What on earth am I going to wear?
Who hasn’t stood in front of a wardrobe bursting with clothes and
exclaimed: “I haven’t got a thing to wear”.
It’s Spring, fashion shows in New York, Milan, Paris, London, Berlin make the headlines, shiny magazines and a dazzling array of the latest fashions in the stores tempt us to spend our money. From haute couture on the catwalks to
piles of cheap t-shirts in the mass market outlets, clothes are the preoccupation of the moment.
Fashion and the drive to adorn ourselves are nothing new. From earliest times mankind has worn jewellery, made up body and face, dressed up. We have records of prehistoric people and tribes in distant jungles, who have never heard of fashion designers, who still felt the need for physical decoration. If fashion were sensible and served purely practical purposes, it wouldn’t be called fashion, it would be called clothing. Actually, I’d even say fashion wouldn’t exist.
|John Willmot - Earl of Rochester|
Fashion is, and always has been, big business. Even Shakespeare advised:
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy ; but not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy, For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
In German there is a similar saying: ‘Kleider machen Leute’, ( dress makes the man).
Although we have become much less formal about clothes, many of us still spend a lot of time and thought on the way we present ourselves to others. Fashion is like a second skin. Even if we wear nothing but jeans and t-shirt, we still declare our adherence to particular dress codes. Remember punks? Or goths? Tolerance is all, but I still secretly shudder at the sight of them. I realize that my reaction is silly, all fashion is a kind of theatre, a public display, artificial by definition; we constantly change fashions – I understand new collections come into the shops monthly nowadays.
Followers of fashion play with fashions, constantly re-inventing themselves while doing so. There is this wonderful word “fashion victim” for those who must have, and be seen to have, the latest outfits. People suffer for fashion, just think of those heels models and actresses wear. There was a photograph of a group of women of 60 + in the colour magazine of a reputable broadsheet the other day. All the women were wearing the most uncomfortable looking shoes; I cannot imagine that any of them wore those shoes for longer than it took to photograph them. Three hundred years ago it was men who teetered about the courts of Europe on high heels. How sensible of them to give them up.
For the life of me I cannot admire and certainly don’t covet those horrendously expensive, huge, bags which are all the rage. Shoes and bag are often worn by the same woman, who constantly reassures us how comfortable she is while tottering precariously on her heels, being weighed down by half a ton of handbag.
Personally, I am at that boring stage of life where comfort is the most pressing concern; I am an out-of-fashion has-been. I enjoy buying clothes, enjoy choosing what I feel suits me and I certainly make an effort not only for special occasions but also for going into town. Living in the country one gets so used to dressing down, throwing on jeans and jumper and gum boots, that getting out of them is a treat which happens not nearly often enough for me. But my special occasion clothes are rarely fashionable, they are more likely to be "sensible" and even "serviceable", although I much prefer the term "classic".