If there was a BAFTA or an EMMY for costume design on television the winner hands down would be Marion Boyce who has dressed Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher for three seasons of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Set in 1920s Melbourne, Miss Fisher is a private detective of independent means who is an Honourable.
Not only does Essie Davis have the porcelain doll face of a Louise Brooks, she has the mannerisms of the fastest of flappers. And, gee whizz, does Marion Boyce give good costume. There must be a dozen costume changes in each episode from marabou-trimmed peignoir over breakfast in bed to the sassiest of beaded flapper frocks when Phryne is dressed to kill.
The plots are sensational enough for Miss Fisher to go underground as a Burlesque dancer, a knife-thrower’s assistant and a couture model. I am sure all of Phryne’s costumes are made to order rather than vintage. The few surviving garments from the 1920s are either too fragile or too small work in high definition and the best have long since been snapped up by collections such as the V&A and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York.
Though I adore the flashier beaded and fringed evening gowns and diamond hair ornaments worn by Phryne by night, it is her day dresses reminiscent of vintage Chanel that always hit the spot. The Garconne drop waist line suits Essie Davis’s body to perfection and by cutting on the bias Marion Boyce gives the garments that 1920s movement like an eel through water.
Truth to tell, I am falling in love with women’s fashion at the moment. You’re far too young to remember the days when I did the Milan, Paris, New York and London women’s collections for the Financial Times. I tell you, Rowley, my road has had more twists and turns than Grace Kelly on the coast road to Monte Carlo.
Women’s fashion is really rather thrilling at the moment with the extreme gawky, dorky style of a Prada and Gucci offset by the couture elegance of designers such as Giambattista Valli, Ralph & Russo and Roland Mouret who I suspect might design Meghan Markle’s wedding dress for this month’s Royal Wedding.
Paris has changed-up the design directors of great houses Balmain, Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior and Balenciaga while designers such as Victoria Beckham, The Row and Stella McCartney are still making inexplicable silhouettes that seem deliberately ugly-pretty: so wrong they are – allegedly – right. I just find their work bad design.
I would like to write about womenswear again: particularly the couture that is as grand as the last time I saw a couture show in the early 1990′s when the late, great Gianfanco Ferre produced his last collection for Dior. I think the Meghan Markle effect will re-energise British fashion in a major way though I must say it doesn’t need an awful lot more help with the Duchesses of Cambridge and Cornwall always being elegantly and appropriately turned out.
Did I tell you I am thinking of a house move back to Clapham North? In true App & Lucia style, I am writing to my old address to enquire if it will be on the rental market anytime soon. It may seem like a backward step but it really isn’t now the National Anthem of Bloomsbury Towers is Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen.
I’ve had some rough times this year – often broke, often desperately unhappy – but I’ve got through them and feel happier and fitter than I have done in a dog’s age. This is thanks to friends and a tonne of exercise. I’m even having a bash at quitting the cigarettes though it is very hard to break the habit of a lifetime. But who can afford to smoke these days? There’s little glamour in standing outside a restaurant chugging on a fag in the pouring gales that we are promised this May.
Fucking weather, eh? We had one day of broiling sun only to be followed by torrential rain that destroys shoes and souls alike. Bad weather gets me down as it does many of my manic depressive tribe. We thrive in the sun. So get on with it weather gods. We need some sparkle in our lives sent from the heavens please.
Do you know what has cheered me up considerably? Investing in a cheap but serviceable record player and buying vinyl. Such is my taste that I feel like I’m the only show queen buying records. I’ve got Oliver!, An American in Paris, The King & I, Guys & Dolls, Chitty Chitty Bang Bank, Mame and Cabaret all for a song in the record shop in Notting Hill.
Music is a reason for living. Isn’t it strange that you can’t remember where you’ve been the other day but can sing note-for-note You’re My Little Choochie Face from Chitty despite not hearing it for a decade? I am sure there must be some wisdom in playing familiar records when revising for an exam or a television appearance in my case.
I am currently reading Tim Heald’s Princess Margaret biography A Life Unravelled and the Duke of Windsor’s memoir My Story for a series I am filming with Like A Shot TV for UKTV. It will be heaven to be back in front of the cameras. And on that Norma Desmond note I will leave you. And remember, if all else fails just Whistle a Happy Tune. Until next time.