Make Do And Mend

I’ve come over all “Dig For Victory” after having visited the latest pop-up shop* in Greenwich. I wasn’t going to talk about it until I did a post about Christmas shopping, but then Annette from North West London asked me about it and – well, I might as well rave about it now, I guess. Carpe Diem, eh, Annette…

The shop doesn’t have a name, as such, as far as I can tell, though it might be called “Authentic Parachute.” It’s next door to Johnny Rocket and it’s run by a lovely artist from Cockpit Arts called Debbi Little.

The most instantly-arresting things about the window display are the curious printed-cloth Union Flag items that look like a cross between Punk London c. 1977 and something your Great Gran would have in the Best Sitting Room , but once you’re looking, it’s the parachute stuff that grabs you.

Making dresses out of parachute silk was a bit of a no-brainer in wartime Britain – fabric was rationed, and women soon caught onto a whole bunch of silk going begging, whatever the source. Wedding dresses and ballgowns with big flowy skirts were particularly popular. But I haven’t seen it done by anyone since (come to think of it, despite my feeling 900 years old, I didn’t actually see it done the first time either…)

Debbi Little does just that, though, dying old parachutes funky colours and creating timeless little strappy dresses. Some of them are original ’50s models; others are modern ones – and she designs each one slightly differently according to the ‘chute in question. The blood-red one is particularly fabulous. She describes them as ‘ballgowns in a bag’ – I assume that they fold up into the original parachute cases, but I didn’t see any.

They’re not cheap – but they’re not going to date, either. I can’t think of an era in the last – well, the last 60-odd years – when they would have looked out of place. Spaghetti straps and flouncy skirts just always look good on a girl…

There are some great young artists around just now and many of them sell things on Greenwich Market. Few of them are able to afford actual shops, despite the sheer number of empty premises, which I find frustrating.

Of course, every so often you can visit them on Open Studios days – Blackheath, Greenwich and Deptford all do them from time to time. Cockpit Arts has one this weekend, if you’re at a loose end. You could even win this year’s Christmas Tree, decorated with designer baubles…

* I know, I know – ‘pop-up’ sounds like one of those kiddie books with 3D pages, but it’s actually just a fancy name for short-lease shops, which suit people who can’t afford the astronomical rates charged by a certain Hospital Trust…


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