Friday, November 20, 2009

Is having great fun

Reading Katherine Joslin's Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion.

Just out.

Too bad it has nothing to do with her shaky term paper. Countdown?

23 days.

I used a very old gift card to purchase it (and several other books ranging from $1 to $15).

Women love clothes; men who do are less common and more suspect. Indeed, there is not much variation in men's business / formal / casual attire … for the past 250 years … to be obsessed with a thing supposedly designed to increase passive sexuality (attractiveness) can be unseemly in a male.

Women do so appreciate clean, well-trimmed male individuals; bathing is good, and so are clean clothes that fit nicely. We have not entered the pauper-stage of U.S. culture just yet — not universally, anyway.

Today I mended a pair of some over-the-knee socks. They are more than 10 years in my possession. One of two pair. Both have been repaired, at the Achilles and randomly in spots, more than once.

They are Swiss, cotton, durable and still as dark as when I first acquired them.

Three pair of Made-in-the-USA black cotton trouser socks from the Banana Republic Company have also shown much and unexpected decade-long durability. It has been a long-standing surprise.

Upstairs, there is a pile of wool sweaters on top of a chest of drawers, asking for hole-repair. Cedar blocks are not effective against moths. One never sees the moths, only the eaten-away hole and the dead or shell-casting of a moth-larva. I got distracted at noon after getting the socks done and on; to indulge a continued sewing desire sounded wrong, and so it was subverted by the "you should be working / going to a work-place in person to support your co-worker" mandate, which was not carried out either — but you see my mental gymnastics of avoidance and how things do or do not get done.

I have two Italian merino ribbed wool sweaters from J. Crew that have given more than ample years of service. Of course, they have been washed, and I have grown since high school. Congratulations to moth-proofed yarn.

Ibex also knows a good spin. They even craft underclothes, if you can imagine that — and my interest in woolen unmentionables. This girl once paid $25 for a black wool swimsuit from the 1950s or so at an antique fair. Yes, it used to fit — a one-piece with unexpected parts cut away. No, it was never water-tested; the original manila-colored price tag is still stapled to it.

Anyway, my vanity extends beyond my body, my clothes and beyond the interaction of mine with mine.

I have such skewed senses of saving up, of documenting – of my own self-importance — that my greatest wish for my attire is that it end up preserved.

One of my favorite days was spent in the basement of Union Station in Kansas City (where the Kansas City Museum, under the greater incorporation de' non-profit, keeps its collection in temperature-controlled cases and cabinets), when Nancy Rexford was in town to help evaluate and catalog the historic children's clothing collection. [Her books are very expensive, and the one I want is out of print.]

Going over out-of-date fashions, the fabrics faded, crunchy and unfamiliar, the construction fussy and impossible to dump into a contemporary washing machine, is my form of ghost-hunting.

You can smell people still, no matter how well-washed or long-stored their clothing.

It's the same when someone sends you a letter. You can tell if they smoke, if they use a scent, if they cooked bacon recently.

One of the things we stand to lose, along with songbird diversity, is our use of smell for much more than finding out that the kitchen garbage bin is overdue to be emptied or that a chunk of industrial beef has somehow gone off just a day after its purchase.

Anyhow, my point is that I aim to donate my clothes to the museum, based on the fact that a curator once told me that the 1990s > lacked in non-formal wear in terms of collections. And I'm supposed to have photos of me in it, preferably. I did not save catalog pages … and to wear the clothes now would be somewhat false history.

However, it can be noted as such, because I want people, if we still exist and have had the resources to cherish non-survival-related endeavors in 20 to 100 decades, to be able to feel about "my time" what I believe I can feel about the one 100 to 200 years before my own.

1 comment:

hearmysong said...

a noble endeavor--preserving clothes for documentation in subsequent generations.

have you been to the Victoria and Albert dress collection in London? Highly worth it. maybe they would be interested as well? :)

my "style" is so not stylish that my sister-in-law told me that i am a young woman and should dress like one. i have not her cleavage nor her inclination to show it off. my v-neck sweaters and t-shirts are much more modest. i like things that fit but that i can move in. if i could wear pajama bottoms to work once a week (and it were socially acceptable to do so), i would be a happier camper.