Thursday, March 7, 2013

Out with the Corset, in with the War


Dresses from the Eaton's Catalogue 1917. With their corsets donated to the war cause, the middle class silhouette spread out a bit. I have no pictures of the Nicholson Women from that era, except in winter coats - and one of Edith in her Naval League uniform. Military styles were big in 1917.



We drove down York Avenue in Westmount to snap a picture of where Marion Nicholson Blair lived in 1917 (and where my husband's mother was born, probably at home, but I'm not sure, or maybe in a local hospital.)

They lived in the flat on the left but it likely looked like the one on the right, and that means just one two storey house.

York Avenue is a short street on the edge of Westmount, literally on the edge of a cliff, and today it overlooks the massive imposing half-finished English Super Hospital complex. What a glistening eyesore!

Back then in 1917 the street overlooked the rail yards. This massive hospital complex looms large over the entire neighbourhood, like its own brick and mortar Mount Royal.  It's right in your face as you take the train at Vendome station.

Yesterday I emailed an influential person in film production in Canada to pitch a story about the Nicholsons in 1917 and the person emailed back and said the project sounded very interesting.

So I will hold onto that bit of encouragement and continue writing my script...As the above photo shows, the key locations still exist!!

You would just have to take care not to get the new SUPER hospital in the shot!

Summer hats 1917. No longer these huge confections that so many movies (like My Fair Lady)have poked fun at by stylizing them big time. 

Now, for the all-important costume aspect of any period piece. I just watched Parade's End, as I said, a story with a similar setting to my own,  but the main characters are aristocrats so there were some stunning dresses on view and that is important when it comes to period pieces.

 (My story could be a British/Canadian joint venture as it involves the British Suffragettes, including Emmeline Pankhurst and so many of the elite Society Women on the Montreal Council of Women were British-born, Miss Hurlbatt of RVC and Dr. Ritchie England, etc. etch. (Says something, eh?) 

The middle class well.....For instance, the TV dramatization of Vera Brittain's book Testament of  Youth about her war experiences had no pretty dresses and only dingy interiors, poorly lit - typical of the period.

So writing about the middle class has its problems, as people like to see the opulence associated with the upper classes - and beautiful lithe (anorexic?) actresses in decadently gorgeous costumes.


Hmm. Marion could have hidden her pregnancy under these suits. And she did. In those days, pregnancies were a secret until they really started to show.