09 September, 2007

An Unexpected Chapter One

We were supposed to be doing an Old West Shootinist Society event on the Eastern Shore of Maryland this weekend, but decided not to go because it's a five hour drive and the weather was going to be hot and then stormy and it's bad for dogs. But I didn't want to let down Apprentice #3 by bagging. So I proposed that we dress up in our 1880s kit and walk around Belvidere, New Jersey. This weekend is their annual Victorian Days and I've always wanted to dress up and go.

So after dealing with the infuriating US Postal Service in the morning (yes, there is a reason I use UPS and Fedex), we came home to find Britt waiting for us. I dashed off to change and do my hair while Bob showered and shaved. Then, feeling like I had more on under my dress than was necessary (man, I am NOT used to wearing knee-length bloomers!) we piled into the car and headed for Belvidere.

In a little less than a half hour, we were there, parked, and swanning about. The biggest attraction for all of us, I think, was the antique autos. There were cars from all eras there (including an AMC Gremlin) but we were particularly charmed by the 1930s Model As. There was a pristine 1910 Model T there that we kept going back to. The first car we saw was a light blue 1922 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Oh! Heaven...

Most of the vendors had fake Victorian stuff (like the craft shit my Mum likes so much). And hat guru Britt was put off by a shop of hats that started out alright, but then were inundated by too much polyester tulle.

{And can we please stop the "Red Hat Society" thing now? Please? It doesn't make you an individual, ladies, if you're wearing the same thing everyone else is. *sigh*}

There were a few vendors who had real vintage stuff. One had some pristine clothing and accessories and I intend to look her up at a later date. I got a cloche for $8 at one and a repro Austrial crystal choker at another. The Morris County Historical Society had tons of cool clothing and accessories they were selling off, but it all had a moth hole or a place where the fur was rubbed off. Bob found a suit that would fit him beautifully, but it had a moth hole right in the back. There were lovely muffs, but I feared they would molt.

Right before we left, Bob found some sheet music from the 20s and 30s. I was charmed by a song from a musical subtitled "A Tale of the Spanish Main". On it there was a 1920s "pirate girl" in a bob and red over-the-knee boots. I got it just for the picture. Bob was sight-reading a song called "Valencia" and using that "period" trill. He was only singing to himself under his breath, but drew a bit of a crowd. And then we saw it! "Oh By Jingo!" It's a song from one of our favourite episodes of Jeeves and Wooster. Bob has been looking for the notation online for a while now. And there it was, laying in a pile of sheet music in Belvidere, New Jersey. And then we found another song from "Anything Goes" for which Cole Porter did the music but P.G. Wodehouse co-wrote the book. Hee! So we bought it all. We got 7 for $5. The cover price on one of the sheets was 60c. Tee hee! Now all he needs is a ukelele (and yes, some of this music is actually arranged for ukelele! That's why he started looking at it).

No, we didn't take any pictures. But we might very well be in today's Warren County Reporter or The Express-Times. A reporter from the Warren County paper took our picture and asked our names.

So we went intending to be Victorian, and ended up doing a lot of shopping for our "Long Week-end". To be honest, the 20s and 30s appeal to me far more anyway.

On the way home, we told Britt about our plans to dress in 20s/30s kit and go golfing. She became animated at the prospect of playing mini golf in vintage clothing. I only wish we had caddies... =)

As luck would have it, Bob's catalogue from the Yorkshire trouser maker was in the mailbox when we got home: Spencers Trousers. Custom made AND delivered in 7 days! God, I wish there were bespoke tailors for women.

Revamp has them off-the rack for almost half as much, but you don't get a colour choice.

As for Britt and I, things are so much easier. We don't really have to buy anything new. We took a look at my copy of Everyday Fashions of the Thirties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs and a book of photos from the 20s through 40s that I have and realised that we have all the right clothing to do this right now! Yeah, it would be cool to get plus fours made for ourselves, but women also golfed in skirts and sweaters. And I have at least three of the type of pleated skirt you see all the golfers wearing.

Side note: I really want to make myself a 1930s riding habit. Why oh WHY didn't I buy that pattern from Vintage Cat a few years ago when she had it! She's looking for another for me, but she said they're rather rare. =(

We ended the afternoon with an episode of Jeeves and Wooster, Britt went home, and we took a nap.

07 September, 2007

What Does It All Mean

"The Long Weekend" is a nickname for the period in England between The Great War and World War II. It's a reference to Robert Graves' book of the same name. This book deals not only with the more frivilous subjects of fashion, theatre and sports, but with the changing politics, social mores, science and religion of the early decades of the twentieth century. After the devastation of The Great War, people seemed determined to kick up their heels and enjoy life. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!" But the Great Depression in the US and the growing spectre of Nationalism in Europe cast a shadow over that frivolity by the mid- to late 1930s.

It's entirely true that I was raised on Agatha Christie novels and have read far too much P.G. Wodehouse for it not to show in my writing style. I think Cary Grant is the epitome of what a man should be and Ginger Rogers is the most beautiful, talented and funny woman I've ever seen. I think men should have eighteen suits, each supremely fitting for a specific ocassion, and that everyone should dress for dinner. I think hats should be worn when outside and nothing looks quite as good as a perfect finger wave.

I am a clothing historian by profession, so I spend a lot of my time dressed up in the clothing of other eras. But I don't actually want to live in the Middle Ages or Renaissance or Early Colonial Period. Do I want to go back to the 1930s in England? No! I want to live in a Wodehouse vignette or a Christie novel. I wouldn't even mind a little mystery now and then.

This may sound like Luddite delusion, but really it's not. I live in a high tech world where my business depends on my ability to use Computer Assisted Drafting software, print on industrial ink-jet plotters, and maintain an e-commerce website. I'm not going to throw that over. I don't want to travel back in time because I know all too well the realities of that time period. It was not the world we see in the novels I love so well. I don't want to live in a world before penicillin where people still contracted life-long illnesses like polio. I don't want to live in a world where my word as a woman was somehow less. I don't want to be either a daughter or a wife but not a person of my own.

But that doesn't stop me from loving the clothes, the style, the attitude...

This blog is my self-indulgent foray into living a life of style and refinement. It's about dressing up and paddling along the canal, possibly with a silly gentleman crooning to his own ukelele playing. It's about wearing plus-fours on the golf links and playing a round with wooden clubs. It's about crossing the Atlantic by ship and taking a trip on the Orient Express. It's about dining and dancing and having a laugh.

Won't you join me?