Friday 22 August 2014

Then and now part 3: curtain dresses

I've been rummaging around in my dressing up trunk again.

It all started with my latest curtain dress, which I wore to Serena's for dinner the other week.
That's an old barkcloth curtain I recently scored on ebay. The bodice was from a pattern, but the skirt is made up based on the fact that there wasn't enough fabric. There's never quite enough fabric.
Worn with yellow clogs and a kashmir shawl from a charity shop. I added a free-swinging panel to the front of the dress to give it a bit more movement. It's lined with pink silk from an old blouse of my mother's from the 1980s. The shape reminds me of traditional Thai temple dancer's outfits.
Our starter was baked figs with blue cheese and a rocket salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. There's Serena with her pussy cat, who she rescued from a rather dramatic thunderstorm.
Mushroom risotto with various different salads for main. There's Pool boy, Serena and our friend Claire. We had a heavenly lemon posset for desert and cheese to finish up with. I stopped taking photos after the main course. That's because by then I was a little bit squiffy. I'm still trying to work out whose fault that was. 
Anyway, I got to thinking of the first ever curtain dress I made when I was 17, thirty whole years ago. My parents had left home the previous year, so I had the run of the house and one day when I was rooting around in the loft, I found an old curtain, being used as lagging for the hot water tank. I promptly snaffled it.

I'd been up to London on a college trip and seen a girl dressed like a Watteau shepherdess. At the same time, I had a long white drop waisted dress which I loved, so they were my twin inspirations. I made the pattern up and just hacked.
I'm channeling Mrs Andrews from that Gainsborough picture here. Surveying my back room.
At the time, this dress came almost to the floor on me. I must have been a right short-arse. Not like now ;)

I was wearing this dress the first time I ever saw a picture of Boy George. My friend Chantal had one of his records and showed it to me in our German A Level class.
I used to wear that Victorian petticoat all the time. It is so fragile and patched up now and those Indian leather soled slippers have holes in them. Somehow I can't seem to throw these things away. There is so much of my personal history in them.
I don't have any pictures of me in this dress, but I do have pictures of the other drop waisted dress, the white one, which I was wearing with this 1960s sequinned sweater top.
These black and white photos were taken by my friend Alison who went on to do photography and fine art. She lives in Tuscany now and project manages the restoration of amazing old buildings like this one.
I ended up dying that white dress blue and embroidering flowers on it. By then I had moved to Nottingham and had an artist's studio in a warehouse. It was freezing, so I used to drink a never ending cup of tea and sit practically on top of my gas fire. One day I set fire to myself whilst wearing it and that was the end of that.

Right, enough of my ramblings, I need to get back to 2014, there are things to do! Don't be surprised if you see me in a drop waister soon, I think I'm ready to revisit.


Optimistic Existentialist said...

A curtain dress...what a cool idea!! I love it. And that mushroom risotto looks yummy yummy!

Curtise said...

I'm sorry - did you just say you set fire to yourself? Good grief, what a tale!
I love seeing the old photos of you, and wearing the same pieces. How lovely to be the same size - I wouldn't fit into anything I wore at 17, and I wouldn't have been able to make anything so gorgeous either. The black and white photos are just beautiful, and look at you - you haven't changed a bit! Definitely a pact with the Devil and a portrait in your attic, Miss Freckleface...
Your most recent curtain couture is another beauty, how clever are you?! That pink-lined panel at the front is genius, and what a wonderful print.
Dinner at Serena's looks to be a delicious affair, but what's going on with Pool Boy? How can he have his had in his hands when he's in such delightful company? I demand an explanation! xxxx

Vix said...

I'm with Monk, what's your secret? You haven't changed a bit!! Still bloody stunning!
The new curtain dress is a triumph, I absolutely love it. The silk underneath is a stroke of genius, it does make it look so different and still utterly gorgeous. Love the drop waist dress, too. My favourite shape in the 1980s, so flattering and comfy and make us short arses look loads taller.
That food? Yum! Starving now! xxxx

Anonymous said...

What a lovely jump back in time to see you looking like a babe in arms in your sequin top ! Can't believe you still have that curtain dress : I remember it well :)).
You look very glam in your new dress and gorgeous shawl. Xxxx

Kylie said...

I love your ramblings. They are so delightful and interesting. I love your curtain dresses too. Old and new. You are very clever Tania - and gorgeous to boot!!! I once burnt my BIG CHUNKY (I'm not talking whispy here!) fringe (and lashes and brows) completely off because I hadn't worked out how to operate the oven properly in a share house around the same time ago you made your first dress. Why am I telling you this?! I guess it's because you mentioned setting fire to yourself...
One little question Tania? Do you have freckles? x

Miss Magpie said...

Have you got a picture aging in the attic or something? You don't look a day older!

I wish I could still fit in my old clothes, my waist then is the size of one thigh now!?!

Lyosha Varezhkina said...

oh awesome dresses! the first is totally brilliant! adore!

Helga said...

Loving these old pix, you were, and still are, such a beauty! And to be able to fit your old frocks?! OMG.
Hahaha, I am banned from candles as I've set myself on fire more than once!
I love LOVE the new curtain frock! I especially love 2 fine examples of how to wear it!Curtains make the best frocks! I just scored some lovely barkcloth that will make a splendid frock when I get around to it!
I have, two, drop waist frocks now, but they're fitted, which I think works better on me. I'm often amused remembering fads I had. I used to be into Victorian pantaloons about that time, which I wore under loads of things.

Lally said...

Oh my gosh I LOVE your curtain dress! It's such a beautiful shade of pink, no wonder you nicked it from that water tank! What a beautiful story and the pictures are so lovely. Especially love those old ones of you twirling, fabulous! XX

Fiona said...

What a brilliant story...a dress knocked up from water tank cladding and without a pattern! Seems you were uber talented even at 16. Love the beautiful b&w snaps of you. Sitting on top of a gas fire is perilous I know, but I still do it now. Fortunately I've never set fire to myself but it has resulted in 'corned beef legs' on many occasions. xxx