Saturday, May 15, 2010

Clothes and Books: The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant

I just bought four bangle bracelets and two linen shirts.

And it's all Linda Grant's fault.

Linda Grant is the author of The Thoughtful Dresser, a book about clothes. The second title is "The Art of Adornment, The Pleasure of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter". The author has a website by the same name, so she may already be old news to all of you, but I just picked up the book on a whim, so it's new to me.

It's a good book, and I say that as a person who doesn't care about clothes. Except that Linda Grant would say that she doesn't believe that I don't care about clothes, and, yes, she's right. It's not that I don't care about clothes, it's...

Well, it's several things, but let's get back to the book, and perhaps return to me later. It's an absorbing book, one that shifts from topic to topic in an apparently meandering, random-conversation sort of way. But when I was done I had the sense that I had just walked through a precisely crafted path, rather like one of those meditation mazes that turn you around and around, giving you many different views of the same place.

It started with a red high-heeled shoe in the museum at Auschwitz. And while that image was still filling my mind, the  assertion that "you can't have depths without surfaces". And then it went on to pursue that argument - the argument that the surface formed by clothes and fashion is an important one, and that the men and women that dismiss it for various reasons, whether honorable or self-serving, are just wrong.

It ambles from topic to topic. The historical significance of handbags. The invisibility of women over fifty. The overweight male couturier who sneers at women over size six. Traversing the class system through changing dress codes. Self adornment among the ancients. Dressing to appease the ancient gods or the modern hiring manager. Foot binding. Liptstick in the Blitz. Glamor. The rise and fall of the New Look. The shame of nudity.

And it keeps returning to that red shoe, and to a woman who survived Auschwitz because of a hat.

It feels odd to return from the depths to, again, clothes. But it is consistent with the thesis of the book, and the book is what I'm writing about.

So. So, returning to me, why do I behave as if I'm not interested in clothes? I originally typed here that I'm a person of limited style sense and far from ideal figure, and as such the amount of effort and money required to dress well is more than I'm willing to invest. Blah, blah, blah.

And that's all true. But, really, I think it comes down to the belief that, appearance-wise, I'm just not worth dressing up. I have a deep-down notion that if I were to make any perceptible fashion effort, small children would point and laugh.

That looks like a thought that's worth knocking down. So, bangles and linen today, as a start. And I'll be posting, as I think about it a little more.

Photo: Mine.


  1. I really like your blog and frequently look for new posts. Just started blogging myself - after years of perfume obsession. Check it out at

  2. Thank you! And thanks for pointing to your blog - I like it. I'm linking, and I'll be back to read more.

  3. That book sounds excellent and I agree with its thesis that clothes maketh the man - which is pretty much the Trinny and Susannah stance on the matter. "Maketh the man" in both an aesthetic sense and the confidence which that brings. I do believe that everyone, regardless or physical appearance - and let's face it, none of us is perfect - can be radically transformed and uplifted by the right clothes, even though I speak as someone who spends much of the time in her dressing gown, and a fair bit of the rest of the time in garments that are woefully uncoordinated, pilled, plucked and dotted with mysterious rust spots.

  4. Hey, flittersniffer! Yes, I am periodically convinced that it would be worthwhile to do something about dressing well - "well" by my definition, and hopefully also by others'. And then.. I don't. But maybe this time. Maybe if I blog about it?