Tuesday, November 1, 2011

De-lovely

Sometimes, theoretical books include the most wonderful descriptions of clothing. I have been reading Adorned in Dreams by Elizabeth Wilson, a book that traces fashion through modernity, and from time to time she tosses in a brilliant excerpt that is so evocative. Consider this comment on the style of Hollywood actress costumes in early days of cinema:

Colour drained out of elegance [because film was shot in black and white] ... draped lamé and sequinned satin offered rivulets of light to the eye as they flower and slithered over the shifting flanks and thighs of Garbo, Dietrich, Harlow and Lombard. These visions were built on the newly powerful sensuality of colourless texture in motion... sequins, marabou, white net and black lace developed a fresh intensity of sexual meaning in the world of colourless fantasy. (Anne Hollander, Seeing Through Clothes)

Also wonderful is this description of women and men promenading along the new Regent Street in the early nineteenth century. The Illustrated London News reported that by day, 

the fireflies of fashion glance rapidly hither and thither ... the pavements being crowded with fashionable loungers. With what dignified ease the gorgeously bedizened footmen attend to their mistresses or lounge about in the attitudes of studied grace ;

whereas by evening, 

on the wide stone pavement the promenaders mingle, beautiful girls in shining dance frocks, pearls braided in their hair, promenaders of all nations ... laughing, whispering, disappearing through the brown mahogany doors of the cafés. ... The night air is impregnated with the scent of patchouli and 'Eau de mille fleurs'. The trains of satin dresses rustle on the stone, scarves float, rose-coloured ribbons flutter; sparkling eyes, caressing words; there a greeting, here a whisper and a laugh. (Ivan Bloch, Sexual Life in England)

And I wonder if Haider Ackermann's recent collection was influenced at all by the personal style of Alexander Plunket Green (Mary Quant's husband). I couldn't help but think of the louche tops, gleaming silks and contrasting jewel tones of Ackermann's SS12 collection as I read the following:

He seemed to have no clothes of his own. He wore his mother's pyjama tops as shirts, generally in that colour known as 'old gold' which usually comes in shantung. His trousers also came out of his mother's wardrobe. Beautifully cut and sleek fitting, the zip was at the side, and they were in weird and wonderful variations of purple, prune, crimson and putty... They came to a stop halfway down the calf. (Mary Quant, Quant by Quant)

And on that note, back to note-taking I go...

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