Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Kind of Loving

Over Christmas I read Stan Barstow's A Kind of Loving. Published in 1960 and typically seen as one of the kitchen sink dramas of the period, it tells the story of Vic Brown, a draftsman in a Northern factory. He falls for Ingrid and the book charts both their relationship and also how Vic is forced to grow up, take responsibility and leave behind some of his dreams childish notions. There's no fairytale ending but the characters are very believable, there is a warmth to the story, it avoids too many stereotypes and, most importantly for the story, Vic comes across as bright and likeable.

I thought it was interesting how in the book Vic pays close attention to how he dresses - it makes clear he's part of a new generation of white collar workers. How he looks seems to be important for his sense of identity:

"And then my clothes. There's no denying I know how to dress. I don't pay the earth for my clothes but I know where they give you the right cut and I always keep my pants pressed and my shoes clean. And if my shirt's just the least bit grubby at the collar into the wash it goes."

Similarly, he's attracted to Ingrid because she's "Always so neat turned out and clean as clean."

I watched the 1962 film, directed by John Schlesinger, eager to see how this translated into film. It's not overly stated but it's clear that Ingrid (played by June Ritchie) is a modern consumer, with her bags, shoes, neat pencil skirts and lovely coats.

"Ah but she's a smart piece! ... Ingrid looks as if she has a bath every morning and her hair's always soft and clean and shining ... And these skirts and blouses and jumpers she wears are always washed and ironed and fit well and show her trim little figure off a treat."

There's some nice styling details in the film - check out those upturned collars in the image above.

It's in fact her appearance, something Vic (Alan Bates in the film) initially admires, that becomes a pivotal argument in the plot - when she spends money they are meant to be saving on a new winter coat.

Not trying to make you spend money or to create arguments with your other half but in an attempt to capture something of the style of film, I had my first venture into the world of Polyvore. The ladylike coats and pencil skirts around at the moment are perfect for an Ingrid look, though I was slightly wary of going too far. Does anyone remember that Agyness Dean shoot from a few years ago where they curled her hair and photographed her amidst smoking chimneys, whippets and flat caps? Just horrible. Hopefully this set is more "smart piece" and less Northern-working class stereotype. And, as Vic would do, I encourage you too read the book too...

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