Miss Wednesday Likes A Challenge

 Costuming, Frocks, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Miss Wednesday Likes A Challenge
Aug 312014
 

Back in the days of owning The March Hare in Looe, I used to hear a fair number of slightly puzzled people outside the shop window commenting, “Is it a fancy dress shop?”  Well, yes, some of the dresses are pretty fancy…  This scenario could go one of two ways; either I bridled with outrage and poured another gin or I shrieked with laughter and, yes, usually poured another gin.  On one occasion, I stuck my head around the door, smiled sweetly and said, “And you’ve come as…?” because the “offender” was just so badly dressed that I simply couldn’t resist.  Ah, happy days…

I also have plenty of customers who come to me because they are going to a party with a retro theme, usually wartime or 1950s, and need help or inspiration.  Quite often they’ll utter the legend, “I don’t want to spend much” and then be so overcome with delight when I produce a frock that makes them look better than they had imagined possible that they spend a fair old whack of money and announce their intention to come back for more and wear retro styles “every day”.   Proper job!

But then there are the “other” customers.  The “special” customers.  The ones who feel that I am the one to help them with their “project”.   No, not those customers, I’m talking costuming.  And I’m smiling, because costuming is fun, majorly creative and challenging.  I love it.  Bring it on!  The main constraint is usually budget but on a decent project that just adds to the challenge.

Back in 2011, I was approached by a good friend about a frock for her to wear for a storytelling epic, Return to Lyonesse, and so the Drowned Dress was created.  The brief had been “colours of the storm, forests under the sea, strawberries under the sea, Celtic/mediaeval, a bit Pre-Raphaelitey…”.  Fabulous.  The first ideas involved vast amounts of embroidery and a projected cost of about £16,000 with a lead time of, er, probably at least a century.  So we shelved that and went fabric shopping.  The resulting haul of shot taffeta and dreamy Liberty-print silk chiffon removed the requirement for embroidery as the art nouveau motifs on the chiffon provided the imagery of the drowned forest and the hugely talented Claire Morris of Rowanberry Designs created the perfect glass strawberry beads to take care of that part.

Harpist wearing purple mediaeval style frock

The lovely Barbara Griggs on stage in Callington.

It was a wonderful project to work on and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Harpists do enjoying giving me a challenge as I’ve also been called upon by one to recreate a “Regency Wonderbra”, ie a the piece of Regency underpinning that created the shelf-like bust so evident in portraits and costume dramas of that period.  Corsetry is fun and whilst I don’t usually make “normal” corsetry – I can source excellent examples off the peg to fit most people – I do enjoy doing historical corsetry, which can’t just be bought ready made and is essential to give the correct shape and look for serious reenactors and historic productions.

But the latest brief is something else.  It involves, once again, a harpist (honestly, all you have to do is lift a rock around here and out crawls a bird with a cheese grater masquerading as a musical instrument) and the theme of “Celts and Cowboys”.  It’s a Cornish event so images of Cornish tartan are scrolling through my brain, whilst the budget screams in panic because even the poly-cotton varieties don’t come cheap.  Obviously Dolly Parton is in the mix, although the performer in question isn’t what you’d call “well endowed” in that region (in fact, if you patted her on the back in the dark to find out which way she’s facing, you’d probably be none the wiser).  Cowboy boots?  Celtic ribbons?  Colours?  There’s a kind of sea and fishing element, too.  Oh, and a lead time of, er, just under three weeks with all the stuff for the Goodwood Revival to be done for the preceding weekend.  No pressure, then.

But guess what?  Challenge accepted.  Watch this space.  Oh, and there may be colourful language and some screaming.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Winter Is Coming!

 Frocks, Style, Sustainable fashion, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Winter Is Coming!
Aug 242014
 

What do you mean, ‘it’s only August’?!  It’s decidedly nippy out there and this morning was positively autumnal up here on Beastly Bodmin Moor.  So my thoughts have turned to warmer things, ie knitwear, tweed, furry stuff…

As my friends know, during the winter (which in my book runs from mid-August until at least the start of June), I am usually draped from head to foot in cashmere, tweed and, well, not to put too fine a point on it, animals.  Mostly as by-products of the food industry (ie, sheepskins, reindeer pelts, etc) but sometimes this involves the pelts of long-dead critters, sacrificed in a by-gone era when people’s sensibilities were very different and central heating hadn’t been invented.  (I’m not going to add insult to injury to the poor thing that died in the name of warmth by throwing it away like disposable rubbish.  That’s my point of view but I know others feel very differently on the subject.  And you don’t want to know what I’d do to the utter bastards who shoot things for fun rather than food or self-preservation.)  And sometimes the animals involved in my pursuit of warmth are still very much alive.  I’m frequently found on the sofa, buried under a large, gently snoring, shaggy, grey rug, also known as a deerhound, often with a couple of smaller rugs in the form of Mr Tigglesworth and the Weasel, (a Ragdoll and a Norwegian Forest Cat) for good measure.  Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  And it does get very cold up here on the moor, especially when the wind’s in the wrong direction and the blasted Rayburn’s gone out.

Deerhounds all over the furniture

Still from the 1945 movie “I Know Where I’m Going” with Mrs Potts and her “half starved hounds” just in from a bracing walk and throwing themselves onto the sofas. Could be Miss Wednesday’s house on any given day…

But to cut away from that charming, domestic scene and get to the point of the post, I was actually wondering what other people who like ‘vintage’ stuff tend to do for winter wear?  More than one person this summer has asked about “winter stuff” and said that they struggle to find anything “retro” (eg, 1940s or 50s style) in anything other than summer frocks.  Really?  Oh.  Please don’t make me take up knitting.  You wouldn’t like the result.  Hell, I don’t like the result and, frankly, it’s a waste of decent yarn.

So, what do you want, then?  Give me a clue?  Tweed?  I like tweed.  Tweed is good, as is wool serge and flannel.  Full and circle skirts in wintery fabrics?   Lovely.  Pencil skirts in tweed?  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, just say the word.  Coats, suits and jackets?  Well, we can talk about it.  I’m happy to talk about it.

Knitwear?  May I respectfully direct you to either my beloved Brora, purveyors of the best cashmere with plenty of perfectly proportioned cropped styles that work beautifully with waisted outfits and full skirts, or the rather wonderful Miss Fortune, who has been supplying me with delicious knitwear for a couple of years now and has been seen photographing some decidedly nifty nordic-patterned knitwear lately.  Keep an eye on her.  I intend to…

I have been attempting to persuade a very talented friend to take up the challenge of recreating 1940s knitwear on a bespoke basis.  She’s thinking about it.  From under a nice warm pile of whippets.  (We do like our pointy dogs!)

But seriously, please let me know what you’d like.  I’ll probably be delighted to make it for you.  At the moment, I keep busy with what are, to me, summer frocks all year round but I know I don’t wear them in the winter and surely I’m not the only person who’s part lizard?

Just don’t ask for trousers.  Unless they’re old fashioned style jodhpurs.  I’m thinking about those.  Some days it gets a bit drafty walking across the moor in the teeth of a howling gale with my skirt up round my ears…

Woman and deerhounds silhouetted against the sky

Mrs Potts walking the hounds whilst clad in a fetching kilt/skirt, just as I do.

And if anybody’s actually interested in seeing more of the mad woman and the gorgeous dogs, the best bit of the movie can be viewed here on YouTube.

 

Times Change – And So Do Sizes…

 Frocks, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Times Change – And So Do Sizes…
Aug 172014
 

Last weekend, we were treated to some wild and woolly weather, up here on Beastly Bodmin Moor.  While the predicted weather (Hurricane Bertha) mostly passed us by, we are 600 feet above sea level and it did get rather blustery.  So blustery, in fact, that my usual dog-walking attire (for which read “usual attire for pretty much anything and everything during the day”, ie a full skirt or frock) wasn’t going to be a good idea on the Daily Rampage over the moor.  I’d tried hanging out some washing and my skirt ended up over my head, which meant I couldn’t see much and the pegs weren’t colour coordinated, thus not getting my day off to the best of starts.  Goodness only knows what would have happened if I’d had that happen whilst walking Alfred;  I could have fallen down a mine shaft or tripped over a sheep, not to mention traumatizing anybody who actually witnessed said sight.  No, it would never do. There was really only one option open to me; search for the pair of emergency trousers that lurk somewhere at the back of the airing cupboard for days when a skirt really doesn’t work.  Those days are rare and the trousers last saw the light of day back in November 2010.

Before your world disintegrates at the idea of Miss Wednesday wearing trousers, let me reassure you that they are not polyester hideosities or trendy, skinny jeans but a pair of cream-coloured, non-stretch, classic Marks and Spencer, slightly tapered jeans, of a fair vintage.*  Going by the label in them, I’d say that they dated from 2000 at the very latest, because they have both the “St Michael” brand and the “Marks & Spencer” brand labelling, indicating the time when the brand was transitioning from the former to the latter.  That isn’t as interesting, however, as the size label.  I bought them back in about 2008 from a charity shop and they were labelled by that emporium as “Size 12”, so bearing in mind that they are very definitely non-stretch, I wasn’t surprised that the waist was snug.  Last Monday, I checked the label inside and saw the legend, “Size 14”.  It then gave me more information: “28 inch waist”.   What?!  Seriously?  Size 14 clearly labelled as being for a 28″ waist?!  Halleluyah!  Nobody ever believes me when I tell them about ‘vanity sizing’, they just think I’m a sizeist old harridan.**

Size label from inside of jeans

Size 14 jeans from 2000

There we have it in black and white.  Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, a size 14 was meant for a 28″ waist.  These days, I find people get slightly huffy when they discover that my Medium/Size 12 skirts have a 28″ waist and they need to buy a Large/Size 14 to get a 30″ waist.  (Dress sizing is different as I allow more generous waists for ease of fit and access.)

I checked Marks & Spencer’s up to date size guide and find that their current guide says that a Medium/Size 12 has a 29″ waist and a Medium/Size 14 has a 31″ waist.  So in 14 years or so, their Size 14 waist has expanded by 3 whole inches.  Which clearly explains why when people tell me they are one size, my head is bellows, “Delusional!”   And why most of my garments, which are almost all made to measure these days, are labelled “Bespoke”.  Yeah, I cater for vanity, too.  Oh, the irony…

 

*  Both the Vicar and Mr March assumed I was wearing jodhpurs as I was also wearing leather riding boots and leading a huge hound, who is often ‘mistaken’ for a pony.  Mr March’s eyes lit up at the ‘jodhpurs’.  Ridiculous.  We’ve been married nearly 10 years; I won’t be wearing those again in a hurry.

**  Guilty as charged.  I am a sizeist old harridan.  But should you wish for more proof that I am not just making it up about the sizing thing, have a read of this, which I posted on the Wednesday March Facebook page a while back.  I’ve also had genuine 1950s cocktail dresses in my shop, the erstwhile March Hare, and the size 16s fit today’s size 6.  If you can find one.

A Day Out With Cars and Frocks!

 Favourite Places, Frocks, Out And About, Shoes, Wednesday March  Comments Off on A Day Out With Cars and Frocks!
Aug 102014
 

Occasionally, Miss Wednesday is allowed out.  For the safety of the general public, she’s usually quite strictly chaperoned and it is only very occasionally…

Last Sunday, 3rd August, Miss Sara and Miss Wednesday went to Mount Edgecumbe for their Classic Car Show and Summer Fayre.  There was also a Miss Ivy Events Vintage and Artisan Fair on, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to visit.

Mount Edgecumbe is the former home of the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe. Set in Grade I Cornish Gardens within 865 acres Country Park on the Rame Peninsula, South East Cornwall, it is now council-owned and a wonderful venue for many a wedding and event.  The grounds are stunning and well worth a visit, especially as most of the park is open from 8am to dusk daily, all year round and is free to visit.  The house and the Earl’s Garden are open during the summer, usually from the start of April to the end of September, although not every day.  There is a charge to visit these areas.

But back to last Sunday…

Miss Sara gave strict instructions to Miss Wednesday to arrive by 11.30 at the latest (knowing Miss Wednesday’s tendency to be tardy) and they set off at about 11.45 am.  It proved to be a mistake, as the road from Looe to Mount Edgecumbe is narrow, windy and with more than one bottleneck.  All it takes is for one person to be rubbish at reversing and the entire area snarls up.  But it was a beautiful day and they had the roof off the Lotus so…

On arrival, they were directed to park in with the classics, which was rather nice, and Lottie was much admired and photographed.  Almost as much as Miss Sara, in fact!

Miss Sara was wearing her Sundae Best Dress and Miss Wednesday sported her favourite Diana with sweetheart neckline, in strawberry gingham fabric.  Not the matching shoes, though.  Oh no.  Not for tramping around on grass.  Miss L Fire Dollie wedges were perfect.  Miss Sara had flat, dotty pumps but Miss Wednesday doesn’t own any flat shoes other than her riding boots, which would have looked slightly out of place.

Two women in retro frocks blocking view of vintage Buick

Blocking the view of a very nice car!

They wandered around drooling over the cars for a couple of hours, visited the food stands – Miss Sara is fond of a proper hotdog*, none of that Cumberland sausage in a brioche bun ponciness for her, thank you – and the bar (which had run out of cider and only had nasty additive-filled tonic water so nothing for Wednesday) and then headed up towards the house and the vintage fair.  There were quite a few stands up there, including the wonderful Trish of Just Seven with her glorious hats and quite a lot of proper vintage clothing.  Miss Wednesday spotted The Little Green Van Company, who have a beautiful 1974 Citroen van named Laurent, with a coffee machine, and which was serving coffee, cake and ice cream.  It looked fabulous and Miss Wednesday, who won’t eat walking around but makes an exception for ice-cream, bought the ice-creams, which were the biggest disappointment of the day.  Coming from such a wonderfully presented stand, you could be forgiven for expecting a decent waffle cone and a serving of good ice-cream.  Alas, they turned out to be a very small blog of, frankly, cheap and nasty and mostly ice-crystals, stuff perched precariously on a cheap and nasty cone.  You know the sort of papery cone that sticks to the roof of your mouth?  Yep, that sort.  Ick.  She won’t be patronising that particular stand again, which is a shame because it looked wonderful.

Overall, however, it was a very nice and relaxed day.  Ran into a few friends, drooled over some beautiful cars – what’s not to like?

Miss Sara’s long-suffering partner travelled there on his rather snazzy Lambretta.  It garnered a lot of attention.  Miss Sara agreed to pose with it for pictures but she drove the Lotus home.  Lambrettas and petticoats only work in pictures.

Vintage scooters and woman in retro frock

Lucky Strike!

Back down the hill to the waterside – stunning on a sunny day – and home via the coast road and Downderry.

 

*  In Miss Sara’s opinion, a ‘proper hotdog’ is made from very little meat  – ‘mostly lips and arseholes’ – and comes in an equally dubious bun.  The ketchup should be applied in a line and the mustard dotted, not zigzagged.  She’s quite particular about these things.

Favourite Places: The Harbour Cafe, Looe

 Favourite Places, Frocks, Shoes, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Favourite Places: The Harbour Cafe, Looe
Aug 032014
 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Miss Wednesday “doesn’t get out much”.  Well, last Sunday, she did.  There is a glaring lack of blog post for the Sunday past because she was up at sparrow’s fart (to use the vernacular) and off down to Looe on a mercy mission.  One of her favourite people (Mrs A) owns and runs one of her favourite places (the Harbour Cafe in East Looe) and on this particular Sunday, Mrs A was shy of a waitress.  Now, when the situation came to light on the preceding Friday, they’d discussed the lack and it was agreed that the very idea of both Mrs A and Miss Wednesday working in tandem in role dealing with Joe Public was very probably a nightmare waiting to happen.  Or, at the very least, a jolly good hour’s entertainment on Trip Advisor the next day.  Naturally, when Miss Wednesday offered her ‘services’, Mrs A immediately took her up on it and the world held its breath.

Last Sunday dawned dry but slightly overcast, which was a relief to many after the heat of the day before.  Looe was beautiful and quieter than normal.  Miss Wednesday showed up wearing her ninth best retro dress and was given an apron that almost fitted her.  She was also wearing high heels with a platform.  For waitressing?  Madness?  Well, no.  Miss L Fire pineapple heels are one of the most comfortable designs on the planet and Miss Wednesday is lacking slightly in the height department.  Without a platform, there was no way she was going to be able to reach the cupboards.  As it was, she had to ask Mrs A to fetch the teapot and milk jug.

Woman in blue dress and apron attempting to move a chair

As summer Sundays go, it was a pretty quiet one, although there were plenty of holiday makers who were making return visits, which is always a sign that a cafe is doing something right.  Miss Wednesday explained to people that it wasn’t her normal occupation so if they heard screaming, bad language or dropped plates, to please feign deafness.  Mrs A explained that Miss Wednesday’s usual mode of communication was sarcasm and that if they detected any, to just ignore it as it wasn’t meant unkindly.  Business ticked over, no plates were dropped and nobody appeared to leave in high dudgeon.  Although we haven’t yet checked Trip Advisor…

It was a nice change for Miss Wednesday to work alongside Mrs A.  Usually, she’s a customer at the cafe, indulging in her twin occupations of gossip and scoffing, whilst attempting to imbibe as much coffee as Mrs A will allow, knowing full well what is likely to happen when the hag is fully caffeinated.  (Don’t ask.  You really don’t want to know.)

From the title of this post, you’ll have guessed that Miss Wednesday is a bit of a fan of the Harbour Cafe.  That may well be an understatement.  It’s a constant thorn in her side that she no longer works in Looe and cannot, therefore, justify going in every day for breakfast.  There’s a lot to be said for a proper, down to earth, cafe that serves proper, down to earth, freshly cooked grub and when one comes with a built in view as spectacular as this

Looe harbour with Cornish pilot gig

it takes a lot of beating.  And if you visit on a day when there’s been a staffing crisis and Miss Wednesday has stepped into the breach, you may well get a decent class of insult thrown in for free as well.  Proper job!

The Harbour Cafe is to be found on The Quay, East Looe, PL13 1DX.  Open from 8am (9am on Sundays) until 4pm ish in the summer and closing earlier in the winter when everybody hibernates.  It’s right next door to the Harbourmaster’s Office and therefore doesn’t flood.  Canny, huh?