Oct 192014
 

Hands up who secretly wanted to join The Petticoat Club?  Well, now you can.  So many customers have expressed a longing for like-minded, frock-wearing, vintage-loving friends but said that they just don’t know where to find them, that Miss Wednesday realised she is perfectly placed to effect the introductions.  One of the nicest things about the old shop (The March Hare in Looe) was seeing the customers meet and click with each other.  Now the shop has gone, we have to weave that web virtually.

So, here’s the web page that explains everything:  The Petticoat Club

And the Facebook Group is here.

At the moment, membership is restricted to customers of Wednesday March.  If you have a garment with a Wednesday March label, then you have the passport to, er, paradise.   The idea is that there will, eventually, be opportunities to meet up and Miss Wednesday will also share exclusives with you, maybe little discounts and nice things like that.  If you are a customer of Miss Wednesday but don’t use Facebook – and there are plenty who don’t – then just call or email Miss Wednesday and she’ll add you to The Petticoat Club and make sure you don’t miss out on anything, other than virtual chat and gossip.

So there you go.  First steps on the ladder to petticoated World Domination.  Take the idea and run with it.  Let’s have fun!

Ladies in retro frocks drinking cocktails

Assorted members of the Petticoat Club enjoying pre-dinner cocktails at Zute in East Looe. Photo stolen from Tanya Brittain.

 

“Will You Be My Bridesmaid?”

 Frocks, Style, Weddings  Comments Off on “Will You Be My Bridesmaid?”
Oct 122014
 

Also known as “Fifteen years of friendship down the drain…”

The bridesmaid thing.  Is it a blessing or a curse?  An opportunity to have a wonderful, friendship-sealing rite of passage with your closest friends/nearest and dearest or The Sweetest Revenge Opportunity Ever?

I get a lot of enquiries about bridesmaids’ dresses.  A lot.  Oh yes.  Most come from the bride to be and/or her mother.  Mostly they are nice and want something pretty but slightly unusual and ‘vintage-style’.  Something that isn’t prom/evening wear or in satin/chiffon/organza.   Mostly I am able to oblige them with exactly what they are wanting, even if they haven’t been able to quite put it into words.  Sometimes there is no way on this earth I am going to be able to work with either the bride or the mother and nothing I can do will actually make them happy.  That’s when my order book becomes over-full and fabric unavailable…   But usually I can help.

The thing with bridesmaids is that they come in all shapes, sizes, ages and outlooks.  It is an absolute minefield for the kind and caring bride to try to negotiate the terrain and keep each and every one of her attendants happy in a frock that will fit, suit, match the theme/colour scheme and not scare the vicar.  Enough to put you off getting married anywhere other than in secret with a couple of witnesses grabbed off the street.  (Regular readers will know that I had the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as attendants at my wedding.  Much easier and more fun.  And no, not a euphemism for various family members I detest, either!)

Of course, the majority of wedding consultations start out in a less than happy mood.  When there is more than one bridesmaid, they are invariably all worried about what is going to happen, what the others may want or not want and what they are likely to end up with.  They don’t want to upset the other bridesmaids and they certainly don’t want to upset the bride.  If I had a pound for every time I heard, “I’m just going to turn up and wear whatever you want me to wear,” uttered with a sigh, then I’d be smiling all the way to the bank.  Unfortunately, nobody ever coughs up that pound, nor does that sentence fill me – or the bride – with joy.  On the contrary, it’s when the feeling of Impending Doom deepens, blackens and threatens the swallow up the room and everyone in it.  Weddings should be joyful occasions and nobody wants a bridesmaid who is really unhappy with her frock or is there on sufferance.  Every female member of that wedding party should be wearing something that makes her want to dance.  Which is where I come in…

Happily, most of the people who come to see me about bridal stuff want “something different”; it’s quite rare for me to be confronted with “everything is to be traditional and done by the book”, which is probably my worst nightmare.  Weddings should be fun.  Have I said that already?  I’ll repeat it anyway.  Weddings should be fun.  And the participants should be comfortable.  To that end, I have a few styles that I know work very well for bridesmaid dresses.  The Leah and Diana styles (halter neck or cap sleeved, princess seamed, straight or sweetheart neckline) are the most obvious choices and very popular, especially as the bodices are shirred at the back, delivering excellent fit and the potential for devouring an extra slice of wedding cake in comfort.  Not everybody wants a halter neck, so the Diana gives a little more shoulder coverage.

Halterneck retro 50s style full skirted frock in yellow fabric with printed cherry pattern

Leah halter neck style, in yellow cherry print fabric.

 

Retro 50s style frock with cap sleeves in black fabric with bright pink roses

Diana full skirted style, with straight neckline (can also be done with sweetheart) and cap sleeves.

But then, there are always ladies who worry – probably more than they should – about their arms.  And tummies.  Hips.  Shoulders.  Oh, every bit of them.  At this point, I usually recommend a burkha.  When they’re over the shock of that and realise I’m joking, I point them in the direction of Verity, my pseudo-1940s style with the slight empire line and the full circle skirt.

Yesterday’s clients were a hoot.  Lovely ladies but not at all happy about the prospect of finding the perfect style to suit them all.  The dress they all – allegedly – wanted wasn’t going to work, as another dressmaker had already told them.  They said they “liked the style” of Diana but their faces clearly said, “Not that much…”  Sleeves were mentioned.   I waved to Verity and they all assumed an expression of horror.  Now, I know that poor Verity wasn’t on the best mannequin (Gladys, my lingerie model, who is difficult at the best of times, and is the mannequin on the right hand side in the following picture) and wasn’t sporting a petticoat, so probably didn’t look her most enticing.  But the reaction was hysterical.  “Oh, I don’t like that at all!” came from the bride.  Quickly followed by, “It makes me think of 1940s…”  Yes!  It’s supposed to!  “… Those things that cleaners wore.  Crossed over at the front.  Hideous.  Sorry.  I really don’t like it.”  Cracking description, albeit not how I see the frock.  Chief Bridesmaid was more succinct.  “Looks like a preg tent.”

Retro style frock in navy spot fabric with sleeves and crossover bodice

Verity in navy pin spot fabric.

At this point I did my best not to double up on the floor laughing.  I have never heard the expression “preg tent” before but I am certainly storing that one up for future usage.  Oh yes.

I’m not sure how Chief Bridesmaid was persuaded to don said “preg tent” but she was.  Petticoat was slipped over her head (she wasn’t going through the rigmarole of getting her kit off to try a cleaner’s overall!) and Verity followed.  Zipped up the back.  Expression changed.  She looked in the mirror and realised she looked fabulous.  She twirled.  She smiled.  Twirled a bit more and beamed. Everybody else beamed.  The bride was gobsmacked and changed her mind completely about the style.  All of a sudden, it ticked all the boxes.   The other bridesmaids did their best to try it on (wrong size, not their fault) and pronounced themselves equally enamoured.  And they all smiled.

Now all I have to do is source the perfect fabrics, because they’re all having the same design but different colours.  Very precise different colours.  Did they come armed with knowledge of the exact Pantones?  No.  Of course not.  (And, frankly, the day a bridal party does that is the day I run away screaming!)  But they are off to B&Q to arm themselves with those paint colour cards.  Easy.

Me?  I’m off fabric shopping, which I enjoy.  I’ll be looking for specifics when I rock up at the London Textile Fair in January, not just inspiration.  Excellent.

Meanwhile, the bridal party have the fun of deciding what colour petticoats (I’m recommending a pop of something vivid underneath their pastel frocks) and finding The Perfect Shoes.  The right style, colour and ones they can walk and dance in.  All day and night.

Now that we’ve settled on the style, I think I have the easier task…

 

The Petticoat Club

 Favourite Places, Frocks, Out And About, Wednesday March  Comments Off on The Petticoat Club
Oct 052014
 

You may have heard tell of that shady organisation known as “The Petticoat Club”.  It sounds all sweetness and light, doesn’t it?  But the very name strikes fear into the heart of various restaurateurs in the quiet seaside town of Looe.  When The Petticoat Club meet, mayhem ensues…

It all started back in that hotbed of fundamentalism and radicalisation, The March Hare, late lamented retro boutique in East Looe, Cornwall.  Miss Wednesday – who is not known for being a “people person” – actually developed friendships with some of her customers, who were not put off by her bluntness or fondness for gin.  In fact, several of those customers also shared those attributes. One particular one, known as “Miss Jane”, would spend so much time in the shop on her bi-annual holidays to Looe, that most of the locals assumed that she was (a) also local and (b) a staff member.  Eventually, she and Miss Wednesday went out one evening in October 2013 for a spot of dinner and gossip at Miss Wednesday’s favourite restaurant, Papa Nino’s, in East Looe, which they justified by calling it the Staff Christmas Party.  It was a roaring success so they promptly booked a rematch for the following March.  Complete with crackers.

At this point, Miss Wednesday threw a bit of a curve ball.  Although none of this particular group of customers would describe themselves as “joiners”, she invited three of them to join her and Miss Jane.  It was a bit of a gamble.  Miss Jane was, she now admits, slightly peeved at the presumptuous inviting of “plus three” and more than a little worried at the prospect of meeting “other people who probably all knew each other”.  On further examination, it turned out that the other three people felt exactly the same trepidation as none of them knew each other either.  In fact, they each only knew one person in the group and that was Miss Wednesday, which isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation or a recipe for an evening of jollity.

Against all odds, it was a spectacular success.  They all “clicked” immediately and their friendships were soon cemented by that modern day ritual of  becoming “friends on Facebook”.

Ladies in retro frocks drinking cocktails

Assorted members of the Petticoat Club enjoying pre-dinner cocktails at Zute in East Looe. Photo stolen from Miss Tanya.

Why does this merit a blog post?  Because apart from the fact it shows that petticoat wearers are lovely people and don’t deserve being glared at in supermarkets, it is also proof that it is possible to make friends in adulthood.  Only two days ago, at her tailoring class, Miss Wednesday was chatting with a classmate who mentioned how difficult it is to meet people and make friends when you’re an adult and if you don’t have small children and school gates in your life.  Never a truer word spoken.  Only one of the Petticoat Club has a small child.  Two more have children (one has teenagers and the other has successfully fledged hers) but the others remain resolutely child free and are not judged for that.  Two of them dress in retro style all the time (and can encounter a fair amount of judgement for it), the others dip in and out of “vintage” as it suits them.  There is a fair spread of ages (approximately 20 years) and a massively diverse range of occupations (a frock maker, journalist, cafe owner, environmental health officer, medical secretary, pole-dancer, musician and music festival supremo).  They all have a variety of interests outside their fondness for petticoats but have quickly formed a tight-knit support group and are confident that their relaxed and comfortable friendships will last.  Despite being spiky, occasionally judgemental, and possibly grumpy.  Definitely not “people” people but despite that, all rather thrilled to have discovered such like-minded beings with whom they can let down their hair (in a manner of speaking – nothing dislodges Miss Sara’s victory rolls) and be themselves.

The Club seems to have grown again with the invitation to join us on Thursday of a Potential New Member.  She was invited by one member because it was felt that she (a) wears petticoats with style (b) is a fab person and (c) thoroughly deserved a good night out.  It appears that she slotted perfectly into the one remaining chair at the usual table and is therefore cordially invited to stay.  And if she decides to stay, it means that there’s no more worrying about that spare chair.  It’s taken.

So don’t despair of meeting and making new friendships after leaving educational loiterings behind.  It is possible.  A lot of friendship making appears to be practically tribal but the diversity amongst the “members” of some of those “tribes” can be vast.   Especially if you start hanging around “vintage” and “retro” shops and events, as people who like “that kind of thing” come from every walk of life and occupation.  Admiring someone’s frock, shoes or petticoat is always appreciated by the wearer.  If they just smile and say, “Thank you,” odds are you’ve probably made their day but you never know, they might turn out to be a new friend.  And petticoat friends are fun…

Of course, there’s always one who misbehaves.  And it’s not always Miss Wednesday…

Woman in retro frock draped over long-suffering chef.

Miss Sara assaulting the lovely Joe, who cooked us delicious steaks and didn’t deserve the grief he was given. Photo stolen from Miss Tina.

We don’t think we’re banned from Papa Nino’s but poor Joe did have to go for a lie down after his ordeal.