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.

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.

Is this thing on…?

 Wednesday March  Comments Off on Is this thing on…?
Feb 142014
 

*tap tap tap*

It’s all a bit worrisome, this website malarky.  Not something in my comfort zone.  You can, and should, expect many breaks in service while I put my head under the sofa cushions to block out the modern world for a bit.  Or go in search of gin to help with that aim.  I find gin to be very effective…

So, here I am having a little play with a WordPress website thingy.  Apparently, “blogging is the way to go and people will like [my] witterings”.  It has been suggested that people may even snort their gin over their screens when they read said witterings.  I’m not sure I approve of that, although have to admit that it’s not an uncommon scenario here at Wednesday HQ when something tickles my fancy.  I may be a Grumpy Old Trad Hag but even GOTHs have a sense of humour.  Somewhere.  Mine is usually clad in well-cut black and sniggering at something that isn’t necessarily funny or the least bit politically correct.  You will need to accept this if you choose to stick around.

As well as gin and cowardice breaks, you should also expect a lot of stuff about frocks.  Mostly mine, obviously, but others will no doubt feature, along with ramblings about shoes, make-up, dogs, cats, chickens, the utter madness of the world today and my fixation with fixing the planet’s problems starting in our own backyard.  Globalisation, industrialisation and supermarkets are likely to come under fire.  My loathing of exploitation of resources (both natural and human) in the cause of greed and much cheapness will be abundantly clear.  I refuse to sacrifice my principles at the altar of Mammon.  So there.  (Yah, boo, sucks and bagsy.)

Come along for the ride, if you’d like to.  There will be frocks and gin.  And if you should decide you are unable to live without one (or more) of my frocks, there will be a way to contact me and organise the commission and delivery of such.  Just don’t ask me how at the moment.  Unless you leave a comment.  Ooh, yes, there’s an idea!  Do leave a comment!  Leave a comment anyway!  That’ll make me feel a little less like I’m talking to myself…