Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My mother's peony dress

I think this is 1950s, possibly early 60s.
Original 1950s dress bought in Portsmouth 35 years ago
The peonies are early, just flowering. They  remind me every year of my mother's party dress. But I can never picture it exactly. In my mind, it's strapless, floor length, printed with hand-sized pink heads, exotic and extravagent. It was always in her wardrobe, the full skirt taking up all the space behind my father's suits.

Even during punk, fashion was stealing from the forties and fifties. Was it to do with the elegance that comes from need? The inventiveness of making do? 

Portsmouth, where I was a student, was a fantastic hunting ground. Poor, run down, it had as many charity shops as anyone could dream of. When I went back to Surrey to work, there were the jumbles in East Horsley that have almost mythical status in my memory. I jumbled in the afternoon to dress up on Saturday night.

A lot of my finds have gone, including ankle tight trousers I made from fabric printed with 50s scenes of Paris in a vague Bernard Buffet style. These two prints survived. They're not as loose around my waist but the blue one will see this summer again. 

And of course my daughter now has her eye on the suitcase on top of my wardrobe. Her prom dress is a homage to the fifties in ironic Brighton style. And she's promised the sequinned sixties number I wore to the TS Eliot awards party that won a compliment from the delightful Mark Doty, just before the announcement that he'd won it that year.

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