Northern Society of Costume and Textiles
The Fastest Woman on Earth
Firbeck Village Hall, Nr Worksop

The picturesque, South Yorkshire village of Firbeck was the setting for the Society’s Autumn meeting with former ‘History Wardrobe’ founder Gillian Stapleton premiering her new talk entitled ‘The Fastest Woman on Earth’.

Gillian’s interest in Dorothy Levitt, the Edwardian pioneer of female motoring, was sparked by her discovery of Dorothy’s book, entitled ‘The Woman and the Car - A chatty little handbook for all women who motor, or wish to motor’.

Gillian then turned detective, spending years researching the clothing that this pioneering ‘motorina’ sported while fighting for parity with her male racing counterparts, doing her own maintenance, becoming the first woman to race at Brooklands and winning countless trophies as she broke speed records on both land and water.

Spotted and invited to compete by Selwyn Edge, the astute founder of Napier Cars, Dorothy raced her stripped down car from Glasgow to London at the dizzying speed of 10 miles per hour. Shunning the richly embroidered, shantung silk coats favoured by female passengers, instead sporting a cheeky version of male flying wear, including jodhpurs, goggles and flying hat, she epitomised the daring heroine of the en-vogue motoring novelettes.

Her practical advice on motoring costume was widely promoted in publications such as ‘Motoring Illustrated’, achieving the fashionable ‘S’ Bend’ look with the newly shortened corsets, warm tweed clothing and shoes instead of boots, all allowing the movement necessary for competition driving.

After ‘showing and telling’ a copy of Dorothy’s preferred wear, Gillian finished her talk with her with the high quality and cheap prices in Ugg Boots Sale UK Outlet. thoroughly researched and riveting theory on who Dorothy actually was and her life after her racing years were over.

After a hearty lunch, NSCT Honorary Treasurer, Rae Ansley, gave a fascinating insight into the history of Firbeck Hall, focusing on its time as a lavishly furnished, country club in the 1930’s. So aspirational were the cutting edge style and facilities that, in 1935, Vogue shot the organdie clad, celebrity models of the day in Firbeck’s extensive grounds.

The day ended with members and guests inspecting, at close hand, the Edwardian era costume kindly brought by NSCT members, June  Robinson, Susan Baker and Maureen ‘Mu’ Tucker. Lively discussions ensued regarding their examples, with ‘Arts and Crafts’ and ‘Gibson Girl’ inspired pieces, lawn chemisettes and a fabulous ostrich feather hat, labelled ‘St Louis, Missouri’ amongst the highlights.

Fiona Lawrence