Monday, 10 November 2008
Red patent on a grey November day...
It has rained and rained and rained today; so much rain that the drain overflowed and the guttering fell apart and water poured in through the roof of my kitchen. I am currently mopping up, and contemplating the cost of replastering and repainting, though who knows how long it will take for the kitchen walls to dry out?
Anyway, in between mopping and moaning, I've been lusting after a red patent something to cheer me up. The belt above is from M&S, and I think it's the 21st century equivalent of Olivia's favourite red belt in my favourite Rosamond Lehmann novel, 'Invitation to the Waltz'. Speaking of which, here's my latest thoughts as a Closet Thinker ...
Are you in the red or in the black? And even if you’re not overdrawn, do you want to wear the colour of mourning at the onset of a winter of discontent? I ask these questions, because they’ve been on my mind ever since I started hankering after a beautiful red patent bag by Anya Hindmarch, the day after Lehman Brothers went bust.
Yes, I’m feeling just as anxious as everyone else is about the serious stuff. But I’ve also realised that I don’t want to walk around looking like a crow, because there’s already quite enough gloom on the streets. It’s not that I’m proposing to chuck out the black from my wardrobe, in a sartorial attempt to prove that life is a bowl of cherries, when quite clearly it’s not. But I think I could do with a bit of ruby patent leather to lighten things up, and perhaps even benefit from the traditional folklore that holds red as a lucky talisman. “Red is the colour of magic in every country,” wrote W.B Yeats, “and has been so from the very earliest times. The caps of fairies and musicians are well-nigh always red.”
If red is magical, it is also radical, and suggests that its wearer has a certain purposefulness. Rosamond Lehmann’s wonderful coming-of-age novel, ‘Invitation to the Waltz’, written in 1932 in the dark days of the Great Depression, has the heroine celebrating her 17th birthday with the precious gift of a roll of flame-coloured silk. She already cherishes her red jumper – ‘the crimson heartened the lesser days, put a firm face upon them’ – and wears a favourite scarlet patent leather belt on her birthday, which compensates for the deficiencies of her humdrum brown skirt. “The belt was an object which had virtue in it… Within its compass she felt a certainty of individuality, like a seal set on her…”
Those in search of affordable 21st century amulets – a more readily available version of the alchemists’ Philosopher’s Stone, or the ‘red tincture’ that would turn base metal to gold – should make haste to Gap, currently offering a chic red patent tote for £39.50, and a crimson pin-tuck dress for the same price. Alternatively, Miss Selfridge has a cerise angora beret for £12 that Yeats might have approved of, while the patent accessories at Boden are cheerfully berry-coloured. You don’t need to buy all (or any) of them; but my feeling is that if I’m going to be tightening my belt this winter, then it’s got to be a damn good red patent one.