I had an appointment at Angels the Costumiers yesterday afternoon. With the wardrobe department from Any Human Heart: a lovely lady by the name Charlotte, her assistant Lucy and the young representative from Angels whose name I didn't catch because I was too busy starring at her beautiful pre-Raphaelite locks.
The appointment was not at the well known fancy dress store on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End, but up in Hendon, at Angels main warehouse on a business estate. My bag was stuffed with lacy underwear as I'd been asked to bring some of my own lingerie.
I arrived a few minutes past my 3:30 appointment (courtesy of my "oh-my-God-where-am-I-and-where-on-earth-are-the-street-signs" moment and the minor panic when I couldn't locate the Oyster card reader*).
Oh my goodness. It was like stepping into Hogwarts. Row upon row of clothing and accessories all the way up to the roof. And that musty but delightful smell of stored fabrics and attics.
I was ushered into a smallish room with a large mirror with wings and Charlotte mercifully lowered the blinds over the two small windows. Then the fun began.
She had laid out mismatched bras and panties in an array of blacks, pink, fuschia and orange and I must have tried on 4 or 5 different sets.
Something wonderful happened. I'd already noticed how when I'm working on a character, I take on some of their characteristics. Severine is meant to a plumpish little woman and she obviously feels fine with the way she looks. Here I was, looking at myself in mismatching undergarments, wearing unflattering black hold-up stockings, and pink slippers with fluffy pink feathers on the toe, and I felt great! (In spite of having just eaten a huge bowl of pasta for lunch... the appointment was last minute.) I even did some cute saucy poses for the reference shots. There was none of the usual picking myself apart and hating my reflection. It was a truly lovely moment of complete freedom from body obsession. (Maybe if I can replicate the experience for someone else, I can patent it as some form of therapy.)
When we were done, I headed back to the station. And the magic continued. On the train on the way home I struck up conversation with a nice lady who was heading off to Gatwick Airport to fly off to Melbourne to visit her brother and his young family (I helped her with her luggage), and a young calvary officer in traditional uniform who was heading to a dinner hosted by the Lord Mayor in the City.
I walked home from the station with a light step, in the warm early Spring afternoon, feeling at peace with the world and everything in it, and my bag still full of my lacy underthings.
I hope Severine, the little provincial prostitute, sticks around for a while. She's a great influence, and a wise woman. I'll try and take a leaf out of her book... maybe not her chosen profession but her love of life and sense of self-worth. Wisdom springs from the most unlikely places.
*Oyster Cards are a pay as you go system for the London underground and trains. You must swipe the card at the start and end of your journey, otherwise they charge you the maximum fee for the day.