Monday 11 May 2015

Little Miss Austen

Culturebaby is deeply enamoured of 'big' dresses. The more brightly coloured, floral and impractical the better. I've decided to fly the white flag over this potential war and over the winter I purchased a range of thermal vests, confiscated the most ridiculous summer attire and handed over the keys to the kingdom of Wardrobe. She'll only be three for the blink of an eye and, who knows, she may be the next Westwood. I shall not stifle the frill. 

Unsurprisingly, Culturebaby saw a kindred clan in the giggle of Bennet sisters and happily plunged headlong into their world earlier than I might have expected. Thanks goes of course to the ingenious Babylit series, of which the Pride and Prejudice playset and counting primer is a favourite. We also received a new quirky satire on the popular classic Goodnight Moon which developed the story further than its basic characters and components featured in the Babylit series.
Goodnight Mr. Darcy Goodnight Mr Darcy is an endearing little rhyme, with words and images adapted from the original but featuring a night at the Netherfield Ball, with its love, laughter, music and awkward family faux pas. Whilst purists may think it a tad silly, this little volume in no way takes itself seriously and we really love it. In the last couple of weeks, this pair of titles have been requested rather a lot, so I decided it was high time for a spot of Regency time travel. We listened to the beautiful sound track of the latest film of Pride and Prejudice, danced to the jolly rhythms of the Meryton Ball (hundreds of times and counting), acted out the story with the Babylit playset and watched the opening scenes from the film.

We also looked at the sorts of dresses Lizzie and Jane might have worn in the early 19th Century in our sumptuous Taschen Fashion encyclopaedia and we used the photographs as inspiration to create a few simple costumes for my vintage dolls using material, lace and ribbon off-cuts. Even Pooh Bear and his pal Bobo, have been spotted sporting high waistlines.

Taking the opportunity to spend some quality time with my 3 year old Culturebaby alone, we spent a glorious 'big girl' sunny day exploring the fabulous fashion and jewellery collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, hunting out Georgian attire and reclining by their child-friendly outdoor pool (one of London's best kept sunny day secret retreats). 

We've also been constructing our own little dress museum at home, using the gorgeous fold out title from Big Picture Press Shirts, Skirts and Shoes illustrated by Sanna Mander. Whilst this volume only covers the last 100 years or so, it is a work of art; folding out to over two metres and forming the perfect museum backdrop. We've spent some extremely happy creative sessions discussing our favourite designs and again emulating these styles for dolls with simple (no sew) off-cuts of fabric, ribbons and a few items I've had since I was a child. We've explored the Edwardian, the '20s and the '50s and 60's. Simple and so much fun...

Finally, we've sought out the Georgians on their own turf with a couple of historic house trips. Dunham Massey is a beautiful property near Manchester with some of the best gardens ever for exploring. At present it is set up as a World War One hospital (recalling its use a century ago) and is worth a trip to experience the 'ghost' nurses who get on with their care of wounded soldiers, unaffected by their 21st Century observers. We also visited the Pemberley of BBC drama fame; Lyme Park. Whilst there is no longer a larger than life statue of Colin Firth hauling himself out of the garden pond, there is a gorgeous nursery in which children are able to explore and play with beautiful old toys, a school room complete with activities, and a stage with a range of dressing-up costumes for all the family. We brought home one of Usborne's brilliant sticker dolly dressing books: Fashion Long Ago, and we've been clothing a millennia of characters ever since. I hadn't realised exploring a classic with such young children through the medium of fashion history and music could be so rewarding and ultimately accessible for them. We will certainly do more of this in the future.

Disclaimer: We received copies of Baby Lit's Pride and Prejudice Playset and Goodnight Mr Darcy, and Big Picture Press' Skirts, Shirts and Shoes for review purposes. All other materials are our own.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like fun for any age. Thanks for showing us all these places around the country. Love how you've linked them all to Pride & Pejudice. We're off to the V&A soon to see Alexander McQueen. Not sure I'll blog about it as you can't take photos, nor even draw so I've heard. That V&A pool on a hot sunny day is brilliant. Katharine


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