Thursday, 13 August 2015

Costume time – Partners in Crime: The Secret Adversary

It seems like ages since I've done a costume breakdown for a telly programme, but the outfits in the first Partners in Crime story were so striking that I really wanted to. I really wasn't sure how I felt about the show after the first episode, nor did I like Tuppence's hats. Well, three episodes in, with the first story complete, I like the show and have come to accept the titfers.

Tuppence
You can't really avoid looking at the hats. In the first episode, I was particularly startled by Tuppence pairing a chestnut hat with a black bag and chocolate gloves. That's the point, I guess: Tuppence's hats are supposed to be over-the-top and frivolous.

Where Tuppence really rocks is her suits and knitwear. Actress Jessica Raine has an amazing figure, and the neat little pencil skirts on her suits really show that off. I do sometimes wish ladies' suits would come back into fashion. They're so chic. Just look at the two-tone collar of the one Tuppence wore on the train. You don't see details like that on suits any more, even at the 'top end of the high street' shops like Hobbs. The pencil skirts, on the other hand, would be easy to imitate. I was really pleased to see her Prince of Wales check skirt – can't wait for autumn now, as I can dig mine out and show my Tuppence.

(What? What?)
Anyway, the knitwear all appears to be fine gauge with 3/4 sleeves and, when it has a texture, to be very subtle. Dare I say it, it mostly looks machine made rather than handknitted, but then the Beresfords are a bit posh and I can't imagine Tuppence knitting. There's loads of this sort of thing on the market nowadays, from Boden's luxurious cashmere jobbies to ones from firms like Collectif. Again, it would be a really easy thing to copy.
In a nice change from most period-set dramas, where you feel most of the wardrobe effort goes into eveningwear, Tuppence's casualwear is also very stylish, which is lovely and could be easily copied and worn nowadays. My absolute favourite outfit was the grey tartan swing coat worn with yellow beret and cardigan. As you can see here, the blouse is heavily embroidered and there's a very delicate stitch pattern in the cardigan too. I think what makes it is the colour matching, which turns the whole lot from a collection of clothes into a proper outfit. That's possibly why I have a problem with so many of the other hats; instead of pulling an outfit together, they take the edge off her looks.

Tommy
I'm slowly growing to appreciate the subtlety of menswear, though the likes of Bruce Partington-Plans and Norton of Morton are more likely to grasp the details than I ever will. In general, Tommy is smartly suit-clad – well enough for gangsters to mistake him for a wealthy man.
However, while Tommy does his best to conform to expectations, his artistic side comes out when he relaxes, as his dressing gown shows. I did like the way his soft, curvy paisley contrasted with Tuppence's sensible tailored pyjamas; it's a nice hint at the way they don't completely adhere to 1950s gender roles in their relationship.

Albert Pemberton
Science teacher Albert Pemberton, who helps Tommy and Tuppence, is almost the perfect 1950s schoolteacher in his tweed jackets and tank tops. His wooden arm, replacing a hand blown off when he worked in bomb disposal during the war, hints at bravery and less scholarly talents. There's something very cosy about the way Albert is dressed, with all that wool, and I think the viewer is supposed to find him charmingly, and unthreateningly eccentric – though the only person who should ever be seen in on land a duffel coat is Paddington Bear.
Ne'er-do-wells 
Gangster boss Whittington wears a suit, but the lapels are a little too wide, it's all just slightly too showy. His equally unpleasant underling wears a rather nasty print shirt, and you can see his vest – clearly lacking in refinement. As for Whittington's fedora and raincoat combo, that's straight out of the Film Noir Book of Villains.

Jane and Julius
These are American characters. The first time we see Jane she's very worried and very smartly dressed (albeit in need of a good ironing), though nothing in particular stands out. Julius is rather flamboyant, with his patterned scarf and biscuit-coloured suit, compared to the besuited British chaps. He is both rich and American, and a lot of the Brits in the show were civil servants and spies and therefore would be trying to pass unnoticed. One thing I did like is the way Julius and Jane wore similar creamy tones, as if to underline their connection.

25 comments :

  1. Having not seen the series I will reserve my observations to the clothes.

    1. Brown and black can work. Sometimes. Here it might be distracting.
    2. I own that yellow cardigan with a slightly longer torso and a more dramatic fan pattern in the knit. Mine is machine stitched.
    3. You'll get my duffel coat off me when I'm dead-and not a moment before! Besides, if you plan to do a bit of public drinking (largely not permitted in Nebraska) you need someplace to hide the beer cans. You don't really think Paddington was stashing jars of marmalade in there now do you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it was just too many browns with black. The hat with a black bag and gloves, or a chocolate bag and gloves, would have looked like a deliberate mismatch. As it was, coming in such an early scene it just made me wonder if the costume budget had come up short and they'd had to make do!

      It's a great cardigan. I think I need more of those.

      As a Brit, I am shocked at the notion of a place that doesn't allow public drinking. I'd expect it in a country with a state religion that bans alcohol, but it always startles me how strict the US is on booze.

      Delete
  2. Great post, Mim. I'm going to have a look at the series today, because I'm at home, and it's chucking it down, plus you have made it appeal.

    Outfit-wise, I love the embroidered collar I can see above a cardy in one of your pics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's cute isn't it? And the sort of thing that would be relatively easy to replicate, if you can do a bit of embroidery. (Do you embroider?)

      Delete
    2. I do embroider - that's a really good idea. I've wanted to do some for a while and that would be something quite different for me. I'm going to look out for a blouse which would work.

      Delete
  3. Having only seen two episodes I look forward to seeing more outfits. I agree those suits are rather lovely, and wish someone would design these instead of those silly, cheap looking 50s full skirted dresses, or wiggle dresses for that matter! I'm now reading it too, as I seem to only read the Poirot and Marple books. It's wonderful, but it was written in 1922, so I'm seeing it quite differently. I don't think this adaption will hold up unfortunately, even with Jessica Raine, who is excellent. I love your outfit reviews Mim, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm getting a little tired of the pin-up look myself. I think it's the fact that it's almost impossible to avoid, and a lot of the actual old stuff is getting ignored by vintage fans. It'd be nice to see more accurate repro inspired by all eras (I do like House of Foxy).

      The book is so very different, isn't it? I think it's best to see the TV programme as a very loose interpretation. The early 80s TV version with Francesca Annis was set in the 20s.

      Delete
  4. I don't watch telly but am appreciating this post on the clothes very much although I do have to admit to wearing both brown and black together. A fact of which I am unrepentant. Mum always mentions that it was the Americans that were so smart when she was growing up. We have family over there and they used to come over after WW2 a lot. Some of them returned to live in Scotland. My Mum's Auntie was a milliner and made some amazing hats and clothes. She always made things with very expensive fabrics, in very classic lines and never threw anything out as she told me "everything comes back into fashion". The first time I met her she was wearing a very chic tailored camel trouser suit trimmed with mink on the collar and cuffs. She was very glamorous and in her 70's at the time. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not so much the brown and black, it's the number of browns with black -it stops the hat being a deliberate counterpoint and looks more like they just bundled together a collection of period-appropriate accessories without care. Brown and black can look fab (if it works for leopards...).

      Heh, your Mum's Auntie's approach to clothing makes me think of Princess Anne. I read somewhere that when she 'came into her own' she had a massive pile of outfits custom-made, and hasn't bothered since, which is why she repeats stuff from 30 years ago so often. It'd certainly work with classics like pencil skirts.

      Delete
  5. I was a sucker for Tuppence's hats and actually quite liked most of the combinations she wore. Sometimes I think it's good not to have your accessories matching anything else. Her suits were stunning and, I agree with Theodora, someone needs to start making this sort of thing. I particularly loved to see a 1950s character wearing casual clothing, something that doesn't often appear in period pieces. I also loved Albert's clothes, there's something really warm and safe about that look, like you're coming home to an inviting cosy fire where you feel most happy and content!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess the problem is that suits are expensive to make, especially from high-end fabrics. It'd be a big risk for a shop to take if they then ended up having to discount them at the end of the season. Collectif have stocked some nice Aida Zak ones, though.

      Delete
  6. I just couldn't get into it so abandoned ship, I'm afraid.
    But I do agree about ladies' suits, so chic. Have you ever bought anything from Top Runway? I have been dithering for such a long time but I'm worried about mucking up the measurements or the whole thing just being a pig's ear and badly made!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't, though I have seen people in lovely things made by them. My one custom-made experience to date wasn't good - the seamstress/seller went AWOL for months, and what I ordered finally turned up when I'd decided to give up and accept I'd lost the money. Kitty Lou has a good reputation so I'm seriously considering ordering from her in future.

      Delete
  7. Gosh I just wish I could own Tuppence's wardrobe! Especially the tweed coat! Anyone know a similar one?
    Great article btw!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks!

      I'd try an Etsy or eBay search for 'Plaid swing coat' if you're looking for original vintage.

      I'm not sure if anyone's making anything similar new. The AW collections aren't fully out yet, but from what I've seen a 70s influence is strong this coming season and so I don't think the high street is likely to offer anything similar. It's all ponchos (the proper sort, which for some reason British stores are labelling 'blanket wraps'!)

      Delete
  8. Those hats are flat out slaying me with their awesomeness!!! Love, love, love - and would completely wear - every last one of them. I haven't caught this yet myself, but want to all the more now that I know how amazing the millinery offerings in Partners in Crime is.

    Have a fabulous weekend, dear Mim!
    ♥ Jessica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you can get BBC programmes, it'll probably be coming your way at some point.

      Delete
  9. I do enjoy your TV outfit posts. I haven't managed to watch this series yet but it was talked about a lot at knitting group last night so I really enjoyed seeing these pictures. I agree, some of those suits are lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's interesting how different it is from things like Bletchley Circle and the later series of Foyle's War - set just a few years later, but radically different in look and feel. Rather more chic!

      Delete
  10. I remember my Grandpa, a very dapper chap who spent a small fortune on clothes, using the euphemism "one of the brown hat brigade" to describe a certain type of man who frequented his club.
    I haven't watched the series, I got cold feet in the end as I can't bear David Walliams.
    Do you watch Ripper Street? The costumes (and a couple of the lead actors) are gorgeous! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David Walliams is growing on me. He was the main thing I thought would ruin the programme, but he's surprisingly good. Walliams not a 1950s man's man, but neither is Tommy, you get a sense of someone rather sensitive and impractical, struggling in a world that expects him to be rugged and businesslike, while Tuppence resents having to step back and play the little woman. That what I found revealing about their nightwear; when they're alone together she can be practical and he can be flamboyant.

      I do like Ripper Street - it's over the top, but brilliantly so, in the same way as Peaky Blinders. Love me a bit of Jerome Flynn! (I think Melanie's also a Flynn fan.)

      Delete
  11. I love Tuppence's little ankle boots in the 2nd episode of 'N or M'! Does anyone know where I can get some similar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They reminded me a lot of some Miss L Fire have done in the past - they still have a couple of similar lines on sale:
      http://shop.misslfire.co.uk/shoes/product/Alpine%20Brown
      http://shop.misslfire.co.uk/shoes/product/Ava%20Brown

      It'd be worth waiting to see what's in their Autumn/Winter collection this year, as they usually do cute boots.

      Delete
  12. It's just showing here in NZ now and I'm loving both the show and the costuming. Collectif Clothing have just this week brought out a cropped knitted 3/4 sleeve cardigan which is so like that lovely yellow one of Tuppence's. One thing I am not convinced about is her trousers - I just can't believe she would go into the city in them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I can imagine them for country walks, but not for city wear. I'm trying to think of which jumpers are paired with trousers in my old copies of Stitchcraft, and I'm pretty sure those garments are always for more active occasions like holidays, whereas going into town would require a degree of smartness.

      Delete