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

Monday, 3 December 2007

The importance of good hairdressing

The poll on whether you can dress well at any size closes early tomorrow, and I will be disclosing my own views on this subject.

Meanwhile I'm off to the hairdresser's. When I was talking to Louise Chunn about the mutton question, she remarked that she thought my hair was so much better than when she was commissioning me back in the 90s, when she was women's page editor of the Guardian. I think that the one thing you should really throw money at as you get older is the best possible hairdressing you can afford. The salon I go to, Richard Ward, does the make-overs for Trinny and Susannah, and indeed my own team of Mario (colour) and Roger (cut) do the hair of Trinny and Susannah themselves. The key to colour as you get older and greyer is to soften it and bring it in line with your changing skin tone. The original colour of my hair was dark brown, it's now warmer and redder and I rarely go a week without someone asking me where I have it done. Roger has also persuaded me of the importance of a more structured cut and of not doing the whole Anna Wintour thing and having a signature look, but changing it with the seasons. See my cousin's guest post on the matter of changing one's hairstyle.

It costs an absolute fortune and I must buy fewer clothes, but you wear your hair 24/7 and you can't say that of a dress.


In the Guardian today Madeleine Bunting writes:

[US psychologist Tim Kasser] argues that our hyperconsumerism is a response to insecurity, a maladaptive type of coping mechanism. Over the past few decades, the sources of insecurity have multiplied: in addition to the manipulation long practised by advertising, there are new sources of insecurity in highly competitive market economies, ranging from identity (who am I and where do I belong?) to basics (who will look after me in my old age?). This relationship between materialism and insecurity helps explain why countries as diverse as the US and China are deeply materialistic; they are places of endemic insecurity.

The brilliance of this economic system built on insecurity is that it is self-reinforcing. The more insecure you are, the more materialistic; the more materialistic, the more insecure. As Kasser has shown, materialistic values (which are on the increase among teenagers on both sides of the Atlantic) make you more anxious, more vulnerable to depression and less cooperative. Studies show that people know what the real sources of lasting human fulfilment are - good relationships, self-acceptance, community feeling - but they face a formidable alliance of political and economic interests that have a vested interest in distracting them from that insight to ensure they work longer hours and spend more money.
My mother, being the youngest of six children, the oldest three born in the region of Kiev, was proud to be one of the few children in her class to wear shoes to school, having all those older brothers and sisters in work bringing wages into the household. Later in life she would become a world-class shopper. It is my observation that those who have known poverty take pleasure in luxury.

Shopping may well fill the God-shaped hole in our lives, but it may also be that some of us have a highly developed aesthetic, and just like nice things.

Norm adds:
One thing the merry-making Madeleine fails to reflect on is what her own contribution is to getting people to feel insecure. I mean, when did you last read a column by her that cheered you up? Hmmm... come to think of it, I suppose some of them might have, unintentionally.

Anyway, remember: don't hang yourself in the stairwell; you can always buy something.

The Great Mutton Debate reaches a climax

old age pensioner waiting for bus with cat food in string bag

Regular readers will recollect that a recurring theme of this blog has been the vexed question of what you could away with wearing over the age of 50. See The Great Mutton Debate in the labels for the other pieces

The debate has now entered the pages of the Guardian where I have written a piece drawing on the discussion here and with quotes from yourselves, good readers.

There are also reflections on the matter from Alexander Shulman, editor of UK Vogue, and Louise Chunn, former women's page editor of the Guardian, former editor of UK In Style, and now editor of Good Housekeeping:
I asked two fashion editors, each over the age of 50, how we could dress well without looking ridiculous. Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue, turned 50 in November. "I didn't do a wardrobe edit the moment I turned 50," she says. "I really believe it's how the individual looks and feels. I happen to think that you are hugely helped if you have great legs as you get older, and if you have a sure sense of style there's no reason to get into a navy suit. The danger is that you have to tread a middle ground between looking boring and a bit tragic. If you don't watch out, you can wind up like the fairy on top of the Christmas tree, but on the other hand you don't want to be in a black shift for the rest of your life."
. . .
"You don't want to show too much flesh," [Louise Chunn] says. "It's just not as firm and luscious as it was. The other day I went to an awards ceremony, a black-tie do and, in spite of my fairly rigorous fitness regime, at 51, my arms are not that hot. I wore a Burberry lamé trenchcoat over a dress and didn't take the coat off. Too much flesh makes you look a bit desperate -like you're not acknowledging that you look older - though decolletage is fine. I'm also not keen on seeing people's knees. A really short skirt with no tights is crazy. Why would you risk it?"
You can read the full piece here

On another note, I had dinner last night with some friends, one of whom was 40 this year, will be 41 next month. She arrived at the restaurant looking absolutely sensational, wearing a short camel skirt over thick patterned black tights and black suede boots, and a camel coloured long-sleeved v neck sweater. The whole outfit (which was from Gap, by the way) worked so well because the shortness of the skirt and the sexiness of the suede boots was offset by the quirkiness of the tights and the lady-like classic colours of the skirt and sweater. You couldn't get it more right. I on the other hand was in a funk because I had unwittingly matched black and silver shoes with a black and gold bag. Doh!

This story has been picked up by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, here, for those of you who speak Italian

Thought for the day

It is eleven years since I have seen my figure in a glass. The last reflection I saw there was so disagreeable, I resolved to spare myself such mortifications for the future. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 1689-1762