Jilly has been the single most important influence on my writing since I was 22 years old. A flat-mate gave me a copy of “The Man Who Made Husband’s Jealous” because after completing my final university exams I was desperate to read something other than pre-18th century literature. I passed on my copy of “The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous” to another friend, and then went about searching book stores for copies of her other books in the series which, in the end, were all passed around from friend to friend as we all became obsessively hooked on Jilly’s stories of Rupert Campbell-Black – her most infamous character and the descriptions of life in the English countryside which she so beautifully depicted.
I picked up my very tattered copy “Polo” last week and began reading it for what is most likely my tenth time. True! She is always the writer I turn to in times of need. When my gorgeous girl friend Kirsty moved recently she had a copy of “Riders” with her because “It brings me comfort in a time of stress and uncertainty”, she said.
So in love with her stories, I once wrote to Jilly because I just had to let her know how wonderful she was and how her books made me laugh, cry and wish for a life in the English countryside. I never believed that she would even get my letter, but she did and she wrote back too! She loved my letter – you couldn’t imagine how it made me feel!
My friends and I all agree that we feel that Jilly’s characters are close friends so well we know them, often referring to them in conversation and even naming our pets after them.
When writing this post I realised that I could inject a style note here after all because in her books, Jilly often refers to the ladies at the polo matches and the horse jumping shows that all remind me of a look that I became all too familiar with at University.
Girls who were called Sloan Rangers there where so because of their Laura Ashley and Liberty print blouses, antique fob necklaces, RM Williams’ riding boots and an air of snobbishness about them. Their hair was almost always long and thick and perfect. They had a family with money and had spent their highschool years at exclusive boarding schools in Sydney where they built up a vast network with other Sloane Rangers.
The term Sloane Rangers originated in London’s Chelsea. The girls were named after their main shopping address – Sloane Street. Sloane style is typically conservative and usually features tweed, velvet, blazers and headscarves – all trademarks of the look with a predilection for the countryside.
Trends recently have seen a throwback to the styles of the 80s, among them ballet flats, bows, blazers, head scarves and pretty blouses, even Liberty has a collection for Target in America.
Kate Middleton has become the poster child for the return of the Sloane Ranger (but really, did they every actually leave?) and she is right up there with Trinny Woodall, Alexa Chung, Sienna Miller, Jemima Khan, Elle McPherson and even Gwyneth Paltrow (some people might think I’m wrong here, but oh well).
But it was Princess Diana whom essentially brought the Sloane Ranger style into the mainstream by wearing her traditional country style from the early days of her engagement to Prince Charles that made her the archetypal Sloane Ranger. Those pictures of her taken at Balmoral on after returning from their honeymoon show her in true Sloane Ranger style.