Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Why clothes matter



credit: The Sartorialist

I was at the private view of the V&A's current exhibition, The Golden Age of Couture
a few weeks ago. (No, not the £1000 a plate ball the night before - even if I could have afforded the ticket, it would have cleaned me out for the dress.) I was standing in the V&A's shop with a glass of champagne in one hand, trying on a vintage fur-collared cardigan with diamante clasps and buttons at the sleeves. An envious crowd was standing about, waiting to see if I was going to take it or not. The champagne went to my head. I got out my credit card. With my purchase I wandered past the statuary, tapping along those marble floors, into the exhibition, looking at Dior's Bar suit and some Digby Morton tailoring. Ines de la Fressanges, impossibly tall and thin, in a silver satin bias cut dress gave a charmingly long-winded speech. I drank an unidentifiable cocktail and talked to an old university friend about a bid to build a replica Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Liverpool. Then back home to a hangover the next morning and aching ankles from my high heels, but who cares? Fashion is the elixir of life.

Look, the day job of the writer is 67 per cent staring out of the window, 28 percent going to make another cup of tea and the remainder is spent actually typing. Then deleting. Fortunately, as Norman Mailer said, you can't beat the hours. Come lunch-time you can knock off and do something else. You might, like, say Martin Amis, write voluminous screeds about the post 9/11 world or you could keep your mouth shut and go shopping.

Brood on this. There are only a few minutes every day when we are not clothed: in the shower, changing from one set of garments to another, having sex - these times of total nakedness are far less significant than the overwhelming hours in which we are dressed. Clothing begins in the first minute or two of our lives and we will be clothed in the grave, whether it is a suit placed on our corpse by an undertaker, or a linen shroud.

Writing about clothes, let alone thinking about them, is considered to be light-weight, trivial, empty-headed. Fashion is for those devoured by greed and consumerism. To be serious is to barely conscious of what you wear.

Enough of the sneering, already. Clothes are important.

As the great Manolo the Shoeblogger writes:

. . .claiming to not care about the clothes, to not be concerned about what one wears, is the paradox, for the clothes worn by one who claims not to care make as much the statement as those worn by one who dresses with purpose. These inescapable facts obtain: that clothes are always necessary, and that others they will always judge us by them.


Words of acute wisdom, no?

8 comments:

Sophie Masson said...

That must have been a fun do, Linda! and I do so agree with you about the joys of nice clothes--and love that Noel Streatfeild quote. She knew what she was talking about, that gal!

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