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

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


George Szirtes has written a lengthy interview with me in a new book just out, Writing Liverpool: Essays and Interviews.

Liverpool, my home town and a significant influence on my ideas as a writer, is 2008's European Capital of Culture. You can find more of my views on it here

Welcome to Bag Snob readers

My friends Tina and Kelly at the Bag Snobs: A Selective Editorial on Designer Bags, whom I interviewed for UK Vogue, have linked to me. The Bag Snobs is one of my favourite on-line sites, as someone who understands the importance of accessories. Everything you need to know about bags you will find there. So, if you don't know them already, go visit the Bag Snobs.

And if you are a Bag Snob visitor, don't worry, there will be much discussion of handbags to come.

Belt tightening. Buy only these five things

Sarah Mower in the Telegraph reports retail gloom and doom on both sides of the Atlantic and suggests which five things to buy if you can only afford to buy five things.

It's time to stop, or at least get a grip on what's actually worth buying. As a recovering Primark shopper and someone who can still slip into crazy-happy spending trances at the tills of Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, I realise I'm a fine one to talk about prudence and necessity in wardrobe planning. I mean it, though.

It's going to require the relearning of habits that people like me have almost forgotten our mothers ever taught us, such as thinking ahead and (yuck!) budgeting. It may involve stopping to finger fabric, thinking how it'll wear, looking at care instructions, turning garments inside out to inspect how they're made.

(Though I discussed this very matter in the Guardian a couple of months ago:

For taste, knowing what to wear is about buying the right thing, not about buying for the sake of it.This past summer with all its attendant miseries, its downpours, its gang murders, its stock exchange nightmares and its unwearable clothes, should have taught us to stand up to fashion. To buy in order to make us look good, not to be a perambulating advert for some scruffy graduate of Central St Martin's.

No plastic

For those of you who didn't manage to get an Anya Hindmarch I'm not a plastic bag and don't want to buy a fake on ebay, Marie Claire magazine is giving away a Plastic Ain’t My Bag shopper, free with the December issue, supporting We Are What We Do’s campaign to make this year a plastic bag free Christmas. Marie Claire says their bag is 'an organic cotton shopper that is the perfect accessory, sturdy enough for all your Christmas shopping.'

I did manage to get an (actually three) Anya Hindmarch I'm not a plastic bag(s), and I use one of them pretty much every day, for shopping, as a gym bag and for travel when you can only take one carry-on. It fits my laptop and my handbag. My acquisition of plastic bags has dropped to almost nothing. I don't say it will save the planet (persuading one billion Chinese people that a car isn't better than a bicycle is our only hope of doing that, save revolutionary technological fixes) but do we really want disfigure the environment with landfill sites full of the cast off detritrus of our shopping?

Chanel wins

I'm not surprised that Chanel won The Thoughtful Dresser poll (it can't have helped poor old Christian that this very site has a picture of her at the top.) Seeing Dior's dresses up close at the Golden Age of Couture show at the V&A (hurry on down there if you are in or can get to London), you understand what a consummate couturier he was. If I absolutely had to choose one dress from either of them, I think it would be a Dior. In a Dior dress you become someone else, you are the essence of the feminine. He seems to understand a woman's soul. In a Dior dress you dream, no - you become what you dream of. You are wearing the dress of a poet.

But Chanel understands a woman's life, the one she lives every day. She was one of the great pioneers of Modernism, of clothes to be worn in the machine age. She changed everything she touched, even the way we smell.

I wrote a piece about Chanel in the Telegraph a few weeks ago, exploring her life and work:

The very first LBD, the Ford of dresses, she called it, referring to the Model T car built on a production line for the masses, was designed to be democratic; any woman could wear one. The original design shows a long-sleeved, slim-hipped dress, gathered low at the waist and reaching to just below the knee. Its only adornments are two pleated Vs dropping from the shoulders and rising from the hem, meeting in the middle to further create the illusion of slimness. You could step out in it today and no one would notice that you were wearing something designed more than 80 years ago. Chanel would develop this concept for the rest of her life, altering the fabrics, adding sequins or chiffon trains, but the underlying structure remained. A black dress, with dropped waist and schoolgirl white collars and cuffs, worn over leather footless tights from 2003 reveals how radical her thought was. 'A fashion that goes out of fashion overnight is a distraction, not a fashion,' she said.

My name is Linda, I am a hypochondriac . . .

. . . and as such I am still alive. Hypochondria is a neurosis. On the other hand, my mother waited two years to see a doctor about a lump in her breast, 'because I was frightened.' I, on the other hand, never do a breast self-examination late at night or while on holiday because, on finding a lump it is my intention to run to the doctor shoving aside anyone with a little sniffle or a bad foot, crying, out of my way, I've found a lump. I am in a group genetically disposed to breast cancer, Ashkenazi Jews. Maybe I'll get it, my mother did, my aunt died of it. But what I will do is have it treated at once.

So my second thought for the day is, as yesterday, if you find a lump get it checked out now.

And please read Dina Rabinovitch's diary, republished in the Guardian today.

He asks a couple of questions, like when did you first find the lump, looking up from his sheet of white paper when I say, "Uh, quite a long time ago, probably when I was pregnant, actually." "How old's the baby?" he asks pleasantly. "He'll be three in a couple of months," I answer. Later, when I say, "I should have come earlier, shouldn't I", childlike, seeking dispensation, he offers it instantly. "We don't talk about what's already happened, no, no, no, it's closed."

Thought for the day

'I'm not going to recoil from the superficial. Surfaces, which are what the eye first falls on, usually say more than their contents, provisional by definition.' Joseph Brodsky* (thank you, Eamonn)

* He won the Nobel Prize for Literature, you're going to argue with him?