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

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Letter from America

Apologies to all of you who have been missing this blog. The fact is, I've been in another world, the world of writing a new novel, and clothes have been less on my mind. 'Harry Fenton' aka Nigel is battling various institutions of the state to get compensation for his son (we hope there will be some good news very soon).

Meanwhile, I have permission to share with you an email I recently received from Georgia, USA from a reader of the book, The Thoughtful Dresser:

Dear Linda,

I'm in the process of packing for a move to a retirement home (I'm 83) and came across your "The Thoughtful Dresser" as I was packing books. I read it not so long ago, but glancing through it I became engrossed again - a most unusual thing for me.

Being in the throes of decisions on what I can take, your writings have endorsed my desire to have with me so many of my clothes, whether practical to my new environment or not. Having my clothes, pants, jackets, shirts, shoes, boots, bags, dresses, hats, even evening wear, will make me happier, and you confirm the wisdom of what others see as imprudent.

Some of my favorite things are 40 years old, but I'm a size 6, and can still wear them should I wish to. (Actually,I was a size 8, but the fashion industry has reduced the size structures to flatter all women, so my newer clothes are 6.) But ability to wear them is not really necessary. I have shawls and scarves, belts and baubles which I never wear now, but like to admire and try on, and they give me pleasure.

A friend says, "Carol, all you need is four pairs of shoes" I told her I've packed forty pairs, and mourn those I must leave behind. I need sandals, straps, slides and boots, all in varying colors and heel heights to go with chosen dresses, skirts and pants of varying lengths. How could I possibly be content with four pairs of footwear, though they might be the ones I;d wear most of the time? I have gvien away all high heels, not because I think they're imappropriate at 83, but because they are no longer comfortable.

I think I was born to love clothes, just as I was born to love literature and learnng. At age 6 I was trying to choose my own clothes. I was a tomboy, and loved to dress in my brother's pants and shirts, but I also loved girl's things, always stressing my poor mother by choosing the most expensive classic designs that she hadn't the money to buy for me. I didn't realize I had a "fashion sense" until I met an employer who recognzed my potential and insisted upon hiring me to teach a New York department store teen "Beauty Workshop" which led to a career in fashion promotion and commentary. Later i got serious and went into health agency administration, but my love of clothes never failed.

There were periods when I couldn't afford many clothes, and other times when I could but didn't like anything in the stores. What I own now is the aggregate of many years of acquisition and carefull culling. I've gotten rid of mistakes and whims and hope now to be able to hang onto what's left. I think shopping opportunity will not be so near at my new abode; all the more reason to bring as much of what I like with me.

Please accept my plaudits for your book; it's informative, wise, amusing,well-written, and even when I disagreed, plausible. Congratulations!


Carol Fox


tiah said...

Intriguing and delightful.

Nadine said...

Wonderful letter! I LOVED your book, Linda.

StyleSpy said...

Oh, how lovely. I think tht's going to be me eventually...

Mim said...

The charming letter made me want to read your book.

Mae Travels said...

I hope you are back to posting more often. You had so many good ideas...

Anonymous said...

Thanks you for sharing this amazing letter.

Ms. B said...

Oh how awful to have to think of leaving anything behind!! Can you imagine all of the beautiful things that she's collected over the years? I'm so happy that she's kept her vintage items and is still wearing them! Eventually, should we all get to live a long enough life, we'll all be in this position some day, it's something to think about.

Thank you for sharing this letter!

lagatta à montréal said...

Linda, I was just logging on to wish you Shana Tova, but again a thought-provoking post. Firstly, I'm heartened to hear of Harry/Nigel's efforts to secure justice for his son.

Carol Fox's comments are poignant indeed. They can be taken in two ways, not mutually exclusive. It is horrible for older people going into some kind of care home to give up what makes them specific and unique human beings. Though I cull my bookcases regularly, still I have at least ten, and I certainly won't read everything again.

At the same time it is a reminder of us to tread lightly, not accumulate mountains of stuff, and sift through our possessions regularly so as not to have to make such painful decisions that seem to diminish what is left of our lives.

cleo said...

It's wonderful that Carol hasn't lost her passion for clothes. Clothes are an expression of how we what to be. With the right clothes we can be anyone we want to be.

dana said...

Dear Carol, please consider blogging from your new residence, and sharing some of these wonderful things you've collected and insights you've won with us!

Geraldine Ryan said...

Intriguing post, Linda. Carol Fox is an inspiration. Good to know it doesn't have to be elasticated waists and crimplene after 80.

Like others have commented,am missing your blog, particularly with so much new stuff in the shops. Would have loved your insight into "The September Issue" too!

When your novel's finished maybe you can get back to blogging. Can you let us know anything about it yet?

Cassandra said...

Dear Linda

It is really great to have you back blogging again. I enjoy your thoughts and have loved both your books.

Anonymous said...

The book was great and I have read it more than once. I love hearing about women such as the writer of this lovely letter. I am looking forward to reading the memoir of Catherine W. Hill when this becomes available.

poet said...

This is simply cool. And even more so because she's active on the internet! (Though I do find 40 pairs of shoes a bit much, I'm thinking 10-15 :)


Gallus besom said...

Lovely to see this blog back. Thank you for Carol's inspiring letter. I've been thinking alot about elderly women and clothes recently (not the least as I'm a 61 year old who refuses to succumb to all that Twiggy M and S tat but finds it hard to do fashion proper) Also my mum died a few weeks ago and while clearing out her clothes I realised how colour savvy she was. As an Edinburgh matron it was mostly tartan skirts and 'good' sweaters, but all in lovely Scottish heathery hues which so suited her. And all that great tailoring she wore in the 40's and 50's, even as an ordinary working class mum.
Let's keep flying the flag for fashionable older women- although after seeing 'The September Issue' yesterday I may rule Anna Wintour's twee frocks out. Grace Coddington though..... even in black.... wonderful. Although I guess I have to hand it to Anna W for being brave enough to expose ancient, albeit toned upper arms

Duchesse said...

I'm echoing lagatta in seeing both sides of Mrs Fox's wish to keep clothes that date as far back as 40 years. I applaud that she's keeping items she treasures, and wonder if, at the same time, perhaps a young niece or granddaughter would be ecstatic to receive a vintage item, if only to let an evening gown dance again.

desertwind said...

This was such a wonderful surprise. Thank you so much, Carol, for your inspirational note.

And Linda -- We've missed you! And Harry, too.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful letter. Thanks for sharing. As someone who loves clothes, I find it very inspiring that while age may impede certain aspects of life, the pleasure of clothes need not be one of them.

Graham said...

Indeed, you have made many of us hopeful of a brighter future, keep dressing so brightly!

kellina said...

Amazing spirit, thank you for sharing this wonderful woman with us.

That's Not My Age said...

That is really touching - what a lovely letter. But I'm intrigued, I want to see her wardrobe, shame she didn't send a photo of all those shoes!

Anonymous said...

I am new to your books and have 'devoured' 2 in the last week. I adore your descriptions of clothes and places and your writing has prompted me to 'tune in' to my wonderful Nanna's voice. She died so long ago now but her philosophy of having good coats, handbags,shoes and watch lives on 8in me. Carol's letter is fabulous, I wish she could take it all with her but as this is not possible, I hope she passed some special pieces on to a relative and told them the story of each item, then the new owner can write another chapter.

Best Wishes


Sixties60style said...

It never goes away does it, that passion for fashion? Thanks for guiding me.

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