The Dress, by Sophie Nicholls, tells the story of Fabia and Ella, a mother and daughter who set up a vintage dress shop in York. It’s released today; I really enjoyed reading it, and my review of it will follow at the weekend, but in the meantime, here’s the story behind the story – the shop that inspired The Dress, by Sophie herself.
The Vintage Dress Shop That Inspired The Dress
I can’t actually remember the first time that I discovered Priestleys, the shop in York that inspired the setting for my novel, The Dress.
Just like Fabia’s shop, it’s set back from the thoroughfare of Grape Lane, in Norman Court, a cobbled courtyard, just a stone’s throw from the Minster. And the first time I stumbled across it, I knew that it was the beginning of a story just waiting to happen.
Today, the two shops – Priestleys and Fabia Moreno’s – have merged in my mind so that it’s impossible for me to know where one ends and the other begins.
The first thing you notice about the real-life shop, as you step under the low-beamed archway and into the courtyard, are the large windows with their carved frames, each filled with treasures. Inside, a large mahogany and glass counter glimmers with brooches and silk scarves. Like Fabia, the owners of Priestley’s know exactly how to display everything to perfection. Everywhere you look, there are new delights to discover: a hat perched jauntily here, a pair of silver sandals poised on that shelf there, and my particular favourite, which seems to be a permanent fixture: a large porcelain swan.
Priestleys is no flash-in-the pan kind of vintage shop. It’s not jumping on the latest vintage bandwagon. It takes its curated collection of designer and heritage pieces seriously. Its owners, Tim and Amanda, have been doing this since college, beginning with a stall on York market. Much of their business is now done by appointment, with many of their customers travelling from all over the UK.
I took enormous liberties, of course. Fabia’s shop is pure fiction, an invention of my imagination rather than any attempt to faithfully reproduce the unique delights that Priestleys offers.
But you will find a little fitting room at the back, hung with a curtain, and handbags and scarves artfully arranged in every corner.
And if you listen very carefully, you might even here the faintest crackle of static, whispers in the corner of the room…
Pictures and Instagram feed to illustrate available here.
The Dress by Sophie Nicholls is published on 28th July by Tweny7; paperback, £7.99