As far as Dawn O’Porter is concerned it’s out with the new and in with the old. Fed up with the uninspiring and mass-produced clothes on the high street, she’s on a mission to convert us to the beauty of vintage.
With the help of a crack squad of pattern cutters, designers and seamsters, she sets out to breathe life back into vintage shop finds, back-of-the-closet rejects and salvaged gems from grandma’s wardrobe. All the while she fashions classics, from the 70s flower-power shirt dress to the 60s classic shift – she looks great, but would the rest of us?
This makeover series offers not exactly a brand new house, but a thorough redesign and refurb, paid for with the owners’ own money and masterminded by former room-changer Linda Barker.
“We all know TV makeover shows fudge the figures,” crows the voiceover, “with an army of behind-the-scenes blaggers bagging stuff for free, but this show is different.” It’s not very different, in fact, but it does what you want of a makeover show in offering (a) ideas and design cheats – vintage suitcases upcycled for a filing cabinet and so on, and (b) a hit of emotion when the host family sees their rooms transformed.
What are BBC4 documentaries for if not to teach us words like “enfilade”? An enfilade in a building is, Dan Cruickshank explains, when the doors through a series of rooms line up to create a virtual corridor, as in the state apartments at Hampton Court. They allowed courtiers to gain various levels of admittance to the monarch’s private world, according to their status.
As well as enfilades, we have pilasters and swags, tiers and columns, because Cruickshank is wafting us through the centuries when the language of royal architecture went classical. It began with Inigo Jones’s banqueting hall in Whitehall, lavishly decorated by Charles I as a sort of Stuart temple; it would become, with nightmare irony, the backdrop for his own beheading. The Rubens ceiling, though, remains about as opulent as royal propaganda gets: “Goodness, it’s wonderful,” sighs Cruickshank.