Miscellenia

Ruffles to Rebellion: Bringing Mansfield to life in clothes

Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

Katherine Mansfield said:

“… but that is the satisfaction of writing – one can impersonate so many people.”

For me costuming is the same satisfaction – I get to pretend to be another life for a little bit, and then return to my own happy nest when I’m tired of trying on a new life.  My models tell me that it’s the same thing – historic dress lets you experience another life, another standard of beauty, another way of moving and living.

Two weekends ago 8 models and I got to be Mansfield’s life and stories brought to life for an afternoon at Ruffles to Rebellion: a Katherine Mansfield fashion show.  Here are the images (by the fantastic Facundo, who is always looking for new models and events, if you’re in Wellington and looking for a photographer) – complete with quotes from Mansfield’s writings.

Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

It was understood that at eleven o’clock the women and children of the summer colony had the sea to themselves. First the women undressed, pulled on their bathing dresses and covered their heads in hideous caps like sponge bags…

~ At the Bay

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Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

How beautiful she looked, but there was nobody to see, nobody.

~~~~~~~~~

Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

Dark girls, fair girls were patting their hair, tying ribbons again, tucking handkerchiefs down the fronts of their bodices, smoothing marble-white gloves. And because they were all laughing it seemed to Leila that they were all lovely.

~~~~~~~~~

Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

Soon after that people began coming in streams. The band struck up; the hired waiters ran from the house to the marquee. Wherever you looked there were couples strolling, bending to the flowers, greeting, moving on over the lawn.

Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

They were like bright birds that had alighted in the Sheridans’ garden for this one afternoon, on their way to–where? Ah, what happiness it is to be with people who all are happy, to press hands, press cheeks, smile into eyes.

Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

“Darling Laura, how well you look!”
“What a becoming hat, child!”
“Laura, you look quite Spanish. I’ve never seen you look so striking.”

~ The Garden Party

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Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

And a funnier thing still was that now her coat was off she did look like a very intelligent monkey–who had even made that yellow silk dress out of scraped banana skins. And her amber ear-rings: they were like little dangling nuts.

~ Bliss

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Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

Then she undid her bodice, and something under that, and something else underneath that. Then there seemed a short, sharp tussle, and grandma flushed faintly. Snip! Snap! She had undone her stays. She breathed a sigh of relief and, sitting on the plush couch, she slowly and carefully pulled off her elastic-sided boots and stood them side by side.

~ The Voyage

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Ruffles to Rebellion thedreamstress.com, images by http::facundo.pixieset.com/

The truth is that every true admirer of the novels cherishes the happy thought that he alone – reading between the lines – has become the secret friend of their author.

9 Comments

    • Thank you! Faco got a lot of amazing photos of me, but that one is my particular favourite. It’s taken in the room Mansfield was born in, and I’m actually kneeling on the floor and very carefully hovering my hands a millimetre away from everything to look like I’m touching while still being museum safe!

  1. “Secret friend of their author”, I love that. I really do because I’ve always felt I was good friends with Eberhart and Burton-Morgan.
    What beautiful costumery. I feel I can’t gaze at them long enough!

    • Isn’t it a fabulous observation? It’s definitely how I feel about lots of books (and must be quite weird for the authors).

      And thank you <3

  2. My historical costuming interest is also inspired, in part, by a desire to “try on another life” for a little while. Thanks for this photo essay; the variety of different period outfits is striking, and they are all beautiful.

  3. Elise says

    threadless.comThere certainly is tension in historical costuming–can you enjoy parts of a time when so much horrifies you: poverty, slavery, cruelty towards animals and children, subjugation of women, lack of medicine? I do believe that you can, but personally I have found that I can’t think too hard on it, otherwise I start feeling sad.

    Like you, Catherine, I also enjoy “trying on another life”, and even its sister practices: “fake it until you make it” and “feel s***ty, look pretty”. In fact, putting on the trappings of put-togetherness has helped my depression and trauma healing so much. So I wear lipstick, and keep a clean house.

    The power of beauty and clothes and makeup may be best expressed by this letter from a Holocaust liberator, who talked about what red lipstick could do to the survivors. https://www.threadless.com/forum/post/80746/___an_extract_from_the_diary_of_lieutenant_colonel_mervin_willett_gonin_dso_who_was/

    Sorry to take over your post! There is just some residual sadness, recently, and so I have been cleaning like mad and wearing nice things as part of my coping.

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