Some days I am very successful at taking pictures of people in their outfits on the street or on the train. Today, though, I had an attack of shyness on the train on the way home and couldn’t bring myself to ask the fashion-forward couple sitting across from me if I could get a snapshot.
They were in their twenties or early thirties. He was lanky and thin, with beautiful shoulder length curly hair that somehow behaved perfectly (unlike mine) in the rain. Black docs, black leather coat (a bit too heavy for today), jeans, black shirt. Totally simple. He was the focus, not his clothes.
She (a big-eyed Twiggy type but with much longer hair) was wearing a lipstick-red “car coat” embellished by three tiers of huge ruffles, a dress I can only describe as “pumpkin-shaped” in shades of pink, orange, and red (a very early 70s big print), and bazooka-pink loafers. Her hair was dyed flame color to top it all off, and she kept girlishly twisting pieces of it around her finger.
It turned out they were not a couple. She got off well before he did, and didn’t so much as say goodbye. Oh well, so much for my narrative about them.
Oh, oh, kudos to Anne for taking up the fashion gauntlet so brilliantly today. I’m interested in all the points she makes, even the ones I don’t agree with, like the first one, in which she said that “Clothes are best that emphasize or exaggerate rather than obscure that which already exists.” I think I do agree with this in terms of how clothing, in Gnostic fashion, brings out what is inside us in order that it does not destroy us. Fashion exteriorizes character and fantasy, as Emma remarked in that beautiful video Charles took of her on the beach.
I think that there’s a utopianism to Anne’s proposition, as there is to so many of her propositions. I think really it’s a visionary notion, that one should not only not camouflage one’s “flaws,” but rather attire oneself to accentuate them. Andy Warhol had a similar philosophy. He wrote:
If you’re naturally pale, you should put on a lot of blush-on to compensate. But if you’ve got a big nose, just play it up, and if you have a pimple, put on the pimple cream in a way that will make it really stand out – “There! I use pimple cream!” There’s a difference. (p.65, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol)
I just don’t think, no, for myself, that I want to exaggerate at least some of my physical qualities, I mean, I don’t want to wear a skintight dress in horizontal stripes to make myself look even shorter and rounder, and slouchiness, unless done very carefully, just ends up making me look like a schlump. Today’s blouse is ever so slightly blousoned, but only to offset the narrowness of the pants.
I did try for a note of irony today. Can you see it? I bought them in Japan, these pendants. Why do you suppose they were selling star of David pendants at street stalls in Harajuku? It occurs to me that several of the street jewelry sellers were Israeli. That could have something to do with it.
When I pointed out my “note of irony” to a co-worker today, he asked, “why is that ironic?” He was right, in a way. Irony is supposed to go against literality. This was TOO literal of a gesture, like literal video. I would assert that that was precisely the irony: the over-the-topness.
I notice that I’m hardly a Baroness Elsa or John Lydon here. On a continuum of over-the-topness, this outfit would rank very very low, but it was raining, so that limited my choices somewhat, and at least I tried.
Not being a jeans and sneakers sort of person, it was a struggle to force myself to wear pants today. All these years on earth and I still haven’t totally figured out what to wear on a rainy summer day.
When people complain about rainy days, though, I always think about Sushil Rao, the Indian taxi driver in Crossing the BLVD, who said,
A young couple comes into my cab on a rainy day. They say, “Oh man, it’s miserable out there.” I say, “ That is the water of our life.” They ask me what I mean. I tell them, “You can live without food for days at a time. But water you need almost every four hours. Water is like diamonds. Our life depends on it!”
One thing Anne said that really resonated in me is her remark that garments have stories. It’s true: they accrue memories like marinades. I bought these trousers secondhand in my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo, Shimo-Kitazawa. I remember riding my bike around there and stopping in to a little high-end consignment shop and finding two pairs of pants, one iridescent purple and then these. It’s a wonder I still have them both, but these are the sorts of garments that you don’t just find anywhere. Turns out they were made Italy. The fabric, linen, polyester, and something else (elastic? lycra?) has this amazing sideways stretch, so they don’t need a fastener; I just slip them on, and when I do, I also slip on Shimo-Kitazawa, the twists and bends of its little streets, its jazz bars and noodle places and cool clothes shops. I can almost smell it.
I remember one day walking up University Place and running into Rob Fitterman. It must have been a while ago because he was walking Coco in her stroller (she’s now eleven, and the coolest human being I know). I remember he liked these pants: “Those are pretty cool trousers there, Miss Gordon,” he said. And Gary this morning also praised them. Maybe men like them because they can relate to the color scheme? These are kind of, you know, man-stripes. Do men, in general, prefer women who cross-dress a little? The way I like a little eyeliner on a fella? I wonder. Anyway, Anne, yes: “It is better to wear a garment with a story,” and “Clothing should be sentimental, like memory.” Indeed.
Oh, so much more to say, especially in response to Anne’s post. I need to run, though, to catch a movie tonight. Gary and I are going to Light Industry to see The T.A.M.I. Show!
4 thoughts on “Today’s ensemble & the marinade of memory”
The paragraphs that begin: “They were in their twenties or early thirties.”
“She (a big-eyed Twiggy type…”
is really lovely writing! There was a literary magazine at Bard years and years ago in the olden days…..I think they only got one or two issues out, but it was a …treatise? thinking about? a something or other—focused on fashion. It was really great, far more interesting than many of the more poetic college mags that were coming out then. I remember one person figured out the geometry & drew a diagram of one of the professor's rather peculiar hairdo. (It looked like a pyramid).
Nada, if Mina Loy was alive today (and in some ways she is): she would wear what you are wearing today and she would stand just like you are standing. This is my belief.
Mina Loy! I think she would be naked except for a pair of ear muffs and a lamshade hat, and she would have her back to the camera, and her hair would be three times as long as mine!
But I do understand your point.
That might be Tristan Tzara, not Mina!