I love to read books about fashion. And this week, I’ve been re-reading, in fits and starts, my absolute favourite book about fashion, The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant. I love that book. I’ve written about it here on the blog before. About how, when I read it the first time, I felt as if I had found a kindred spirit in Linda Grant, so much so that I speculated maybe Ms. Grant awoke one morning and thought, “I think I’ll write a book for Sue B.” In fact, back when I was still teaching, I used to bring the book to school and read passages aloud to my lunch companions. Some of whom were even interested. Ha.
Then I somehow lost track of the book. Undoubtedly because I zealously pressed it upon one friend too many, and now I can’t remember who borrowed it last. So, a couple of weeks ago, with my Indigo Christmas gift card, I bought myself a new copy.
And today as I finished the book, yet again, I was struck by these two sentences in the acknowledgements. Ms. Grant says:
I am indebted to the many readers of my blog, “The Thoughtful Dresser,” which I established as a means of thinking aloud about clothes in November 2007. Across the world, in the Nevada desert, in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Australia, Oslo, and many other places, there are intelligent women who are interested in clothes.
I love that line “thinking aloud about clothes.” I love to think aloud about clothes. But until I started reading blogs, and then writing my own, I never knew there were so many intelligent women out there, outside of the fashion industry, who wanted to think aloud about clothes too. I had found my “tribe,” as they say. And all this thinking and talking is not just about what we are shopping for, or have purchased, although I love to talk about that as well. But about the power clothes have in our lives.
That’s what entrances me about Grant’s book. The importance she places on clothes and fashion. The neverending search for a coat that is just right, for instance:
You see a coat, you ask for it in your size. Not that coat, this coat and no other. And when they bring it to you, everyone turns around and looks, because the right coat, the right dress, the right hat is like a sneeze or an orgasm– there’s no mistaking what has just happened.
“Wow,” says your critical friend. “Wow!”
Oh, I know that feeling, Linda. Of pulling on the perfect coat, or sweater, that can make you sigh. Knowing that this pair of jeans, not those ones, are right for you because they make you feel like you. Your best self. That they are, as Grant puts it, “life enhancing.”
Don’t you love a woman who can say that a new coat or pair of jeans might be “life enhancing?” With not a hint of irony, or a shade of apology for being so shallow as to imbue a piece of clothing with so much power? Sigh. She’s my kind of woman.
I was thinking about the power that clothes play in our lives when I was writing a post a few days ago. About spring and spring rituals, including the ritual of turning one’s closet from winter to spring. And then the extended discussion of “liberty bodices” initiated by Wendy in the comments had me chuckling and thinking how visceral were the feelings we had as kids for the clothes we loved… and hated. And when I read Alayne’s comment on that same post about new Easter outfits… straw hats and patent leather shoes… well, I was hiving off down memory lane. As I am wont to do.
|Nana Knowles with my brother Terry, and sisters Carolyn and Connie. And me. 1959, I think.|
That’s me, above, with my sisters and brother, and one of my grandmothers. I had three, you know, but that’s a whole other story. We’re all gussied up for Easter. My sisters in their Easter bonnets. I loved Easter hats as a child. White straw with bows and ribbons. I don’t know why I’m not wearing one here. I must remember to ask Mum if she knows. Actually from the look on my face, I’m not impressed with the fact that I don’t have my hat on for the picture. That’s clearly my sarcastic look. Ha. Some things never change about us, eh?
I do remember yearning for my sister Connie’s matching blouse and skirt, though. I loved the wide collar with the tie, and the crinoline. I remember my anticipation each spring to see if I had finally grown into that outfit. It seems I always wanted what my big sisters had.
Clothes and the memories they conjure, that has to be my specialist subject, I think. That’s what I love to write about most. Memories, clothes, and memories triggered by clothes. And I especially love that through blogging I’ve discovered a community of intelligent women who love clothes and talking about clothes as much as I do. And who don’t think that intelligence and love of clothes are mutually exclusive traits. Ha. As if.
I never realized until today that Linda Grant had a blog of the same name before she wrote her book The Thoughtful Dresser. I’m sorry I didn’t read her blog when she was writing it, but back in 2007 I’d never even heard of blogs. I’m happy that it can still be found on the web, to be perused at length, a bit at a time. I don’t want to eat it up all at once, since there will be no second helpings. It hasn’t been updated in years. You can find it here, if you’re interested.
So those are my thoughts about clothes for today, folks. And my thoughts about thinking aloud about clothes.
Any thoughts you might have are, as always, most welcome. Any thoughts on the power of clothes, on thinking and talking about clothes? Or on clothes themselves… like Easter outfits, for instance? Have at it, my friends. We’re listening.