Monday, 17 October 2011

English Ethnic Dress (1)

This is English Fancy Dress rather than ethnic dress but it is based on real clothes. It is the coming thing for the age of austerity, combining craft and practicality. The male dress is interesting because it allows a display of individuality we haven't seen for many years.

Elements: boots, cord or plain trousers tied at the knee with twine. There's a terrible fear in all English male dress of attacks via the knees: adders, eels, mice, the devil, ferrets (never sure if the string is to keep them out or in) so trousers have to be bound there. Straw looks good; string if not. Not that horrible bright pink plastic twine - the green or brown hairy hemp is fine.

Shirts are of small checks, preferably smudgy ones where the colours are barely differentiated. Bright, high-contrast checks are not the thing. Neckerchief is optional but very useful so most men will have them. You cannot really beat the cotton, red and white spotted neckerchief and they are so useful that there should be spare ones in the pockets of the capacious jacket.

The jacket is not tailored in the sense of fitting. It's tailored in the sense that it might fit somebody and will come and find that person. It will be made of good wool of the tweedy variety and here the customizing comes in. Strips of fabric and maybe feathers are lightly sewn on in rows to create padded contours and crests which emphasize movement and protect the jacket if you have to shove something with your shoulder, perhaps a car or a gate. It isn't necessary to cover the entire jacket although some people like to. Pads can be replaced if they get oily.

The hat is either a tweedy trilby or some favour canvas and leather versions of stockman hats. The trilby is neat, can easily be re-dressed with new feathers and blends in. The overall look should be owlish, not like a peacock. A flat hat, if worn, should not get over-large or it looks like it escaped from Top Of The Pops in 1973.

Accessories are whatever you think best in your pockets, plus a broom. This is not so much for sweeping as beating time like the tap dancers in Stomp do.

The Lincolnshire Poacher look is practical without being reminiscent of hospital scrubs or pyjamas, and suggests one has been up since sunrise conducting delicate business which one is not at liberty to discuss.

Female ethnic dress will be discussed later.


Captain Haddock said...

Very good WOAR ..

Though I've always thought that the tying of men's trousers below the knee, was an early attempt at incontinence control ..

Let's be fair .. we English don't have a "National" costume as such (Morris dancers aside .. and the less said about them the better) and we're probaly all the better for not having one ..

We have no need to visibly advertise or demonstrate our heritage ..

To paraphrase Cecil Rhodes .."By being born an Englishman, one has already won the lottery of life" .. ;)

Anonymous said...

To be English is to know that everyone knows you are English, no need for oaths, fanfare nor lights.

Woman on a Raft said...

I was about to begin an investigation in to Morris dancers, Captain, but I think they've just gone in to hibernation. I don't know if there is the equivalent of the cuckoo with them: "Dear Sir, I distinctly heard bells this morning, 21st February. Yours, etc"

This is absolutely true that the English know each other, Anon, but they have long been subsumed in to the British identity.

That identity was the strongest flask ever fashioned to hold the combined identities of the United Kingdom together in solution. It was very successful. That flask has been fractured, and deliberately. A pity, but I didn't do it. Now the constituent identities are flowing out.

I'm just watching as the genies coalesce out of the smoke.

Electro-Kevin said...

The truth is we have more than one distinctive national costume:

- Beefeater
- Guardsman
- Judge
- British Bobby

I'm sure there are more but they are instantly recognisable as representing Britishness (as it was)

Why police officers have gone all New Yoik on us recently beats me.

Anonymous said...

Trousers are tied at the knee so you can bend your leg easily when digging, thats why navvies did it

Woman on a Raft said...

Aha! So there should be a bag of fabric pulled above the knee in the same way that some people use arm-bands to make a bag of fabric above the elbow so that shirts don't pull tight over the shoulder and around the arm-hole seams and tear along the stitches.

Many thanks, Anon.

Woman on a Raft said...

Funnily enough, Kevin, I've made some low-level approaches about the uniform. I'm particularly annoyed about it in high-profile places such as 10 Downing Street and Westminster. It's true they might need a vest under the tunic and armed-to-the-teeth officers all round them but the key officer in the public eye is doing a PR job as much as anything.

They should look confident and well-dressed, not bundled-up like a El Presidente's guard in a banana republic. If the police are worried about a risk to one of their members we should just hire an actor to stand there. Actors are always saying they like taking risks.

However, nowhere more than here should Anon's maxim apply: "no need for oaths, fanfare nor lights".

There was a time when a bloke in a navy suit with shiny buttons was sufficient to signify "the state stands behind me, and as it is a just state neither you nor I need be enemies, unless you choose to attack property or persons".

The current workwear snarls "Oi, you, fancy a ruck?"

Captain Haddock said...

"I was about to begin an investigation in to Morris dancers" ..

An investigation, into Morris dancers was carried out some years ago .. and revealed that they were twice as likely to suffer a broken leg, than were non Morris dancers ..

The reason quoted was that they are apparently more prone to falling off the bonnet .. ;)

Captain Haddock said...

" .. some people use arm-bands to make a bag of fabric above the elbow so that shirts don't pull tight over the shoulder and around the arm-hole seams and tear along the stitches" ...

As demonstrated by Snooker & Billiards players ..

Calfy said...

Dear WOAR, thank you so much for this! I look forward to the exegesis on the female dress, which I feel sure shall prove very useful to me on those days at (international) school when everybody is compelled to come in wearing their national costume.

Captain Haddock said...

To those with an abiding interest in so-called "National" dress .. the following may be of interest ..

Now, I've worn a flat (or "rattin' ") cap, as they're known in my part of God's own County for many years ..

These days, I tend to use it indoors to "waff" over my pint mug of tea to cool it ..

And when I was married, I was definitely a gentleman .. allus tekkin' if off afore brayin' t'wife .. ;)

And, I've been a lifelong Pipe smoker ..

I do however, refuse point-blank to have a Whippet .. they're all back-teeth & b******s .. ;)

Woman on a Raft said...

Thanks Captain

the flat cap had all but disappeared says the Mail. It did no such thing, particularly in Yorkshire.

Gramps Raft wore one all his life, and it is still hanging on the peg where he left it after his final cigar.

Mr Raft has one for his default hat because you can always put it in your pocket and adjust wear according to the place and weather.

The only regional difference I've noticed is that Lun'on'ers favour the moulded felt version, usually a dark sage green or brown, while nearly everyone else goes for a woven ground.

My uncle J is a milkman which means often working in the rain, so his is a specialized waxed cap which he periodically re-proofs with G-wax.

Good news, then, that such a sensible item of clothing is coming back in to wider use.

Whippets can be a lot more work than they look - you have to put sun cream on them to stop them burning.

Woman on a Raft said...

How about this, Calfy?

The Belles of London City

Captain Haddock said...

My late Grandad always wore a "Collie" cap ..

I used to like the ones from Dunn's (now sadly defunct) ..

My current cap, in a pleasing Green/Brown country check came from the weekly outdoor market in a small town close to where I live ..

A most useful & treasured item .. ;)

Captain Haddock said...

"The only regional difference I've noticed is that Lun'on'ers favour the moulded felt version .... "

Or they go for those over-large, floppy caps, with a cloth-covered botton on the crown ..

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