Apr 272014
 

As anyone who ever visited my erstwhile shop, The March Hare in East Looe, will know, I am passionate about sustainability and, by extension, proper pay and working conditions for everybody.   Just over a year ago, on 24th April 2013, the massive factory collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh killed 1,129 people, injured over 3,000 more, and highlighted to the world just how appalling the conditions are for millions of workers in the garment industry.  More than one body has been set up to attempt to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again.  Do take the time to visit http://www.bangladeshaccord.org/ and at least read the names of those companies who have actually signed up to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.  It makes interesting reading.

But it’s just the tip of the iceberg and there are more practical things that we can all do to try and prevent such tragedies and make life fairer.  They will also go a long way to put a halt to the way that we as a species are screwing up our planet.

The way I see it, we all – certainly in the so-called First World – have and consume too much.  Far too much.  We don’t actually need nearly as much in the way of food, mod cons, clothing and, well stuff as we think.  And here’s the crux of it – we expect to be able to buy it immediately.  All the time.  How many people go out every Saturday and buy clothing that they don’t actually need and will probably only wear once – if at all – just because they can?  I know plenty of them.  One lady I know has wardrobe upon wardrobe absolutely jammed with clothing, much of which she has never worn.  This very same lady, who would describe herself as sensible and thrifty with money, considers what I spend on clothing to be ridiculous and profligate.   But she is only looking at individual pieces, not the size and cost of our wardrobes as a whole or at cost per wear.  When you start looking from that angle, things look very different.

From a moral and ethical viewpoint, consider, say, a top or t-shirt from a major high street retailer at a cost of £2.  Two pounds.  It’s not a lot of money, is it?  Do you put it into your basket with a slightly guilty feeling, knowing that at that price, somebody – almost certainly more than one person – is being shafted?  You should do.  Two pounds doesn’t go terribly far to pay everybody fairly who was involved with the manufacture and supply of that garment.  Who is being shafted?  For starters, it’s not the retailer to whom you’ve just handed over your hard-earned cash; they will almost certainly be making a 100% mark-up on their own brand ranges.  So that means that it’s cost them at most £1 to buy in.  So where does that £1 go?  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the garment industry is all done by machines.  I hear a lot of, “Oh, but it’s not hand made like your stuff.”  Excuse me?  Who on earth do you think operated the sewing machine?  The scissors?  The iron/presser?  The exact same jobs that I do in my workshop are all done in large factories by people.  People like you and me.  People with homes and families to try to support.  The difference is they are hideously exploited in horrendous and unsafe working conditions.  I work a lot of hours and take home nowhere near a living wage but I am still way, way better off than the people actually slaving in those hell-holes of factories.

Zip insertion

Oh, wait.  That £1 isn’t all for them, is it?  Because the owner of the factory – who is nowhere near blameless in this – won’t be running his business for the joy of knowing he’s enabling his workers to live and support their families.  And he has to pay for the fabrics and/or raw materials to make the fabrics.  Did you ever consider that?  Who actually grows the cotton?  Who picks the cotton?  Who gets covered in the hideous chemicals used in the wholesale production of the actual fibre?  And how much do they make out of that £1?  Yes, I’ll grant you the fact that wages and the ‘cost of living’ differ the world over and £1 sterling buys a lot less here than it does in Bangladesh or India, but, well, it’s still not a lot of money to go around.

And then there’s another aspect to the maths at play.  I would be willing to bet that if you tallied up what I spend on clothing per year and what my friend with the five wardrobes spends, there would be a vast difference and she’s the one haemorrhaging the cash.  I’ll pay what I consider to be a fair price because I don’t expect to keep forking out, week on week, month on month, season on season, year on year.  I have two winter coats.  Both are second-hand.  One cost me £44 in a dress agency, the other £39 (including postage) on eBay.  The first is approximately 50 years old, the second probably nearer 70.  They are both still going strong, although one could do with re-lining.  I am confident that both garments will still be in my wardrobe years from now, especially the older of the two because the quality is so high.  And there’s the thing.  Buy the best you can afford and only buy it if you know that you will love it and wear it for years.  Not once or twice.  You don’t have to wear it every day but in order to be worth buying, you need to actually wear it and enjoy it.  Take a look at your very favourite and most worn garment.  Did it really cost you £2 in somewhere like Primark?  Or did you pay more for it, possibly feeling a bit guilty at the time?  Or gleefully swoop on it in a sale at a bargain price?  Take the price that you paid and divide it by the approximate number of times you’ve worn it to get your “price per wear” figure.  And then do that with the number of times you know you’ll wear it in the future because it isn’t going to be “so last season” or fall apart in a week.  Puts a different light on it, doesn’t it?  Maybe it wasn’t such an extravagance after all.  A good piece of clothing is wearable more than just once and in many different situations.  As my mother says, “Quality shows and quality lasts.”  Quality and style don’t go out of fashion either.

Before you think I’m advocating only buying boring, middle of the road, beige, ghastliness, I promise you I’m not.  I would be really happy if everybody gave a little more thought to just where their money goes when they buy an item of clothing but there is another factor at play here.  If it doesn’t make you want to dance, then unless it’s regulation, uniform or safety gear, what’s the point in buying or wearing it?  Something about every garment – the look, the feel of the fabric – should make you smile.  A pair of cheap, nylon or polyester stretchy trousers isn’t going to flatter your backside or make you feel like dancing while you wait for the photocopier to jam up.  Leave them on the rail and start thinking before you buy.  And check your wardrobe.  Because you probably already have a pair that you saw at a bargain price in a high street store and bought because they’re “sensible” and would be “useful”.  Oh, the joy…

Until we all learn to pay a fair price for what we consume – and this applies to everything we consume – the world is going to be selling itself down the Swanee.  Buy less but buy better.

 

Feeling ‘disloyal’

 Style  Comments Off on Feeling ‘disloyal’
Apr 202014
 

A couple of days ago, I had a brief conversation with a friend involving my potential appearance at somewhere she will be.  Her brave daughter and son-in-law are abseiling down an extremely tall building (the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth) to raise funds for a young chap who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Respiratory Disease.  Now, knowing I’m currently away from Cornwall and lurking in Darkest Hampshire (for a family funeral next week), she did wonder if I might show up.  Stranger things have happened…

Anyway, the gist of the conversation was, “My husband says I may have to dress as you may be there!” We don’t think her husband really thought she was planning to turn up actually naked, although as a fundraising idea, it might be a goer.

And then my lovely friend actually said to me, “Sorry, I feel like I am being unfaithful but I’m not full time vintage yet…”

Sorry?  Not ‘full-time vintage’?  UNFAITHFUL???

Time to clear something up, I think.

What I actually do, isn’t true ‘vintage’.  Well, not most of it.  When I opened The March Hare back in April 2010, it was conceived as a real vintage shop.  Within the first week, I realised my mistake (real vintage doesn’t fit modern women) and I trundled the sewing machine into the shop and started to make  my vintage-style frocks and skirts in modern sizes.  So my garments are ‘retro’ or ‘vintage-style’, not actual ‘vintage’ pieces.  This means that they are easier to care for, fit better and should last the test of time, rather than being a tad on the fragile side.  Oh, and they don’t smell funny, which is often the case with proper old stuff.

And then there’s the shocking admission that she’s a part-timer with the genre.  Well, what can I say to that?  Quite a few things, actually, but they tend to boil down to the same essence, which is personal style.

Ah, yes, style.  It would be nice to think that everybody has it.  Sadly, that’s not the case with the world at large.   Happily, however, it is with my customers!  And their styles are personal to them.  Some of them like to dress from head to foot in as much Wednesday March as I can actually make for them.  (I don’t currently make shoes but don’t rule that out for the future!)  Others just wear one piece at a time.  Some go all out with the hair and make-up (victory rolls, cat-eye liner), some just do the liner or a red lipstick.  Very few, do the whole kit and caboodle all the time.  It’s a well known fact that I don’t wear jeans (or trousers) and am almost invariably dressed in a retro style.  Well, yes.  It’s what I do.  I love the style and I wear it all the time because I am comfortable with it.  And I can’t tell other people it’s possible to dress this way all the time, if I don’t put my money where my mouth is, can I?  But – and this is the important thing – you don’t have to.  No, seriously, you can – and should – take what you want from the genre and wear it how the heck you want to wear it and when you want to wear it.  That way, you make it your own and in my view, you have to own the style to wear it comfortably.  My mantra on this is, “If it doesn’t make you want to dance, it’s not worth wearing.”  And whether you’re standing at a photocopier in an office, or wandering down the freezer aisle in the supermarket, you should still have a hankering to be dancing.

We are fortunate to live in an era when we are permitted to wear pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want.  Women are not only allowed to wear trousers in public, but they are actually more common now than skirts and frocks.  Whether for good or bad (do, please, make sure you’ve seen the back view on the move before you set foot out of the dressing room in those things), we can.  And that’s just how it should be.  So please don’t apologise to me because you’re wearing jeans.  Or trousers.  Or anything that fits and suits you.  Of course, as I’ve always said, if you look like a donkey’s arse, I will tell you.  I will expect you to do the same for me.

Apr 132014
 

It’s lovely being in my shiny, warm new studio with all the tools of my trade within easy reach.  (At least, they will be once Mr March builds some shelving and the precarious stack of boxes currently cluttering the room can be dispensed with.)  The first thing I did upon taking possession of the space, however, was to put together one of my garment rails and hang my stock and sample frocks.  The next thing was to clothe the mannequins (Sylvia, Christabel, Emmeline and Gladys) in appropriate frockage, too.  Why?  Because I like frocks.  Frocks are what I do.  (Okay, Christabel is currently wearing a full circle skirt and a lovely off the shoulder top by Miss Fortune but there’s always one who likes to buck the trend and the yellow cherry print of the skirt is just too springlike and cheerful to ignore.)

But it would appear that some people have a problem with the frock thing.  I know.  Weird, huh?  The number of times in the shop that I’d hear, “Oh, it’s lovely but when would I wear it?”  Er, it’s a frock.  Just wear it.  No biggie.

“Oh, but I don’t wear dresses…”

Why ever not?

“Oh.  Well, I don’t know really.  I don’t know how!”

Excuse me?  How?!  You just put it on.  Seriously.  Frocks are the ultimate in easy dressing.  Here’s how it’s done:-

  1. Open wardrobe and select frock.
  2. Slip frock over head, arms in and fasten.
  3. Shoes on.
  4. Job’s a good ‘un.  You’re ready to go.

There.  That was easy, wasn’t it?  No fussing over which top matches or clashes or whether the two styles work.  None of the hassle of separates.  Fling on a frock and go.  Knickers optional.  Although, frankly, if you wear full circles and go out of the house on a windy day, they are vital…

Of course, some people feel a bit, well, dressed up in a frock.  Nothing wrong with dressing up, if you ask me, but I’m a stickler for high standards.  It’s also been mentioned by more than one client that whilst they like a full-on frock for ‘going out’, they do encounter some raised eyebrows on the school run if they wear something too eye-catching.  Well, that’s the problem of the birds in the leggings if you ask me, and personally I think they need a slap educating, but I do get the point.  So, having had this discussion with a client just this week, we decided that Frances would be just the ticket for the school run – and many other occasions – because she’s a low-key style (terribly Audrey Hepburn) but can be dressed up as much as your heart desires when you’re not picking your way around the not-so-yummy mummies loitering in the playground.

Frances navy penny spot

 

See?  Beautifully plain styling, demure neckline but much lower at the back and a full circle skirt, cut on the bias, to drape and flow perfectly, whether worn over a petticoat or not.  Wear it as as simple summer dress with flats and sunnies or rock it with petticoat, gloves, heels and a picture hat to a wedding.  Easy and versatile.  I like that in a frock.

Shown here in a navy penny spot cotton poplin, this particular frock comes in plenty of fabric choices, from tiny polka dots and ditsy prints, to full on shilling spots (think Minnie Mouse!), florals, checks and novelty prints.  If you particularly want a fabric with a one-way design, then the skirt has to be either pleated or gathered rather than the circular one shown here but that’s do-able, too.  This bespoke lark has a lot going for it, you know.  Your frock, made for you, your way.  Oh, and Frances starts at £85.  Should you feel the need to add her to your wardrobe, send a message via the usual social media channels or email direct on wednesday@wednesdaymarch.com.

A New Home!

 Wednesday March  Comments Off on A New Home!
Apr 062014
 

The Grand Move has now happened.  The March Hare has closed and gone and Wednesday March is now installed in her new home on the outskirts of Liskeard.  It’s a small new home – an office unit in a building of managed office spaces – but it is lovely and warm, dry, carpeted and has a kitchen with a fridge and a microwave and two lavs.  Oh, and a postbox with a Wednesday March label.   Things like this make Miss Wednesday happy.  (Don’t worry about the microwave; Miss Wednesday will not be breaking the terms of her probation by attempting to cook anything…)  There is also plenty of lovely, free parking outside for clients and it’s pretty easy to find, too.  What’s not to like?

The move was accomplished swiftly and fairly painlessly.  The shop itself closed on Friday 28th March and Miss Wednesday and Miss Tina decamped to Plymouth Guildhall for the Fashion In The City event on Saturday 29th.  That was a roaring success, with the Wednesday March frocks making quite a splash on the catwalk and a great time was had by all.

Diana in motion

Miss Wednesday and her long-suffering Spouse deposited the stuff from the fashion show at the new workspace on Sunday and then on Monday, Miss Wednesday and Miss Sara embarked on the mammoth Operation April Bunny, to move the rest of the shop, lock, stock and barrel (minus the counter, which stayed with the shop) to the new place.  They made several journeys in both Miss Wednesday’s Panzer and Miss Sara’s beloved MX5, Snippy (it’s a hairdresser’s car!) and then called in the wonderful Tid, with his van, to help with the big and heavy stuff.  At the end of a very industrious day, all that was left to do was for Miss Wednesday to go back to the shop on Tuesday to vacuum, take away the rubbish and hand the keys back to the lovely landlady.  Well, ‘all that was left to do’ might be a bit of an understatement.  At the new place, there was chaos.  Bags and boxes everywhere and no floor to be seen.  Miss Sara told Miss Wednesday that their planned Sunday outing was cancelled and they’d be sorting and tidying instead, in order to get the new workspace into some semblance of, well, workable space.

Oh really…?

Miss Wednesday is made of formidable stuff.  Not only did she find floor on Wednesday morning (just in time for the visit of Maurice, the fabric rep) but by Thursday afternoon she’d cleared enough space to cut the skirts for two frocks and had put up the sewing table and the machines.  She also started cutting a pattern.  And on Friday, she finished cutting the pattern and made most of a frock.  Business as usual.

Sundae Best catwalk

Wednesday March, Office 2, 5 Holman Road, Liskeard Business Park, LISKEARD, Cornwall, PL14 3UT.  Telephone number 01579 324140.  Email:  wednesday@wednesdaymarch.com.

Clients are welcome to visit, although it isn’t a shop and as such, Miss Wednesday doesn’t tend to keep particularly strict ‘opening hours’.  Call or send her a message via the usual channels and she’ll be delighted to have you visit.