Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Another Mad Men thought: Old-fashioned romance.

When it comes to old-fashioned courtship, I think many of us women are complete hopeless romantics. As far as we are concerned, the old-fashioned gentlemanly way is how we should be treated.
Flights of fancy and old-fashioned whimsy are very fashionable right now, just look at the darling Paloma Faith, the beautiful retro clothes shop Vivian of Holloway and sites like diaryofavintagegirl.com, where forties enthusiast Fleur de Guerre very beautifully waxes lyrical about the fashions of a bygone age.
This obsession isn't just about the beauty of the clothes - although that does have a lot to do with it - this is about romance. This is about the idea that a man asked you out to dinner and treated you with respect, who took your coat and paid for the meal and you wouldn't have to feel awkward while he did. (As I always do anyway as I have a thing about penniless creative types and usually earn more than the bloke.) This is about a perfect kiss at your front door and a man taking off his hat in respect towards you and giving you his coat at the end of the night in case you might be cold. This is about men behaving like a gentleman who is trying to win your affections rather than thinking they will shag you on a first date and then forget you.
That's how men behaved back then wasn't it? Beautiful stories like The Notebook, old movies like An Affair to Remember, old re-runs of Goodnight Sweetheart and the story of how my grandpa courted my grandma when they were young (he proposed several times and she initially only agreed out of pity for him, but gradually he won her over and by the time they were married she was madly in love. Awww.) have made me believe that in contrast men of modern times are rubbish when it comes to romance.
It is said so often, that modern men wouldn't know chivalry if it bit them in the arse. So many articles claim that thanks to feminism and female emancipation modern men are nothing more than frightened little boys ruled by battered egos, hence why they cheat, why they lie, why they treat us with disrespect. Because some women are just too fabulous and some men just can't live up to us. Cheryl Tweedy and Ashley Cole being a case in point...
Mad Men has shown me to reject such rose-tinted notions of the past. As far as Mad Men is concerned, it's not that romance is dead. It was never really there to begin with.
Some men have always been complete pricks no matter what age they come from. For example, Don and Betty Draper's marriage from Mad Men fills me with untold despair.
Don courted Betty by sending her the coat he saw her admiring but couldn't afford. So far, so romantic and chivalrous. But after a couple of years of marriage and a couple of kids he cheats on her regularly, despite her being the spit of Grace Kelly, he is also mentally and physically abusive to her.
And the poor woman is stuck, stuck in her gilted cage of a house with no escape. Even when she attempts to make a career by taking some modeling jobs Don sabotages it for her. And this man is meant to be our dashing hero despite the fact that he treats his wife like shit. (But it's because he's so complicated and tortured, yep, that old chestnut. And so it seems, that just as I have thought about many modern men, Don Draper needs to man the hell up.)
And he's far from the only one. Peter Campbell cheats on his new wife with secretary Peggy, Roger Sterling is completely open about using prostitutes and having affairs behind the back of his wife of many years. They muck women around, treat them with disdain and disrespect quite openly in their little boys club. 
Compared to the men of the 50's and 60's advertising agencies modern men are rather wonderful creatures. Do you know why? Because they are forced to take responsibility for their actions. Women are no longer afraid to hold their men to account. Women can walk away from a serial philanderer, she can divorce without shame, it is they who should now feel ashamed. While she can have her own career and know she will survive.
So men might not wear a fabulous trilby anymore (a loss I do lament) and there will always be something quite lovely about a man offering me his arm or giving me his coat if it's cold (that's just good manners!) but I think I might cut the modern man a break. In comparison, he really ain't so bad. 

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Converting myself into a Mad Men lady.

I was rather late into the Mad Men obsession. It was only when a colleague said: 'You must love Joan Holloway, she's very you.' I thought, who is this Joan Holloway? I must seek out a kindred spirit of red-head womanliness. So I purchased Seasons 1 & 2. Last night I finished Season 1, which enthralled, disgusted and delighted me in equal measures. It was so compelling, so stylish, so darkly funny, so slick but so misogynist and so much smoking!
Anyway, I decided to turn myself into a walking Mad Men woman: See the picture right to see how I would look! A woman who wears stockings and corsets and has perfect nails and rollored hair, even in the middle of the night she is perfectly coiffed with a pretty nightie and floaty silk dressing gown. A woman who puts her appearance before all else and accepts men as sexist pigs because that's 'just how men are.' Luckily, no man has been a sexist pig towards me, what with us living in 2010, so thankfully I haven't had to grit my teeth and be all sweetness and light in that situation.

Now two Mad Men style things I will not be doing is 1) constantly smoking as it's a) now illegal to smoke in most of the places the Mad Men ladies smoke and b) rather detrimental to my health. 2) I will also not drink copious amounts of whiskey when I'm meant to be working. There is a distinct possibility that whiskey may make me more creative in the office but I can't see my superior managers thinking much of me as I slur my way through a four-hour strategic planning meeting and then vomiting in a bin. I can assure you this is what will happen if I drink too much whiskey.
So anyway, onto the experiment:

The Wardrobe: 
I have a rather retro style wardrobe anyway so luckily I am not having to go shopping to purchase some Joan Holloway or Betty Draper style outfits. I'm also used to strutting about in pencil skirts with nipped in waists. And oh, I've always thought it's lovely.

The stockings and suspenders:
I do already own rather intense underwearage like stockings and such. Although these were purchased as treats for the boyfriend rather than everyday wear...
Putting the fiddling stockings and suspenders on first thing in the morning, while my still bleary eyes trouble to even focus let alone concentrate on something so delicate, is rather a pain in the arse. It does definitely look a hell of a lot sexier than a pair of tights, however, even though my pencil skirt is well passed my knees I do feel rather self-conscious as I walk around the office feeling the relentless tug tug of the stockings around my thighs. Like everyone knows I am wearing this underwear like some kind of strumpet - even though fifty years ago these are the kind of things women wore on a daily basis. And even when I take them off I can feel them there, tugging, pressing, pulling on my skin. On the plus side, the stockings are cheaper than tights and if one ladders it's not a big deal, you can still wear the other one and just match it to one of the others in your stocking drawer. However, the handwashing may be a pain.
Also, and this is rather delicate, but going to the toilet? Ha! I work on just holding it all in until I can't take it anymore and then have to wiggle everything off just enough to go without going through the palava of taking everything off and then putting it back on again. This may explain why women took ages in the loo back then. Although it doesn't really explain why we take ages now...
Anyway, it may look sexy but if a gentleman did actually, er, come to call, there isn't actually that much in the way of ease of access. Getting all this underwear off is actually like Fort Knox. Not as sexy as you would think.

The corset:
Ouch! Maybe that's why men thought women the lesser sex, with such a lack of oxygen they couldn't breathe let alone think. Admittedly I do have a far more hour-glass silhouette which looks rather nice indeed. And it does make me feel more flirtatious, submissive and like I'm oozing sex or something. But to be honest, that's all a bit much for the office. That and I'd rather be able to concentrate on something other than the pain I'm feeling in my ribs.

I'm going to have to buy falsies, with my actually having to live a life, growing my own perfect nails is unlikely to happen.

I have been wearing vintage nighties to bed and floating around my flat in a silk dressing gown rather than my fluffy pink toweling dressing gown. Which has felt rather glamorous indeed, if a bit cold.

The Hair:
It takes a team of hairdressing experts three hours to construct Joan Holloway's hairstyles. I have, oooh, half an hour in the morning. But I make do with some heated rollers and the outcome is pretty good. But my hair looks, well, too bitty. The curls are all too individual. Then I remember something my gran once said to me. 'Sheryl dear, you always look like your hair needs a good brush.' My gran would have been about Betty Drapers age in 1960 so maybe she has a point. I carefully brush my curls. Et Voila! I look very retro. That is, until I go out in the rain and my hair just becomes a frizz bomb.

So what am I learning from my Mad Men experience? It's all a lot of effort. For a special occasion, the underwear, the clothes, the hair, it will all make you feel marvellous. But for everyday wear? I'm thinking I'll stick to tights thanks.

Monday, 22 March 2010

My apologies...

I know I haven't blogged in months. I'm sorry. I've been really busy!
And this post is little more than a promise to myself to be more proactive in the blogging sense. I've had a pretty redesign (doesn't Rita look just lovely above?!) and I've made a decision.  Obviously paying off my overdraft was a major deal for my blog previously. Well, the amazing news is that I have done it. I have paid off my overdraft, woohoo! I am no longer in major debt (aside from my student loan) and am free to write about other things...
Following this triumph over debt I have been trying to figure out how to fit my blog into a niche. Trying to work out what kind of blogger I wanted to be. There are so many different types of blogs and bloggers out there. There are foodie blogs, fashion blogs, sex blogs, feminist blogs, cancer blogs. You only need to pick up a copy of this months Company to see that there are blogs out there related to every single subject under the sun. Whenever I go to blogger networking events (I know, how geeky am I?!) I'm asked, 'what kind of blog do you write?' (For which I used to respond: paying off debts, fashion.) But I've decided I no longer want to typecast my blog into a particular label or subject. I have too much to say on too many different things to limit myself.
I only write this blog for me really. This isn't my job. I have one of those. I can't imagine I even have that many regular readers (aside from my sister, Hi Nic!) So this is more a creative outlet for anything else I want to write about... admittedly themes may crop up: food, fashion, health, charity, music, books, film, general geekery. But on here I will generally write about anything. Aside from my private life. That's private. And if you want to read about that you will have to break into my room and read the notebook hidden under my bed. (How very tantalising for you all...)