More Dash Than Cash

A friend sweetly presented me with a copy of this book which she’d picked up in a second-hand bookshop ... and it kick-started my recent musing on clothes. The book isn’t new to me: it was my virtual bible through my teenage years. Re-reading it has bought back many happy memories of clothes-hunting ... and I still live by the book’s rules today: quality rather than quantity, hunt everywhere for inspiration (and clothes), sew ‘em yourself if you can, and don’t forget the body that houses the clothes.

The images (and writing) are wonderful (it’s a Vogue book after all) but it’s the section at the end that has made me chuckle the most. It’s a light-hearted look at clothing tribes. No-one wants to be pigeon-holed but you’ll soon recognise yourself overlapping in the form of a fashion Venn diagram ... I am no ‘Executive Dresser’ nor ‘Vamp’ but ‘Land Girl’, ‘Country Girl’, ‘Peasant Girl’ and ‘Jumble Girl’ raised some wry smiles ...

Here are some extracts:

THE LAND GIRL: ‘... To avoid the passé surplus look, the Land Girl has to know how much surplus is too much, and where to stop. The essential ingredient to her look is large doses of wit and the unexpected. Neutral, camouflage colours look dead without an interruption of pure white and delicate pastels, which become the vital back-up to the style ... She is permanently on the look-out for a flying suit in mint condition, and Girl Guide or Boy Scout uniforms that fit ...’

THE COUNTRY GIRL: ‘... In summer she swaps warm, practical clothes for a more pastoral Kate Greenaway look. She loves fresh, sprigged cottons in bright and faded Liberty-style prints: tiered skirts edged with pintucks or broderie anglaise, flower-printed shirts with Peter-Pan collars, puff sleeves and narrow cuffs, drawstring smocks that hang over thin, cotton trousers. She protects her favourite clothes with a long, flowery apron – essential for gardening, picking fruit, making jam and baking bread. When it rains she changes from espradrilles into gumboots, throws on the nearest raincoat and cotton headsquare, and lets the rain fall on her face’.

THE JUMBLE GIRL: ‘Her Granny style springs from a tiny budget and a feeling for nostalgia. Everything, except her underwear, is second-hand. Some things qualify as antiques, others are recent cast-offs, picked up for a few pence in a jumble sale. This astute waif haunts every kind of old clothes source: charity shops, market stalls, auctions and bazaars ... with a well-trained eye to see the potential in things that others regard as old rags...’

THE PEASANT GIRL: ‘... The Peasant Girl is something of an all-round-crank [!!!], treating her food, fashion and health with a single-minded reverence. She is a vegetarian gourmet, ready to spend hours concocting exotic, whole-food banquets, medicinal herb teas or natural-recipe skin-care products. Her greatest joy is finding a source of antique, ethnic treasures: a grandmother’s trunk of frail, exotic, embroidered blouses, a sumptuous Chinese dressing gown, even pieces of foreign cloth that can be adapted into a belt, a scarf, or incorporated into another garment. Fortunately the Peasant Girl can sew reasonably well ... When dressing up ... she wears her most exotic, brightest clothes, releases her preplaited (vegetable-dyed) hair into a crinkly, voluminous halo, accentuates her eyes with black and green kohl pencils, and splashes on her special-occasion patchouli oil.’

Oh, and a quick aside: do check out Ginny Branch Stelling’s post on ‘Campfire Girls ‘. I squealed when I saw the health chart! I need one to keep a regular check of my dry-skin brushing, juice-slurping and disco dancing days!

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