Saturday, 23 May 2009
Shoes to do battle in...
I don't often post my fashion writing here -- but I do write a column every week for the Sunday Telegraph called Closet Thinker, and this one might interest some of you.
One of the reasons I like writing for Stella (the Sunday Telegraph magazine) is that the editing process is very civilised. You'll see that there's a translation at the end of this column, and I got the following email from one of the subeditors (I hope she won't mind me repeating it here). She suggested that instead of the translation I'd originally used ('by her gait was the goddess revealed'), that it might be rephrased (you'll see what I mean in the final line of the column).
This is her very courteous message:
"On investigation I discover this is indeed closer to the Latin ('incessu patuit dea').
Of course, translation is not an exact science ('Les traductions sont comme les femmes. Lorsqu'elles sont belles, elles ne sont pas fidèles, et lorsqu'elles sont fidèles elles ne sont pas belles), but do you think that as well as being more 'accurate' it is also more poetic-sounding? (the French quote above notwithstanding...)
Your call - it's just a suggestion!"
By the way, the shoes in the picture (above) are Christian Louboutin, and I have just bought them in a sample sale. I love the red soles (good for the soul). Definitely splashes of happiness... not that I intend to splash the pale pink satin with anything that marks. In fact, where can I wear them? Probably not to the Bronte Parsonage Museum when I go there next week...
Who’d have thought that gladiator sandals, along with a plethora of Greco-Roman inspired fashions, should prove to have such staying power? I probably shouldn’t sound surprised – these are styles that have been around for several millennia – but there’s been such a preponderance for the last three summers that you’d expect the backlash to have started by now.
However, fashion’s appetite for classical references appears to be undiminished this season: draped goddess gowns at Donna Karan, Marios Schwab and Versace; mosaic Roman prints at Miu Miu, accompanied by a declaration by Miuccia Prada that ‘It’s time to investigate our history and European past’. Marios Schwab was rather more cryptic when he cited the chiton, a traditional Greek tunic, as inspiration for his current collection: ‘Cloth, rope and chain, if left in their natural state, would be mundane and almost irrelevant objects. Here, when applied and connected to each other, they form a bond; gaining both relevance and value… A refined desirable interpretation of the sinister side of desire.’
Confused? Me too, though Schwab’s dresses are very beautiful, as are those by Prada. They’re not historically accurate – this is fashion, rather than museum exhibits – but they do draw on a host of historical references, including the Grecian gowns designed by Vionnet and Gres in the Twenties and Thirties, as well as Halston’s reinvention of Roman decadence in the Studio 54 era of Seventies excess.
Perhaps a better explanation of why a classical inheritance still pervades 21st century culture comes from Simon Goldhill, Professor of Greek at Cambridge, in the introduction to his book ‘Love, Sex & Tragedy”: ‘To be as beautiful as Venus, to enchant like a Siren, to strut like an Adonis, to be as strong as Hercules – these images ground our imagination and our language.’ From Renaissance scholars to Victorian artists, classical history and contemporary fantasy have entwined to create new versions of ancient ideals. Thus Sigmund Freud and Gianni Versace were both inspired by Medusa; Freud described the severed head as ‘the supreme talisman’ of castration, and heaven only knows what the founding father of psychoanalysis might have made of Versace’s appropriation of Medusa as emblematic of his fashion house.
So here we are again, in 2009, with a horde of gladiators striding across our television screens, down the catwalk and into the corridors of power. Witness Naomi Campbell in fierce gladiator sandals as the guest of Sarah Brown at a Downing Street dinner for the First Ladies at the G20 summit. To which one might quote Virgil: ‘By her gait was the goddess revealed…’