Sunday, 17 October 2010

Material Girl


Do I have a ‘fashion ethos’, a philosophy of fashion, perhaps better said? No, I don’t think I do. I’ve decided to write about my absence of ethos, prompted by my good friend Adam Garrie, whom I know does have such an ethos, developed to a high stage of aesthetic sensibility. I confess I was slightly reluctant to commit myself here because my disorganised and unsystematic thinking is bound to clash sharply with the clarity of his vision. Anyway, here we go in my one-sided dialectic!

Adam, let me begin by saying that I’ve had a look at that article by Dominic Sandbrook in The Daily Mail, the one you took such exception to (The Seventies: the decade when men stopped being men). I recognised at once the reference he made to huge collars, garish shirts and patterned ties because it immediately conjured up Arthur Marwick, that recording of him from the decade which caused my history tutorial group to be overtaken by seismic laughter!

I’m sure you will recall the picture in the article of one Peter Wyngarde - big collar, big tie, fussy suit, all set off by the aged face replete with long hair and moustache. He looks terrible, a dandy, camp in the worst possible sense of the word. In looking at this picture it occurred to me that everything in fashion occurs twice, the first time as elegance, the second time as parody: the Teddy Boy for the Edwardian Gentleman, Peter Wyngarde for Beau Brummell! And then there is a passage I came across in William Hazlitt’s essay on Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode, where he offers comment on the central figure in the first of the series;

The Beau sits smiling at the looking-glass, with a reflected simper of self-admiration, and a languishing inclination of the head, while the rest of his body is perked up on his high heels with a certain air of tip-toe elevation. He is the Narcissus of the reign of George II, whose powdered peruke, ruffles, gold lace, and patches, divide his self-love unequally with his own person –the true Sir Plume of his day…

For me things are quite simple. I like elegant designs and well-cut clothes, clothes that complement the line of the body. I dislike fussiness, frills and fluffs. My favourite clothes are those designed by Jasper Conran and Elizabeth Grachvogel. I simply adore Jimmy Choo’s footwear and handbags. I like to dress for the occasion. Mostly I dress in a smart casual manner, with jeans and top, as well as a range of skirts, and I’m particularly keen on magic pants. But I always rise for the occasion: a cocktail dress for semi-formal engagements and a full evening dress when I really want to make an impression.


My ideas of good male dress are even simpler: nice lines, smart casual and well-tailored suits. I like men to take pride in their appearance, to make an effort with their clothes without being fussy or ostentatious; to wear clothes in such a way that displays a kind of feigned indifference, if that makes any sense at all. I’m sorry I know this may sound sexist but I like male fashions that emphasise maleness, fashions that are not an end in themselves, so to speak. And as for untidy shoulder-length hair, beards and moustaches, well, just forget it!

Is this a fashion ethos? No, I don’t really think so. It’s just a matter of personal taste and preference. I can admire past designs, I can admire the Regency line, to give but one example, but I would not choose to dress in a Regency line, in a retrospective manner. I live and dress for today. Here I am: this is me; I can be no other. I’m just a material girl living in a material world, perhaps even a bit of a Barbie Girl when it comes to dress. :-)



39 comments:

  1. Jeans, t-shirt, loafers, jacket, pistol.

    Don't know if you will be able to access this, but here's a 70s flashback:

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=380536393087&set=t.773379822

    Roger is an old schoolfriend. Alex is one of the creative geniuses behind Wallace & Gromit.

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  2. Conservative minimalism? Intelligent conservatism is always modern I think. We appreciate the past, but don't try to live it.

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  4. Hi Ana,

    A material girl ?
    hmmmm ........

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  6. People dress like slobs these days. But women are less guilty than men.

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  7. Calvin, you are right: I can't access this. I would simply love to see it, though. Perhaps we should link up on Facebook?

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  8. Adam, in his book Sandbrook makes precisely the same point: that the 70s was not all about strikes and upheaval. I think you might be surprised by his book; it's not at all like his Daily Mail journalism. Still, I'm not trying to convert you. Read it or don't read it; it's up to you. I live for the present: I'm young; this is my time. But if you ever invent your Tardis I wish you well. :-)

    Big collars are just, well, big! Have a look at that Wyngarde picture. I'm so glad you find women's clothes boring, such a contrast to so many other men! There are actually quite a lot of decent female designers besides Grachvogel, though I personally don't think it matters that much. I wear good clothes, no matter if designed by a woman or a man.

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  9. Harry, yes, I thought it was rather good. :-)

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  10. Amicus, I can't dispute that, though I think the people who dress like slobs always dressed like slobs.

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  14. I forgive Peter Wyngarde everything for his portrayal of Klytus in Flash Gordon.

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  16. Adam, you shall have to wait for my glowingly stupid review. :-)

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  17. Sucio, thank you so much. I knew I had seen this man somewhere before; I just couldn't place him.

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  19. MB, if it pleases you it would please me. :-)

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  20. Adam, sorry, I missed that. Sandbrook's book, of course. :-)

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  22. That's a hot outfit you're wearing in that photo, cool-cat!

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  25. We must be bankrupt, or near bankrupt, as a nation. After thirteen years of hard Labour hard decisions have to be taken.

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  27. This nation was built by careful accountancy, particularly in the eighteenth century. It was the French who were ruined by profligacy. We took the French road under Labour's Sun King. Walpole Osborne is returning to the best Whig tradition. The world has changed, even in Buenos Aires.

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  30. I screamed "They're just F-in Clothes" 5 or 6 years ago now and have been Asda/Tesco chic ever since.

    Except for my occaisional abuse of the Next sale, where I buy everything in my size.

    If people value my appearence over my opinion, I value my chewed pen lid over there opinion

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  31. Australia was going to buy the Invincible from the UK in 1982, just prior to the Falklands War. The Argentinian attack shocked the UK government back into contact with reality and they reneged on the deal. What lesson did the Australian government learn from this episode? They abandoned the purchase of an aircraft carrier altogether. After the Melbourne (famous for eating destroyers) was scrapped, they apparently decided that an island nation did not need an aircraft carrier.

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  32. Is Australia really an 'island nation'? I thought your vision was a lot bigger than that. :-)

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  33. It's an archipelago containing one very big island (the one I live on). When we add Antarctica it'll be even bigger. Mwahahaha (as they say).

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