Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 May 2016

Travellers in a world of sartorial excess

By Lindy McDowell

Published 27/01/2011

At 14 stone, Sam's wedding dress weighs more than her father. It has 21 underskirts, moving diamante butterflies and lights up in the dark.

Follow that Kate Middleton!

The Channel 4 series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding which follows Roma and Traveller families in the run-up to major sartorial celebrations - namely weddings and first communions - has been the surprise television hit of recent times. And no wonder.

In its portrayal of both the excess of their big days and the stricture of their lives it presents a haunting picture of a community about which we think we know a lot but don't actually know very much.

The excess is definitely startling stuff. One episode features a child getting her first fake tan for her first communion. (Not actually exclusive to the Traveller community this - even bonny baby contests now have the unmistakable whiff of instant orange about them.)

The little girl also gets welts on her hips from the weight of her massive dress. There's a lot of eye-watering pink and the odd crystal coach. All very Jordan.

But the life of Traveller women is not entirely a succession of cerise tulle and tiaras as the series shows.

It's a real insight into the reality behind all that trowelled-on make-up and fluorescent organza.


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