Ever year at the Tudor house, Cotehele Cornwall, a garland is made from flowers grown in the gardens over the summer. It hangs in the hall of this magical old house, to attract visitors to the property. We went on Friday and although it was thinner than it has been in the past, due to our atrocious summer, nevertheless it is still a reminder of the time when the Christmas decorations were not bought in a shop.
My younger brother has gone to bed; my mother is sitting by the fire sewing. My father is sat opposite her in a large armchair with me on his lap, leaning against his scratchy woollen sweater, my head tucked under his chin and my thumb in my mouth. He is holding a small buff-coloured book from which he is about to read.
I can see the pictures on the open page; the vegetable patch with the rows of lettuces, a spade stuck in the ground and the back of Mr McGregor leaning on it. Peter is hiding under a large leaf, his inquisitive face looking towards the burly gardener. I can almost see Peter’s nose twitching. I point at the pictures, identifying the objects in it.
Then my father begins, ‘Lettuces are soporific.’
So began my interest in books. Today I picked up my battered copies of Beatrix Potter’s books with the intention of throwing them away. They are so distressed, the spines missing or torn, pages stuck in with ageing sellotape; they are not fit to pass onto another child. But I couldn’t put them with the rubbish, they are too precious, so I have put them back on the shelf.
Not the town in California, but the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in central
London, where there is an exhibition of clothes designed for some of the most famous characters in films.
Amongst the exhibits was the navy tailored suit, Meryl Streep wore when she played Mrs Thatcher and next to it the outrageous playsuit she wore in Mama Mia. One clearly spoke of power and control and the other of sex and outrageous behaviour; there is no way they could be interchanged.
Another exhibit explained how the clothing for Harrison Ford as Indianna Jones was designed and then aged to provide the lived in look of a 1940’s explorer. The designer had used as a blueprint, the early adventure films.
I began to think about the importance of clothing to establishing character. I do imagine them in various clothes until I find something I think is appropriate for their personalities and for different events in the story line. Obviously, a barrister will wear a wig and a gown over a dark suit, when she is in court, but what about when the character is not working.? Is she a jeans and T-short type or would she wear a skirt and blouse. What about a female detective? Would she wear trousers to work with a trench coat or something more feminine?
Do you imagine characters in different outfits and do you use the clothes to help define the character to the reader.