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.

13 comments:

Gondal-girl said...

Flip the coin, and here I am, loving a soft grey linen scub top with silk embellishment on a glorious sunny day here in Sydney, black drapey trouser - it goes to show we take it with us.

love this post Justine, has given me a boost today

oxford-reader said...

Sorry to hear about the kitchen Justine - hope it dries out soon!

I do agree that red is a colour that lifts the spirit - although I can't wear it close to my face unfortunately. Having said that, there are some wonderful red shoes in Hobbs that I might have to beg as a Christmas present from my long dead grandfather - I feel sure he would approve!

Justine Picardie said...

Oh, I'd love to be in the Sydney sunshine!
Red shoes definitely good for lifting the spirits...

sbaird said...

My favorite line these days is that I would have dressed for the last night on the Titanic. I absolutely agree to a little color on a dreary day. My favorite purchase of all time is a classic Tod's red bag. Granted when things go bust I won't be able to move into it-but when I wear it I do somehow always feel that the day is just a bit better. I know that is probably a little silly but my Nana was one that always believed in dressing for any occasion and I think she was absolutely right!

Justine Picardie said...

A Tod's red bag is a precious thing that you will treasure forever -- and even if you can't live in it, you'll always love it, and it'll be a family heirloom.

kairu said...

To offset the murky swamp of gray and black that is my closet I bought myself a bright red ("Poppy Fields," they call it) rain jacket by Patagonia. It will get me through the wet Seattle winter, a cheerful spot in the cold walk to and from work.

Red is my favorite color, whether it be a scarlet cashmere scarf that lights up my skin or a pair of red suede ballet flats by Ferragamo that make me want to dance down the street, or even a set of cherry-red Le Creuset pots in which I make soups (perhaps a deep crimson borsch?) and stews that warm me like a crackling fire.

Moannie said...

Red, yes! Blue is my very favourite colour, but now that everything about me is white or grey it is red that I wear to colour-me-alive. I wore a pillar-box red coat to my son's wedding, can now wear bright Paloma picasso lip-stick and always wrap a brightly coloured scarf around my neck.
Never mind if it doesn't suit.

Justine Picardie said...

I'm feeling very cheered at the thought of all these lovely pots and hats and shoes and jackets and scarves. I went to a friend's birthday party last night -- her 50th -- and wore some fantastic red satin high heels; I danced more than I have done for years, which I put down to the shoes. It was wonderful, though I'm feeling a bit stiff and decrepit today!

Justine Picardie said...

PS. Have been inspired by Kairu's comment to look up a recipe for borscht. Just what's needed to warm up a grey day...

Primrose said...

Red lipstick always does it for me.

dovegreyreader said...

I suddenly feel the urge to go and buy something red to wear right this minute!

Justine Picardie said...

Red socks and red gloves are always good to warm up a freezing day...

Blue Floppy Hat said...

I've always thought winter- no matter what the state of the economy happened to be- was a time that demanded colour of the strong kind. I'm hardly averse to black and neutrals, but this red thing might be catching- I've spent the last six weeks all but surgically attached to two crimson jackets, one of which is parka-sized and tremendously comfortable (and which I couldn't stand when I was younger- I guess tastes really do change).