People and Gardens Fashion Show Part 2

 Frocks, Wednesday March  Comments Off on People and Gardens Fashion Show Part 2
Nov 302014
 

Well, you were promised more pictures…

It’s always a bit of a gamble, using a bunch of friends as models rather than experienced professionals.  The first fashion show that Miss Wednesday did, proved that in no uncertain terms.  Some of the people asked, stepped up to the mark with alacrity and performed brilliantly, despite being stricken with terrible nerves and worrying themselves senseless about unnecessarily complicated choreography but a couple of others got plastered, messed around like over-excited teenagers and ruined a frock.  This time, two of the models actually choreographed the routine, one of whom was the most nervous last time and who would this time be leading the pack down the catwalk.  It proved an excellent strategy, because not only was the fabulous Miss Sara much more comfortable with the routine, she also ensured that despite the almost complete lack of rehearsal for everybody on the day (only Miss Sara and Mrs Alsop had actually done the routine before), everybody followed her lead and it went off almost without a hitch.  Certainly, one model got carried away with enthusiasm and took longer on the catwalk than her allotted phrase of music and the Stars of the Show took considerably longer than planned but they were doing such a wonderful job that it really didn’t matter, and Mrs A soon put things back on track.  It was just so obviously that they were all enjoying themselves so much and their enthusiasm certainly came through to the audience.

Ladies in 50s frocks

The Stars of the Show, Miss Julie and Miss Helen, flanked by Miss Tina and the Marvellous Mrs Alsop. Photo courtesy of People and Gardens CIC

The choice of music was, you must surely agree, inspired.  It had been causing Miss Wednesday a few headaches because she wanted something of an appropriate style for her frocks, ie swingy, but not too fast and definitely with a gardening – or at least floral – theme.  The best she could come up with was “In An English Country Garden”, which is pretty and not too fast and would have been memorable but just lacked the requisite swing.

Once again, Miss Sara took the bit between her teeth and ran with it, coming up with the perfect track.  Miss Wednesday had already considered the Floral Dance, but felt that the Terry Wogan version was just too ploddy.  Miss Sara said, “Ah yes, but the Matt Monro version is perfect.”  Seriously?  Matt Monro did the Floral Dance?!  Well, yes, it appears he did and he did it brilliantly.  It was the perfect track to use and, at 3 minutes and 20 seconds, about the right length.  Let’s face it, that’s a long time on a stage or catwalk and nobody wanted the audience to drop off or die of boredom.  And it would appear that nobody did.  The applause was thunderous, especially for the stars of the show, Miss Julie and Miss Helen.

Miss Wednesday did her very best to video the entire performance.  Unfortunately, despite her phone displaying the requisite symbols and red light to indicate that it was recording, it most certainly was not.  Hence the reliance on pictures from other sources for the blog posts…

Ladies on stage in 50s frocks

The full line up on the stage! Picture stolen from the Cornish Guardian.

 

Media coverage of the event was high and there’s a lovely article in the Cornish Guardian about it, complete with excellent pictures of both the Wednesday March girls and the other designers involved.  It’s slightly misleading in that it says that all the designers were from Plymouth College, which most certainly wasn’t the case, but the pictures are fabulous.  All in all, it was a wonderful event and one that raised over £5,000 for People and Gardens, which is not to be sneezed at.  Maybe they’ll consider doing it again next year…?

Nov 232014
 

Six months in the preparation and now it’s all over…

Last night was the long awaited fashion show at the Eden Project, in conjunction with various local designers and educational establishments in aid of People and Gardens.  It may come as a bit of a shock to hear that all the Wednesday March frocks were finished by 5.30pm on Friday 21st.  This is either some sort of a record or, as is widely suspected, Miss Wednesday was kidnapped and replaced with an alien.  She is never finished with time to spare.  It was all a bit strange.

Mrs A turned up at the allotted time with an appropriate vehicle (borrowed from her husband), plus a wodge of  printed order forms and some wonderfully displayed fabric samples.  Miss Wednesday had packed the frocks and petticoats (and the assorted bits and bobs that would have been needed if she hadn’t taken them) and everything was duly loaded into the car.  Miss Sara, Miss Jane, Miss Tina and Miss Sarah all turned up and it was time to go.

Three cars travelled in convoy to the Eden Project and then promptly got lost.  It’s a rather large place with a lot of car parks but no obvious signs of the stewards we’d been told to locate.  Various routes were tried but nary a parking steward was seen.  It turned out, after a slight altercation with a very long, very bendy bus and an “Authorised Vehicles Only” road, that the parking stewards had misunderstood their instructions and weren’t turning up until much later.  But Miss Wednesday and Miss Tina got out and walked to find help and appropriate guidance, armed only with a pashmina and a small stash of TicTacs.  Thanks to their bravery – it was getting a tad chilly, even if it wasn’t quite the below zero temperatures that Miss Wednesday was bleating about – eventually People Who Knew Stuff were located, everybody got to the right place and everything was unloaded.  (Miss Lucinda and Miss Zoe were already there, having had no such navigation problems.)

There followed a few hours involving heated rollers, make-up brushes and a lot of standing around.  No, the bar was not open but Miss Wednesday did ascertain from the barman that there was a good supply of gin.  More on that later…

 

One tiny rehearsal  for the WM models was squeezed in at about 6.30pm, despite every other designer having their models poncing up and down the catwalk for ages but no choreographed routine to learn.  Mrs A was a tad savage about that as she and Miss Sara had worked very hard on that routine and, naturally, they were worried that timings might go to pot in the actual show as most of the models had no idea what was going to happen and some hadn’t even heard the music.

Wednesday March was the third designer to show, after quite of lot of “asymmetric” knitwear and, er, scarves.  Oh, and a rather weird yoga/deportment lecture from one designer.  Much hilarity now ensues with members of the Petticoat Club whenever scarves or “zipping up” are mentioned.  You had to be there…

Then it was time…

 

Model in halterneck cherry print frock

The newest WM model, Miss Sara, in a Leah frock in pink and white Japanese cherry blossom print. Over a purple petticoat. Stunning!

 

What?  You want pictures of the actual show?  Ah.  Yes.  Well.  Er, later.  Miss Wednesday isn’t renowned for her prowess with anything like a camera and did her very best to take actual video of the show rather than mess up a lot of pictures.   She swears it said it was recording and the red light was on.

Fortunately, there were plenty of official photographers and people videoing it so there will be better pictures in due course.  Including ones of the models who stole the show, the lovely Miss Julie and Miss Helen from People and Gardens, who raised the biggest cheer of the night.

To be continued…

 

Nov 162014
 

Goodness, what a week!  And the next one promises to be even busier, if that’s possible…

Next Saturday sees an exciting event at the Eden Project, here in Cornwall.  A fashion show, featuring local designers, with opportunities to shop.  How cool is that?

Poster advertising People and Gardens Fashion Show Eden Project 22 November 2014

Needless to say, Miss Wednesday is working at full speed to make the frocks for her part of the show and has just two left to make, with two others only needing finishing touches.  There’s a definite gardening theme to her show and the soundtrack – sourced by Miss Sara – is inspired.  Can you guess what it might be…?

People and Gardens in their own words:-

“People and Gardens was established in 1997 to assist people with learning disabilities and mental health issues to develop work and social skills to enable them to take control over their own lives.

People and Gardens was set up to enable people with learning disabilities or emotional impairments to be able to develop as individuals and to have equality of choice and opportunity in the workplace.

The founders of People and Gardens understand through their own experiences, that we should all work together to break down barriers, to educate and to support each other to make the world a better place for everyone.

Miss Wednesday is thrilled that two ladies from People and Gardens have agreed to join the Wednesday March team on the catwalk for the night and is looking forward to seeing Miss Julie and Miss Helen strutting their stuff.

Come and join us next Saturday at a fabulous venue for what promises to be a really good night in aid of a very worthy cause.

Nov 092014
 

Last week’s blog post proved a tad controversial in some quarters and an eye-opener in others.  I wanted to get people thinking and it seems – certainly from the stats on my various social media accounts – that I’ve achieved that.  But following on from my whinge about the swamping of the market to the detriment of the smaller (and more ethical) businesses, here’s the next part of the problem.  Read, digest, discuss.  I like a good debate.

I whinged at length about the flooding of the ‘big cheapo brands’ drowning and washing away the smaller ones.  Why is it such a problem?  Surely, if the smaller brands can’t compete – and much of life is about survival of the fittest – then it’s their own fault, isn’t it?  Well, no.  Not when the playing field is so uneven and the public so reluctant to open their eyes and see what is actually happening.

I’m all in favour of choice.  If we all wore the same thing, life would become incredibly bland.  I love life’s rich tapestry and I’m all for plenty of choices in the marketplace.  The more the merrier in my book!  I’ve never wanted to look like anyone else (except, perhaps, Isabella Rossellini, but even then not in her clothing choices).  Individualism is a good thing in my book.

But the World Domination Plan of the big cheapo brands actually ruin that.  Way back when, in the “good old days”, most basic staples were – relatively – more expensive than they are now, making people have to think more about how they spent their money.  They had a finite amount of money (credit was rare and credit cards hadn’t been invented) and had to really budget and consider – crucially – just how long a purchased item would last and whether it was worth the money.  People expected to pay a fair price for a fair product.   The throwaway society hadn’t been invented.  I wonder what my Great Aunt Gladys would think of life now?  She was a tailoress and made most of my family’s clothes.  My brother had properly tailored long trousers to wear to school in the winter (we’re talking late 50s and early 60s, when many young schoolboys had to put up with short trousers all year round) and Aunt Gladys taught my mother to recognise quality fabric, good construction and finish and garments that would last, even if they were a little more expensive.  My mother, in turn, used to flip up garments in shops when we went shopping and a sharp intake of breath would ensue if seams, hems or finishing weren’t up to scratch.   If you could afford better quality, then you bought it because it offered better value.  Clothes were worn time and time again and expected, with the right care, to last.  In order to “ring the changes”, people became inventive and wore them in different ways, with different things and added accessories.  This creativity seems to have all but disappeared and now people just want new clothing all the time and equate cheapness with value.  This is a fundamental flaw in reasoning.

Of course, not everybody can afford to pay £100 upwards for a frock.  I realise this.  I know plenty of people, however, who screech at the very idea of paying even £75 for a frock but those same people go out shopping every Saturday, coming back with bags full of clothes from the main emporia of tat.  I’m willing to wager a fair wedge that if you add up the cost of the garments in their bulging wardrobes, it would far outweigh the few items I buy each year.  I think it’s also a fair bet that (a) if you work out a ‘price per wear’ value for those garments, they are likely to be considerably more expensive than my treasured and well-worn stuff, (b) most of them will be much, much newer and (c) a high number will have never been worn at all.  I have garments in my cupboard that date back to the 1980s.  My classic Burberry mac, for instance, dates from circa 1983.  I’m not its first owner and probably won’t be its last as it is still going very strong and I have a list of people who want me to leave it to them in my Will.  I have a scarf/shawl I bought from Harrods for the exorbitant price of £12.50 back in December 1984.  The friend with me at the time was horrified.  I wonder what she’d say if I pointed out that I still have it and still wear it.  My favourite coat dates back to 1989 and still looks a million dollars when I wear it.  It was expensive but I have worn it and worn it and worn it and it will go on for many years yet.  Hell, it should see me out.  I might even be buried in it!  Well, if it isn’t spirited away by one of the people who have already “put their sticker on it”.

I also realise that many people see no reason to buy one quality frock when they can buy, say, 4 cheapo ones for the practically the same money.  Why buy one of mine, for example?  Well, because mine are individually made to order and tend to fit the purchaser, for a start.  I’ve seen a lot – and I mean a lot – of the cheapo frocks, that people bring in to me, asking if I can “make them fit”.  I’ve looked, I’ve been horrified and I’ve turned every single one away.  No.  I can’t sort them out because the cut and manufacture of the dresses isn’t up to scratch in the first place.  The reason they poke at the neck is because the neckline has just been turned over and, basically, hemmed.  There are no linings, no facings, no understitching; nothing to ensure the neckline works properly.  Looks lovely on a mannequin but doesn’t work on a real body.  At least, not when that body does something ridiculous like, er, move.  And the reason there’s something not quite right about the waistline is because the manufacturer has shifted one or more pattern pieces off the grain of the fabric in order to squeeze out more dresses.  Woven fabric is solid in two directions.  When you start cutting across those threads at an angle, the fabric starts to move and becomes stretchy.  This is fine when it has been deliberately cut on the bias as part of the design (much of the beautiful, slinky fit and draping of 1930s clothing is achieved this way) but when it’s not meant to do that, it becomes a problem.  How many tops – t-shirts especially – have you seen where the sleeves have twisted, especially after washing?  It’s because the manufacturer has skimped and cut the fabric where it shouldn’t have been cut instead of using a bit more fabric and doing it properly.  It’s “never mind the quality, feel the width” again.  Does it really  matter with a £2 t-shirt from Primark?  Well, yes.  It does.  You add up the price of all those rubbish t-shirts you’ve worn a couple of times and then had to ditch because they’re unwearable.  Maybe you could have bought one that was well-made in a quality fabric that you would still be wearing – and looking good in – several years down the line.

Of course, if you persist in buying only the cheapo stuff, you may not have that quality option in future.  Not unless you’re willing to shell out a lot more money and I do mean a lot.  At the moment, we have a middle ground with excellent options  – check out Miss Fortune and Lady K Loves  for starters – in between the exploitative cheap stuff and the expensive brands.  But if the cheapo brands win out, the middle ground will simply disappear so there will be no real option for buying quality unless you can shell out a vast amount of money and your chances of purchasing anything other than mainstream fast fashion will be virtually nil.  Not everybody wants to look the same but at some point they may have little choice and that would be disastrous for both the alternative scene (which encompasses more than just vintage/retro) and the planet, as resources are plundered with no regard to economies, the environment and the lives of the people being paid so little to produce sub-standard rubbish to satisfy the first world thirst for more.

Please don’t let that happen.

Nov 022014
 

Last week, I read a status from a friend on Facebook that really struck a chord with me:-

“So hard when my business is struggling and I keep seeing my friends liking and sharing posts from one of the main cheapo, poor quality, overseas made brands that are putting me out of business.”

Ouch.  I feel that pain.  Because it’s happening a lot.  And I’m seeing it from people I thought actually cared about the same things I care about.  About supporting British business and industry.  About buying the best quality they can afford and thinking about their purchases rather than, “Never mind the quality, feel the width”.

It actually makes me feel sick* when I see someone I consider a close friend helping advertise these fly-by-night companies, who mostly import cheap copies from China and have them labelled as their own designs.  I think about the friends and contacts I have in the fashion industry who have worked hard to build up their retro brands and doggedly stuck to their principles – having everything done in the UK and doing their bit to support British manufacturing, even though it undoubtedly costs more – also feeling sick as they watch their friends and customers marketing this stuff for those companies who don’t give a hoot about ethics, supporting this country’s economy or even about the customers who adore the retro/vintage/rockabilly/psychobilly look and scene.  What will these “brands” be doing when the whim of fashion turns to something “new”?  Where will those people who are longtime devotees of the look get their clothing then?  Because I can assure you that those big, cheapo brands are bandwagon jumpers and they will drop the current look for the next big thing quicker than a yummy mummy with the whiff of a new “designer” fragrance.  They haven’t worked long hours perfecting their craft, their designs and their skills.  They haven’t searched and researched in order to bring you quality products manufactured with integrity.  They copied the ideas of those designers who put in the hours and work, handed them over to sweatshops in far flung lands, no doubt squeezed the margins on those factories and are now flooding the market with “their” products.

Woman in retro frock at desk and frowning

Miss Wednesday sweating blood in her workshop. Doing the stuff that isn’t sewing. Yes, she’s grumpy.

I’ve noticed a huge change in the pages of Vintage Life magazine since some of these “brands” started swamping the marketplace.  The pages are now filled with “look books” from the likes of them and most of the smaller advertisers have disappeared.  Where have they gone?  I shudder to think.  There used to be at least 8 pages of “classified” adverts for smaller British brands.  Now there are 2.  And while we’re on the subject of advertising, you know all those features with pretty products from different companies?  Little pictures of delicious items that the magazine have been clever enough to track down and want to share with their lovely readership?  Doesn’t work like that.  In order to have your product included in one of those “What we’re loving this month!” features, you are expected to pay a lot of money.  It doesn’t look like paid for advertising but I can assure you that it is.  And it’s expensive.  Most of the smaller companies can’t afford it, which is why you see the same few big names cropping up time and time again, including some from the US.

So there’s the irony.  Those big companies with their huge advertising budgets who are swamping the market, are also getting the “liker and sharers” to do their advertising for them.  Double whammy!  How they must rub their hands with glee.  “All we have to do is offer one of our cheap as chips products and thousands upon thousands of people are spreading the word for us!  It’s cost us, ooh, less than a tenner!  Result!”  And that’s if they do actually give away all the frocks they are offering…  There’s a lot of fakery goes on with Facebook.  Plenty of accounts aren’t actually real.  It’s a huge problem.

The boutiques are also hit by the swamping tactics.  As the market becomes flooded with these wares, the smaller, middle-ground companies get pushed out and people expect to buy a frock for £24.99 so the boutiques have little choice but to stock those products instead.  Obviously they need to shift a lot of those products in order to pay the rent and overheads on their premises, let alone make a living but if that’s what the customer demands…  Of course, it isn’t long before the boutiques are forced to give up and close their doors.  This is happening all over the country, which is taking away jobs and livelihoods and removing choice from the consumer.

So please, think about what you buy and think about what you’re “liking and sharing” on social media too.  Consider the wider implications of your actions because those ripples go a long way and their consequences may well not be to your liking.

Next week, the importance of that choice.  And coming soon there will be a links page entitled “Miss Wednesday Loves…”  It will be chock-a-block with loveliness of excellent quality and wonderful design and, frankly, spilling over with integrity, although not in a “flappy sandals and knit-your-own-yoghurt” way.  Your go-to resource for all the things that – gasp! – Miss Wednesday cannot provide.  Watch this space.

 

* It should be pointed out, however, that whilst it is a horrid feeling, it’s tempered by the knowledge that none of the people I consider friends will have done this maliciously and therefore it’s never made a blind bit of difference to my feelings towards them and their friendship.