Dragged out of my hedge. Again.

 Costuming, Out And About, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Dragged out of my hedge. Again.
Feb 012015
 

It’s been a bit of a busy week.  Miss Wednesday has been busy with performing attire for her alter ego (me!) and The Incredible Miss Tanya to wear on stage on Friday night.  Full circles, naturally, but in a heavy black leopard flock.  Not the nicest of fabrics with which to work but very, very effective when done.  There was a bit of muttering from the Wednesday Witch when Miss Sara (bless her) just happened to mention that the black leopard flock fabric made lovely skirts and wouldn’t that be a nice thing for Friday’s gig but Miss W knuckled down and got them done.

Regular readers may recall my involvement with a folk band/collective called “The Changing Room” and the fun they had at the Looe Music Festival.  There has been much fun and games involving live BBC radio, a lot of airplay and good reviews and the recording of a cracking new album, Behind the Lace, due for release in the Spring.  Then, a couple of months ago, The Incredible Tanya informed the me that she and Sam Kelly had written a new song which had been translated into Cornish to take part in this year’s Kan Rag Kernow competition at the Penventon Hotel in Redruth.  If we managed to win it, we’d have the honour of going on a lovely jolly to Derry in Ireland at Easter to represent Cornwall in the annual Pan Celtic Song Contest.  Thankfully, it was Sam who had to master most of the difficult Cornish lyrics (it’s not the easiest of languages and I’ve rarely heard it spoken well) but, my goodness, he cracked it.  Hal-an-Tow will hopefully become popular and sung on a regular basis in sessions all round the county as it’s very catchy indeed.  (The English lyrics are lovely, too, and somewhat easier to master.)

Attire for the competition was slightly tricky as we wanted to project a coherent image, rather than looking like a rag-tag bunch of hippies, but we also didn’t want to look like “comedy Cornish”!  The flag of St Piran is black with a white cross and Tanya decreed that we’d be dressed in black.  Black?  Do I look like the kind of girl who wears…?  Oh, wait.  Once a Goff, always a Goff.  That’s alright then.  Although I didn’t have a plain black skirt suitable for harping.  (It’s the “cello” effect.  You simply can’t play a harp in a straight, tight or short skirt, unless you want to traumatise the audience and reveal what you had for breakfast, if you know what I mean.)  Miss Sara mentioned the stash of black leopard fabric that I’d clean forgotten about and how lovely her skirt in that fabric was.  So that was that.  Two full circle leopard skirts required for Friday.  Stat.

Woman playing accordion and wearing black leopard flock skirt

The Incredibly Talented Tanya Brittain sporting her full circle leopard flock skirt and a huge accordion. Picture by Bob Griggs.

 

Woman playing green Celtic harp.

Random Hedge Harpist also sporting leopard flock skirt, plus nifty lily of the valley Cornish buttonhole, made by Miss Tanya. Picture by Bob Griggs.

The skirts looked great under the lights.  We’re going to have to do something about the boys, though.  They had found the dodgiest selection of ties on the planet and Jamie had some buttonhole droop issues.  Thankfully they’re a good-looking bunch and they can get away with anything.

But it was an immensely entertaining night.  Imagine a Cornish version of the European Song Contest* and that’s pretty much what you get.  Beards a-plenty.  I had offered to grow one but there wasn’t much time.  Beard of the Night went to Matt Blewett, who probably ought to come to Ireland with us as our mascot.

The Changing Room with a big bearded bloke in their midst

The Changing Room plus the Beard of the Night Award winner, Matt Blewett in the middle. The Changing Room are l-r me, Sam Kelly, Jamie Francis, Evan Carson and Tanya Brittain. Picture by Leafshimmer Photography/Shirin Hodgson Watt.

How did the gig go, you ask?  Oh, well, we won.

Folk band The Changing Room on stage at the Kan Rag Kernow competition

On stage. Picture still from the video shot by Studio Wallop

So we’re off to Derry at Easter!  But before that, we’ll be playing the Falmouth Folk and Cider Festival on Saturday 28th March 2015.  Come and say hello!

And if you should be wondering what we sound like, visit the music page of our website here and have a listen.

* Re the Eurovision thing.  Jokes have been made.  I actually woke up in a cold sweat on Friday morning, having been in the middle of the nightmare that it was the Eurovision we were doing rather than the Pan Celtic.  It wasn’t a good dream and I behaved quite badly in it but I should like to say in my defence that I would NEVER be that rude to Graham Norton in real life…

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…