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

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The Thoughtful Dresser Competition

No poll this week, instead a competition. How exciting!

Here is what you have to do. You simply need to dream up a Thought for the Day - a sentence or a two, an idea, an aphorism - about fashion, clothes, style. Do not be intimidated by the brainy observations that I have run so far. 'A good handbag makes the outfit', a perfect piece of sartorial wisdom, was dreamed up by my mother who left school at 14, and the family motto, 'There's only one thing worse than being skint and that's looking as if you're skint,' by my immigrant grandfather who never even learned to speak English.

You can place your entry in the comments box below or email it to me. The competition will stay open for one week and then I will choose a winner. That winner will receive a signed hardback pre-publication copy of The Clothes On Their Backs, which can be shipped to any country, free of of charge, and of course the winning entry will become the Thought for the Day. Feel free to add a picture, if you wish. You can enter under a pseudonym if you wish, but please don't opt for the popular Anonymous as there are too many of that name. The winner will need to email me with a mailing address.

Shoes win

Three-quarters of you prefer shoes to bags, according to the Thoughtful Dresser poll. You know, I really just don't get this at all. I know shoes are significant, I know we don't wear ugly shoes, I know what high heels do for the figure, but half the time you can't even see them. Surely the eye is not drawn down to the feet first?

Perhaps my problem is that I have wide feet, bestowed upon me by centuries of shtetl-dwelling Poles and Ukrainians, but when I go into a shoe shop and ask for a apit of shoes I like a) they don't have them in my size (which is a 'massive' Continential size 39, US 9,) and b) if they do, they don't fit properly.

Bags. Bags always fit. Bags are always available in my size. Bags, if looked after do not wear out. Bags pull an outfit together, bags are the most exciting accessory.

Perfect example of shoes I cannot wear

One more reason to support the screenwriters' strike


Hadley Freeman writes in the Guardian today:

When designers start to value celebrities over actual customers, the clothes become more expensive, more impractical and seemingly more irrelevant than ever, as is increasingly the situation. Once fashion did seem to reflect the changing lives of modern women, as with Dior's New Look of the 40s, or the shoulder-padded power suits of the 80s. Now it often feels as if designers are tailoring their collections to pander to celebrity stylists and the paparazzi - which would at least explain the continuing popularity on the catwalks of crippling stilettos, minuscule dresses and other clothes designed for lifestyles based on maximum photo opportunities and minimal body fat.

When we were very young

I was touched and amused by the supermodel Erin O'Connor's short memoir of her fashion youth in the Observer this weekend. She writes:

Then something wonky happened to me at 14; my friends and I evolved a look that (we thought) proudly proclaimed: 'I don't give a shit!' The basic uniform involved tie-dye gypsy skirts, crucifixes worn upside down as necklaces, and piercing in inappropriate places (although I was never allowed to get one of those, either); we dyed our hair pink with food colouring, and developed a passion for stripy tights, Doc Martens boots, and everything purple. These grubby-looking, salvage-effect items were all shop-bought and overpriced, but - oh, how happily my friends and I wore them, and danced to the folky diddly-di music of the Levellers, or dreadlocked each others' hair, while hanging out in the back of the bus. (NB, all photographic evidence of this time has since been destroyed and I find it hard discussing such a painful and unfortunate period.)


The great joy of being young is making your first stab at a definitive style. You have no idea that you don't look good, and yet you will never take such pleasure in clothes again. For the first time in your life you are dressing yourself, and understanding the power that comes with it. The pleasure derives from the certainty: I am dressed just right, exactly like all my friends.

I'm reminded of the moment several years ago when a friend's teenage daughter came down into the kitchen in tears because, she wailed, she had looked all through her wardrobe and she had nothing to wear. Her mother took her on her knee and together she and I imparted the wisdom that only an older generation can hand on to the next: 'However old you are, and however many clothes you have, for the rest of your life you will always have nothing to wear.'



(Erin O'Connor, later)

Thought for the day


No fashion is ever a success unless it is used as a form of seduction. Christian Dior