cinderella. If you're male, skip this posting. You won't get it. It's a girl thing.

This is the most popular Ladybird Book of all time, by miles, according to the long-standing poll on my website. There are thousands of different versions of Cinderella in the world. (Didn't someone once say, "There are only 7 stories in the world - and 6 of them are Cinderella?) And there were 4 different Ladybird Book versions of the story issued between the 1950s and the 1980s. But this one is the definitive oeuvre - this is the book that shaped a generation of girls' ideas of beauty and the posh frock. You see, Cinderella went to three different balls in this version and had three different dream dresses. It was like a magical precursor to "What Not To Wear". Yes, Cinderella gets the prince in the end - but she also gets a whole new wardrobe. Love and shopping - irresistable - like the "Rodeo Drive" scene on Pretty Woman (one of the 6 stories in the world).

Just about every British woman now aged between 35 and 50 will remember those three glorious frocks - and will have strong opinions about which was the dream dress - the subconscious yard-stick for the wedding-dress decades later. You were either a 'pink-silk-and-rosebuds girl', a 'blue-statin-and-net' girl or a 'white-gold-gauze' girl. Personally, I was pink-silk.

Here we meet Cinderella before the great make-over. How tastes change! This picture seemed all that was subtle, poignant and understated to my young eyes. I remember studying this picture and then asking my mother why the painting of the Mona Lisa was so famous and this picture wasn't. I remember my mother failed to give me an answer that I considered satisfactory.


Hayley said...

This was the greatest version ever and all my friends agree!
I was a blue satin girl!

Helen said...

Were you? I was a pink silk and rosebuds girl. Have you voted on my site for your favourite Ladybird frock?

White net and blue satin are currently tied for first place. Your vote could make all the difference! ;-)

Anonymous said...

This book started a lifelong passion for art and fashion design but I can't find a copy. Any ideas? Would even love just pics to show my 3 daughters!

Helen said...

Yes, here's my idea. Just go to my website: and contact me via that - phone or email - and I'll help you find a copy.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I wasn't the only person in the world who fell in love with those dresses! Reading your blog was like hearing my own! I always loved the blue satin dress the most, and always wished I could touch the material - it was drawn so well! BTW, I'm 29, so you'll have to extend your age range by a few more years ;-)

Helen said...

"I'm 29, so you'll have to extend your age range by a few more years ;-)"

Really? Excellent. Of course, there will be second and third generation fans of this books as all we women grow up and have children and pass on this book to them. Who knows whether the magic will still work though?

If you haven't found the 'fun-stuff' page of my website - don't forget to vote for your favourite frock Currently blue-satin is out in front.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I was a blue satin girl and even made my sister dress in the closest thing I could find to it when she was bridesmaid at my wedding. Seeing those pictures again after 40 years send a complete hotwire into your brain! I loved it when the mice became powdered footmen. Bliss.

Meg said...

Just thought I'd mix it up a bit, I LOVED this book when I was little, it was my mum's favourite too. I'm only 19 and just yesterday saw a greetings with the front cover of this book on it. Bought it straight away and I know my mum will be overjoyed when she opens up her birthday card in a few weeks :)

Quite an age range we have here, 19-50... I'd say the magic most definitely does work!