CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: The postman who discovered the secret language of clothes
The Great British Sewing Bee
The Girl From Plainville
There’s an entire human language, it seems, I’m incapable of perceiving. Like the ultrasonic squeaking of bats, or the swirling world of scents that only dogs can smell, it’s all around but I can’t decode it.
In common with most blokes (and a good many women), I’m oblivious to the deeper meaning of clothes.
My far more attuned colleague Claudia Joseph reported in Tuesday’s Daily Mail on singer Jane Birkin’s funeral in Paris, translating the subtle messages sent by the mourner’s outfits.
She noted the significance of the Yves Saint Laurent tuxedos worn by Jane’s daughters, a style their mother once wore in a YSL advert. Chanteuse Vanessa Paradis sported a bohemian straw trilby, which harked back to a famous basket Jane took everywhere.
As celebrities from Catherine Deneuve to Brigitte Macron arrived at the Saint-Roch church, every heel, every handbag, every hat had a hidden meaning.
The Great British Sewing Bee The Final: Presenter Sara Pascoe (left) and Judges Esme Young (centre) and Patrick Grant (right)
I’m in awe of Tony the postman, who picked up a needle one day to try making himself some mountain biking gear, and discovered an unexpected talent writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS
I wrote Birkin’s obituary for this paper. She was very English and very French, yet her first and most fluent language was fashion . . . and that’s all Greek to me.
So I’m in awe of Tony the postman, who picked up a needle one day to try making himself some mountain biking gear, and discovered an unexpected talent. He tried sewing a Hawaiian shirt or two, applied to go on The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC1) and ended up in the final.
Tony has an instinctive understanding of clothes. His fellow finalists Mia and Asmaa share it, of course, but everyone — contestants, judges, even Tony himself — was shocked by how quickly he has gained new sewing skills.
Handling a delicate silver fabric to create a Victorian-style dress, he was ‘overlocking’ the frills and ‘baby-locking’ the ‘rolled hems’ as though he had been doing it all his life.
And yes, I still have no real idea what that sentence means, except it was something to do with frayed threads.
For the final challenge, the contestants had to design a catwalk creation that transformed itself while being worn. Quick-change costumes are one thing, but these dresses had to reinvent themselves like chameleons changing colour, all in one fluid motion. I had no idea such a thing was even possible, and how it was achieved is a mystery to me.
The Girl From Plainville (Ch4) is a true-crime drama, loosely based on a 2014 case in Massachusetts, USA, in which a 17-year-old girl was suspected of urging an online boyfriend to kill himself
All three were impressive, though poor Mia was in tears when her Velcro fastenings kept creeping open. Tony’s model was his daughter Emily, and the dress he made left her speechless with admiration.
But the real miracle was winner Asmaa’s gown, which seemed to spiral around itself as it unfurled. ‘A feat of genius, such clever engineering,’ gasped judge Patrick Grant. He could have added, like Brucie, ‘Give us a twirl!’ — because this was a dress that twirled all by itself.
From the secret code of clothes to the teenage language of social media, another unfathomable mystery to middle-aged chaps. The Girl From Plainville (Ch4) is a true-crime drama, loosely based on a 2014 case in Massachusetts, USA, in which a 17-year-old girl was suspected of urging an online boyfriend to kill himself. Elle Fanning plays manipulative Michelle, practising her tears in front of a mirror and fuming whenever anyone invades her limelight for even a moment.
It’s a strong performance, unrecognisable from her turn as the naive, headstrong Russian empress Catherine in The Great. But the production has a clunky, old-fashioned feel, with detectives who talk and act like they’re in a 1990s police drama.
The online chat is unconvincing too — long-winded, written in full sentences, with punctuation and good spelling . . . not the way any teenager is likely to use text.
If they did, perhaps I’d be able to understand them.
Glam dwelling of the night
Roxy Music lead guitarist Phil Manzenera’s old home and recording studio was on sale for £5.5 million, in Britain’s Most Expensive Houses (Ch4).
For that money I’d expect a ballroom to Dance Away The Heartache . . . and a view of Virginia Plain.
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