This photograph of my late grandmother, printed on the reverse side of an aged yellowing postcard bearing the identification ‘The Fancy Dress Studio, 37 Oxford St W’, has always fascinated me for a number of reasons.
Firstly, this is possibly the most uncharacteristic undertaking that I could imagine my Gran getting involved in. At this time I’d guess she’d probably have been in her early to mid twenties, so it must have been taken in the 1920’s, but even so Gran never seemed to me to be the most fanciful of people. The idea of her going along to a photography studio, sorting through the costumes and deciding upon this ‘Laird of the Glen’ outfit is a complete anathema to me. She was practicality and common-sense personified.
Secondly, if the Oxford St W is Oxford St in London, then this can hardly have been an inexpensive exercise, and I’d always imagined that her family had been, if not exactly impoverished, then at least ‘careful’ with whatever money they had and I’d have though this would be the last venture on which their money would be spent. So this is a fairly radical departure from my preconceptions of her earlier life.
Look at the shoes; they’d hardly go amiss today. You can almost feel the soft leather, the tasselled laces – and is that a hint of built-up soles?
And though not uncommon, the stage settings are interesting too!
I love the firm, sturdy legs – long gone by the time I was born. Gran was always, in my memory, a slightly built woman, narrow shouldered, sparrow-legged.
And that enigmatic, slightly amused pout?
Whatever the background to this photo-shoot, it’s lost to me now. But it doesn’t make it any the less compelling to me.