Winter ales, festive films and Christmas stockings

On 8th December, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Costume Society’s first ever Christmas Quiz night. Organised and hosted by fashion historian, author and Costume Society committee member Amber Butchart, the event took place in a cosy downstairs bar at the iconic Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club in east London.

The room was filled with clocks and lanterns, the bar was serving winter ales and mulled cider, and everyone was dressed in their festive best ready to test their knowledge and make some new friends. The quiz itself was divided into five sections, with a couple of handy breaks for chatting and refreshing of drinks.

Costume Society & Beyond Retro Xmas QuizWhen the quiz kicked off, Amber tested everyone’s Christmas knowledge with rounds on festive song introductions – some much harder to guess than I would have thought! – Christmas movies, and general Yuletide knowledge. The other two rounds were on dress history topics, hosted by me and Liz Tregenza, and themed around the guest hosts’ specialist subjects.

Liz had set some fascinating yet tough questions on post-war fashions. When did clothing rationing end in the UK? Which shoe designer is credited as inventing the stiletto heel? I’m glad I wasn’t taking part because my team would have had to put up with a lot of “oh, I know this… I’m sure I do!” as I tried to wrestle the answer each question from the depths of my memory.

My questions were all based on my favourite topic, underwear, and hopefully anyone in the room who had visited the Undressed exhibition at the V&A would have had a few clues to the answers already. Of course, I couldn’t resist sneaking in one on the history of Christmas stockings, just to get us back onto the festive theme!

The Workers Arms at Bethnal Green Working Men's ClubAs I work right by Oxford Circus, it can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit once we get into December, as the stresses of rush hour quickly begin to take over the entire day with an increasing volume of shoppers. Thankfully, Amber’s festive questions and splendid playlist put even grumpy old me in an excellent mood, ready for the holiday season.

Overall, I’d say that the cosy festive feel of the event was perfect and got everyone chatting from the start. The Society’s Chair and Vice-Chair were in attendance, along with committee members, ordinary members and quite a few others who we hopefully convinced of the joys that can be had from joining! The winning team went away with some fantastic fashion books and a gift voucher for vintage emporium Beyond Retro, plus lots of folk got back issues of the Costume journal too.

Thanks very much to Amber for all the hard work that went into organising a fantastic evening! And also for reminding me that Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes really is the most wonderful Christmas song.

This article was first published on the Costume Society’s blog in December 2016.

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