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.