Thursday, 3 February 2011
What's That You're Wearing? Catherine Johnson
Sparked by a vicarious frock fest on facebook, and possible ideas for a writer's work uniform (anything from slankets to tassled jumpsuits since you're asking)I thought I'd talk about clothes.
I love thinking about what my characters are wearing, whether it's stays from the 18th century or regency Jane Austenesque muslins, 1940s siren suits, or 1970s Faye-Dunaway- as-Bonnie-from-Bonnie-and-Clyde 30s rip offs. Obviously I get the chance to dress up as a boy too, Russian leather boots, really good hats and floppy lace collars. Actually what I like, as a bloke, is a really good white stock collar and well fitting breeches, and this has nothing to do with Colin Firth.
Historical fiction does give you the ultimate dressing up box. In past stories I've had characters dress as Russian countesses, in Victorian mourning, as posture club molls, and in 1970's fabulous.
Imagine how you'd cope with doing anything wearing stays, or layers of heavy wool. I suppose this is easier for me as I can remember life before lycra. And now I now longer spend the hours I used to thinking about how I look, I can at least dress my pretend people.
I've always loved the idea that clothes could transform - even though it never worked in real life - that you could go from scruffy to sublime with some well judged under garments and good grooming.
I usually wear writing clothes around the house - a variation on pyjamas and t shirts. I think these days pretend clothes are more improtant that real ones.
Having said tha,t there are some real clothes I look back on very fondly, I remember when a second hand clothes shop opened up in my London suburb in 1979. Punk, which involved a lot of dresses made out of pillow cases, (for me anyway) was over, by then and I had some of my best finds there; a cream lace flapper dress that I wore until it disintegrated, a pair of black satin 1940s utility shoes that were always too high for me, a couple of horrockses cotton summer frocks with boned bodices one white with navy polka dots, one pink and flowery. I still have the polka dot one in my wardrobe, one day it will look as ridiculous as the stays.
What are your most memorable outfits, yours or your characters?