Bargains!

 Frocks, Support British Makers, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Bargains!
Aug 022015
 

It’s been a funny old “summer”.  Not quite what one ordered but such is life…

Miss Wednesday has been a bit quiet on the blogging front as there have been some fairly major things going on behind the scenes.  She’s also now accepted the fact that she is absolutely rubbish at made to measure when it comes to her own measurements.  Bespoke frocks for other people?  No problem.  Run up a little number for herself?  Ah.  Odds on it won’t fit.  Anywhere.  Somewhere in her head, Miss Wednesday seems to be convinced that she’s six feet tall and in possession of a bust.  Body dysmorphia?  Delusional?  Who knows.  Truth be told, she’s five foot feck all and 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.

But Wednesday’s failings are – potentially – your gain!  Because a couple of the sample frocks she made in “her size” are now up for grabs.

Firstly, the beautiful “Joan” style, with a dropped waist below a gently curved bodice (so it doesn’t just drop and make you look like an ironing board) in some stunning wildflower print fabric by Makower.  Wednesday was very excited about this and intended it as a stage frock for her alter ego, the Hedge Harpist, but has now come to terms with the fact that it’s just too big so she’ll have to make another.  Maybe.

Ladies dress in cream flower print fabric, with dropped waist and box pleated skirt.

“Joan” frock in wildflower fabric from Makower.

And a closer look at the fabric…

Makower printed fabric with dragonflies and foxgloves

Dragonflies and foxgloves!

The frock is, in theory, cut as a size 10 but it’s definitely bigger than that.  More of a 12.  Normally, one of these would be £145 in this fabric but this one is up for grabs at the sample price of £95 plus £4.50 P&P.  If you’d like it, just email wednesday@wednesdaymarch.com and have a chat.  Send your measurements and Wednesday will be honest about whether she thinks it’ll fit/suit you.  The frock has a side zip and the bodice is lined in white cotton poplin.

Meanwhile, she will be crying quietly into her coffee and bewailing her shortcomings.  Not least in height…   And when she’s taken a picture of the other frock she made for herself, you’ll get a chance to grab that one, too.  A different style but cut for somebody taller.  Watch this space!

New Year, New Office!

 Support British Makers, Wednesday March  Comments Off on New Year, New Office!
Jan 112015
 

It was a bit of a surprise, to say the least, to get a phone call on Tuesday 6th January, to tell me that I could now have the keys to the office I’d been promised in another building, away from the delicious but unwelcome smell from the Thai takeaway next door to the current one.  I picked the keys up later that afternoon and poked my head briefly in the door of the new office, seeing it empty for the first time.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take in the state of the carpet (you don’t want to know, and this morning I found a nice lump of chewing gum hidden underneath the phone on the carpet) or the state of the walls.  (Remember when Blu Tak was heralded as being the best thing since sliced bread because it didn’t damage walls?  Well, that was a whopping great fib!)  I was shown the kitchen (miles away from the office and with two flights of stairs in between), and a chap who introduced himself as the “random bloke who lurks in the kitchen”.  At this point, I thought that maybe it would be okay.  Neighbours with a sense of humour are a good thing.

On Friday, I took the first, largely symbolic rolls of fabric and a pattern folder to the new office, along with my Bernina and tailoring stuff.  Looking round the office properly for the first time, I noted the state of it (oh dear), checked that I could reach the bird table from the window (bird food will be purchased forthwith) and checked out the alarm system.  The office is older but bigger and there are more people in the building.  So far, the natives seem friendly.

Two rolls of fabric plus a folder and a sewing machine

The first rolls of fabric arrive, along with a pattern and sewing machine.

On Saturday morning, Mr March and I started the move in earnest.  There’s so much to move!  Still!  We haven’t moved all the big, heavy stuff yet; we have that joy to come today.  And then we can decide whether or not a cutting/worktable can be constructed.  At the moment, we’re thinking that the room is still too small, although the possibility of braked castors may make it possible.  It would make life a lot easier to be able to cut at a comfortable height and also save trying to persuade the Council to replace the floorcovering.

So far, we have the petticoat rail installed, the shelving unit moved and an identical new one purchased and installed alongside it.  Already, things are looking up.  Shelving!  Boxes on shelves!  Tidy(ish)!

Bookcase with assorted boxes and rubbish

Old shelves…

Bookcase with assorted boxes and containers

New shelves…

Clothing rail with assorted garments hanging.

Panic not! The petticoats are fine!

Just don’t look at the other end of the office…

Office with stuff everywhere

Oh dear…

You looked, didn’t you?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It will be fine, though.  It will.  Mr March and I will shift rest of the equipment and hopefully by Monday I’ll be ready to have the phone line switched over.  The number isn’t changing and the change will be instantaneous, apparently, once the word is given.  It’s quite exciting!  New address is on the contact page already.  It’s not much different from the old address; same park, different building.

Watch this space…

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 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.

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…