Interview with Yesterday Girl

Information technology, cleaner industry, women’s rights and advances in medicine: our vast inheritance from postwar Democratic Capitalism is undeniable. Yet we’ve arguably thrown a few babies out with the bath water. As individuals, we’re all too often lonely, unhealthy and anxious. As a society, we’re demanding too much from our human-made economy and our natural environment. As workers, we’re lethargic, subservient and unsatisfied. Thank goodness for people like Jennifer Siggs, who promotes a return to an old-fashioned charm at her blog, Yesterday Girl.

As a society, we’ve turned our backs on certain ideas, trends and aesthetics in favour of completely new and fashionable ones. Sometimes this might be for the best, but I bet we’ve made some mistakes too. What, most of all, do you think it was a mistake to turn our backs on?

The thing that saddens me most about society in general today is the lack of community spirit. I know in some areas this still exists, but as a whole I think we’re less likely to know our neighbours, as perhaps people did fifty years ago. It’s not just neighbours, but that whole idea of being able to say ‘good morning’ to someone when you pass them in the street without fearing that they might find you a little strange. Being scared to talk to people at the bus stop, or on a train, general friendly chit-chat between strangers that years ago was commonplace, now is something feared by the majority.That is why when people are in need of help when out in public, often they remark afterwards that people just turned their heads and pretended they didn’t see. This may be just a consequence of increased crime over the years,and distrust of anyone unfamiliar, or perhaps increased crime in some parts stems from a lack of community and personable relationships. Who knows? But this is definitely one way I feel society has changed for the worst.

What, to you, are the worst things about present-day life that didn’t exist fifty years ago?

Without turning this into a rant about modern life, I would first like to say that some of my friends and fellow vintage lifestyle bloggers have been accused of being ridiculous for wanting to live in the past. This is not something that any of my like-minded chums have ever said! We choose to dress a certain way, listen to the music of, and collect memorabilia from a certain era, because we all fundamentally are passionate about the history of that time, and particularly the style and design. We are all perfectly aware that we are lucky to live in a time of such amazing scientific and medical advancements. Ironically, the majority of us rely on modern technology to live our vintage lifestyles. If I didn’t have eBay or Etsy, I probably wouldn’t have half the clothes I own. Likewise, if I didn’t have my blog, Twitter or Facebook, I wouldn’t have the amazing social circle I have now or immediate access to the vintage scene.

Having said that, there are certain aspects I could do without: shops that sell cheap mass-produced clothing is one thing I hate about modern life. I understand that not everyone can afford to buy expensive clothing, but that has always been true. People used to save up to buy one nice dress that they could wear to lots of occasions. They would appreciate it more. Today someone can buy three items of clothing for under £10, that will no doubt be worn a couple of times before falling apart in the washing machine and thrown away. People don’t appreciate things as much now because commodities are too easy to come by.

We have become a throwaway society, to the point of not even caring how those things got to be so cheap in the first place. If we don’t think about where something came from and how it became ours, how can we ever really appreciate it? This has also unfortunately caused the decline of the skill of mending and sewing. If you made something yourself then you were bound to treasure it, and feel jolly good about yourself too. People no longer bother to repair things anymore because it’s just easier for them to buy a new one. I think it’s very sad that we have become a society of greedy consumers.

I’ve heard “You’re from the past!” used on television and in real life as a derogatory expression. It’s often seen as sinful or weird to fall behind (or actively reject) current trends. How is your your old-fashioned charm generally received?

I get alot of strange looks. I think generally people are very curious,but it’s how they communicate their curiousity that can either be very niceor extremely mean. Sometimes I forget how odd I must look to people who only expose themselves to very modern fashion ideals and trends. My whole life is so wrapped in a vintage bubble, that I forget that most people don’t generally socialise with vintage dressers or have even seen anyone in real life dressed entirely in a style from another period. It can be very flattering when people are genuinely interested, ask to take a photo, and compliment my clothing or hair style, but more often than not, sadly people’s reactions can be very rude. I’ve had large groups of men shout at me across the street, informing me in a few certain words of what the year is, in case I’d forgotten. People have taken photos of me without asking too, which makes me feel very uncomfortable, and quite frankly a bit cross. On the whole though, I think it’s just curiosity, which I’m told I should expect if I choose to dress like this.

Your choice of day job – at the Cabinet War Rooms museum – seems very much in line with your personal interests. I think a lot of people prioritise the blind pursuit of a pay cheque over a job that’s in line with their interests; hence their washing up on the shore of some clerical profession or other. Did it take you long to find a job that was right for you? Do you attribute the gig to luck or to your personal industry?

Well, if I was only interested in money I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to work in a museum! I love working there and being surrounded by history, however I am still young and feel that I have yet to find my vocation. I’ve never had any serious career ambition, but I know that being sat behind a desk in an office would make me miserable, even if my finances would be happier!I would rather be in a place I love, surrounded in an atmosphere, that you rightly say is completely in line with my personal interests, than be unhappy. I like to think that for some visitors to the museum, seeing someone in authentic period dress only helps to add to their experience. It doesn’t bother me that they think I have been paid and styled to look that way by the museum, but I think it sometimes bothers my colleagues when they hear me being asked 100 times a day ‘Oh look, you’re in costume! Do you get changed at home or when you arrive at work?’ I think I would feel strange going to work somewhere now that isn’t an historic building! I feel at home in the gloomy surroundings of the bunker! I have recently felt that I would like to move on to something new, but have found job hunting hard when I know that I have been so privileged to work somewhere so perfectly in line with my interests and lifestyle.

About

Robert Wringham is a humorist and the editor-in-chief of New Escapologist.

2 Responses to “Interview with Yesterday Girl”

  1. holly says:

    I find this kind of dedication to creating and maintaining a little retro fansaty world very interesting. But I wonder why the era of choice for these things is almost always the 1930s to the 1950s? I’ve yet to see anyone who’s into this take retro to its logical conclusion (in the words of the Mighty Boosh): why is there nobody out there who chooses to live like it’s 1330?

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