Why is it that the buggy is always covered and the mother isn't? Buggies come with a plastic cover that protects the child when out in inclement weather. For Hope it Rains | Soineann nó Doineann Michelle Browne proposed to offer a solution to this by creating a garment for the buggy-pushing mother which draws inspiration from Victorian dress, the period in which promenading become acceptable for women in shopping malls and arcades. In nineteenth century Paris, city gardens, and the department store and shopping mall became the domain of bourgeois women, as to be seen on the street at that time was to put one’s ‘virtue’ into question. As Elizabeth Wilson notes “bourgeois consumerism invaded the public sphere, and the very spaces that were permitted to respectable women were in many cases devoted to purchase and sale”1. There is an interesting correlation here with current experience as many mothers feel that their needs are being catered for more in the peripheral shopping centre with seating, changing facilities, space and a sense of safety and welcome not present in city centre quarters. Jan Gehl, in his book New City Life based on his study of the city of Copenhagen, speaks of a changing use of the city. He notes that those choosing to come to the city centre are now going specifically to experience the city2. Where does this leave the mother? How does society allow for the comfort of families in the city so they too can partake in this urban experience?3. Added to this the experience of bad weather in a city like Galway and the place of the mother and child in the city is challenged and challenging. Browne's new garment Stroller creates a physical protected space in which to walk through the city while also highlighting the presence of the family in city life.
In developing Stroller, costume designer Jeni Roddy looked at shapes from specific eras, taking into account how the garments related to the body of the wearer, and often thinking about the relationship of the garments to the ability of the body to move within them, looking specifically here at the Victorian era.
A natural starting point for the shape of our garment was a crinolated skirt. There were difficulties in producing a crinoline that would be large enough to dome over the buggy, without making the internal space of the skirt claustrophobic for the child inside. Stroller is made from clear PVC, so that the child could see and be seen. PVC remnants were used, that were byproducts of another production process and would otherwise be consigned to waste. Scavenged plumbers piping was used for the crinoline, for the strength to maintain such a large shape, which is larger than even the largest 1850's era Victorian crinolines.
The jacket for the piece also came from the same era. It was a re-construction from contemporary PVC raincoats with period details to bring the look together, with mutton sleeves, exaggerated puffed shoulders, a peplum and a hood that was constructed with the shaping of a poke bonnet. Poke bonnets usually only allow the wearer’s face be seen from the front and crucially block peripheral vision. In producing this shape in clear PVC Stroller plays with the restrictions that this era's fashion placed on women's bodies.
Michelle Browne http://michellebrowne.net
Jeni Roddy https://jeniroddy.com