Monday, 29 April 2013

A Grand Historical Bazaar

Last weekend we went to our first vintage event of the year at Rufford Abbey's Grand Historical Bazaar. It was long ever due I can tell you and I'm so excited to have got the events calendar started again even if it is a little bit later than most; at Easter it was Crich Tramway Village's 1940's weekend which is usually the first 1940s event for most of us but I unfortunately didn't make it.

The Historical Bazaar was a mixture of all different reenactors and I really enjoyed mingling with knights and Romans as well as 1940s friends. We met up with a couple who we know from when we used to do lindy hop dance lessons and explored the ground together.

It rained and was pretty cold when the sun went in so I sure was pleased to have brought my umbrella and my fur! When the sun did come out it was glorious but there were a couple of hail storms during the day, luckily I was in the shopping tent when that happened!


There was a lot of hat shopping to do but in the end I settled for this lavender and burgundy beauty. I also got a really cute little miniature top hat fascinator which was just too dinky to refuse.
And a final photo of me with my time travelling partner in crime. As well as being vintage I'm a big geek and in particular a Whovian (Dr Who fan). I often think he's my very own Dr, travelling to different places and back in time together. We have an Audi though which is no where near as cool as a TARDIS. I mean think of the luggage space in that thing, it's bigger on the inside!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

How To Be A Lady: An Elegant Response

As I mentioned in my last post I recently acted the part of a lady in a play though despite the prejudgement some people may make of me I most certainly am not a lady. Sometimes I think that because of the vintage style in which I dress that people make the assumption that I have very old fashioned values and also that I'm a bit posh. I am neither of these things and I do enjoy shocking people when they find out the amount in which I swear. Although I love the aesthetic of the 1940s and 1950s I certainly do not feel that I would like to live in those eras. I am very forward thinking, especially in regards to feminism and women's rights, and I am passionate about equality.

Last week I saw a programme on BBC4 called "How To Be A Lady: An Elegant History". Now I don't particularly aspire to be a lady so I wasn't looking for an hour of televised finishing school but I was at home with not a lot to do so  thought I'd give it a try and if it was just that I would turn over and watch something else, like Don't Tell The Bride. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the programme and felt that it generated a lot of comments of my own which I was compelled to write about since it is linked, in some way, to vintage. I felt like some comments chimed well with my own feelings of being a woman but most importantly I did not feel patronised. I did not feel that someone was talking down to me and questioning my femininity purely because I do not behave in a certain way or know how to create the perfect posy.

You don't have to live in a country pile to be a lady
The show was hosted by Rachel Johnson who previously edited The Lady magazine but admitted herself that she was not a "lady" which instantly made me feel as though I was "in the same boat" as her. She also pulled the handle off a door while being taught the correct etiquette on how to leave a room which made me warm to her even more! She looked into how a lady was originally defined and how perception of what it means to be a lady has evolved over the decades. I won't recount the whole show to you but touch on the two main points which struck me most of all.

First of all Rachel visited an establishment called The English Manner which  provides "international training and consultancy in contemporary etiquette, protocol, the arts, social skills, household and event planning." and it was there that she pulled off the door handle. She spoke to some young women who were at the Manner being taught etiquette and she also met Diana Mather who was one of the teachers. I am paraphrasing here but basically Diana was saying that there is a return to all things lady-like in recent years which she feels is due to our security as women in our equality with men. She acknowledged that men and women are different and believes that women feel able to go back to being more lady-like and treated as such without having to behave like men in order to be taken seriously.

"Playing the Lady" - dealing cards backstage during Carry on Jeeves
I feel that there is not total equality between men and women and there is still a great way to go before this takes place which is evident through the media, equal pay, and most of all people's own attitudes towards the other sex. The most common form of sexism I face is that of everyday comments from people all around whether that be a male colleague trolling me to my face with sexist comments just to get a rise out of me or a male shop keeper being patronising. I do however agree with Diana when she talks about celebrating the differences between men and women. We are different, no lesser than the other, but different none the less. I don't want to feel that I have to behave or dress or act like a man just to get a head or be taken seriously. Equality to me isn't about being the same as everyone else, in fact it's exactly the opposite, it's about being different and acknowledging that but treated with just as much respect.

Later on in the show Rachel spoke to Bidisha who is a feminist writer and you can read her blog here. By this part the show was drawing to it's conclusion and looking at what place, if any, being a lady has in the future. Bidisha was saying that the model of womanhood that's being represented to us through the media is not what some women feel they want to respond to. Through fashion and media women are objectified and it's all very cheapening. She was saying that in fashion there's often more flesh than cloth on show and there's a reaction to this to cover up instead and to be the opposite. There's a trend which is bringing back the formality and elegance to a culture which these days is just quite vulgar. Bidisha said that she feels that being a lady is now so divorced from it original meaning, and the class system it was entrenched within, that we can now take the power back. We can reinvent what a lady is and what it means into being a "brilliant, strong, and sisterly woman."

Do I look like a lady to you?
Well now! That was just such a revelation that I got straight on the phone to my boyfriend to tell him of this enlightening experience I had just had. I have always wrestled with the juxtaposition of being vintage and yet also being a feminist. I've tried but never really found a way to articulate my feelings and there Bidisha said it and I knew it was how I felt about the way that I dress. Now I know she wasn't particularly driving at fashion and clothing but around a whole culture within our society but still her statements drew lines directly to my own feelings of my personal style. YES! I felt like shouting. Now I know that vintage and feminism can go hand in hand. The way I dress is not to harken back to an age where if you fell pregnant you lost your job or equal pay was as common as fairy dust. To me the way I dress is in defiance of the video vixens, the boobs, bums and glossy hair that women are defined by in today's media. So I spend time on my appearance; I like it when I've done my hair in a nice do, and yes I have an unhealthy (for my bank balance) addiction to buying dresses. I am a woman, I am different from men, I enjoy those differences. And no, one shall not be getting one's assets out for the lads.

So there you have it folks. I'm sorry it's been a long and wordy post but there's just so much I wanted to express. I also would like my blog to have more substance than here's a hat I wore or here's a place I went. Hopefully you've enjoyed this post and I would really, really, love to hear any comments or feedback you may have.

How To Be A Lady: An Elegant History is still available on  BBC I Player here. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Playing The Lady

One of the things which has contributed to my lack of blogging in the past months is my current involvement in the world of amateur dramatics. I have done some acting in the past but it was around 9 years ago and I was about 16 years old so I'm not totally sure it counts. I played a lady called Agnes Nitt in a production of Terry Pratchett's Carpe Juggulum and was thoroughly self conscious the whole way throughout mainly I think due to my age. About a year ago though I suddenly had an urge to get back on stage again. I had this insane urge to everything all at once and really piled my plate high with responsibilities. Over time these things have come to an end and my role in the play Carry On Jeeves was the last of those. I didn't have time to feel at a loose end though as I have jumped both feet first into my next performance.

I found it really stressful being in a play but I believe that was mainly down to the fact that I like to catastrophise all situations and I really got it into my head that I was going to ruin the whole thing. I didn't though; I didn't really have a big enough part to be able to ruin the whole play. I'm sure you all know about Jeeves and Wooster as it's very well known so I won't bore you with all of the back ground. I played the part of Lady Florence Cray who was the love interest of the leading man, Bertie Wooster. I not only had to pretend to be posh I also had to pretend to be a really nasty and shouty person; really quite the opposite of how I actually am. I don't know, all this acting lark!

Anyway here's just a few photos from backstage which was an absolute riot, if a very quiet one.