This is Elspeth as Mrs Drudge in the Downstage critics' production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound late last year. Knowledge of lines and donning of costume weren't strictly required, but she went to some lengths to get togged up. On her feet are an appalling pair of sheepskin slippers of mine, which I told her I never wanted to see again (unfortunately I now can). That's my feather duster too. I did get that back, for those hard-to-reach places.The faux 50s, flower-print shirtwaister she picked up for $8 in a Cuba Street second-hand shop, and, after the one-night-only show, passed on to me. Right now it's hanging on a rack at Penny's Clothing and Alterations, and I'm looking forward to getting it back tomorrow, refitted and updated.
Dior's Spring 1951 collection featured a floral shirtwaister; it was one one expresson of the post-war New Look. And for a few gloaty minutes, I thought Elspeth's - now mine, all mine - was the genuine vintage article, because it's so nicely detailed. But reason soon broke through - the fabric, though it looks right, doesn't feel right. It's late-20th century synthetic, a fact swiftly confirmed by Penny, who knows about these things.
I wondered aloud who, in the 80s and 90s, would have bought and worn a new dress so unglamorously old-fashioned. Penny shrugged - her mother, for one, she said.
When I get it back, the bodice will be fitted, the sleeves narrowed and reset into narrowed shoulders, whose pads I already whipped out. It will go so perfectly with my Molly M gray suede wedges that I shall be able, apart from the singing aspect, to pretend I'm an Andrews sister.