Friday 20 June 2014

What to Wear III

A fur coat - with a swimsuit?
Posh Caro Stow Crat always dresses appropriately – she would never wear a fur coat in Florida, or over a swimsuit, or appear on breakfast television in a gold lamé dress, like JK Rowling. Here’s her guide to necklaces (also not to be worn with a swimsuit):

An evening necklace is loosely round your neck (double or triple strand).
Matinee length reaches the first couple of ribs below the collar bone.
Opera length reaches your bust.
A riviere is more fancy, with dangly bits.
Rope length is longer than opera.

“Dangly earrings should never be longer than your hair; only wear hoops in the summer, and enormous hoops are vulgar at any time. furthermore, we are all too good to wear fake diamond studs: either we get the real thing, or we choose another, cheaper option.”
Hilary Rose, Times June 2014

In the 60s and 70s, only lower-middle-class Teale men wore practical items of dress like plastic pocket protectors, sleeve restraints (elasticated armbands) and tie clips (in stainless steel and fake abalone). Upwards were supposed to wear gold and jewelled tie pins left over from the Edwardian age, but these too have disappeared.

In the 50s, ballet shoes were black, never pink or bronze. Plimsolls were white, never black. And middle-class Upwards never wore bronze party shoes. (Party shoes were white, black - but never patent leather - or coloured to match your outfit.) Those who let their daughters wear bronze party shoes would have shuddered with horror at silver or gold party shoes.

Virginia Woolf notes in her diary that Lady Abingdon described Princess Mary “dressed like the upper housemaid in peacock blue”. Vivid blue and green were common. If Woolf and her set wanted to put somebody down, they said they had “the mind of a housemaid”. (Mrs Woolf and the Servants, Alison Light)

There was a recent flap about a clothing trend called “normcore”: young people wearing generic downmarket clothing. Of course it’s shocking to Americans, because they are used to being able to tell who has “class”, ie money, and who hasn’t. They wear very conservative clothes, but of the right (expensive) brand. If middle class kids start dressing like common baseball fans, what are they to do? (In the 60s, people used to say “You can’t tell what class anyone is any more, because the young all wear jeans.”) The real snobbery of normcore is to source the perfect generic plain grey jersey from the hard-to-find, word-of-mouth, well-kept-secret prep school clothing catalogue (as we used to do in the 70s).

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Gentrification V

Church Street
Sure sign of gentrification is the anti-gentrification graffiti by the last generation of gentrifiers. (Huw Lemmey ‏@spitzenprodukte)

My Romanian taxi driver bizarrely complaining about... mass arrival of more Romanians next year. "They will work for less. Keep them out." (Sathnam Sanghera)

That’s me – complaining about all the middle classes moving into the area I… moved into 30 years ago. But I moved here because it was working class! Though looking back, there weren’t many decent pubs or cafes, there wasn’t much to do, and friends were scattered thinly.

We predicted the area would “come up”. And then it didn’t. Years passed. And now it has, but not in time for us. Damn!

And we were imagining a clean-up, a paint-job, some repairs, maybe a left-wing café/bookshop, a hippy vegan restaurant in a squat, and no more prostitutes in the park or crumbling houses full of crack addicts - not farmers’ markets in Clapton selling ethical escargots. Dalston has become Camden Market.

“The activists and hippies who once lived in cooperatives where everyone paid according to ability and parents sang Nkosi Sikelele Afrika to their white babies have largely gone.” (New York Times May 2014 on Brixton) In the 80s, the middle-class incomers were political activists, who deliberately took up activities that meant meeting working class people of all origins. It may have been a mixed blessing for the working classes, but I miss singing Give Peace a Chance in a marquee while everybody eats Caribbean food off paper plates.

People say Stoke Newington High Street is ALL gentrified now (a few cafes called “The Haberdashery”). But for the past 30 years the gentrifiers have managed to ignore the large Turkish community which is still the most prominent culture in Green Lanes and on the High Street. To my knowledge, Upwards don’t exclaim over darling little Lahmacun restaurants (and don’t go there), don’t learn the oud, don’t listen to Turkish music, don’t learn Turkish, don’t go to Turkey on holiday. They shop at Turkish corner shops and take trips in Turkish cabs but they study Buddhism, not Islam. And of course you couldn’t run workshops teaching easy Turkish songs when you’re surrounded by expert Turkish musicians (and Turkish music sounds pretty hard).

Hipster junk shops in Stokey have even caught up with 70s owls! That was MY thing.

If my 35-year-old self could see London as it is now, she’d be amazed to see flats above shops made habitable (they used to be left empty for some legal reason), coffee shops everywhere - and all the buildings so clean.

More here, and links to the rest.

Classy Areas

More of a hamlet, really.

Where you live in London says so much about you - acceptability vanishes within a few streets. And it changes so fast.

I can’t believe my daughter is now priced out of – Walthamstow!
(Middle-class Dad, Inside London, Jan 2014)

The chattering classes are furious at being priced out of Islington. They discovered the area in the 60s when it was grotty and working class, and beautiful Georgian houses were considered “slums” as they were divided up and whole families lived in single rooms and shared a bathroom.

Surely the way to tell whether your part of Croydon is going upmarket is to ask the question 'Is it in Croydon?' If yes, no. (Lee Jackson ‏@VictorianLondon)

Well-off homeowners in San Francisco object to affordable homes being built near them. “A strong organized opposition has emerged, called Grow Potrero Responsibly…. A resident states that she doesn’t like ‘the concrete jungles changing our quality neighborhoods.’ Another says ‘Too big for our sweet, quiet neighborhood’. Another homeowner said that the development would ‘surely tip the scale in favor of relocating to other counties.’ ‘You are seeing a real class protectionism where homeowners are trying to stop other people from coming into the neighbourhood.’” (

The premises — after a hiatus as a Filipino restaurant that didn’t sit easily in what estate agents in their wisdom once christened Brackenbury Village — are now in the ownership of Ossie Gray. (Fay Maschler, Evening Standard)

Is the latest middle-class thing complaining about people moving into your street and installing air-conditioning?

Do you live in a “real village”? Or is it “only a hamlet”, as my parents used to say about Linchmere. (Houses, church, farm, green, but no shops.)

Jilly Cooper describes upper middle-class couples who buy a country cottage as well as their city house, and spend hours every weekend in a traffic jam commuting between the two. (And the thing you want is always in the other house.)

Upmarket Caro Stow Crat thinks that because the Middletons are nouveau riche, Berkshire isn't really the country.

More here.