Apr 23, 2013 01:12
by Sally Creagh
From the staggering success of Downton Abbey to more recent dramas such as The Paradise and Parade’s End, historical TV series have been successfully dramatising the immense social changes that occurred between the Victorian and post World War I eras. Which just happens to have been an awesome phase for fashion!
Not since the hoo-hah over the TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited in the early 1980s (think the New Romantic fashion and music scene eg Spandau Ballet, Japan, early Duran Duran), have we seen a historical drama have such an impact on fashion commentary.
The vast interest in, and market for, vintage fashion has been boosted by the immense popularity of series like these. The sheer luxury of the costumes - from the lace, chiffons, velvets, incredible beading and embroidery, to the more modest but no less enchanting delicate knits, cotton lace bodices, cute bobs, peter pan collars, has been a visual feast for those that are inspired by vintage cuts and shapes. If you are actually interested in wearing or collecting this type of clothing, Etsy is the vintage shopper's paradise. From genuine Edwardian to reproduction pieces, this is the place to hunt down your very own Downton evening dress.
The clothes also tell you part of the story - in The Paradise, shop girl Denise graduates from country girl dresses to self assured glamour in line with her increased independence. Her nemesis, Katherine Glendenning’s outfits become more and more covered in frippery, ribbon and pom-poms, the more her impulsivity veers her life out of control. In Parade’s End the difference between the two main characters - Valentine’s simple shifts and propensity for ties tell us she is a different, more independent woman than Sylvia, who uses her beauty and style as a form of power to manipulate others. It’s tragic! But so compelling!
That’s not even mentioning the quality of the dramas themselves. The Paradise is so watchable not only because the subject matter is, refreshingly, about the merchant class, (not the more usual upstairs-downstairs scenario); but because it gives interesting historical insights into the fantasy-fulfilling power of shopping, merchandising and advertising.
Parade’s End is more edgy. Set during the lead up to, and duration of World War I, it is at times both tragic and comic. Tom Stoppard's adaptation is a devastatingly incisive commentary on women’s changing position in British society at that time and how two very different types of women attempted to acquire and maintain any sort of power over their lives. The aristocratic Sylvia is trapped being dependent on men, while the heroine Valentine is a spunky suffragette who has the bravery to fly in the face of what’s expected of her. Heady stuff!
If you are one of the many who started watching Parade’s End on channel 9 only to be dismayed when it was moved to a subsidiary channel half way through, this week we are giving you a chance to win both Parade’s End and The Paradise on DVD so you can lap up that vintage opulence. Click here to enter.