Well it was more a headband than a hat really. She was going to a 1930s evening in June, dancing to the Palm Court Orchestra – not that she could dance, but she’d have a go at a waltz, and the chance of being asked to dance would keep her happy between now and then. I mean, you never know what type of beaux might turn up to this kind of thing; it wasn’t exactly a run of the mill Friday night out, now was it?
Anyway, she’d done a bit of googling to find out what the evening fashions were like for ladies of that era, and she’d looked up evening gloves, handbags and headgear. She’d even checked on whether fans were used – she was pretty sure they would be – in all that heat. Then she’d visited Oxford by train, stayed a few days and found the most gorgeous dress in a charity shop in the covered market.
The sales lady had been really helpful, urging her to try it on, saying, “Oh yes, it could certainly pass as 30s with its figure-hugging body and slightly flared hem.”
When she’d come out of the changing room, just a corner of the shop with a curtain across, the lady had complimented her figure and said how much it suited her, just the right colour to go with her eyes. A young Polish man who was buying literary fiction agreed, smiled warmly and said how the colour accentuated her hair. That had made her feel all giggly inside – a young man and a compliment all in the same day – things were looking up!
The sales lady had looked around for an evening stole or jacket that would go with the dress but then she’d remembered the maroon feathery stole she’d had for her 60th birthday bash and knew instinctively that it would go. A little later she’d also remembered the light maroon dolly-bag that friends had bought for her birthday and realised her outfit was taking shape.
She got the dress home, wrapped carefully in her nightie so as not to catch on any of the suitcase fittings. All the way there on the train, she dreamt of dancing in the 1930s style, the music and the dress. She felt quite warm when she arrived home and instantly ran upstairs to try it on all over again with the accessories that she’d earmarked all those miles away. And now she knew the shoes she’d wear too – those chocolate brown ones she’d bought for £2 from the charity shop in Knottingley for the 1940s events she’d taken part in – wouldn’t they look just grand? And they did, and she had those lisle-look stockings that she’d worn on stage, they’d do too. Oh this was going to be a night to remember – if only for the outfit.
Next day she had a friend over and they went back to the same Knottingley shop on the hunt for scarves in the same colours as the dress. Because it was multi-coloured it gave her plenty of choice. There was pale green, chocolate brown, a hint of purple, dusky pink and those turquoise sequins that twinkled in every light. Boy was she going to outshine all the other ladies on that night in June. And if she could just find a scarf or two to create some kind of headgear, that would be magnificent.
She and Jen didn’t have far to look as scarves were on the end of every rail of clothes. Straight away, she saw a fringed greenish-blue one that would certainly work as a shawl or might make the base of a turban-style hat. And then, just two rails away, she saw the most exquisite scarf imaginable – it had a satin edge and the rest was semi-transparent in pinks and blues and greens. She had never seen anything like it. It was so delicate and feminine – like nothing she’d ever had before. She bought them both, ideas already brimming over in her mind.
Later on that day, she assembled the outfit again but this time, turned the fringed shawl into a little evening cape to hide the tops of her arms – she couldn’t imagine that any ladies in the 30s had “bingo-wings” and she certainly wasn’t going to show hers! No, everything had to be as authentic as possible. The satin-edged scarf worked well as a tight fitting hat that she could tie in a bow at the side of one ear – very much like the flappers wore in the 1920s. “That’ll do,” she thought.” Women often wear things left over from a previous decade and this will be no different. All I need now is a brooch to embellish it and maybe a feather.”
And the opportunity for those presented themselves that weekend when she went with Jen to a local Antiques Fair and bought, for very little money, two delightful brooches in turquoise and all sparkly, and at the last minute – when the stall holders really wanted to pack their things away- she found a pair of longish gloves in pale blue and spied in the bottom of the lady’s box a dark brown feather, a little dog-eared perhaps but certainly enough to create a stunning feature on her hat.
Again, she returned home and worked wonders with the feather and the brooches. It was just enough to set the whole outfit off. She fell back on the bed exhausted but happy that her outfit for June was now complete. Later as she was hanging it all up on the door in her bedroom, the phone rang, but she couldn’t quite get downstairs quickly enough to take the call. By the time she reached the lounge, there was a message on the answer-phone: “Sorry about this, but the 1930s night has been cancelled due to lack of numbers. To get your money re-funded you need to phone this number.”
“No!” she said over and over, “No. No. No!” It had been the one thing that had been keeping her alive. She wasn’t interested in the money. She stumbled back upstairs, put the outfit on for the last time and sobbing softly, cradled herself to sleep.