Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Sunday Solace

The one thing I look forward to more than anything at this time of year is Sunday evenings, and the chance to pretend that I was actually born in the 1900s so that I could be in Downton Abbey. An hour-long glimpse into the world of the roaring 20s is enough to make me squeal (literally), filling me with heady visions of crystals and finger waves and elegantly cut silk gowns. All of that combined with outstanding scripting and impeccable acting results in one happy Hannah on a cosy Sunday night in.

It is the fashions that I want to focus on though. They are what has made this series of Downton stand above the previous two though the calibre of acting and storyline has remained largely the same high standard. Every week there is a new, beautiful creation that speaks of everything wonderful that happened in the 1920s. That is, whilst politically England and most of the rest of the world was stuck in the patriarchal dark ages, at least women were beginning to express themselves through what they wore.


Going into the 1920s, the world hit an era of prosperity, rebuilding itself after the horrors of the First World War. The decadence of this period was reflected in society, through industry and leisure and particularly in the world of fashion. The popularisation of the socialite and party goer in prohibition, yet fun-loving and Gatsyby-esque, America led to an increase in extravagance and the rise of the party frock. The flapper dress became a symbol of the 1920s.

This symbol then made its influence in England and thus found its way onto our screens in Downton’s adaptation of the roaring 20s. Each week there is a new delight to behold as the Crawley sisters adorn themselves in lush silk dresses of rich red, emerald green and soft jacquard peach, and long, beaded necklaces that hang delicately from their necks, their hair in soft yet precise finger waves. If I had to choose a favourite outfit, I couldn’t – all the girls look utterly stunning in their 1920s gowns, one of the most figure flattering and modest styles to come out of any decade. From Mary’s statement red dinner dress, to Ethel’s wedding gown and Sybil’s maternity wear, they all look beautifully elegant.

The 1920s has been one of my favourite fashion eras since I read The Great Gatsby at school, and ITV has yet to disappoint me, continually surpassing my high expectations of this fabulously decadent age. Bring on Sunday night! 


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Feminist Respite

As a working woman I have joined the vast majority of the population with very little free time to indulge in my hobbies, interests or generally anything I would list as enjoyable. Wake, eat, work, eat, work, eat, sleep - my day goes something like this until the weekend, where I feel I need to do the sum total of nothing in order to recover. Obviously I'm not alone in this - this pattern is the norm for most working adults - but I find myself relishing any spare minutes I have to myself to find a bit of cheer in an otherwise monotonous and tiring work life.

Tuesday afternoons therefore are my cue to practically run towards the man handing out copies of Stylist magazine outside the train station. Arms outstretched and a makeup-cracking grin on my face, I clutch my copy of Stylist and eagerly await my 17.47 train so that I can start reading.

Stylist is not like many other magazines; it is an explosion of intellect, excellently written and expertly published, but even more than this it outwardly and proudly proclaims itself to be feminist. This refreshing piece of editorial genius is about to celebrate its third birthday, and with 144 issues so far you might expect an impressive following. However, it is rare that I see anyone else reading it and much more common to find a discarded copy or a hundred people simply walking past the distributor.

This lack of interest saddens me when I consider how much enjoyment I get out of a few articles. I read it from cover to cover every time and have yet to be disappointed. Every issue has a feminist focus, but explores varied and topical subjects, from breast cancer and the exploitative nature of the paparazzi to boutique cake-making courses and high street fashion must-haves. Undoubtedly it is aimed at women - and that is probably partly why I enjoy it - but I also love the way it opens my mind to new opinions, experiences and ways of viewing the world. In particular, I like how it has helped me strengthen my feminist beliefs, preparing me each day to face the male-dominated reality of working in a law firm.

Thus, I urge you: the next time you get offered a copy, take it. You might just find you love it as much as I do!

Take a look at their website where you can read any issue from their back issue library in celebration of Stylist magazine's third birthday.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Naked Truth

Although this isn't a blog dedicated to the life of the Duchess of Cambridge, it just so happens that she has caught my attention twice in one week. Her most recent appearance in the media has sparked controversial debate on a global scale, so I felt that I should add my thoughts to the increasing pile of judgments and opinions.

To begin with I must stress that I find it sickening that there are people out there who will go to such unbelievably extraordinary lengths to make money. Do these people have no moral compass? I struggle to see how any such human could be content to be seen an egocentric, money-oriented privacy invader who will go to any lengths to destroy the reputation of, or quite simply humiliate, their target. Maybe the satisfaction of recognition and a bed of cash to roll around in is enough for some people, but I would hope that the majority of people in this world would have enough compassion to put aside the allure of extreme wealth and respect the privacy of others. I sincerely hope that money cannot buy happiness for the photographer responsible for invading William and Kate's privacy during their holiday in France just over a week ago.

However, it would be wrong to pin the blame solely on the photographer. A photograph would be worth nothing if nobody ever wanted to see it, and so I must criticise the curiosity of man and its infatuation with the Celebrity which has led to the sale of thousands of magazines and the making of millions of web searches. If we did not have this grotesque fascination with the lives of celebrities (who also happen to just be normal people) a photograph like the one in question could never be sold. Yet it surprises me still that so many people also find the invasion of privacy abhorrent. I have not seen the photograph of Kate Middleton (or indeed the ones of Prince Harry) and nor do I want to, but I regret that I probably cannot say the same is true for everyone who shares my opinion of the invasive nature of these snaps. As such, those who harbour a taste for viewing potentially humiliating photographs, merely to satisfy their curiosity over the lives of celebrities, must share some of the blame for the magnitude of this breach of an intimate boundary.

What disappoints me the most, however, is the fact that the photographer was a woman. I see myself as somewhat of a feminist and, although I may not be particularly extreme in my views, I find myself angered when I see any woman being objectified - even more so when that objectification comes from a lens belonging to another female. Some might say that feminism itself has brought about this type of woman - one who is clearly power-hungry and motivated by money, even at the expense of a fellow female's dignity and privacy - and if that is true, it has created a monster. However, I believe that any true feminist would understand the struggle that women face against the objectification of their form by the male sex, and thus it truly sickens me that such demeaning and humiliating treatment of a beautiful, intelligent woman enjoying her holiday with the man she loves, could be the work of another female. Sadly, this seems to be the fate of human nature in a Capitalist world.

If we are to learn anything from this, it is that if we cannot change human nature, we must provide greater sanctions where a true invasion of privacy is shown. Luckily, English law allows civil injuctions to be placed on the use of such photos, but I wonder whether criminal prosectuion might be more effective. If we were to make it an imprisonable offence to purchase photographs like this, editors would soon whistle a different tune when approached by the paparazzi with incriminating shots of a high profile celebrity. However, this still does not solve the problem of a lack of moral compass among those in the media business - it merely gives the impression of morality when underneath is just fear. Still, this may be the closest we get to a law that is fair and protective of our right to a private life and we can only hope that in the future a true sense of morality will find its way to the forefront of our media laws.