Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Gymslip: The Governess's Choice Every time

After reading the comment / contribution I featured in my last posting I came upon an anonymous comment posted on my entry entitled "The Perfect Gymslip?" (click to view post if you haven't already) simply stating :"Love the work. Long live the gymslip!"
In the context of the last posting and taking inspiration from some of that anonymous benefactor's ideas as regards rear buttoning garments in particular, and the question of discipline in general, I started asking my self the question: just what would constitute the perfect gymslip in the eyes of our governess or institutional mistress?
The first question I suppose has to be; why the gymslip? I think the answer there lies in the distance between it and most everyday garb a young adult might chose to wear - always assuming that she has any choice in the matter of course. After all general speaking; a skirt is a skirt is a skirt - but a gymslip instantly shouts; juvenile. It is an anachronistic thing to boot and being a full-length garment has a far greater scope for imaginative stylistic refinements - the open-sided bodice style, that I personally would favour, in particular as there is much scope there to work there with different yoke shapes as well as shoulder-strap widths, lengths and buttoning arrangements. Talking about the latter leads to the first refinement I could imagine our governess incorporating.
The traditional fastening would be by two or three in-row buttons along the top of each shoulder strap but I have seen the buttons running across at a point around a quarter of the way down the front of each shoulder strap - which of course eases the chore of fastening and unfastening in the case of the young child. But our governess is, of course, in charge of recalcitrant young adult women - a pair of young ladies, say, in dire need of strict discipline and unlikely to take kindly to the imposition of uniform as it is, let alone to be enamoured with their new gymslips. The imaginative governess surely would have created for her charges a pretty little confection with a row of three buttons to fasten each shoulder strap, but sited running across each at around a quarter of the way down the rear of the strap. Very, very fiddly and extremely difficult to fasten and unfasten unaided - how galling!
The second thought that comes to mind is one of practicality. In an institution practicality and functionality may well be considered to be paramount, with the fabric choice being influenced accordingly: easy care, easy to clean, perhaps by simply sponging down , hard wearing fabric etc. But I would think that any governess worth her salt and deeply steeped in the subject of discipline, would actually be more likely to go for the diametrically opposite qualities, if giving careful though to a suitable uniform - or uniforms - for the young women under her supervision. Consider; a fussy design, as difficult and troublesome in dressing as in wearing. A myriad sharp knife-pleats decorate a skirt of a fabric guaranteed to require ironing on a daily basis. The fabric chosen particularly because it is known to crease extremely easily - perhaps it scuffs and marks easily as well. If stockings are worn then surely they would be of extremely fine denier, anything but run-resistant and of course seamed. It goes without saying that dress inspections would be frequent, long and tedious and the slightest crease, stain, button misplaced or left unfastened, would result in sever hard strokes of the cane. Likewise crooked seams or (horror of horrors) a ladder in that expensive but delicate hosiery. Needless to say that a creased skirt would be near impossible to avoid with the utmost care in sitting - and of most relevance to the anonymous contributor mentioned in the last posting - necessitating the absolute minimum of fidgeting throughout the seemingly endless schoolroom day. Then we come to thoughts of suitable underwear, of which more another time...but just imagine semi-transparent knickers, in a suitable colour to match the uniform, as an interesting diversion from the obvious...just look at the pic, above left, and imagine this under a suitably abbreviated pleated skirt. Then there is the possibility of combining this feature with traditional school knickers style, full, high-waisted, nice broad leg elastics - all very traditional...until we get to the gusset.
Well, that's it for now, Tomorrow I'm off to Broadstairs (a little town on the Kent coast in south-east England) where I shall be until Monday. I'll be taking my trusty pad and pen so I can put together those last little niggling details of volume 2 (I need to come up with a suitably vivid description of a British woman police officer's uniform - don't ask why...I wont tell you - coz it would give too much away...and then you might jump to conclusions). I also hope to come up with some ideas / make some decisions for the blog and/or the upcoming discussion board/website I have planned. Talking of blog posts: I am going to begin a small series through which those that are interested can watch the evolution of the INSTITUTIONALISED volume 2 book cover - starting with the hand drawn layout guide I have come up with (created in the pub, of course - a real mess). I have to apologise if today's effort seems a little error prone, perhaps a bit of a mess, disjointed or just plain rambling nonsense. I have been writing all day and it is now the early hours of the morning - and I have to get up early too! PS: Just to keep you all up to date: volume 2 is currently standing at 221 pages completed.

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