A living wardrobe...

by - Sunday, May 27, 2012

Racks and quads of hot pink puffs, turquoise prints, and blush-tone dresses greet us as we enter Camille La Vie. Reminded of milestone moments in fashion as we shopped for Brenna's graduation, confirmation, and eighth grade dance dresses, the quest is a familiar one. Haven't we all shopped for the perfect outfit at some time or another?
That asymmetric slate gray Donna Karen silk dress I scored at one of her sample sales... It was the exact one I kept a Saks catalog clipping of in my design notebook. I bought it for a song on a rainy day during my lunch hour from work. Whenever I eyeball it in my closet, the same tingle of excitement as I pulled the piece of fabric out of a box on the floor that day still gives me supreme satisfaction. I will always wear that dress because the sexy simplicity and cut is timeless, evident in its countless appearances over the years at weddings, a bat mitzvah, and on the dance floor girls' night out. I confess I've already drafted a flat pattern of it, remaking it in bi-color alabaster and taupe silk for other events yet to come should I wear out the original gem.
What we wore attests to the passing of time, our own aging process and how we ultimately chose to handle the changes.
And this is what I am left to ponder after reading Linda Grant's book, The Thoughtful Dresser - The Art of Adornment, The Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter. If this book did nothing else, it made me aware of my mortality paralleled with the immortality of fashion.

So you say you have no interest in clothing and fashion? Linda Grant explains that there is much more involved than you might guess. All people wear clothes almost every moment of their lives, and make some type of choices of what those clothes are, even when we pretend we don't care. "Time past, time present, and time future are encapsulated in what we wear, our mutable identities constantly finding expression in a dress or a pair of shoes." Clothes, she demonstrates, are never without meaning. Auschwitz survivor, Catherine Hill, who ultimately met her destiny as a leader in bringing European couture to Canada in her fashion boutique, Chez Catherine, is a main force in Grant's dialog. The depths and surfaces of this woman's incredible life provide insights attesting "the great changes in clothing have all come about because what women did and thought and felt changed".
Divided into chapters that address different themes - the act of shopping, shoes, and how our clothes become our friends, for example - they are supported in Grant's own experience and thoughts she details from her relationship with fashion over the years. Isn't a wardrobe a sort of journal, each article of clothing an entry evoking a specific memory, provoking an emotional tag, as if a caption to a snapshot? So many other items flash recollections of life thus far for myself... the black harlequin leather and satin jacket I tailored all night, to wear at the MTV New Year's Ball back in the 80's, and the Yves Saint Laurent rust sandals I ruined when we strolled the Village in the poring rain. Can you remember where you were and what your wore?
"The clothes you put on do not instantly make you the character you want to be. Clothes are a lifelong journey into acquiring an identity". Perceptive and curious, The Thoughtful Dresser is a must-read for fashion aficionados.
"What we wear is like a light switch. It turns on and brilliantly illuminates what lies beneath".
Makes me want to reevaluate my personal relationship with my living wardrobe... xoxo-Sonya

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