Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Listening to the Kings Speech

My father's 80th birthday is in a couple of weeks, and I have been editing together a film of his life. My grandfather was a keen user of cinefilms and was lucky enough to be able to afford colour film back in the 1930s. This means we have an unusual (for that era) record of my Dad's family life as a child right through that era. I never knew my grandparents, so it's also an important emotional connection to them for me.

And, of course, I just love looking at all the beautiful period detailing on the films, and the fabulous dresses and clothes my grandmother and her friends wore at the time! At some point (when I've finished my Dad's film), I'm planning on pulling out some short clips of the more lovely examples to share here.

In the meantime however, I have found this historically interesting clip that has some current relevance. I've been meaning to post this up since going to see The King's Speech a few weeks ago. It is my grandparents listening to World War Two being announced, and then listening to the King's speech of the films climax later on that same day:

They clearly saw it is so important that they should record listening to it, but having watched the film and learned more about the struggle to deliver it, watching this clip now has a whole load more meaning and context for me.


Meanwhile, a few thoughts on Livia Firth's controversial Oscars dress. The idea of cutting up 11 wearable original 1930s dresses to make one very modern looking one just makes me wince (although it's hard to judge just how wearable they were; see the shop's comments here: ). I can see what she was trying to do; she had a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of the eco message and vintage fashion, and at the same time promote a British designer and a vintage shop. The intention was certainly well meant.

I'm very much into eco-politics myself, so this issue makes me feel torn. The 'upcycling' of vintage clothes has always left me torn just generally. I don't believe things should be left to moulder if new life can be breathed into them again. Our ancestors often took old clothes and refashioned them to adapt them to later times, and vintage examples of this (thirties dresses adapted to be worn during the forties cloth restricted times, for example) can be fascinating. I also find myself thinking of the amazing Eltham Palace ( ), where art deco architecture was merged with an ancient building to create something truy beautiful and unique, that in this day and age, the protections on ancient buildings would never allow now. But on the other hand, the fashion historian in me mourns the history that has been lost when you cut up an old dress - the stories it has to tell about construction, style, social history and the person who owned it, lost forever.

Perhaps the real litmus test should be whether this recreated dress will one day become 'vintage' in itself with it's own stories to tell. It's not to my taste, but perhaps it will. To my own taste, I think the dress she wore to the BAFTA's was far more beautiful and iconic - now there's a dress to be lusted after in the future;


  1. Ha, that was my comment they referenced! The damage they talk about still doesn't appear to justify completely destroying those 11 gowns. Stains can be removed and lace can be repaired, it is a great shame that the opportunity to bring those dresses back to life has been totally removed for good. No-one would think it a good idea to hack up eleven rare antique wardrobes to make one, so why do they think it is ok with clothes?

  2. That's a very good analogy. I'm not completely against upcycling clothes (although if it's something still in wearable condition, I'd rather they didn't!) but 11 dresses into one is taking it way too far...