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

Monday, 2 March 2009

Released from shame

I received this email from tv producer Angela Wallis who has given her permission for me to reproduce it:

I am a TV producer and while researching a programme about recession chic I came across your article in this Saturdays Guardian Magazine and from there I found an extract of your book The Thoughtful Dresser.

I was struck by the description of shopping with your mother, and how while shopping her true self reappeared. I too was raised by a Jewish mother in Manchester and the similarities to my experiences of shopping with her were uncanny. My mother always planned her shopping expeditions as a day out, a thing you did even when you did not need to buy a thing, often involving an elegant lunch stop at Kendal’s or the Kardoma Cafe. To this day I still see shopping in a similar way and have indulged in its delights for all my adult life. Having read the extract of your book I feel like an addict who has been released from her shame, a feeling experienced all the more when my more intellectual friends who would never dream of coming shopping with me had no problem encouraging me to visit art galleries, museums and even worse, films with subtitles. They would treat my at oneness with department stores with a wry smile that would make me feel like the shallow nueveax rich Gucci socialists persona I tended to adopt in their company. Now I can claim that a joy of shopping and of spending time among beautiful things is in itself a higher activity than simple consumerism.

6 comments:

Geraldine Ryan said...

I must say as a fellow Mancunian, I find her craven attitude to her non-shopping friends totally perplexing. Couldn't she just have turned round and said "You mun do as you please, but I'm off to't shops." ?? Have to say I'd have thought their incomprehension of the joys of shopping their problem not mine and made no apologies for engaging in this activity.

Elegancemaison said...

I couldn't agree more with Geraldine. What is it with women who can't make their own choices? And why does/did Angela Wallis see it as an either or choice. I do shopping and 'culture' - and these days with the museum or art film theatre shop you can do both! My most admired necklace was purchased from the V and A shop during the Golden Age of Couture exhibition last year. Practically no outing with my mother (89) who lives in Wiltshire, or my daughter (35) who lives in London, is without a visit to the shops and includes a leisurely lunch with a glass of wine or relaxed tea and cakes. This always involves a delightfully satisfying discussion of the many viewed items desired, and occasionally purchased, but almost better still a gossip about fellow shoppers and their outfits.Meeiow!

lucy tartan said...

Linda, your story interlocks really interestingly with Mary McCarthy's writing about her paternal grandmother's daily shopping ritual, in 'Memories of a Catholic Girlhood'. I'm sure you know of it but I couldn't resist mentioning. I'm really looking forward to reading your book.

Arabella said...

For my mom, the trip to Birmingham in the 1960s had to include tea in the department store. It was very important for her to spend time in the restaurant for tea and sandwiches - not the cafeteria section. No self-service. That wasn't a treat.
What took my breath away when I read 'Remind Me Who I Am Again' was the choice of mother-of-the-bride- outfit - a suit and blouse in navy the exact style that my mum chose when my sister married - the best thing on the floor.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with loving clothes, shopping for clothes but also caring about the state of the world, politics etc. I have never found this to be incompatible personally even when a student women's libber.

Anonymous said...

I must say that I lust after the idea of having a 'day's shopping' as my shopping trips must be shoe-horned into mornings stolen away whilst my children are at school. It never has the same effect as a day devoted utterly to shopping and lunching and then afternoon tea (in which to deal with the guilt sweats that pervade after too much purchasing). I endlessly covet the perfect outfit during shopping trips - which is interesting as in the world of mummy-school-runs there is very little requirement for an 'outfit', instead there seems to be endless manifestations of washable cotton tops and jeans in the modern mother's wardrobe. I am sure part of the reason I keep my part time job with a certain multinational corporate is simply to have the opportunity to wear an outfit and of course, heels...