Friday, 14 August 2009

Shoes and bluestockings...



Did anyone else listen to the Radio 4 series this week on the Bluestockings? I dipped in and out of it (during morning tea breaks; too many cups of tea this week), and it was v. interesting. Made me think of Rosamond Lehmann's first novel, 'Dusty Answer', where 1920s heroine (Judith) goes off to study at Cambridge, at Girton, and has passionate friendship with Jennifer, before being supplanted by scary Geraldine Manners, and all the male undergraduates wear grey flannel. I first read the book when it was out of print -- before it had been rescued by Virago -- in the summer before I started at Cambridge, and was seduced by its romance and intensity. Like this...

'Above the quiet, secretly-stirring town, roofs, towers and spires floated in a pale gold wash of light. What was the mystery of Cambridge in the evening? Footfalls struck with a pang on the heart, faces startled with pale beauty, and every far appearing or disappearing form seemed significant.

And when they got back to College, even that solid red-brick barrack was touched with mystery. The corridors were long patterns of unreal light and shadow. Girls' voices sounded remote as in a dream, with a murmuring rise and fall and light laughter behind closed doors. The thrilling smell of cowslips and wall-flowers was everywhere, like a cloud of enchantment.'

I can still read it now, and feel nostalgic, but because I have shoes on my mind (Coco Chanel's shoes, in the late 20s, as it happens), I started thinking about what Cambridge bluestockings might have worn on their feet, and then -- in the way that these things happen, after midnight -- I started searching for a contemporary equivalent, and found these excellent shoes by Rupert Sanderson.
I think bluestockings would have liked them, and even Mademoiselle Chanel might have approved -- I'm tempted to use the words 'lesbian chic', but that isn't quite right (actually, it's wrong, wrong, wrong). Anyway, you can imagine the footfalls, echoing in Twenties' corridors... Oh, and I can imagine the second Mrs de Winter in the brogues, and Rebecca in the cream high heels, tip-tapping down the staircase at Manderley.

11 comments:

kairu said...

Yet another book I must track down and read. Thank you, Justine. (I love Virago editions, I am slowly collecting them from used bookshops and thrift stores).

I love those Rupert Sanderson shoes, but I promised myself not to buy another pair of shoes until winter. I don't know if I could have been called a bluestocking when I was a student, but I would probably worn brogues rather than pale cream heels, a decade ago.

In that mysterious, bewitching film Last Year at Marienbad, Delphine Seyrig wanders through endless hallways and gardens, up and down stairs and through grand drawing rooms, clad in exquisite Chanel couture (I was particularly transfixed by a black lace dress). Those timeless gowns are grounded by those beautiful Chanel shoes, instantly identifiable with the black toe cap against nude upper.

Chanel had some perfect black court shoes (what my mother would call a pump, I suppose) a few seasons back. I wanted a pair madly, but of course they were beyond my reach.

Justine Picardie said...

Now you've added a film to my list -- I must track it down immediately. And I'm sure you'll enjoy 'Dusty Answer'...

kairu said...

I did track down a copy of Dusty Answer, which will be on its way shortly. Meanwhile will read Zuleika Dobson and And Even Now, which arrived today (ZD is falling out of its cover and must be glued together before I can read it).

I feel that Hiroshima Mon Amour is a better film than Last Year at Marienbad (the former is the first feature film by the same director). But the latter has all those extraordinary Chanel creations, and their wearer, Delphine Seyrig, is the ultimate Chanel woman, I think, with her sharp dark bob and strong dark brows, like the young Chanel herself. The themes that weave through Resnais' films, at least the two I've seen, are of love, and memory. Or love, and forgetting. They are not to be missed.

kairu said...

Justine, if I'm not mistaken Chanel also dressed Jeanne Moreau for Les Amants, a few years earlier. There are softly chic suits and one perfect black dinner dress (of course). Those auteurs of the Nouvelle Vague had an instinct for couture. And Les Amants is one of my favorite films, a love letter from Louis Malle to his leading lady.

Justine Picardie said...

Kairu, thank you so much -- I'm going to order both those films now -- I'd forgotten about the Chanel connection, but you are quite right, of course.

enid said...

Read a lovely article by you on Audrey Tatou in our local Sunday Times - you have travelled to SA via print !!!! I too scour second hand stores for your recommendations and just found Dusty Answer. Keep reminding us of the forgotten ( by many ) classic reads.

savidgereads said...

Hahahaha I am so with you on the second Mrs De Winter being in brogues. Thats really made me chortle. I am hopefully off to see the Coco film tonight and will be paying extra attention to the shows in the movie now just in case.

Justine Picardie said...

I'll post the link to my piece on 'Coco Avant Chanel'. I enjoyed the film, though it's historically inaccurate in places (which I, in a trainspotter-ish way, can't help noticing). Spot the mistakes...

kevinhil123 said...

Lehmann was awarded the CBE in 1982 and died at Clareville Grove, London on 12 March 1990, aged 89.

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