It’s all go in Goodwood Revival Week and beyond

 Frocks, Style, Wednesday March  Comments Off on It’s all go in Goodwood Revival Week and beyond
Sep 142014
 

As you may have gathered, I make a fair number of frocks for customers attending the Goodwood Revival.  When I say, “a fair number”, I mean “a lot”.  Truckloads.  Although that doesn’t really give the right impression, as they are all individually created for each customer rather than by me using production line methods in an attempt to produce lots of the same thing.  Last year I actually had a stand at the Revival and I’m hoping that plenty of the ladies who ordered frocks then will be wearing those frocks at the event this year.  I know – and have already seen some pictures – of those attending in my frocks, including one of the new Bardot frock.  There will be more pictures for me to share with you soon, I’m sure.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend this year – either with a stand or as a punter – but hopefully next year I’ll be there.  Please send me pictures of you in your fabulous frocks so I can enjoy the atmosphere vicariously!

This year has been so full of change and exciting developments that I made the decision back in the winter that I wouldn’t be attending this year’s Revival.  I had to close the shop in Looe, find a suitable new workshop, move, create lots of frocks for existing customers, create an entirely new website, which involved learning WordPress web design, not to mention all the usual guff involved with running a business, sourcing fabrics, notions, etc.  I had hoped to attend as a punter but have been so busy with everything that even that wasn’t possible.  But it’s all good.  And there are even more exciting times ahead.

I think most people know that I’ve been sewing for a long time.  A loooooong time.  Mother started me on embroidery at a very early age.  By the time I was about four, I think everybody in the family had a dressing table set – whether they had a dressing table or not – and I remember very clearly thinking, “Bugger this, I’m going to make a frock!” as my older sister was making some beautiful things for herself.  I’ve sewed on and off throughout my lifetime, mostly when ready-to-wear fashion just didn’t float my boat and I’ve made a lot of frocks in that time.  I love making frocks.  Obviously.

But what I have always wanted to do is create amazing tailored numbers, like Christian Dior’s New Look.

Woman wearing 1947 wasp-waisted suit

A suit from the 1947 ‘Corolle’ collection by Dior.

I’ve drooled and sighed over pictures – and occasionally the real thing – and dreamed of creating such things.  Mother’s favourite aunt, my Great Aunt Gladys, was a tailoress, which is a major step up from a humble dressmaker.  She was very skilled indeed, although she died when I was still quite young and I never got to learn from her.  Mother did, though, and Mother produced a creditable “Chanel” suit for me when I was 15.  Admittedly, its birth wasn’t without some complications and I swear there was a footprint on the inside of the jacket where it had been thrown on the floor and stamped on, but it was a joy to behold and wear and clearly said, “Bespoke” in its workmanship.

Every year, usually when the Autumn/Winter collections start appearing in Vogue and the like, I go through a period of longing for beautiful tweeds from Harris, Linton and other top-notch sources.  I have made myself many a skirt in tweeds and boucles but somehow my nerve always fails me when I’m looking at paying out £35 a metre for fabric that’s been carefully hand-crafted by artisans in England and Scotland.  I want and need to learn more.  Especially about hand-finished jackets and the like; I want to do those fabrics justice.

So I’ve enrolled on a tailoring course.  A proper City & Guilds certificate in fashion Tailoring.  And, having spoken to the tutor already, I’m really rather excited.  I just hope it goes ahead.  Located, as I am, in the wilds of wonderful Cornwall (although Bodmin Moor is also known as “The Arse End of Nowhere”), there’s no telling what call there will be for the course and it may not entice enough people to be viable.  It’s not a cheap or quick undertaking, by any means, but the tutor said that apparently there have been others enrolling so I am hopeful.  And really, really excited.  Did I mention that already?  Really excited.

Watch this space.

Sep 072014
 

It’s been quite a week at WM Headquarters.  What with numerous fabric issues – some insurmountable – rearing their ugly heads, plenty of stitching for orders required this month, someone chasing a frock that had already been delivered (I knew I sent that one Special Delivery for a reason!) and a major hurdle just blown out of the water, it’s no wonder I eventually woke up this morning very, very late and with a horrid, dull headache.  Thankfully, the Mr Tigglesworth (aka The Ginger Whinger) kept most of his disapproval to himself (mainly because I fed him immediately and even he finds it difficult to yowl with a gob full of Royal Canin) and the chigguns were more interested in corn than giving me grief.  Funny how feeding things usually puts a stop to whinging, isn’t it?  It works with everything from poultry and cats to children, teenagers and men.  Obviously, with teenagers you have to factor in the accusatory looks, stabbing with a fork and obligatory “Are you trying to kill me?” glares but provided you’ve coped with their latest vegan/no green stuff/if it doesn’t come with breadcrumbs I don’t want to know sensibilities, you’re still on to a winner.

After a bit of gentle pruning* in the garden to see if a spot of fresh air would help, I gave up and donned my trusty Toggis for a rampage over the moor with Alfred.   And here’s the shocker; I didn’t bother with make-up and my hair wasn’t exactly sleekly groomed.  I know.  I’m sorry, I should have warned you.  Used as you are to the image of Miss Wednesday never leaving her dressing room without being fully frocked and with a full face of maquillage, this is a bit much for you.  But, truth be told, she does occasionally – usually on Sundays – skip the eyeliner and bright lipstick.  Today there was just a coat of Besame mascara and a smear of Besame cherry lip balm, because without those she really is frightening.  On days when all you want to do is put your head under pillow in a darkened room, a full face of makeup is just not happening, public image or no.

Inner Goddess:  Oh no!  What if somebody sees me?  What will they think?

Inner Realist:  For goodness sakes, you’re five foot feck all and 46.  That makes you invisible.  Nobody’s going to even see you.  Especially if you hide behind the dog.

So Alfred and I went over the moor, hoping for a nice quiet rampage with no extraneous people.  Alfred had been fed and I’m not a people person so there really was no need.  Naturally, this meant that we saw plenty of people out enjoying the sunshine and blackberries.  And what did I hear, when I’m trudging along, feeling like a bug-eyed mutant whilst attempting to control a huge, manky deerhound who has his eye on a big bag of freshly picked fruit?

“Oh my goodness, that is a GREAT dress!”

Excuse me?!  Here am I, wandering, sans maquillage and heels, traipsing over Beastly Bodmin Moor with the Hound of the Baskervilles and a random bloke notices my frock?

“I’m sorry, but it’s fabulous.  And I do like to compliment wonderful things.”

Well.  Thank you, sir.  Thank you very  much.  Your compliment is much appreciated.

Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t compliment a stranger.  It’s not sexist – women are just as capable of appreciating a well cut suit as men are a decent frock – and quietly telling the wearer of your approval is always appreciated.  And there’s nothing whatsoever stopping a woman from telling another woman she looks amazing, ditto a chap.  (“Suits you, sir!”)  Just as enjoying what you wear makes life more fun for you, having other people appreciate your effort just adds to that happiness.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that by dressing well, we aspire to enrich the lives of others.  Isn’t it nicer to see people dressed beautifully than slouching along in gratuitous sportswear?  Of course it is.

And it just goes to show that you should never underestimate the power of a good frock…

Tiered sundress in tropical fruit and flower print

The frock in question, the prototype Bardot, in a tropical print. The refined version – in a pale pink rose print – will be unveiled at the Goodwood Revival next weekend. See if you can spot it!

 

*  For ‘gentle pruning’, read ‘wholescale destruction’.  And be grateful I didn’t train as a hairdresser…

Winter Is Coming!

 Frocks, Style, Sustainable fashion, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Winter Is Coming!
Aug 242014
 

What do you mean, ‘it’s only August’?!  It’s decidedly nippy out there and this morning was positively autumnal up here on Beastly Bodmin Moor.  So my thoughts have turned to warmer things, ie knitwear, tweed, furry stuff…

As my friends know, during the winter (which in my book runs from mid-August until at least the start of June), I am usually draped from head to foot in cashmere, tweed and, well, not to put too fine a point on it, animals.  Mostly as by-products of the food industry (ie, sheepskins, reindeer pelts, etc) but sometimes this involves the pelts of long-dead critters, sacrificed in a by-gone era when people’s sensibilities were very different and central heating hadn’t been invented.  (I’m not going to add insult to injury to the poor thing that died in the name of warmth by throwing it away like disposable rubbish.  That’s my point of view but I know others feel very differently on the subject.  And you don’t want to know what I’d do to the utter bastards who shoot things for fun rather than food or self-preservation.)  And sometimes the animals involved in my pursuit of warmth are still very much alive.  I’m frequently found on the sofa, buried under a large, gently snoring, shaggy, grey rug, also known as a deerhound, often with a couple of smaller rugs in the form of Mr Tigglesworth and the Weasel, (a Ragdoll and a Norwegian Forest Cat) for good measure.  Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  And it does get very cold up here on the moor, especially when the wind’s in the wrong direction and the blasted Rayburn’s gone out.

Deerhounds all over the furniture

Still from the 1945 movie “I Know Where I’m Going” with Mrs Potts and her “half starved hounds” just in from a bracing walk and throwing themselves onto the sofas. Could be Miss Wednesday’s house on any given day…

But to cut away from that charming, domestic scene and get to the point of the post, I was actually wondering what other people who like ‘vintage’ stuff tend to do for winter wear?  More than one person this summer has asked about “winter stuff” and said that they struggle to find anything “retro” (eg, 1940s or 50s style) in anything other than summer frocks.  Really?  Oh.  Please don’t make me take up knitting.  You wouldn’t like the result.  Hell, I don’t like the result and, frankly, it’s a waste of decent yarn.

So, what do you want, then?  Give me a clue?  Tweed?  I like tweed.  Tweed is good, as is wool serge and flannel.  Full and circle skirts in wintery fabrics?   Lovely.  Pencil skirts in tweed?  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, just say the word.  Coats, suits and jackets?  Well, we can talk about it.  I’m happy to talk about it.

Knitwear?  May I respectfully direct you to either my beloved Brora, purveyors of the best cashmere with plenty of perfectly proportioned cropped styles that work beautifully with waisted outfits and full skirts, or the rather wonderful Miss Fortune, who has been supplying me with delicious knitwear for a couple of years now and has been seen photographing some decidedly nifty nordic-patterned knitwear lately.  Keep an eye on her.  I intend to…

I have been attempting to persuade a very talented friend to take up the challenge of recreating 1940s knitwear on a bespoke basis.  She’s thinking about it.  From under a nice warm pile of whippets.  (We do like our pointy dogs!)

But seriously, please let me know what you’d like.  I’ll probably be delighted to make it for you.  At the moment, I keep busy with what are, to me, summer frocks all year round but I know I don’t wear them in the winter and surely I’m not the only person who’s part lizard?

Just don’t ask for trousers.  Unless they’re old fashioned style jodhpurs.  I’m thinking about those.  Some days it gets a bit drafty walking across the moor in the teeth of a howling gale with my skirt up round my ears…

Woman and deerhounds silhouetted against the sky

Mrs Potts walking the hounds whilst clad in a fetching kilt/skirt, just as I do.

And if anybody’s actually interested in seeing more of the mad woman and the gorgeous dogs, the best bit of the movie can be viewed here on YouTube.

 

Times Change – And So Do Sizes…

 Frocks, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Times Change – And So Do Sizes…
Aug 172014
 

Last weekend, we were treated to some wild and woolly weather, up here on Beastly Bodmin Moor.  While the predicted weather (Hurricane Bertha) mostly passed us by, we are 600 feet above sea level and it did get rather blustery.  So blustery, in fact, that my usual dog-walking attire (for which read “usual attire for pretty much anything and everything during the day”, ie a full skirt or frock) wasn’t going to be a good idea on the Daily Rampage over the moor.  I’d tried hanging out some washing and my skirt ended up over my head, which meant I couldn’t see much and the pegs weren’t colour coordinated, thus not getting my day off to the best of starts.  Goodness only knows what would have happened if I’d had that happen whilst walking Alfred;  I could have fallen down a mine shaft or tripped over a sheep, not to mention traumatizing anybody who actually witnessed said sight.  No, it would never do. There was really only one option open to me; search for the pair of emergency trousers that lurk somewhere at the back of the airing cupboard for days when a skirt really doesn’t work.  Those days are rare and the trousers last saw the light of day back in November 2010.

Before your world disintegrates at the idea of Miss Wednesday wearing trousers, let me reassure you that they are not polyester hideosities or trendy, skinny jeans but a pair of cream-coloured, non-stretch, classic Marks and Spencer, slightly tapered jeans, of a fair vintage.*  Going by the label in them, I’d say that they dated from 2000 at the very latest, because they have both the “St Michael” brand and the “Marks & Spencer” brand labelling, indicating the time when the brand was transitioning from the former to the latter.  That isn’t as interesting, however, as the size label.  I bought them back in about 2008 from a charity shop and they were labelled by that emporium as “Size 12”, so bearing in mind that they are very definitely non-stretch, I wasn’t surprised that the waist was snug.  Last Monday, I checked the label inside and saw the legend, “Size 14”.  It then gave me more information: “28 inch waist”.   What?!  Seriously?  Size 14 clearly labelled as being for a 28″ waist?!  Halleluyah!  Nobody ever believes me when I tell them about ‘vanity sizing’, they just think I’m a sizeist old harridan.**

Size label from inside of jeans

Size 14 jeans from 2000

There we have it in black and white.  Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, a size 14 was meant for a 28″ waist.  These days, I find people get slightly huffy when they discover that my Medium/Size 12 skirts have a 28″ waist and they need to buy a Large/Size 14 to get a 30″ waist.  (Dress sizing is different as I allow more generous waists for ease of fit and access.)

I checked Marks & Spencer’s up to date size guide and find that their current guide says that a Medium/Size 12 has a 29″ waist and a Medium/Size 14 has a 31″ waist.  So in 14 years or so, their Size 14 waist has expanded by 3 whole inches.  Which clearly explains why when people tell me they are one size, my head is bellows, “Delusional!”   And why most of my garments, which are almost all made to measure these days, are labelled “Bespoke”.  Yeah, I cater for vanity, too.  Oh, the irony…

 

*  Both the Vicar and Mr March assumed I was wearing jodhpurs as I was also wearing leather riding boots and leading a huge hound, who is often ‘mistaken’ for a pony.  Mr March’s eyes lit up at the ‘jodhpurs’.  Ridiculous.  We’ve been married nearly 10 years; I won’t be wearing those again in a hurry.

**  Guilty as charged.  I am a sizeist old harridan.  But should you wish for more proof that I am not just making it up about the sizing thing, have a read of this, which I posted on the Wednesday March Facebook page a while back.  I’ve also had genuine 1950s cocktail dresses in my shop, the erstwhile March Hare, and the size 16s fit today’s size 6.  If you can find one.