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

Monday, 12 November 2007

The Philosophical dresser

Philosopher Eve Garrard, with whom I have previously had an extensive email correspondence about the search for the perfect rose-pink lipstick, has a disquisition on the very subject of The Thoughtful Dresser, here on Normblog

Most of us aren't beautiful - most of us are, at best, good-looking on a good day, plain on a bad one. But for each of us, there's a kind of beauty which we would embody if we lived in a perfect world, however little we may do so here in this mundane workaday sphere. Sometimes we see this clearly in our friends: I have a loved friend, who is tall and slim (as sadly I am not). Again, she's not beautiful: she's pretty on a good day, harassed and worn on a bad one, like the rest of us. But when I look at her, with the eyes of affection, I see her as Modigliani might have done. In a perfect world, she would be a long, vertical Modigliani beauty.

For each one of us, something similar is true, and what the beautifully-cut jacket, the perfect rose-pink lipstick, does is to help us catch a clearer glimpse of that ideal beauty which we so signally fail to realize in our persons here and now (especially when we're wearing an old black fleece with holes in it and hair which hasn't met a serious, or at least an expensive, hairdresser for longer than I'm prepared to reveal on a family blog like this one). And why is it worth spending money, and time, and careful, thoughtful, longing attention, on so fleeting a glimpse of a Platonic ideal, which will never be fully realized? Well, beauty is like that, it's worth seeing for its own sake; and the chance to participate in it, however briefly, is not to be lightly passed up, as any dancer, or musician, or mountain-climber knows. It draws us to itself, and if we want to know more about that, we need to read Plato, or perhaps Yeats


From Dressing by George Szirtes

.. For whose sake
Do you become who you are? Are you alone
In the dark? Is it for yourself you ache

In the morning? Even if you were stone,
Like this goddess, you would desire beyond
Your fixity something already half-known

Yet negotiable. As a child you respond
To the adult’s gravity with a blank stare
Of instinctive hunger. You touch your blonde

Hair and bunch it in your fist. You prepare
Your flirtatious look. You play at control,
Then lost, start crying at the small despair

You’re stuck with. But this is the soul
Prepared for you, these garments that glow
In the dark and burn as fierce as coal...


Hadley Freeman in the Guardian today takes on the Uggs question in a response to a reader who wants to buy some:

. .. come ON! How can you, a wise woman I have no doubt, actually want to spend your hard-earned money on an item that has the onomatopoeic name of a grunt of disgust? There is nothing acceptable about the Ugg: it is girlishly fluffy ("Ooh, look at me, I'm so cuddly I wear pillows on my feet!"); it is smelly; and it is such a tediously obvious means of making one's legs look thinner. If you bought a pair when they first emerged a handful of years ago, that is just about acceptable (though, Christ alive, they must be proper rank by now), but to buy into them now, since their adoption by the most grating examples from the D list of celebrities and It girls, well, that is just not acceptable, Debra.

I am all about the comfortable shoe. But last time I checked on the BBC weather site, Hackney's climate was not exactly Californian and a shoe that is little more than rain-sodden soggy mulch is not comfortable. What is wrong with a nice flat boot with a cosy woolly sock inside, I ask you? It's warm, it's waterproof, it's comfy, it's easy and it runs no risk of you being mistaken for Jennifer Ellison, and with that final reference I think I can justly say, game, set and match.

Hadley is quite right. There is frankly no excuse for wearing anything that is uggly about one's person, even when constrained by comfort and warmth issues. Some trends do become essential classics - the pashmina is not a style statement, but it it plays the same role in one's wardrobe as, say Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour balm, or Yves St Laurent Touche Eclat. You don't want to draw attention to it, but you need to know it's there. Owning a pair of Uggs is like wearing blue mascara. Unnecessary, adolescent, cringey.

Thought for the day

Fashion contains the potential for renewal and transformation. The more costumes one has. the more fantasy personas one can adopt.
Edith Gould