February 20, 2017, by Kathryn Steenson

Lady Chatterley’s Lover wears Paul Smith

The D. H. Lawrence Collection acquired  a jacket by designer Sir Paul Smith last month. It is a timeless classic for all seasons, but is unlikely to be gracing the catwalk at London Fashion Week this week. We believe it is a stunning addition to what is designated as an outstanding collection of national and international importance.

Front cover of the book, which is plain white, title and author sewn in black thread, and decorated with blue and yellow flowers on a stem suggesting female genitals

The material is grey textured silk with delicate embroidery protruding in the third dimension. It is a dustjacket and it dresses the novel as a whole in the interpretation of the Nottingham-born designer.

The Designers Classics were published in 2006. Penguin invited five internationally renowned designers and artists to choose a modern classic from the Penguin backlist and design a look for them in their own style, including dustjacket, lettering and typeface. Their creations were printed in limited editions of 1000 copies and created a media stir.
Close up of cover with the stitching more clearly visible

“As a designer of clothes,” wrote Smith in the Guardian at the time of the launch “I work with fabric, so I had the idea of creating a silk cover. Every part of it is associated with my trade: the title, Lawrence’s name and the Penguin symbol are all embroidered. The pubic hair is made up of little silk-embroidered lilac and purple forget-me-nots.”

But what would Lady Chatterley’s lover, Oliver Mellors, make of it? The gamekeeper appears wearing a black oilskin jacket, usually described as wet and shiny, and the functional attire of men who work outdoors – leggings, gaiters, heavy boots. Mellors has no sartorial aspirations apart from the one time when in Chapter 15 he talks about outré clothing whilst developing his idea of a revolution of masculinity that could change the world for the better:

“An’ I’d get my men to wear different clothes: appen close red trousers, bright red, an’ little short white jackets. Why, if men had red, fine legs, that alone would change them in a month. They’d begin to be men again, to be men!”


Perfumers have used their craft to express literary characters and even authors. George Sand and Charles Baudelaire among others have inspired eaus de perfume. Pen manufacturers name Meisterstück pens after literary classics and film stars. A Bakers’ Classics could be the next big thing! Aspiring stars of televised baking competitions should start inventing their classic literature-inspired showstoppers now.

Photo of D H Lawrence in a pale suit jacket and dark tie looking directly at the camera

Lawrence, New Mexico, 1923 (Ref: La Wb 1/8)


However, Paul Smith’s dustjacket would be a hard act to follow. In the crisp tone in which TV presenters ask “But is it enough for this competition?” I would disqualify any bit-part reference to Lady Chatterley’s Lover. No game pies or hedgerow jam tarts. Nothing less than a taste that evokes the audacity, warmth and technical brilliance of Lawrence’s novels would be admissible.

More information about the DH Lawrence Collections can be found on our website, and if you would like to consult any of the material in our Reading Room, please contact us to make an appointment. You can also follow us @mssUniNott and read our newsletter Discover.

Post by Ursula Ackrill, Special Collections Librarian.

Posted in Acquisitions