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