Past Life: Lor­raine Child struts her stuff!

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS -

Men rarely love shop­ping. Their sur­vival in­stincts drag them into the first cave on the right; see it, catch it, eat it. Women are bet­ter at brows­ing sim­ply be­cause – long be­fore the epoch of Wal­lace Waite and Arthur Rose – they spent ages gath­er­ing roots and ber­ries, whilst com­plain­ing about the state of the for­est floor. To­day’s hunters trail af­ter women, sti­fling yawns and cast­ing limp opin­ions to avoid a melt­down of fe­male in­se­cu­rity. When shop­ping for them­selves, men pre­fer to lie in wait; a few clicks and the prey comes to them. Adrenalin may pump a lit­tle if they have to fight with the pack­ag­ing, and their flight im­pulse prob­a­bly won’t take them as far as the re­cy­cling bin, but the heavy club will re­main un­blood­ied.

My hus­band was an ex­cep­tion to this glib as­sump­tion and en­joyed all shop­ping: food, things for our home; and clothes, as long as they were for me. I re­mem­ber a del­i­catessen-cum-clothes shop in Shaftes­bury, the sort of place you visit for laven­der oil and come out with a copy of Sprout­ing Life, horny goat weed, and a moon cup. The only place to try on a lit­tle tie-dye num­ber was be­hind a stack of chick­pea flour, but hav­ing changed in less savoury en­vi­rons for fash­ion shows, I sim­ply dis­robed, en­veloped in lit­tle more than the tempt­ing aro­mas of sun-ripened toma­toes and olive oil. Quite what de­tained the bearded gen­tle­man, I can’t imag­ine, though his scru­tiny of gluten-free corn­flakes seemed rather thor­ough. Be­sides, my hus­band didn’t even like ce­real.

A favourite place to en­gage in re­tail heal­ing is Strat­ford-up­on­avon. Yes, it has draw­backs, but tourists have to go some­where. The street plan of the town has changed lit­tle over its his­tory and is cen­tred on three com­pact streets at right an­gles to the river, three par­al­lel to it. Many are its at­trac­tions, and any­where that com­bines river­ine de­lights with his­tory, cul­ture, good shop­ping and fine din­ing is never go­ing to see the back of my tote. Hostel­ries in and around Strat­ford range from the grand to the mod­est, and hav­ing stayed in the for­mer, I now pre­fer a pri­vately owned es­tab­lish­ment where the pro­pri­etors have be­come warm friends. The per­sonal touch is worth more than any amount of cour­tesy park­ing.

Of the 87 pages be­tween the covers of Cotswold Life in Septem­ber 1978, 35 ref­er­enced clothes. Conspicuous by their ab­sence were lin­gerie ad­ver­tise­ments, deemed too risqué in the days of neck-to-toe drap­ery. ‘Find us just be­yond the cary­atids’ was the raci­est thing I could find. Cloth­ing fea­tured high qual­ity from Jaeger and Pringle, in warm­ing fab­rics: cash­mere, tweed, wool and cor­duroy. Read­ing about capes, coats and suits on the hottest sum­mer sol­stice on record, I wanted to plunge naked into the cool­ing em­brace of the Avon. Fash­ion in the 1970s was smoth­er­ing; a neck­line was an ex­ten­sion of a wardrobe, ev­ery inch of ster­num cov­ered in cowls, polo necks, ties, scarves and sweaters. Women couldn’t be too up­hol­stered.

Ob­vi­ously, there is more to Strat­ford than just clothes shop­ping. The Strat­ford Food Fes­ti­val from Septem­ber 22-24 is a three-day cel­e­bra­tion of all things gus­ta­tory. Its world-fa­mous the­atre needs no in­tro­duc­tion, and there are vil­lages and his­toric houses of quiet beauty, all within a short drive, pro­vid­ing an an­ti­dote to the bus­tle of the town. Charlecote, a Na­tional Trust glory, with an­cient lin­eage to the Lucy fam­ily, is just over five miles away, doc­u­mented as the first place in Eng­land to have a flock of Ja­cob sheep, in­tro­duced there by George Lucy in 1755. In the 1980s, my hus­band in­ter­viewed the ef­fer­ves­cent Lucinda Lambton at Charlecote, her voice as rich and rounded as a vin­tage port. It was one of the high­lights of his jour­nal­is­tic ca­reer.

Clothes have come off in leaps and bounds since the suf­fo­cat­ing ex­cesses of the Sev­en­ties, their role as sta­tus sym­bols lost in the am­ple folds of the past. Un­think­able now are the so­cial mores – gov­erned by men – that con­sid­ered it un­ac­cept­able for women to wear trousers. It is un­usual now to see women wear­ing any­thing else. My hus­band loved to see beau­ti­ful clothes, on and off the cat­walk, and in the early 1960s he drew some de­signs for the then un­known fash­ion de­signer Caro­line Charles. Never know­ingly re­strained by red tape, he gained en­try to Lon­don Fash­ion Week by wav­ing his VIP pass. It was ac­tu­ally his li­brary card, but chutz­pah can get a de­ter­mined man any­where.

‘Never know­ingly re­strained by red tape, my hus­band gained en­try to Lon­don Fash­ion Week by wav­ing his VIP pass. It was ac­tu­ally his li­brary card, but chutz­pah can get a de­ter­mined man any­where’

Above: Our own Lor­raine Child es­capes the gen­er­ally “smoth­er­ing” na­ture of 1970s fash­ion on the cat­walk

LOR­RAINE CHILD

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