The Storyteller and The Dress that started it all...


Beginning as I do at the beginning, and starting as I must at the start, let me show you fate through the round of this ring…’  – ‘Sapsorrow', Jim Henson’s The Storyteller.

For anyone who is a fan of Jim Henson and is old enough to remember this well known and loved children’s TV series, will know that it is an absolute CLASSIC and growing up with my brother and sister we seemed to have a healthy appetite for this series on repeat!  In fact, my dad was the biggest fan of all whose favourite episode was always (and still is) ‘The Soldier and Death.’

'Pick a card, any card!'.....the soldier plays a game of cards with the devils in 'The Soldier and Death'.

But they were more than just fairy tales to me, they were windows to another world where I could escape to often and set my imagination free. I just loved to dream about dresses and drew them constantly. I liked to pretend like any other little girl I guess that I would marry a prince and live in a castle happily ever after, blah, blah, blah THE END…and as laughable and disgustingly cliché as that sounds it’s the truth!!

'Gold it should be, gold like the sun...' Sapsorrow's beautiful dress made from 'hand spun gold' as the fairy tale tells it, 'One hundred hands have sewn it' much to the disgust of the bad sisters played by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

And who doesn't love the story of Sapsorrow? Or can forget the genius comic stylings of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as the bad sisters. Inspired by an early German Folk tale, Sapsorrow was originally adapted for the screen from "Allerleirauh" (English: All-Kinds-of-Fur", sometimes translated as "Thousand furs") first recorded by the Brothers Grimm in the 1800’s. It reminds us of ‘Cinderella’ or ‘The little glass Slipper’ tale more widely known and later popularised by western audiences with origins in French as -‘Cendrillon’, Italian –‘Cenerentola’ and German – ‘Aschenputtel’.

'Then first find me a dress of the palest silk, the colour of the moon, I will not wed till I have it...'

It’s a story at its heart about love, overcoming adversity (and of course, those beautiful dresses) succumbing to the powers that be only to triumph against all odds. Familiar themes of Good vs evil, love and death prevail and the magical forces at work that sometimes come to our aid through hope and faith, transforming darkness into light when we least expect it . Or rather, more of an analogy or anecdote? to real life thinly disguised under the veil of an innocent childhood classic. This is why we all love a good fairytale and why we each of us all have a story lying dormant within us that are just as, if not more telling, moving and riveting than the classics themselves.

'Sparkling silver, like the stars, for my trousseau...' 

Which brings me back to that dress….the one that started it all. The one sewn with a thousand stitches by my own hand, under the guidance and careful skill of my step-mother Judith. The one I stayed up late for, holding midnight vigils for hours whilst painstakingly beading a French lace bodice with the patience of a saint. The one I wore to wed Matt, my now husband in and the one that led me to believe once again in the power and magic of fairy tales, and dreams come true. 

Feather and Sparrow was born out of a love for an art so easily forgotten these days in an age of fast, throw away fashion. The dresses and dressmakers, seamstresses and designers themselves, still exist in my heart and imagination like the well-known characters in our beloved fairytale stories waiting to be retold, revisited, revived and loved again just as they were back in their time.

Afternote: If you haven’t already seen Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, I heartily recommend it!! Along with immersing yourself in a healthy dose of magic and childhood innocence it will transport you back in time (like most favourite childhood movies and TV shows) to a place where absolutely anything is possible and the world is once again filled with a sense of fantasy and enchantment. Brought to life through the eyes of  Jim Henson's sometimes macabre and surreal characters, it will have you believing even if just for a moment, in something more 'Marvellous, more magical...''

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