LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
I lived at the flat at Chiswick with my Grandmother. I wore a stiff linen collar and tie and corsets with bones in them. A few years later I cast them aside. My Grandmother and an elderly cousin said that it was indecent and disgraceful and women’s backs were not strong enough to support themselves; I am now forty-one and my backbone has not yet crumpled up…
I was now sixteen. I drew from the nude at the Art School, but I had never dared to look at myself in the mirror, for my Grandmother had always insisted that one dressed and undressed under one’s nightdress using it as a kind of tent. One day, feeling very bold, I took off all my clothes and gazed in the looking-glass. I was delighted. I was much superior to anything I had seen in the life class and I got a book and began to draw.
observations: Nina Hamnett had a splendid and unashamed idea of her own good looks. She seems ready to take her clothes off and dance at the most casual request – the picture above is almost too modest for her self-descriptions - and there is a great story much later when she is staying with friends in the south of France:
One morning I was standing in the middle of my room with no clothes on, assuming a variety of poses and looking at myself in two mirrors, so that I could see the effect all round. The window was open and suddenly the round red face of a workman appeared. He had come up a ladder and was engaged in painting the house. I stood still with shock, and so did the astonished workman. I then walked up to the windows and closed the shutters.
-- it’s her flat description of what she was doing that I find so endearing.
In a previous entry on her, we showed some brightly-coloured stockings: she is very interested in legwear, and says she had long feet with nice toes which she was very proud of.
I had a wonderful collection of stockings at that time and wore flat-heeled shoes with straps on them like children do. They made my feet look very large. They cost five francs and were worn by concierges. I had red stockings and yellow stockings and some that looked like a chess board.
She would have loved the modern MyTights website and these from Pretty Polly:
And she tells us about Gertrude Stein’s legwear:
She wore in the winter thick grey woollen stockings and Greek sandals. The stockings had a separate place for the big toe, as the sandals had a piece of leather which went between the big toe and the other four toes.And there is a funny story where a pedlar selling silk stockings tells her they would be ‘an investment’ for her, and she is complimented because he thinks she is a ‘lady of loose morals’.
More from Nina Hamnett: click on the label below.
The picture, from Wikimedia Commons, is from the cover of an American magazine called Puck.