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

Thursday, 1 November 2007

If you can't go shopping then read about shopping

In The Virago Book of the Joy of Shopping which has arrived in the post today from my publisher. It contains, amongst many literary treats, an extract from my family memoir, Remind Me Who I Am Again, about a shopping trip with my mother when she was unable to remember who I was or how we were related but still managed to pick out a Ralph Lauren suit for herself.


There is currently a riveting discussion on BBC Radio Four's In Our Time series about guilt* and particularly the difference between guilt cultures and shame cultures, which some say has a bearing on contemporary political disputes, particularly in the Middle East. The concept of honour and shame, in fact was a characteristic of much of the past European millenimum, particularly amongst the English upper classes, but was much pretty much left for dead on the killing fields of the Somme and Passchendale. Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori. You can hear it on the listen again link on the site or download a podcast.

* How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb? None, I'll just sit here alone the dark

What do these three men have in common?

A few years ago, I was having lunch at Moro in Clerkenwell Market with the then women's page editor of the Guardian. Sitting at the next table were a group of adoring acolytes hanging on the every word of a flat bloke with a blonde bristly head like a pig, dressed in combats encasing thighs which oozed like over-ripe Camembert sluggishly running off the edge of his chair.

That, said my lunch companion, is Alexander McQueen.

And a spasm of pure rage passed through me. Who was this fat bastard to tell women that they were obese if they couldn't fit into a size 10? To make clothes that half the population couldn't wear? I am tired of fat men telling non-skeletal women that they don't exist. Granted, McQueen, like Lagerfeld, with the assistance of the finest trainers money can buy and no obligation to prepare family meals three times a day, have slimmed down, or in the case of Lagerfeld, turned himself into his own corpse, but fashion is full of fat men (sorry Alber, I really love you in every other way) giving normal-sized women an inferiority complex.

I had my picture take a couple of weeks ago to go with a magazine piece I'm doing . There was a photographer, a picture editor, a make-up artist and the manager of Hobbs all involved in this operation, and after the make-up artist had bemoaned that she couldn't find a pair of trousers to fit her in Zara, the photographer said that one her friends was a plus-sized model. 'What's plus size?' I asked. It's size 12 (US8) she told me.

Myself, I'd put every man in fashion who weighs over 150 pounds on the Atkins diet. And don't come back until you can fit into skinny jeans.

Happy birthday John

John is my brother-in-law and no, he isn't either of the two gents on the left.

Reader, she married him, in Vera Wang

I have always been interested in clothes, but only in the past few years have I actually begun to think about them, in a serious way. It all started with this piece in UK Vogue, which I wrote in 2004. Vogue doesn't put any of its features online so I've been waiting since this blog began for my webmeister to turn the text that's stored on my computer into a PDF and then a link. And here it is.

It's about how clothes have been treated by literature, though the ages, from Chaucer (enthusiastically) through Jane Austen (with disdain) to Proust (love and reverence) to Judith Krantz (max out your cards). I'm looking at how an author uses clothes to delineate character:

What did Hamlet wear? Black. And the Wife of Bath, riding to Canterbury? Red stockings and new shoes. Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa? A pale primrose morning gown, with a recurring silver and gold pattern of violets, accessorised with diamond earrings, blue satin buckled shoes and black velvet gloves. Proust’s Duchess? The first Fortuny dresses. Jane Eyre? Black and pearl grey silk, despite Mr Rochester’s insistence that should take the pink satin, which made her feel like a houri in a Turk’s seraglio.

Read on

Thought for the day

'When I see people dressed in hideous clothes that look all wrong on them, I try to imagine the moment when they were buying them and thought, "This is great. I like it. I'll take it."' Andy Warhol