Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Of fashion and matters sartorial, part 2 of 8

To be fair to Julian MacLaren-Ross, the reason I started reading him in the first place was because he is said to be the model for the rackety writer X. Trapnel in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. So Powell bears responsibility for this topic, too—which is fair, because he, too, had an eye for clothes. Mostly, however, his interest was in how they reflected social convention or position and how, when divorced from their social value, they were often, essentially, absurd.

Like tattoos.

From Marco Polo's The Travels of Marco Polo (1298-99)
[In Kanigu province,] both men and women have their bodies marked with the needle all over, in figures of beasts and birds; and there are among them practitioners whose sole employment it is to execute these ornaments upon the hands, the legs, and the breast. When a black colouring stuff has been rubbed over these punctures, it is impossible either by water or otherwise, to efface the marks. The man or woman who exhibits the greatest profusion of these figures, is esteemed the most handsome.

From Anthony Powell’s A Question of Upbringing (1951)
“But my dear Peter,” [said Stringham], “Why do you always go about dressed as if you were going to dance up and down a row of naked ladies singing ‘Dapper Dan was a very handy man,’ or something equally lyrical? You get more like an advertisement for gents’ tailoring every day.”

From CĂ©leste Alberet’s Monsieur Proust (1973)
As well as tails and dinner jacket, he had several jackets which he wore with striped trousers, and to these he added a black jacket with piping. Everything was of course made to measure.

He had a collection of waistcoats, handsome but plain. I remember he had one made because he particularly liked the material. It was red silk with a white silk lining. He tried it on and showed me. I can see him now turning this way and that in front of the mirror, then saying:

“Definitely not. It would be all right for a dandy like Bonii de Castellane, but I don’t want to look ridiculous.”

And he never wore it. I put it away in the cupboard.

From Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (1972)
The city of Leonia refashions itself every day: every morning the people wake between fresh sheets, wash with just-unwrapped cakes of soap, wear brand-new clothing, take from the latest model refrigerator still unopened tins, listening to the last-minute jingles from the most up-to-date radio. . . . So you begin to wonder if Leonia’s true passion is really, as they say, the enjoyment of new and different things, and not, instead, the joy of expelling, discarding, cleansing itself of a recurrent impurity.

No comments:

Post a Comment