Two friends of mine have been talking about clothes lately. Here are their situations in brief:
Friend A is a professional woman, a freelancer, whose life and work intertwine a lot. She works with clients in her studio in her apartment, for example. She is interested in curating her wardrobe so it works for easy daily wear, but also gives the impression of competence, professionalism, and style. She wants to be able to grab any item from her closet in the morning, and look like a put-together professional. She sees it in terms of costuming: dressing for the role she has to play.
Friend B is a professional woman as well. Her job requires a college degree, but is also physical and doesn't require dressing up. A very active person, she likes to wear comfortable clothes, like sweat pants and gym-wear, on her days off. However, when people routinely tell her she looks like a teenager or young college student, she finds this annoying. She worries that people are telling her she's immature, or are judging her as less serious because of her clothes. So now she's wondering: should she make an effort to dress more "adult" in order to forestall those comments? And if she does, does that mean she's less of herself?
The other day while reading Barchester Towers, I came across this characterization of Mrs. Stanhope, the indolent wife of an absentee clergyman:
The structure of her attire was always elaborate and yet never over-laboured. She was rich in apparel but not bedizened with finery; her ornaments were costly, rare, and such as could not fail to attract notice, but they did not look as though worn with that purpose. She well knew the great architectural secret of decorating her constructions, and never descended to construct a decoration. But when we have said that Mrs. Stanhope knew how to dress and used her knowledge daily, we have said all. Other purpose in life she had none.
Ouch! A fit match for a husband who takes his job so seriously that he delegates it to a lesser-ranking clergyman and spends his life abroad, collecting butterflies and a salary for the work he's not doing! But the part of the quote that intrigued me was the bit about the "great architectural secret", which sounded like a quote.
Being no movie buff, I don't ever watch the Academy Awards, but afterward, I love to look at the "best and worst dressed" lists. I roll my eyes at the more tedious trends and ooh and ah over the beautiful gowns. Every now and then there's even an interesting suit among the men. Last year's highlight was Brie Larson in a black velvet gown by Oscar de la Renta that was a clear homage to Madame X's gown in John Singer Sargent's scandalous 1884 portrait! Beautiful!
Besides clothing and sewing, I have many other interests which don't get highlighted on this sewing blog. But sometimes, there are intersections! For instance, I commonly read SorryWatch, a blog about the often difficult by necessary act of apologizing. Apologizing is something we all need to do sometimes, but mostly do badly; and, as a major catalyst for reconciliation and healing, it deserves attention. SorryWatch applauds good apologies and the moral courage it takes to make them, while pulling apart bad or weasly apologies and showing why they suck. But this post, about people in the Democratic Nat'l Committee apologizing (or in some cases failing to apologize) for leaked emails, caught my attention mostly because of the marvelous dress that DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wears in the top photo, from a 2012 Vogue photoshoot.
Right-over-left, that is. In the Western world, women's garments traditionally close right-over-left, while men's close left-over-right. As an example, the Moss Brothers jacket I showed you on Monday is a women's jacket because of the right-over-left closure (as well as the princess seams giving room for the bosom, and the flared hips with slanting pockets for style). That's why I was surprised to find no womenswear on their company website!
My housemate and I like to watch Say Yes to the Dress, a TLC reality show about brides shopping for their wedding dresses. There's a New York, NY version and an Atlanta, GA version. Each has the same format: a bridal shop stocked to the rafters with white satin, tulle and lace; a female head of shop with an extravagantly gay male* assistant; various bridal consultants arrayed in black (so as not to compete with the brides, I guess); and brides who come in with their "entourages" and interesting needs/demands. The brides try on different gowns, people react. There's a vignette about whatever part of the bride's past is most likely to raise a tear, fabricated angst about the mom not approving of the daughter's choice... then piano music, the "bridal moment": the girl gets to wear a veil and cry, and she buys the dress. Oh, contrived, first world problems... such a guilty pleasure.
*His gayness is an important part of the formula, since it's more about his fashion acumen and closeness to women than his sexual preferences. A straight man in the bridal shop is always portrayed as a fox in the henhouse.
To make our guilty pleasure more of both, every time someone says the word "princess", my housemate and I can eat a piece of chocolate! That's our rule. "Princess style", "princess seams", "I feel like a princess"... chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! And oddly enough, one woman's "princess dress" is another woman's dowdy nightmare. There seems to be no correspondence between all the different visions of a princess; the only thing everyone agrees on is the desirability of looking like one.
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