Fashion Week Fury…

 Frocks, Style, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Fashion Week Fury…
Sep 182016
 

It’s my favourite time of year!  Fashion Weeks all over the globe.  Lovely.  Inspiration and fun everywhere.  Autumn issues of proper fashion magazines are heavy with beauty and ideas.  The press is full of glorious and mind-blowing takes on how to clothe bodies.

And the inevitable whining about “aspirational” body images, the potential for exacerbating eating disorders and models who are “too skinny.”

As Hadley Freeman points out in this Guardian article,  it’s a bit simple to point to Vogue as the cause of a mental illness but seriously, why all the hate for designers using models who make their clothing ideas look good?  The creations that go down those catwalks aren’t bought by – or even manufactured for – the high street.  They are inspiration, and couture; key elements of what is shown there filter down to the mainstream over the coming weeks, months and seasons.  Take away the aspiration, inspiration and the beauty, and you’ve pretty much buggered up the clothing industry.  Let’s all shop at Evans* and camping stores and feel no joy in the garments with which we choose to clothes our bodies.

The protestations that the unattainable standards are adversely affecting women’s views and care of their bodies don’t really hold water when the majority of people in the UK (and let’s not start on America) are overweight, with a frightening proportion actually being obese and morbidly obese.   No, it isn’t pretty and no, it shouldn’t be comfortable to look at – or the norm.

Ladies on catwalk in 50s frocks

Some of my models from a fashion show I did with People & Gardens back in 2014. A very diverse selection of lovely models, who strutted their stuff and did me proud. Cost me a fortune and not one single sale or order off the back of it, but I’d happily do it again for the sheer joy. Picture stolen from the Cornish Guardian.

 

As a clothing designer and maker and one-time owner of a shop that sold other people’s designs as well as my own, I learned the hard way that larger size models don’t sell the clothing.  Those images won’t appeal to the customers who would otherwise be in the market for the clothing and because larger size people don’t actually want to see an image showing what they’ll look like in the garments; everybody wants the inspiration and aspiration.  Ask other designers and they’ll tell you the same.  Many “vintage style” designers have explored the “plus size” market, after being badgered and badgered to enter it.  We have pretty much all lost money and ended up with garments we couldn’t sell and promotional photography that didn’t help our business in any way.  Sad but true.

Teach children that all bodies are different but equally wonderful and that a healthy body is the thing to strive for rather than a certain size or shape but please stop demonising the slim and the “coathangers” who promote the fashion industry’s wares.  They show off clothing better and are therefore appropriate for the job they do.  Take the ideas and inspiration and put your own twist on it.  Make it your own, for your own style, image and body shape.

We all have a duty of care to children – hell, to other people of every age! – whether our own or in general, to teach that diversity is right and proper and health is the thing to aim for.  As such, we are better placed to do that by example, ie taking care of our own bodies, eating properly, not overeating, getting exercise, mental stimulation and taking an interest and care in the world and everything that makes it.  Less time spent running down others and more time promoting real positivity would be a good start.  As would be boycotting the reprehensible media like the Daily Mail and other similar “institutions”, with their clickbait “sidebars of shame”, who love to promote unpleasantness and hate in so many forms and set us against each other.

Grrr.

*And don’t for one minute think that Evans aren’t guilty of playing with sizes to mess up your head and make you shop there rather than elsewhere. They just do it in the opposite way to other retailers, ie their sizing is smaller than average, to convince the larger people who shop there that there’s no point even trying elsewhere if they have to squeeze into the clothing in Evans.  Unpleasantly manipulative and high time it stopped.

And So The Adventure (In Tailoring) Begins…

 Style, Support British Makers, Sustainable fashion, Tailoring, Wednesday March  Comments Off on And So The Adventure (In Tailoring) Begins…
Jan 212016
 

For a good while now, I have been the subject of some considerable harassment from a friend with an idea in her head.  Angie Voluti is glamorous, charming, opinionated, wilful, deals with highly-powered and stunningly beautiful things – and people – on a daily basis and has correspondingly lofty ideals when it comes to clothing.   She wanted a coat, knew what she wanted (in velvet) and was determined that I should be the one to make it.  I have been, not to put too fine a point on it, badgered relentlessly for months.  Nay, probably years.  I have steadfastly refused.  She has – equally tenaciously – refused to let it drop.

Obviously, neither of us caved in…

Here is the first in a series of guest posts from La Voluti, in which she tells her side of The Adventure.  I do, of course, get to tell it from my perspective but it’s Angie’s turn first…

 

‘The Beautiful Coat’s Adventure started in my mind.  I wanted something that would hug and hold, wrap and isolate.  Elegant but not stiff, with a whiff of eccentricity but without the full gothic regalia.  Beautiful Coat must be out there, I thought.

I cyber-fingered pages and pages of of images with impossibly thin Chinese girls wearing short, Russian-style coats in plastic colours.  Walked in and out of high street shops, chains, superstores and small vintage outlets smelling of old papers and incontinent memories.  Too small.  Too big.  A tent round the waist or too tight around my breasts.   Not a straight line, no.  Nor an extravagant collar.  No, no hood, thanks.  No plastic buttons.  Nope, that would suit my grandmother.  You kidding?  This is for ex-strippers who can’t let go of the sequin.

I came and knocked on Wednesday March’s door.  The March Hare answered.  We spoke the same language.

“Velvet?”

“Go away.  I don’t do velvet.  You want a coat, not a dressing-up costume.”

“Wool, then?”

“Now you’re talking.”

The Adventure started from there.’

 

Angie Voluti

20 January 2016

Good Times and Fashion Failures

 Frocks, Out And About, Style, Underpinnings, Weddings, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Good Times and Fashion Failures
Jun 072015
 

It’s been a bit of a hectic couple of weeks.  Miss Wednesday is up to her eyes in bridesmaids and frocks as it’s right in the middle of Prime Wedding Season and her alter ego, the Hedge Harpist is wearing her fingers to the bone with gigs and recordings and learning new choons.  Hence last week’s radio silence.  (Well, I say, “radio silence” but there’s been a fair bit of airplay on the actual radio!)

Thursday of this week saw two members of the Petticoat Club (Miss Tanya and the aforementioned harpist, wearing her favourite tulip print frock) at the Royal Cornwall Show, along with their Changing Room bandmates, as guests of the lovely BBC.  Much fun was had on the BBC stage, playing live on Radio Cornwall, a set for the audience in the marquee and then, a lot later, a live slot at the end of the BBC Spotlight news programme.  There’s a lot of waiting around involved with the rock and roll lifestyle, but there was plenty to see and do at the show, including beer, chips, ice-cream, sheep and cakey tea.

Two Valaid Blacknose Sheep, small, fluffy and cartoonlike with black faces

Valais Blacknose Sheep aka “comedy sheep”. Cutest sheep on the planet.

The filming of the Spotlight bit was highly entertaining.  Along with the waiting around, there’s an enormous amount of faffing and fussing for the technical crew, to get everybody in just the right place for each shot, without getting in the way of the other shots.  A small space with constantly changing light levels, no marks on the floor as it’s in a field and the big main show ring in the background.  That wasn’t stopping for any mere news programme and happily continued with horses backsides and loud tannoy commentary.  The presenters of the show, Natalie Cornah and Justin Leigh, were absolutely delightful and great fun.  Can’t imagine that it’s their favourite gig of the year, what with the challenging conditions, but they were lovely.  There was a slightly iffy moment, just seconds before going on air as a seagull kindly decorated one of the band but other than that, everything went smoothly.

Two musicians and a small green harp

Waiting around prior to Spotlight. The favourite tulip print frock.

There have been lots of kind comments over social media, in the pub, in car parks, out shopping, etc from people who saw it but you’re spared a link as it’s a news programme and expired two days ago.  There’s a relief…

Bunch of dodgy musicians

The Changing Room filming for BBC Spotlight. Photo (c) BBC South West.

Friday saw the band heading up the M5 to Clevedon to film for Songs From The Shed.  In an actual shed.  A very small but lovely shed.  Chickens and a very handsome cat made an appearance but no sheep and no cakey tea.  Well, it wasn’t Cornwall.  The random harpist wore another WM frock, this time the Bardot design in a tropical print with black grosgrain ribbon trim.  It’s a nice fabric, that one.  Doesn’t show up the cat hair or ketchup spills.  Useful.

Five musicians and instruments in a very small shed

In The Shed!

And then last night there was an outing over the water to West Looe for a spot of supper and then an album launch for James Shead’s new CD, A Light For The Fires.  He played a cracking set and a good time was had by all.  Miss Sara, however, was greatly distressed by some of the fashion faux pas on show.  She insisted that they should be the subject of this week’s Wittering, hence the following timely reminder…

  • Underwear should be just that.  Under.  This means “out of sight”.  Not putting too fine a point on it, a black bra doesn’t look cool under a white crochet top or showing clearly at the back of a pastel-coloured outfit, with crossed shoestring straps.  At best it looks careless, at worst slutty.
  • Uneven hemlines only work when the garment is nicely lined.  A cheap skirt in a light polycotton that goes up and the front and down at the back and that isn’t even well made looks like you’re wearing a nightshirt.  Or would it it was a frock.  Sadly, last night’s offending outfit was topped off with a cropped top and a roll of protruding bare flesh between that and the skirt.  Not a pretty sight.  Nearly put Miss Sara off her wine.
  • Unless you have the body of Gisele Bundchen or are prepared to wear appropriate shapewear, don’t wear bodycon outfits.  Please.
  • And lastly, consider your skintone.  If you have dark hair and lovely pale skin, a sprayed on outfit in white and light grey marl jersey will make you look like a bottle of milk with a wig on.  Sorry.

And here’s Miss Sara, showing how it should be done, in a lovely frock by Miss Fortune with a necklace by Zombie Panda Designs.

Rockabilly girl in red and black frock

Miss Sara

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.