BBC 2 Drama The Hour is back on our screens and so ELLE caught up with its star Romola Garai, 30, to talk 1950s dressing and feminism.
Playing intelligent Bel, producer of a current affairs programme, Romola’s unusual position of power plays out in her clothes, 'She tries to be very confident but not too sexy and at the same time has to be feminine. I think that contradiction is something contemporary women are still trying to work out.'
Romola gets into character with the help of hair of make-up and tells us how time-consuming grooming in the era was, ‘I find it amazing how much women were expected to do to their appearance. They would have their hair set every week and wear rollers every night in bed.’
And while we may covet the gorgeous vintage pieces, the reality was far from comfortable, ‘Our conception of 1950s underwear is a lovely vintage aesthetic but actually wearing stockings with no elastic and a girdle was heavy duty. It definitely makes you aware of how different that world was.’
In her normal life Romola is glad things have changed for women, ‘I feel like I have the choice not to do any grooming now”, she said laughing, “You don’t have to conform to a very specific aesthetic today, whereas 1950s women definitely had to.’
Bel is the latest in a string of roles for Romola playing dynamic and complicated women but being an actress and a self-described feminist isn’t always an easy balance, ‘I think you have to make some kind of compromise. I try to address the problems I see as an actress. It’s my job top to reflect women back to women.’
‘But at the same time female audiences seemingly want you to be an idealised version or something that they can use to measure themselves against. It’s an odd interaction.’
Clearly as strong and intelligent as her character off screen as well as on, you can see Romola on The Hour, BBC 2 on Wednesday nights.