Sweetly pretty or a Rockabilly edge?

 Frocks, Style, Support British Makers, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Sweetly pretty or a Rockabilly edge?
May 242015
 

This season’s crop of fabrics has thrown up an interesting dichotomy for Miss Wednesday.  She loves retro styles and proper frocks and very much enjoys the cheesecake and pin-up styles from across the Pond.  But – and it’s a big but – she also likes subtler, pretty, very English prints and less traffic-stopping designs.  Miss Sara, bless her, was becoming increasingly depressed at the number of new fabrics arriving at WM HQ that just didn’t fit her more rockabilly style and, as Number One House Model, she felt an intervention was required.

So she sighed a bit.  Wobbled her bottom lip.  Stamped her foot.  (She’s very good at that, is Miss Sara.)  All the usual signs of an impending tantrum were displayed but in the end she sat Miss Wednesday down and said, “Look, I haven’t had a new frock in ages and none of these new fabrics do it for me.  So what are you going to do about it?”

Fair play.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get and, frankly, Miss Wednesday was buried so deeply – and happily – in wonderful English countryside prints that she just hadn’t noticed.

“Oh, yes,” she said, blinking in the light and casting her gaze around the workshop for something.  “I’d forgotten I have something for you.”  And there, pinned to the notice board was a fabric swatch that made Miss Sara’s heart beat faster.  She wanted something new and “different” for an impending scooter rally so the new fabric was perfect.  Scooters, Hawaiian flora and girls in swimwear.  Even her Nice Young Man wasn’t going to roll his eyes at this new frock!

1950s style sundress in Hawaiian print with scooters and girls

Miss Sara’s new frock

Miss Sara was overjoyed.  The bottom lip stopped wobbling and suddenly stamping feet started jumping for joy.  The selected colour way was purchased and the frock run up in double-quick time for the rally, where it was received with approval.  Miss Wednesday doesn’t enjoy working with fabric printed with large figures because she has to waste a lot in the cutting so as not to behead any where it matters on the garment but, as suspected, the scooterists didn’t tire of pointing out, “‘Ere, you’ve got a bird on each tit!” so the effort was well worth it.

And so Miss Wednesday was able to retire to her English designed and printed fabrics for a while.  At least, until Miss Sara kicks off again and wants something else “special”.*

The moral of this Wittering?  Well, Wednesday March is all about retro but your way.  If you don’t see quite what you’re after, just ask.  After all, the old adage, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” does still hold true in many areas of life.  Approach Miss Wednesday with caution, mind your Ps and Qs – if possible, bring gin – and she may well make you the frock of your dreams.  Other fabrics are always available and one-offs are definitely possible.**

This is the latest fabric and a different style of frock (okay, one she’s done before but not regularly and certainly not in a couple of years) is currently under construction.  Watch this space.

Makower printed fabric with dragonflies and foxgloves

Dragonflies and foxgloves!

 

 

*   Miss Sara has already asked and current betting is that it will be around about a week before the lip starts to wobble.

**  Within reason.  She’s still not stitching velvet or jersey for anyone.  Sorry.

May 172015
 

So.  Stockings.  Proper clothing or erotic fripperies?

When I was casting around in the darkness early this morning for a subject to upon which to witter, a friend said, “Stockings!”  And followed it up with, ” I like wear them (when I’m dressing up) in preference to tights. But I seem to be unusual.  . . .  Have they just become erotic bedroom wear, or are they still proper clothing?”

I’ll nail my colours to the mast right now and state that I am a fan and a wearer on a normal, daily basis.  I like stockings and I always have.  I dislike tights and just don’t wear them.  Ick.  Nasty.  Make me feel like an oven-ready chicken, which isn’t a good thing in anybody’s book.  (I hope.)  I’ve worn stockings in preference to tights since I was a teenager (although not in my adored black velvet “Addicted To Love” frock, obviously) and never really think about them as being “bedroom wear”.   Admittedly, I do occasionally wonder whether I should make an effort to be more graceful when attempting to get my seams straight or even just doing up the back suspenders, but, frankly, I’m 47 and sometimes life’s too short to wonder who might be watching.  Especially when the only audience for such antics are a dog that wants a walk, a cat that’s more interested in inveigling itself under the duvet unnoticed and a spouse who doesn’t do mornings and isn’t even awake.  Bedroom wear?  Hmm…

Of course, if I decide to take my kit off and wander around the house with the stockings on show later in the day or evening, then all bets are off, the cat is evicted and the dog can whistle.  But no, stockings, in my opinion, are proper kit.  They’re healthy (all that ventilation), retro (with seams or RHT) and economical.  After all, if you ladder one leg of a pair of tights, then you have to replace the pair.  Ladder a stocking, replace one stocking.

And they fit.  I’ve never really got the hang of the sizing of tights.  The size charts are bonkers and usually tell fibs.  I may be short but my backside is ample so do I go for “small” and hope they are bit enough around the arse and not take up the extra from the legs?  Or do I err on the side of caution and go for “medium” knowing they should be more comfortable around the top but will almost certainly bag at the ankles.  Difficult.

Last night, Spouse and I went out to a ‘do’.  One of our friends was wearing a very nice lace frock and smart shoes.  She looked lovely but she was also obviously not comfortable.  After a couple of sherbets, she started to giggle and hitched up the frock to show the tights, with the crotch midway between her knees and where it should be.  How she managed to totter around in that state all evening without giving up and removing the offending hosiery, I will never know.  Top marks for dedication.  I did suggest that maybe stockings would be a better solution but, “Eeeeeuuuuwwwwww!” was the emphatic response.  I took it as a ‘no’.

Back when I had the shop, people were always spotting the stockings, suspenders, corselettes, etc and commenting that “they always look uncomfortable” or “difficult”.  Nope.  Not a bit of it.  Just make sure you buy a suspender with six straps and clips, thereby evenly distributing the pull of the stockings (comfortable) and helping to keep any design or seams straight.  You don’t even have to worry about the stockings when you go to the lav.  Suspenders under knickers, obviously, and all’s easy peasy.  (Don’t try the knickers over the top tactic with a corselette or merry widow, though.  Unless you are prepared for (a) total failure and (b) to collect photographic evidence and share it, because it would be hysterical.)  There are also hold ups, which are a far cry these days from the ones I tried in the early 1990s and pronounced to be the work of Satan.  Nowadays they’re topped with silicon and stay up without squeezing and painfully cutting off the circulation to your legs.  Admittedly, there are times when the buggers will suddenly decide to descend to your ankles and there’s nothing whatsoever you can do to make them stay up but these situations aren’t too frequent.

Where to source stockings, though?  Ironically, seamed stockings seem (oh glory, I’m on punning form today) to be far more plentiful than non-seamed, plain ones.  The obvious source is the wonderful What Katie Did, who are just the best when it comes to retro underpinnings.  Their Retro Seamed stockings are wonderful and last far longer than any other brand I’ve tried and it’s wonderful to have the choice of three skin tones (pale nude, coffee and chocolate) plus black.  I am fond of tweeds in the winter and black rarely goes well with anything other than, well, black, so it was a great relief when Katie introduced the two darker tones.

Model wearing a corselette and seamed stockings.

WKD Retro Seamed Stockings in coffee.

WKD also sell fully-fashioned stockings, which are the not-so-stretchy but feel like silk ones.  Yes, the sort that make your heart sing when you feel them.  Total, glorious luxury, exactly like those prized so highly during WWII.  Both seamed and RHT (reinforced heel and toe but no seams) are available, just be prepared for them to bag or wrinkle slightly at the ankle as this is what they do on everyone.  It also indicates to aficionados of the genre exactly what you’re wearing and they will salute you.  You’ve never had it so good…

Then there is that other emporium of hosiery, Pamela Mann, who stock just about every form of legwear you could wish.  I particularly like their seamed holdups and non-seamed lace-topped stockings.  I can’t find their Charleston stockings on the website now, which is a pity because they had a lovely sheen.  Ah well.

Both companies sell opaque stockings, which were something I dreamed of about five years ago and actually danced for joy when WKD introduced them into their range.  There are all manner of combinations of colour and contrast seams, too.

If you haven’t tried stockings, I thoroughly recommend them.  Be sure to invest in a decent suspender belt (you can’t go wrong with one from What Katie Did, provided it has 6 straps/clips) and don’t even think about those cute frilly knickers which comes with suspenders attached.  Stockings exert a downward force and need holding up with something.  What on earth do you think is going to happen to those little knickers?

Yes.  You will probably fall over but at least your ankles will be warm.

I’ll leave that with you.

 

 

 

May 102015
 

Regular readers will know how strongly Miss Wednesday feels on ethical matters, such as food and garments production, living wages, decent living and working conditions, etc.  She can blather on about such things until the chickens give up asking for corn and fall asleep with sheer boredom.  Just recently, we’ve had Fashion Revolution Day, marking two years since the ghastly factory collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, which killed 1133 workers (24th April 2013) and calling on people to think about and instrument a change in global fashion supply chains.

Even more recently, we in Britain had a General Election.  (Oh gawd, not more political bollocks…)  Well, no.  No political bollocks here, not really.  Because, frankly, it’s done and dusted.  For whatever reasons, the people of Britain made their choices and elected a government.  Job done.  And now we have to sit back and let that government get on with creating the country we want.  Don’t we?

Er, no.  No, we don’t.  We all have the power to influence our society.  Every single one of us.  With every single pound we spend.  And with pretty much every action we take.

Life for some is good.  Life for some is harder.  Life for others is unbelievably difficult and accessing help can be an uphill struggle, not always achievable.  We hear so much about “benefit bunnies”, layabouts, shirkers, etc.  But nobody wants to have to go to a food bank in order to be able to put food on the table for their family.  Nobody.  But in an economic climate such as this, where jobs are hard to come by and living wages a mere dream, they are becoming increasingly important.

So, spare a thought for the people who have no choice but to use them.  When you’re shopping, maybe stick a couple of things in your basket that you can pop into the food bank’s collection basket in your local bank, church or community centre.  You will be making a bigger difference than the pound or less it costs you to do this.

And when you do that shopping, how do you feel doing it locally?  Proper locally?  When you spend money in local shops (not branches of national chains), you’re supporting local people.  Not just the proprietors of those shops but the wider community.

For example, the beautiful Lovely Lane emporiums in Polperro and Looe – more news on this in a minute – stock my Ready To Wear range.  So you can actually try and buy Wednesday March clothing in a shop again.  How lovely!  Now, should you choose to purchase some of that clothing (or any of the other locally-produced goods in the shop), who do you think benefits?  Well, Sharon, the proprietor of those shops, me, the other producers, obviously.  But Sharon employs local people in her shops, because although she’s an amazing businesswoman, she can’t be in more than one place at once, so needs people to help her.  People she pays to man the shops for her when she’s off sourcing stock and doing the hundred and more things you have to do when you have a shop. Employment!  Yes, she’s creating employment, giving local people money and opportunities and keeping them out of the Jobcentre and Foodbanks.  And both Sharon and her employees spend money locally, in other local shops and businesses, creating more opportunities for expansion, employment and wealth locally.  I spend my money as locally as possible, doing the same as I’m sure do the other suppliers.  And when our money stays local – or at least in this country – it goes further.  We make our economy work for us, rather than bolstering up multinational firms who, frankly, don’t give a monkeys about any of us as long as they and their shareholders get big, fat payoffs.   Surely that’s an easy way to make a difference?

And, because this is supposed to be a blog about frocks, here’s a picture of one.

 

Sundress in blue and white seashell print fabric

‘Anna’ tie shoulder sundress

The original Lovely Lane store is moving from West Looe to Higher Market Street in East Looe and will be opening on Saturday 16th May 2015!  Exciting or what?  And yes, the tie-shoulder sundress pictured above is one of the garments that will be available for purchase there.  Form an orderly queue, please.

What is it that makes the world go round…?

 Wednesday March  Comments Off on What is it that makes the world go round…?
May 032015
 

Funny how things work out.  The past 8 months have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, to say the least and the pace shows no sign of slowing up any time soon.  Sorry for the intermittent blogging, really must try harder.  And this is a very personal blog post.  Miss Wednesday is otherwise engaged, happily working on her ready to wear collection and quaffing gin for breakfast.  This is me.

Out of the insidious mists of bitterness swirling around the edge of my life, something has become increasingly clear and I feel the need to say it.

Kindness and generosity of spirit are what make the world go round.  And they make it go round so much more pleasantly.

Back in the days when I still had The March Hare in East Looe, people would come in, see that I made the frocks and they’d want to talk about sewing.  Fab.  I like talking about sewing.  Often they’d tell me about their mother or aunt who’d made their clothes and they’d reminisce happily.  Sometimes they’d tell me about their own adventures in stitchery and then they’d tell me about something they found difficult.  So, if I knew, I’d explain how to do it.  I’d show them if I had time.  Some people got a sewing lesson, actually sitting down behind my machine and having a go.  I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve taught how to shirr fabric!

Back view of a halterneck top showing the rows of elasticated stitching.

Back view of the ‘Sara’ top, showing the shirring/elastication.

Yes, I know that’s one of my ‘trademark’ features.  So what am I doing showing other people how it’s done?  I’ll tell you.  I’m sharing my knowledge because that’s what nice people do.  If, throughout history, everybody who could do something went to their grave keeping that knowledge under their hat, then we’d still be in the stone age.  Knowledge is for sharing.  It’s bad enough that much of this country’s once proud and prolific textile industry has disappeared with the incredible machinists who lost their jobs when the work was outsourced to China, but if the skills of the independent seamstresses and tailoresses die out too, then I figure we’re pretty much screwed.  And this goes for just about every other skill set, too.  Pass them on.

Cutting my own throat?  Doing myself out of a job?  Seriously?  Nope.  I don’t think so.  I’m not aware I’ve ever lost a customer through showing them how to shirr fabric or insert a zip.  Most of those who have sat behind my sewing machine and learned how to do those things, still come back to see me and order my frocks.  But they also tell me of their adventures in sewing and we have an even stronger connection.  I like that.  And when they show me the things they’ve made, including the odd frock here and there, I’m really proud to have had a hand in that success.  Chuffed as nuts, actually.

This works in all areas of life.  If you’re good at something and somebody asks you about it, be nice.  If it’s something they aspire to, be kind.  Encouraging.  If you can help, do so.  At least send them on their way with a kind word.  Because your words and actions will be attached to you in their mind forever and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will tell someone else about it.

It’s a sad fact of life that not everybody who is talented or good at something is a kind and generous person.  As a ballet-obsessed child, I had a series of books set at “The Wells”, ie the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School.  I never, ever forgot an exchange in one of the books where they’re talking about one of the dancers, who is just nasty.  It went along the lines of, “Not all good dancers are nice people but the truly great ones are. . .”  It struck me as being very true.   Those icons of whom people love to speak and never say a bad word?  That’s because they were nice rather than mean.  People rave about them for a reason.   It was also followed up by the little gem, “. . . and it shows in their dancing.”  It does.    It truly does.  That goes for music, art, all the creative things.

So, please, never apologise for talking to me about sewing, dogs, music or anything.  I love my life and the things I am lucky enough to do and I love talking about them.  If you need help and I can provide that help, I’ll be happy to do so.  Just ask.  If I don’t have the answer – because, hell, I’m no expert in any field –  I’ll tell you that, too.  And then maybe we can both seek for an answer.

Kindness and collaboration.  A winning combination.  For everybody.