Janey and Me: Growing up with my Mother

Virginia Ironside

Is it every woman’s fate to turn into her mother? This is renowned writer and journalist Virginia Ironside’s poignant and blackly funny memoir of life with fashion professor and media icon Janey Ironside, for whom, even years after her death, Virginia continues to be mistaken.

Stylish, beautiful and self-loathing, Janey Ironside was to lead a cultural revolution. In 1956 she became Professor of Fashion at the Royal College of Art, then an extraordinary appointment for a young mother. Discovering and promoting designers like Ossie Clark and Bill Gibb, she changed the way people dressed around the world and herself became a fashion icon. Yet the qualities that made her great – wit, talent and drive – did not bring happiness to either her or her family.

Having grown up in colonial India, Janey suffered a painful childhood separation from her parents. She married dashing artist Christopher Ironside, but eking out wartime rations ill-suited a woman whose idea of divine punishment was ‘to spend eternity washing up.’ Dress-making soon filled the void, while her daughter Virginia endured a string of au pairs, embarrassing outfits and acute loneliness.

As Virginia fought to be her own person, plunging into the swing of the ‘sixties as a rock journalist, she was caught between a father she adored and a mother bent on self-destruction. Now a renowned writer, she has drawn a startling portrait of a gifted woman in a time of extraordinary change. Blackly comic, beautifully written and deeply moving, JANEY AND ME reflects the universal struggle to emerge from our parents’ shadow.

Reviews of Janey and Me: Growing up with my Mother

    • ‘There is so much to be valued in this book as a wonderfully honest, heartfelt memoir.’ Lynne Truss, Sunday Times
    • ‘This book has the narrative grip of a novel, steeled by the author’s remarkable ability to recreate conversations, appearances and above all atmosphere. And the essential quality of all good childhood memoirs is also there: it forces you to re-examine your own performance as a spouse, parent and offspring.’Financial Times

More from Virginia Ironside