Thursday, 29 October 2009

Woman's Hour

I was just part of an interesting Woman's Hour discussion on Radio 4 about Coco Chanel and, more generally, about women and their emotional attachment to clothes -- the threads between what we wear and how we feel. There were some very revealing interviews -- it's a subject that people can talk about for hours, although obviously confined here to less than an hour. I never re-read my old books, but it almost made me want to dip into My Mother's Wedding Dress again. I haven't, aside from looking up the quotes on the opening page of the book, which I love (always easier to return to someone else's writing than one's own). Here they are...

“A consultation last year took me to an intelligent and unembarrassed-looking girl. Her style of dressing is disconcerting; where women’s clothes are normally attended to down to the last pleat, one of her stockings is hanging down and two buttons of her blouse are open.” (Sigmund Freud, “The Interpretation of Dreams”)

“She immediately stepped into the wardrobe and got in among the coats and rubbed her face against them, leaving the door open, of course, because she knew that it is very foolish to shut oneself into any wardrobe.” (C.S. Lewis, “The Lion and the Witch and the Wardrobe”)

“Have you ever been so lonely that you felt eternally guilty – as if you’d left off part of your clothes – I love you so, and being without you is like having gone off and left the gas-heater burning, or locked the baby in the clothes-bin.”
(Letter from Zelda Fitzgerald to her husband, Scott Fitzgerald)

10 comments:

oxford-reader said...

I planned to listen to WH at work, but my computer wouldn't let me! Thank goodness for iplayer!

I love 'My Mother's Wedding Dress' for all the stories it presents, and the way it gets one to think about clothes and their place in our lives.

enid said...

I have My Mothers Dress at my bedside and constantly dip into it. It reminds me that thinking about and loving clothes is not only a hobby of the air-headed. New clothes make me very happy and old favourites do too. When is Chanel coming out ?

oxford-reader said...

Listening to WH now - that story of you trying Chanel's coat on, how magical!
My own clothes have only recently become important to me - I've always been fascinated by some of my mother's old clothes, and how unlike they are to anything she wears now. I used to have appalling taste, but now I've accepted the way my figure is, I've managed to find a style that works for me. I have the most fantastic navy blue dress, with white polka dots over it. It makes me feel incredibly important!

So interesting to hear you talk about the models of Chanel's era, and how different they were to todays. Makes me feel that little bit closer to that era, knowing that the early 20s wasn't a stick thin time. Hurrah for curves!

kairu said...

My copy of My Mother's Wedding Dress close by, too. I discovered Vogue (particularly the UK edition) around the same time I was beginning to understand my own idea of style, and your words remind me of that time. (I remember telling you, shortly after reading your book, that I had a sense of loss and longing for a Helmut Lang coat that I couldn't afford and didn't buy, though much later I found, and still wear with great pleasure, an even better one).

I returned from three weeks in Taiwan and China several days ago to find the weather in Seattle had turned freezing cold and wet in my absence. Immediately I reached for my new winter coat (purchased during last spring's sales), soft and padded and rather sporty (from Patagonia), it is rather like a sleeping bag. It makes me feel safe and warm, especially with a cashmere cardigan and scarf underneath.

I can't wait for the Chanel book!

Karen, Surrey said...

Just back from Cornwall and I took your advice and visited Ann at the Fowey book shop. She is lovely, and really helpful. I came away with Margaret Forsters Daphane memoir which I am looking forward to starting (when I have finished Jane Eyre). I am finding it hard going and have read my bookclub book Salmon Fishing in the Yemen alongside it! I didn't get a glimpse of Menabily unfortunately but it was lovely to be back in Fowey and soak up all the Du Maurier atmosphere and inspriation in the surrounding country side. Caught you on Weekend Womens Hour on the drive back, I think I shall be adding My Mother's Wedding Dress to the bedside pile too. It's amazing how picking up Daphne has opened up all sorts of strands to other readiing. Thanks.

JaneGS said...

I started watching the short-lived series The House of Eliott and in episode 3, Coco Chanel was mentioned and I immediately thought of you and your latest work.

For many reasons, this series is a joy to watch not the least of which is the magic the Eliott sisters work with fabric and imagination.

oxford-reader said...

Watched a programme on Chanel on BBC 4 last night. Very interesting and gave an insightful picture into the kind of person she was - without trying to judge her. Loved the woman who talked about watching her work, and said (I paraphrase) 'not to have seen Chanel work was to not to know who she was'. It doesn't surprise me!

enid said...

I am now in London and wondered if you are giving any talks in the next 2 weeks ?

Jan said...

I am angry!
I lent your wonderful book to "someone" and ( UGH) I can't remember who...I read it when it first appeared, virtually in one evening... and on into the night... and I loved it.
I also heard the W Hour interview this week and yes, our clothes LIVE in our minds and huddle/dance there throughout our lives.
I have an amazing coat of my father's...with its label: " Peter Weston ( London).... and my fathers name is stitched into it dated December 1964.
I wear it with jeans and always feel SAFE/HAPPY in it.... and yet I imagine HE wore it " up to town" (plus brolly/briefcase)...and of course, all this provokes SO MANY memories.
Clothes are keys to the past and yet they also take us into the future.....I've just had cleaned my sandy-pink " Going Away Dress " from my wedding in '71...Marrion McDonnell ( 100%rayon) with a gorgeous satiny flower spreading around its waist...I'm keeping it for my granddaughter Alice.

Justine Picardie said...

Jan, thank you for your wonderfully vivid observations. I love the image of you kept safe and warm in your father's coat...