The Hemline Index shows that taking a simple idea and just running with it isn’t always wise.
The play involves two women in their mid-twenties – one in 1984, the other in 2014 – trying on skirts in adjacent changing-room cubicles and reflecting on their lives and aspirations. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a receptionist from Tottenham who left school early to ‘do it for herself’ and dreams of being Alan Sugar’s assistant. Meanwhile, 2014 is a purple-rinse Hoxtonite with a ‘piece of paper’ fashion degree who works on the complaints desk at a fashion website.
Awash with disposable nods to pop-culture visions of womanhood, then and now – from Jane Fonda to Beyonce; ‘Let’s get physical’ to ‘Wrecking ball’ – it seems hung up on the well-trodden idea that culture, rather than politics, is the best realm to have out the gender debate. But whether it’s 1984 bragging about her workout regime or 2014 grinding to ‘Drunk in Love’, these touchstones are only really played up for laughs.
The play’s one overriding point is just as unenlightening: while trying to think up ideas for blog posts, 2014 unfurls a theory about the length of skirts correlating to the economy – minis for the Eighties boom, maxis for the millennial downturn. At least she’s right about one thing: fashion degrees really don’t teach you anything about the real world.
Tom Slater is assistant editor at spiked.