Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Oh, Dorothy!

This is a Toast Post about dresses.  (If you prefer to read about my actual life, scroll down a few posts!)  In fact, this is a post about Dorothy Perkins dresses, but in classic Bette style, I'm going to witter on about myself for a bit first, so sit tight and wait a few minutes!

This is not a dress.  This is a skirt that I bought in my favourite charity shop in Uppingham.  Despite Uppingham being populated only by elderly people and boarding school junior yuppies, I always find something nice to buy in their Age Concern!  Most recently it was a sparkly red and black dress - in the words of my mum; "tarty", and in the words of my Granny; "Well. We'll certainly see you coming in that."
Anyway, the skirt has a broken zip, so I pin it at my waist, which is good because I can make it sit higher and fit in a more flattering way.  I'm wearing it with a random white top, a mini cardi-thing I bought in America after I did my A-Levels, socks and my super cool Fred Astaire shoes, which were also from Dorothy Perkins, now I think of it.  I was going for a '50s bobby-soxer sort of look, and I wanted a little scarf round my neck with it, but I didn't have one the right colours, but I did find a very '50s-ish pink beads necklace which did the trick instead.

And then I made a cake for Alice, in my funky vintage apron.

I think it's high time that my job starts again - I clearly have too much time on my hands at present!

Anyhoo, that was on Monday, and on Tuesday I cycled into town on a birthday-present-hunt, and I accidentally bought three dresses in Dorothy Perkins.
(I say "bought" - in fact, thanks to a gift card end-of-term present from the loveliest children in the world, who like to fuel Miss Hamer's dresses addiction, plus an attractive buy-one-get-one-free offer on the sale dregs, I actually only had to cough up a very small number of pounds.)

I in fact only went into Dotty P's in the first place to look for yellow tights, which I desire for an upcoming Batman characters fancy dress party.

That's Bette Kane, aka Flamebird, and although I have never watched/read/whatevered any Batman thing in my life, she's my favourite because her name's Bette Flamebird (although I'm informed she's not actually called Bette Flamebird!  Just Flamebird on its own!) and when I'm a famous burlesque dancer my stage name is going to be Bette Flame.  (I chose it years ago, and if any other burlesque wannabes nick it in the meantime, I shall be forced to strangle them with their own G-strings. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

Sooner or later I might actually get round to talking about the actual purpose of this post, the lovely Dorothy Perkins A/W11 Fit and Flare colour block dresses!

I didn't even make it to the tights section, as I was immediately distracted by the colourful collection of these cute, simple, '60s-inspired dresses, which Dotty P herself had styled with bright tights and shoes, creating an irresistable display of fun autumnal cosiness.  I instantly forgot about Flamebird and her yellow tights and made a beeline for the display, with the memory of my gift card dancing before my eyes.  On closer inspection I found that the dresses may look like various colourways of the same thing, but they're actually all slightly different - some have zips, some are two-tone, they have slightly different seams, different sleeves, varying fullness of skirt...  I was besotted.  They're varying prices too, but the ones that took my fancy the most were £22, which I thought was very reasonable for Dorothy Perkins these days, where you can now expect to pay upwards of thirty-five quid for a dress.  (Well, one can expect to pay that much.  I have no intention of spending £35 on one frock.  £22, paid-for-by-generous-gift-card, on the other hand, I can get on board with!)  I took a couple into the changing room to try on, and quickly decided on a jade green one with elbow-length sleeves.  At the risk of looking Christmassy, I might have to avoid red accessories with it, but I'm excited to attack it with garishly-coloured jewellery.  The sleeves are the perfect length for showing off bracelets, as is the scoop neck for necklaces, and I think the heavy fabric and retro shape of the bodice will look nice and vintagey with brooches.  It's such a pretty colour that it looks just fine by itself, though.  With bright tights.  And shoes.  And possibly a beret.

I couldn't find any pictures online of the collection to show you, so I decided instead to play around on Polyvore (I echo my earlier 'Time I went back to work' sentiment!) and make some outfits.  Obviously I got carried away with the bright colours.  So, if you want to gaze upon a subtly complementary palette of neatly-accessorised autumnal dresses, head to your nearest Dorothy Perkins and check out the window display.  If you want to see my crayon-box efforts, read on!

Fit and Flare #1
Fit and Flare #2Fit and Flare #3 
Hmm, why so much white space?  More Polyvore practice needed, methinks!
Anyway, pretty dresses.  Here's a sneaky peek at how I intend to wear mine:

Oh!  And if anyone was wondering what became of the other two dresses I acquired that day, well, one was a red lacy skater dress type thing (which may come in for my Bette Flamebird costume, now I come to think of it) that was vastly reduced in the end of the sale, and then I needed something else to get for free but I didn't like ANYTHING else on the BOGOF rail.  I picked up some boring top, but then I saw some little frilly dresses in pretty colours so I grabbed one of those without trying it on, or in fact looking very closely at it.  Of course it wasn't until the lady was ringing it up that I noticed it was in fact a maternity dress!  I thought "Ah well, it was free anyway, I'll sell it on ebay and make a profit), but once I had tried it on out of morbid curiosity, I found that it actually looked pretty nice.  It's got a sort of adjustable waist tie which gathers up the front of the dress, depending on how great with child you are, and for someone either at the beginning of her pregnancy (or WITHOUT a bun in the oven, thankyouverymuch), the result is actually very flattering.  And you can't tell it's a maternity dress at all!  (Except, you know what will happen - every time I get a compliment on it, I won't be able to resist telling the 'I accidentally bought a maternity dress' story...)  Brilliant!  I might always wear maternity dresses now!

Three cheers, Dorothy Perkins!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

From the Sunny Spanish Shore...

I like holiday reading.

I like spotting Newcastle from the sky.

I like buildings that unexpectedly have umbrellas.

I like my sisters and my cousins and my aunts Stephanie and Penny

I like recreating the past.

I like Parc Güell.

I like sangria.

I like the beach.

I like crazy souvenirs that have Gaudi, Dali AND Picasso on them.

I like Barcelona.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Oh Joy, Oh Rapture Unforeseen

This is a random moment of vanity depicting me doing my hair in my dressing room some time in 1946, because I can't think of a good opening sentence for this Toast Post.

I have been to Buxton.

Buxton is a beautiful town in Derbyshire (and I'm not really one for admiring natural scenery, but Buxton was incredibly pretty), famous for spring water and an annual Gilbert and Sullivan festival.  Just to warn you, this post will be about the latter, so fans of spring water may wish to leave now.

Have we just got G&S enthusiasts left in the room now?  Excellent.

I was there to perform a special edition of HMS Pinafore: The War Years, which we first put on back in May (Remember?)
You've seen my synopsis and pictures of the first show, so I'll not bore you with the same thing again.
(Lies - when have I ever neglected an opportunity to publish photographs of myself?  Pictures will be in abundance!)  We returned late on Thursday, and I spent Friday in a state of utter despondency, which got me thinking about the nature of pre-show excitement, post-show bereavement and everything in between.  I have never known any experience that is so much of an emotional rollercoaster as putting on a show.

G&S face interpretation of 'happy' and 'sad' :op

My chum Kayleigh always likens the post-show blues to a messy break-up.  The whole thing IS rather like a crazy whirlwind love affair.  You can't sleep, you can't eat (doesn't seem to stop me drinking though...), it occupies your thoughts so completely that you neither notice nor care that you haven't been anywhere but rehearsal, spoken to your other friends, cooked a meal or watched a minute of tv all week.  You delight in in-jokes, you sing in the street without a thought to how silly you look to those who don't understand, and even though you know, you know it's going to come to an end soon, on that awful morning when it's finally over, you desire nothing more than to hurl your poor, hungover, heartbroken self into the nearest river.

Drunk and grumpy, post-after-show-party

So why do we do it?  Why do we put ourselves through the grief, to say nothing of the pre-show stress and exhaustion, all for two hours in the limelight?  Because it's FUCKING BRILLIANT, that's why.

In the past week I've been recognised in the street by audience members (DEFINITE high point!), wept tears of frustration at my own persistent out-of-tunefulness (low point), been lifted up in the air like Buzz Lightyear, spent inordinate amounts of money in public houses, been on a cross-country road trip, drunk more cups of tea than I normally do in a month, lost half a stone, made wonderful new friends, been treated to charming stories about being catheterised, indulged my vanity by watching myself on tv twice, soothed ruffled feathers, had my own feathers ruffled, been bitten by the Buxton bug, laughed myself into coughing fits, killed a few brain cells with hairspray fumes, sung, danced, acted made faces to dialogue, had a wonderful time and took the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival BY STORM!

Bring on next year.

To Infinity and Beyond!
(Photographs stolen without asking first from the talented Liffy Wood.  Oh, and Matt.)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm

"I'm so obsessed with M&Ms at the moment... They're the new Farmville."

It's quite a while since I made that particular remark to Simon, and neither M&Ms nor Farmville especially excite me these days, but I am a bit of a serial obsessive.  (Note, not a cereal obsessive.  That's my sister.)
Fangirly obsession du jour is tv drama The Hour, set in the surprisingly dark and ruthless world of the mid-twentieth century BBC.

Have you seen it?  It is SWELL.  It's like Drop the Dead Donkey in the 1950s.  Secret agents and suicides abound, and the '50s setting provides a treat for the eyes.  The Hour has been hailed as 'the British Mad Men', but strangely it's the styling of the studio, not the costumes, that catches my attention every week.  I'm particularly fond of the big, stylised clock that floats behind Hector as he presents the show.

Pardon the crap picture.  Their heads were in front of it in all the higher-quality ones!

I would like that clock as an app on my supercool smartphone to tell me the actual time, 1956-BBC-style.

The Hour's clothes are of course delicious, though. (Make-up, on the other hand, is curiously hit-and-miss.  I'm no expert, but did well-heeled socialites like Ruth Elms and Marnie Madden genuinely wear rockabilly eyeliner flicks??  And surely nobody has EVER looked like Verda Rowley...)  There's much to admire in Bel's sensible suits, Sissy's bright colours and glamorous Marnie's full-skirted New Look party frocks, but I think the chicest wardrobe belongs to my favourite character, The Hour's smart and sarcastic foreign correspondent, Lix Storm.  (Wouldn't you like to be called Lix Storm?  Total superhero name!)

Hunting for screencaps is a job requiring heaps more time and patience than I'm willing to employ (ANND I didn't make a note of where I got these ones from so I can't even credit properly!) so you'll have to take my word for it, but Lix wears Hepburn wide-legged trousers with crisp shirts (the pretty stripey one reminds me of the Heyday blouses) and looks much slicker and smarter and superheroier than the other, girlier characters.  Take note, ASOS, Topshop and the rest of you, THAT is how you do androgyny with style!


Lix accessorises her masculine attire at all times with a packet of Gauloises and a glass of whiskey (Oh! And, in this week's episode, what looked like a wedding ring on a necklace chain.  Backstory coming up next week, I'll bet!  Widow?  Not divorcée - Lix wouldn't keep a cad of an ex-husband's wedding ring, she'd fling it into the middle of the Gobi desert, leaning perilously out of the cockpit of a fighter jet on her way to cover emerging unrest in a war-torn nation for a BBC exclusive, that's more Lix's style.)  She spends her days at The Hour dispensing whiskey and common sense to the younger members of the team, obtaining insider info from her "little man in Alexandria", and getting furious when nobody will run her reports on Egypt and the Suez Canal.  She's ambitious and steely and, methinks, desperately hiding some sort of vulnerability which we will  no doubt discover in the last two episodes.

"Darling, don't be utterly wet."

"Whiskey is God's way of telling us that he loves us and he wants us to be happy."

"Don't sulk, it ruins your face."

 "Darling, please don't deny me one of life's little pleasures; patronising those younger and fresher than me."

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Things I Do To Mystify The Neighbours

Hullo readers!
I've been off having a lovely jaunt around the world.
Now I'm back in the fine city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, bemusing onlookers by jumping around on the steps.  As you do.  Today I feel like Em of Brighton Peach in my stripes. 
(From the head downwards: charity shop, Oasis, Keds)

Anyway!  Onto business!  This here is an advertising Toast Post.  I happen to know that an absolutely outstanding 1940s-set production of HMS Pinafore is being staged at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton next week.  (As you probably guessed, I 'happen to know' because I'm in it ;op )

Plug plug plug.  Go to Buxton, watch us being brilliant.

Ooookay.  I'm not going to holiday snap you to death, but here is an amusing illustration of Mother trying to get a nice picture of me and the sibling on holiday, and us not playing her game.





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