Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Pat Phoenix - Designer Clothes And The Magic Of Elsie Tanner

Elsie, in a knock-out outfit, welcomes her grandson, Martin Cheveski (Jonathan Caplan), to No 11.

I don't know what it was about Pat Phoenix...

We've all read things about how the actress liked to dress way beyond Elsie Tanner's means. It's noticeable that Elsie, at least from the late 1960s onwards, was often very smartly (or flamboyantly) dressed.

The clothes Pat often wore as Elsie were definitely things Elsie could simply not have afforded. Not that we, the working class TV audience, of the 1960s to mid-1980s knew much about designer clothing. But we did know that Elsie often looked striking.

Elsie herself once commented that she liked to "spend a bob or two on clothes," but she still couldn't have run to some of the outfits she sported.

Bill Podmore recounted a few "Elsie dresses up" instances in his book, Coronation Street - The Inside Story (1990), including her memorable return to the Street in a designer raincoat in 1976.

Pat said that her appearance gave hope to women viewers of her age, but Mr Podmore questioned how they could possibly have afforded to emulate her?

At the end of the day, it mattered not. Whenever Elsie appeared on-screen, I was utterly convinced by her. The integrity and passion of Pat Phoenix's portrayal of 'er from No 11 somehow transcended her often way upmarket dress sense.

Miss Phoenix somehow managed to make Elsie real, whatever she was wearing.

I think, if Elsie had waltzed downstairs in 1983, in full Joan Collins Dynasty rig-out, shoulder pads, the lot, I would have been taken aback.

But if she had sat down at her table, picked up a letter and said something along of the lines of "I see the postman's been. Flamin' Nora - the gas bill, that's all I need!" I'd have been convinced that Elsie was real and struggling along on the breadline.

I rarely watch soaps now. But when I do see them, I see actors and actresses dressed in far more convincing garb than Pat Phoenix when it comes to their characters' income bracket.

But none of them seem as convincing, or as downright watchable as Elsie.

Pat Phoenix was, in my very humble opinion, absolute magic!

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