Friday, 20 September 2013

BBC 4: Serving One's Past As a Cultural Stew

One of the unexpected side effects of being elder is to find one's lived past regurgitated as edutainment  in a garbled form.

So it be for me when I do settle down to BBC 4's "Fabric of Britain: The Golden Age of Knitting" the other evening.

All is smooth going until we reach my own lifespan's experience - the 1950s onwards - and I admit to gagging a bit as 1950s home knitting culture is fed to me purely as some kind of desire to "make things for one's loved ones"....

Let me see now.... my recollection is that money is still tight post-war and into the mid-1950s at least. New "manufactured" clothes are considered expensive by many, hence... you make your own because that is all you can afford. To paraphrase The Old Man's grandmother ... "They's can't schemy must lowster." (If you can't be brainy you have to do physical work) or in terms of my argument..."if you ain't got the money you have to make it yourself."

By the time the "documentary" hits the 1960s my eyes are revolving in their sockets. Showing clips of young girls grooving in lacy mini dresses. Just to be pedantic. This is not knitting. This is crochet. I know. My big sis do crochet just such a dress for me at the time, white cotton.... And where does that fashion come from, I ask? Most likely the same street-savvy of "make because you can't afford to buy". Paris fashion of the 1960s features hand-crafted lace mini dresses and the nearest us plebs can manage as substitute is crochet. Voila! The crochet mini- dress.

The documentary then goes on about the "sweater dress" that all the "girls were crazy for". I don't remember that craze, and believe me I do have my eye on fashion even if I be too plump, rural and un-wealthy to get my hands on it. But I do remember the "skinny rib sweater" that everyone does want .... but is not mentioned in this piece.

So... by the time the doc have disposed of knitting in the 1980s without mention of Patricia Roberts but instead with a display of Gyles Brandreth's awful novelty items, I be weeping. Apparently there be no knitted fashion in the 1990s. But I do remember my black fine-knit Nicole Farhi dress as the clothes-love-of-me life at that time. Apparently I be buying and wearing knits in the 1990s in some alternate future/past.

The recent resurgence of "knitting groups" as tackled by the programme's pundits is something else. But it is glossed over. Perhaps it is nostalgia .... or a backlash against manufactured clothes? I dunno. But the fact which is unmentioned in this TV analysis of the "Golden Age of Knitting" - is that present day fashion/clothing industry economics is the very opposite of that of the 1950s. Then, hand-knitting was done with standardised woollen  and cotton yarns in various forms and the clothing manufacture industry was still largely a British affair. The designed, synthetic yarns of recent years, by contrast, cost a fortune. Buying enough yarn to make a fashionable garment - always bespoke patterns for these yarns because they are so individualised - is an expensive project. On the other hand the manufactured knitted clothes now available from high street and supermarkets... courtesy of the sweat shops of south-east Asia... cost a few pounds and are bought and chucked at whim.

All in all... a sloppy bit of documentary. And by the way... I never met anyone in the 1950s who do actually have one of they knitted toilet-roll covers shaped like a crinolined lady that the programme delights in displaying and smirking over.

Plainly... my entire life have been spent in an alternate fashion past.

For uplift and real inspiration on fashion and the older generation I do recommend taking a look at Channel 4's "Fabulous Fashionistas" repeated.....  Marvel and Enjoy. (OOPs my mistake on original post. Correct time and channel is Sunday 22nd September 20.00 hrs. on Channel 4-7) 


Anonymous said...

I also looked forward to this programme and was very disappointed with its content. And YES, the Fabulous Fashionistas was in contrast very amazing and enjoyable.From one who has done much knitting in her time and is soon to join the ranks of the retired.
Best wishes to Little Grey Doll and her Old Man from BJ

Little Grey Doll said...

Glad you felt the same, BJ... and that it is not all my own sour grapes. Very glad to hear from you. Welcome to the ranks of the elder ... time to get they needles out again, girl. Best wishes!