My Life on the Catwalk

Joan, the eccentric daughter of a rich mill owning family in the West Riding, had a collection of clothes actually worn by her family during the 1850 to 1950 period. She used them to present a popular catwalk show called “100 years of Fashion”. The Reverend Matthew Pollard, today the Rector of Bridlington’s Priory Church and proving to be a man of the cloth in more ways than one, was one of her models. He told us the story of the show and the featured clothes.

Matthew said Joan insisted on three things before she would agree to put on a show.  They were a catwalk, a changing room, and a piano. Her friend Kathleen would play the piano and Joan would provide a commentary whilst Matthew and other models paraded and quick-changed to parade again.

Back in the 1850’s people were smaller in stature and dresses of this era complete with crinolines were modelled for Joan by young girls. The clothes that Matthew showed, from formal to lacy night attire, were the best that money could buy. A “walking out” dress was not complete without a small parasol.

By 1880 the dresses were less flared and longer parasols became the fashion so they could double as walking sticks, emulating Princess Alexandra.

Matthew’s pictures of the early 1900 fashions show us an era of fur and feathers.  By 1914 though, this opulence was behind us. A wedding dress of the day no longer sported the long train of earlier eras.

For 1920 we saw Matthew dressed as a young gent ready for motoring complete with a long thick coat and huge fur mittens. Matthew’s wife, also one of Joan’s models, wore a fashionable very long scarf. Such a scarf was to be Isadora Duncan’s undoing as it caught around a car’s axle and strangled her.

A delicate “flapper” dress is one of Matthew’s wife’s favourites. It was complete with accessories including what looked like a gold lame shower cap, a small feather fan, and a very long cigarette holder with black Russian cigarette.

More of Matthew’s photographs showed that by 1930 fox fur was back in, and pill box hats and shorter skirts were popular. 1940 brought the utility suit, turban headscarf, and gas mask over the shoulder. For the 1950’s Matthew showed a black velvet dress with a lacy top, and a smart shapely Dior “New Look” ladies suit.

Of all the clothes Matthew modelled he said his favourite was the traditional court outfit that Joan’s father wore as Lord High Sheriff of Carnarvon when he attended the coronation of George VI. And very smart Matthew looked in it too.

Joan Turner gave the vote of thanks. She enjoyed Matthew’s entertaining commentary and he proved he was a man of many parts.