Sep 282014
 

I know, I know, there was a decided absence of wittering last Sunday.  Please accept my apologies.  The past few weeks have been hectic – for “hectic” read “bonkers” – beyond belief and last Sunday was the last day of the Looe Music Festival and the only day on which I was free to please myself as to what I did.

Two women in 50s retro frocks

Sara & Wednesday ready to party on the beach.

It has to be said that when I had my shop, The March Hare in East Looe, I loathed the Festival Weekend as it invariably had a negative impact on my trade.  The town is full of people intent on watching top class bands and shoppers give it a wide berth.  Frankly, nobody who is attending a music festival for the purpose of making merry, is going to go into a little boutique and order a bespoke frock on the spur of the moment; it’s just not happening.  I know of other Looe businesses who also find Festival Weekend very difficult from a financial point of view, mainly shops with more expensive offerings than the usual “pasties and tat” and cafes and restaurants, who find their afternoon and evening takings down by about 10%, as people party on the beach and then wander back to their base camps via the pubs and the imported food stands along the fish quay.  But – and it’s a big but – having now seen the Festival from the other side, it does bring more business into the town than it scares away,  hopefully gives the town a higher profile and may well entice the Festival goers back at other times of the year to hopefully patronise the shops and restaurants they didn’t have the time or inclination to visit during the festivities.  The organisers are intent on bringing top class music and extending the season of the town and that is exactly what they do, although they can’t please everyone given the demographic and the actual layout of the town.  What I also noticed was the thousands and thousands of very happy faces, the friendly atmosphere and the complete lack of trouble.  And that’s priceless.

“But what on earth was Miss Wednesday doing at a “music festival?” I hear you ask.  It doesn’t really sit with her public image, does it?  The wellies, the mud, the – gasp – general public.  Surely Miss W’s idea of hell on earth.  And yes, you’d be right in thinking that.  Absolutely bang on.  Will she be attending Glastonbury next year?  Unlikely.  But Looe doesn’t have mud.  And she wasn’t camping but staying with her good friend and partner in crime, Miss Sara.

In the words of the, er, immortal Jethro, “What ‘appened was…”  Miss Wednesday’s alter ego (ie, me!) was persuaded by a customer to revive her musical career.  When I made some frocks and a skirt for the organiser of the Looe Music Festival, the rather incredible Tanya Brittain, I had no idea what it was she did. We were introduced by Miss Sara as she knew Tanya wanted some frocks for performing with her newly formed folk collective, The Changing Room.  That I could help with.  What I hadn’t expected was the little question posed by Tanya on her way out, being, “The harpist we used on the EP isn’t available for the opening gig of the LMF, do you fancy doing it?”  What?!  Are you kidding?  I haven’t played in 18 months!  I’m retired!  But she sent me MP3s of the music and I was hooked and found myself imported into a group of incredibly talented, very professional and really, really nice musicians.  It has been an utterly surreal experience to all of a sudden be playing music with other people who really love the music and are very, very good at it but who also have a complete lack of ego and Just Get On With It.

Folk collective The Changing Room on stage

The Changing Room on the Groundworks stage at the Looe Music Festival. Photo by Jim Peters Photography.

We hadn’t actually played together until a couple of hours before the opening gig and rehearsal wasn’t going particularly brilliantly when we were requested to go down to the quay for a photocall.

Woman in 1950s frock being filmed by TV camera

Festival organiser, Tanya Brittain, being interviewed by ITV wearing a WM ‘Verity’. Photo by Elina Kansikas.

Tanya was interviewed for the tellybox and then we were all asked if we’d mind getting on to the Erin, a beautiful old Cornish Lugger (fishing boat) for some pictures and for ITV to record.  That was the most nerveracking part of the entire weekend, as I had to get on and off a boat in the harbour, whilst wearing high heels and a frock and petticoat and carrying a harp.  I entrusted the harp (my little Salvi Eire) to the lovely Lisa from Excess Energy Communications and took my life in my hands.  It all worked out and the ensuing “performance” was one of the best experiences of my entire life.  The world faded away and there was just the four of us, Tanya, Sam Kelly, Jamie Francis and the random harpist they found in a hedge (me!) playing together.  I still get goosebumps thinking about it.  Everything else paled into insignificance.  The pictures were quite nice, too, as my face is hidden!  Tanya and I were both wearing WM frocks for the performances, which kept the demanding Miss Wednesday happy and my father is delighted that the viciously expensive stringy things that have been gathering dust under my staircase for 18 months are now being used again.

Folk collective The Changing Room playing on board a fishing boat

The Changing Room folk collective playing on board the Erin. Photo by Dom Moore Photography.

Obviously, not all the members of The Changing Room are clad in Wednesday March garments.  Miss Wednesday is working on this but so far neither Sam or Jamie seem particularly keen on frocking up.  Funny, that…

Meanwhile, I have a lot of music to arrange for harp in preparation for recording the remainder of The Changing Room’s album next month.  Which isn’t very far away.  But don’t worry, the frocks will keep coming.  A whole load of fabrics have just been purchased for your delight and delectation and the tailoring course has started.  It’s all go!

Oh, and the Petticoat Club are meeting up this week.  At least twice.  That could be messy…

 

 

It’s all go in Goodwood Revival Week and beyond

 Frocks, Style, Wednesday March  Comments Off on It’s all go in Goodwood Revival Week and beyond
Sep 142014
 

As you may have gathered, I make a fair number of frocks for customers attending the Goodwood Revival.  When I say, “a fair number”, I mean “a lot”.  Truckloads.  Although that doesn’t really give the right impression, as they are all individually created for each customer rather than by me using production line methods in an attempt to produce lots of the same thing.  Last year I actually had a stand at the Revival and I’m hoping that plenty of the ladies who ordered frocks then will be wearing those frocks at the event this year.  I know – and have already seen some pictures – of those attending in my frocks, including one of the new Bardot frock.  There will be more pictures for me to share with you soon, I’m sure.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend this year – either with a stand or as a punter – but hopefully next year I’ll be there.  Please send me pictures of you in your fabulous frocks so I can enjoy the atmosphere vicariously!

This year has been so full of change and exciting developments that I made the decision back in the winter that I wouldn’t be attending this year’s Revival.  I had to close the shop in Looe, find a suitable new workshop, move, create lots of frocks for existing customers, create an entirely new website, which involved learning WordPress web design, not to mention all the usual guff involved with running a business, sourcing fabrics, notions, etc.  I had hoped to attend as a punter but have been so busy with everything that even that wasn’t possible.  But it’s all good.  And there are even more exciting times ahead.

I think most people know that I’ve been sewing for a long time.  A loooooong time.  Mother started me on embroidery at a very early age.  By the time I was about four, I think everybody in the family had a dressing table set – whether they had a dressing table or not – and I remember very clearly thinking, “Bugger this, I’m going to make a frock!” as my older sister was making some beautiful things for herself.  I’ve sewed on and off throughout my lifetime, mostly when ready-to-wear fashion just didn’t float my boat and I’ve made a lot of frocks in that time.  I love making frocks.  Obviously.

But what I have always wanted to do is create amazing tailored numbers, like Christian Dior’s New Look.

Woman wearing 1947 wasp-waisted suit

A suit from the 1947 ‘Corolle’ collection by Dior.

I’ve drooled and sighed over pictures – and occasionally the real thing – and dreamed of creating such things.  Mother’s favourite aunt, my Great Aunt Gladys, was a tailoress, which is a major step up from a humble dressmaker.  She was very skilled indeed, although she died when I was still quite young and I never got to learn from her.  Mother did, though, and Mother produced a creditable “Chanel” suit for me when I was 15.  Admittedly, its birth wasn’t without some complications and I swear there was a footprint on the inside of the jacket where it had been thrown on the floor and stamped on, but it was a joy to behold and wear and clearly said, “Bespoke” in its workmanship.

Every year, usually when the Autumn/Winter collections start appearing in Vogue and the like, I go through a period of longing for beautiful tweeds from Harris, Linton and other top-notch sources.  I have made myself many a skirt in tweeds and boucles but somehow my nerve always fails me when I’m looking at paying out £35 a metre for fabric that’s been carefully hand-crafted by artisans in England and Scotland.  I want and need to learn more.  Especially about hand-finished jackets and the like; I want to do those fabrics justice.

So I’ve enrolled on a tailoring course.  A proper City & Guilds certificate in fashion Tailoring.  And, having spoken to the tutor already, I’m really rather excited.  I just hope it goes ahead.  Located, as I am, in the wilds of wonderful Cornwall (although Bodmin Moor is also known as “The Arse End of Nowhere”), there’s no telling what call there will be for the course and it may not entice enough people to be viable.  It’s not a cheap or quick undertaking, by any means, but the tutor said that apparently there have been others enrolling so I am hopeful.  And really, really excited.  Did I mention that already?  Really excited.

Watch this space.

Sep 072014
 

It’s been quite a week at WM Headquarters.  What with numerous fabric issues – some insurmountable – rearing their ugly heads, plenty of stitching for orders required this month, someone chasing a frock that had already been delivered (I knew I sent that one Special Delivery for a reason!) and a major hurdle just blown out of the water, it’s no wonder I eventually woke up this morning very, very late and with a horrid, dull headache.  Thankfully, the Mr Tigglesworth (aka The Ginger Whinger) kept most of his disapproval to himself (mainly because I fed him immediately and even he finds it difficult to yowl with a gob full of Royal Canin) and the chigguns were more interested in corn than giving me grief.  Funny how feeding things usually puts a stop to whinging, isn’t it?  It works with everything from poultry and cats to children, teenagers and men.  Obviously, with teenagers you have to factor in the accusatory looks, stabbing with a fork and obligatory “Are you trying to kill me?” glares but provided you’ve coped with their latest vegan/no green stuff/if it doesn’t come with breadcrumbs I don’t want to know sensibilities, you’re still on to a winner.

After a bit of gentle pruning* in the garden to see if a spot of fresh air would help, I gave up and donned my trusty Toggis for a rampage over the moor with Alfred.   And here’s the shocker; I didn’t bother with make-up and my hair wasn’t exactly sleekly groomed.  I know.  I’m sorry, I should have warned you.  Used as you are to the image of Miss Wednesday never leaving her dressing room without being fully frocked and with a full face of maquillage, this is a bit much for you.  But, truth be told, she does occasionally – usually on Sundays – skip the eyeliner and bright lipstick.  Today there was just a coat of Besame mascara and a smear of Besame cherry lip balm, because without those she really is frightening.  On days when all you want to do is put your head under pillow in a darkened room, a full face of makeup is just not happening, public image or no.

Inner Goddess:  Oh no!  What if somebody sees me?  What will they think?

Inner Realist:  For goodness sakes, you’re five foot feck all and 46.  That makes you invisible.  Nobody’s going to even see you.  Especially if you hide behind the dog.

So Alfred and I went over the moor, hoping for a nice quiet rampage with no extraneous people.  Alfred had been fed and I’m not a people person so there really was no need.  Naturally, this meant that we saw plenty of people out enjoying the sunshine and blackberries.  And what did I hear, when I’m trudging along, feeling like a bug-eyed mutant whilst attempting to control a huge, manky deerhound who has his eye on a big bag of freshly picked fruit?

“Oh my goodness, that is a GREAT dress!”

Excuse me?!  Here am I, wandering, sans maquillage and heels, traipsing over Beastly Bodmin Moor with the Hound of the Baskervilles and a random bloke notices my frock?

“I’m sorry, but it’s fabulous.  And I do like to compliment wonderful things.”

Well.  Thank you, sir.  Thank you very  much.  Your compliment is much appreciated.

Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t compliment a stranger.  It’s not sexist – women are just as capable of appreciating a well cut suit as men are a decent frock – and quietly telling the wearer of your approval is always appreciated.  And there’s nothing whatsoever stopping a woman from telling another woman she looks amazing, ditto a chap.  (“Suits you, sir!”)  Just as enjoying what you wear makes life more fun for you, having other people appreciate your effort just adds to that happiness.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that by dressing well, we aspire to enrich the lives of others.  Isn’t it nicer to see people dressed beautifully than slouching along in gratuitous sportswear?  Of course it is.

And it just goes to show that you should never underestimate the power of a good frock…

Tiered sundress in tropical fruit and flower print

The frock in question, the prototype Bardot, in a tropical print. The refined version – in a pale pink rose print – will be unveiled at the Goodwood Revival next weekend. See if you can spot it!

 

*  For ‘gentle pruning’, read ‘wholescale destruction’.  And be grateful I didn’t train as a hairdresser…