The book I am reading right now, Killer Hair, is a snappy mystery novel with a plucky girl detective. I always like those, don’t you? I brought Trixie Belden books into the store, and women often stop when they see them and exclaim over them happily. One woman said, “I got chills when I saw that!” and many are equally excited about them.
In any case, the heroine is a fashion columnist, and the book has a lot of descriptions of people’s personal styles. Not “preppy” or “elegant.” No, this book describes people’s styles as “Valkyrie’s Wagnerian Wunderbra.” “40’s bravado.” “Pledge night at the coven.”
Reading this — in combination with having watched The Devil Wears Prada last weekend, having mused on the sartorial cues of meth cooks (although the Water Jar may be right in suggesting that the smell is the real tip-off), and working prettily steadily on my and #2 daughter’s SWAPs — has caused me to think about the idea of clothes as communication.
The Wall Street Journal had a review yesterday of a book called The Suit which suggested that the first President Bush’s preppy look made people think he didn’t understand or care about them, while the second President Bush was able to avoid that by looking like a businessman (except when he dresses up as a cowboy or a military man or something, but we all know he likes to play dress-up, so apparently it doesn’t affect our opinion of him). President Roosevelt was able to dress “like a Hudson River Grandee” without political fallout, because — according to the book — he was a Democrat and well-born, a combination that rendered him immune. I think there were differences in the policies and behavior of these presidents that may have had more influence on how compassionate they appeared than their suits did, but it is an interesting thought.
There is a scene in The Devil wears Prada in which the young worker betrays her feeling that fashion is unimportant. Her boss/nemesis points out that her clothing, intended to show how far above fashion she is, was actually “chosen for you by the people in this room.”
What do you say when you wear something like this garment from the current Knitty? Or, indeed, any of the garments from the current Knitty?
To me, they seem to say, “I’ve learned how to cable, but I can’t actually make a pair of real gloves or mittens” or “I follow the herd, even if it is a small herd.” But that can’t be the intention.
So often we knitters make things because we want to try out a stitch pattern, or we love to do texture stitches, or we are enamored of a particular yarn. If it is a really expensive yarn, we may make tiny silly things from one skein, just for the pleasure of making something — the silk sandals in the current Knitty would be an example of that, surely. If we bother to wear our creations (and some knitting bloggers brag that they never do), we’re just showing off our knitting.
(If you were as disappointed as I with the new Knitty, check out Jessica Tromp’s site instead.)
#2 son reminded me that George, in Seinfeld, once said “I love velvet. If it were socially acceptable, I would drape myself in velvet.” This is about loving a textile as an object, and that is surely more what most of us knitters are doing than any idea of communicating something about ourselves with our garments, or of fashion.
Learning to look at fabric like a dressmaker, not a quilter, has been an education for me. I am glad to say that, as I sit here hemming my plain gray microfiber skirt, I am really enjoying the texture of the fabric. I was able to get quite enthusiastic about some swatches of solid gabardine that I received in the mail recently (yes, I have found myself on the seamstress’s mailing lists now).
Oh, and I was right about paisley. Here’s the rest of my fall fashion forecast: the romantic looks will continue, with a piratical influence that will keep shaped and military-style jackets and boyish looks in style, and last year’s blue and brown combos will move to plum or gray with taupe and camel.
Of course, I will still be wearing jeans and sweaters. Perhaps my style is intended to say, “Hello, I am someone’s mom. Do not be scared.”