Friday, April 14, 2006

Of fashion and matters sartorial, part 5 of 8

Then there is the darker side of fashion, ranging from simple visual horrors to the actual evils of furs and feathers. And always, in fashion and clothing as in nearly everything, the Romans did it first, and worst.

From P. G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves (1934)
”Jeeves is a great believer in the moral effect of clothes. He thinks I just as good, but I objected to the boots.”

I saw his point. There is enough sadness in life without having fellows like Gussie Fink-Nottle going about in sea-boots.

From Anthony Powell’s A Writer’s Notebook (2001)
A man says with horror, “Later, I saw him without a hat.”

From David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions (1996), collected in Graeme Gibson's Bedside Book of Birds (2005)
The indigenous people also took their toll on the native birds. The spectacular feathered capes and helmets that became uniforms of rank among Hawaiian chiefs, and the ceremonial feather-garments known as kahilis (loosely translated, “fly flaps”), cost thousands of avian lives. During early periods of Hawaiian history, commoners were even obliged to pay tribute to their alii in the currency of feathers. Shiny black plumage from one species, scarlet from another, green from another. Yellow was the most valued color, a stroke of bad luck for species like Drepanis pacifica, the Hawaii mamo, with its bright yellow rump highlighted against a starling-black body. The annals of Hawaiian fashion tell us that one chief, Kamehameha the Great, possessed a resplendent yellow cape containing the feathers of eighty thousand mamo.

From Robert Graves’s I, Claudius (1934)
About this time Julia went quite bald. I do not know whether [her mother] Livia had a hand in this: it seems not improbable, though certainly baldness was in the Caesar family. At all events, Augustus found an Egyptian wig-maker who made her one of the most magnificent fair wigs that was ever seen, and her charms were thus rather increased than diminished by her mischance; she had not had very good hair of her own. It is said that the wig was not built, in the usual way, on a base of hair net but was the whole scalp of a German chieftain’s daughter shrunk to the exact size of Julia’s head and kept alive and pliant by occasional rubbing with a special ointment. But I must say that I don’t believe this.

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