In the days when executive’s wives had their own expense accounts and led glamorous lives that entailed Rose Balls at the Adelaide Town Hall, my mother would put her faith in Carla. My earliest memory was of a black silk organza explosion which eventually came to me when I had officially “come out” and was allowed to wear such sophisticated attire.
A three-tiered skirt and off-the-shoulder bodice, it was my entree into the university whirl of the Law Ball.
When I finally graduated and was lurched into my first job as a very junior public relations consultant, Carla helped me on my journey into the corporate world with her signature black crepe ensembles. Long buttoned dresses that could be worn as coats over superbly tailored wide or skinny pants or skirts. Cunningly and pragmatically, she produced items each season in the same beautiful fabric that could be added to enhance already purchased pieces.
In the male-dominated world of ex-journos and the like, the confidence Carla’s clothes imbued in me was complete. She never let me down.
Carla was what every Australian woman needed, an Italian. A really stylish Italian.
Opening in Surry Hills she quickly expanded into fancy concessions in David Jones where exclusivity was the game. The exquisite girls who attended to my mother even went to the trouble of replacing the size labels when her girth expanded. Mum would always be a size 12. Back in the day, before so-called “celebrities” were the only invites, my sister Penelope and myself were dressed to accompany our mother to the David Jones’ parade. Champagne flowed and we were photographed for Margaret Brenton’s society pages of the Sunday Mail.
Carla saw me through three decades of work, divorce, motherhood and travel. She was the first to understand the work to function thing. While our mothers’ stayed at home for the hairdresser to call and to mix their husband’s 6 pm martini, our generation went to work and then on to countless “events” associated with our chosen careers. Carla just got it. She was doing the same as a pollie’s wife. Change your shoes, earrings and handbag and away we went, faultless and fabulous courtesy of Carla. She made us feel professional, feminine and faultless.
To her army of gorgeous retailers, congratulations on longevity. Many of them have worked for the 30 years that I have. What better recognition than a faithful bunch of workers. I have managed many retail outlets and to have such a loyal employee base is unrivalled. Her beautiful and talented daughter Bianca will fly the flag for her famous and much-loved mother.
I will say that her sizing was of a dubious, but understandingly feminine persuasion. I will be eternally thankful that Carla thought I was a size 4. Totally ridiculous but I am happy with whatever she deemed.
And what an exit from this life — tumbling down the stairs at the opera. Vale Carla. What a woman of intelligence, style and passion. Stylish to the end. Someone push me down the stairs at interval — when it’s time.
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