If you’ve browsed the children’s section of a bookshop lately, you might have spotted a host of new books about inspiring women - from smash-hits like Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls to books about women in science and sport. As these tales of amazing real-life heroines from Boudicca to Beyoncé top the bestseller lists, some of the more traditional stories aimed at little girls, with their princesses and pink sparkles, may seem increasingly outdated. After all who would want to be Rapunzel or Sleeping Beauty when you could be Frida Kahlo or Ada Lovelace? And why would we continue to peddle the message that while boys can be superheroes, astronauts or adventurers, the only thing girls can aspire to be is a fairy-tale princess in a glittery gown?
At first glance, my new book ROSE’S DRESS OF DREAMS may seem to be a prime offender here. After all, the cover is pink, featuring an image of a lovely ballgown (beautifully illustrated by Kate Pankhurst) and sparkling with enough silver foil to satisfy even the most ardent glitter enthusiast. But whilst there are certainly plenty of gorgeous gowns in its pages - and yes, even a princess - the real heroine of this story is Rose, an ordinary girl with a flair for fashion, who sets out in pursuit of her dreams.
ROSE’S DRESS OF DREAMS takes its inspiration from a real-life historical figure - Rose Bertin, who is often considered to be the world’s first fashion designer and the inventor of haute couture. From humble beginnings, this talented and ambitious young dressmaker rose to become France’s most famous designer, and a member of Marie Antoinette’s inner circle. Described as the ‘Minister for Fashion’ she had a huge influence on style across Europe - and her incredible designs continue to influence fashion designers today.
As someone who’s always loved fashion myself, I was excited to write a story inspired by Rose’s life for younger readers. ROSE’S DRESS OF DREAMS offered me an opportunity to celebrate a bold and determined young woman who made history with her imagination and creativity - but also to delight in the joys of fancy frocks and spectacular shoes. Fashion so often gets a bad press, but it’s an art-form in its own right; and whilst of course there’s more to life than dressing up in frilly frocks, there’s no reason that I can see that young readers shouldn’t have the chance to enjoy its glitz and glamour.
As a children’s writer, I’m always aware of the possibilities that the stories I tell can have to shape young readers’ imaginations and inform their view of the world. With this in mind, I’d love ROSE’S DRESS OF DREAMS to show that there’s plenty of room to celebrate fashion alongside science, sport and politics, and that girls can be bold, brave and clever, while still enjoying a pink sparkle or two along the way. Most of all though, I hope that the girls (and boys) who read this story will be inspired by Rose’s incredible passion and determination to set out boldly in the direction of their own dreams - whatever they may be.