Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dancing on the edge...



Have been writing, writing, writing, scribbling in the midst of these turbulent times. Here's my piece in today's Telegraph; for more, read Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald's letters ('Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda')... and do have a look at Kerry Taylor's forthcoming auction.

Recently, when glued to the gruesome news, I veer between terrible anxiety that we are all tipping into a financial abyss, and the hope that everything will turn out to be fine; or rather, that we have survived similarly uncertain times before, dancing on the edge of a precipice. As for the reported expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility bailout fund, I confess, I tend to forget the acronym, but not the numbers: one trillion euros. I cannot conceive of what this figure means, but instead find myself thinking of a snapshot from December 1926, of two young flappers demonstrating the Charleston on a Chicago rooftop, teetering above a great drop. They were dancing three years before the Wall Street Crash, when bankrupts jumped off parapets, but just a month after American Vogue had hailed Chanel’s little black dress as the future: knee length, sleek, and modern as the new automobiles (‘Here is a Ford signed Chanel’).

Nine decades after ‘flapper’ entered the English language – to denote a girl ‘somewhat daring in conduct, speech, and dress’, according to an early dictionary reference – it is difficult to understand the consternation caused by their appearance. In 1922, the US Secretary of Labour denounced the ‘flippancy of the cigarette-smoking, cocktail-drinking flapper’; this season, the term has had some currency again, but only in relation to the resurgence of Twenties-inspired beaded party frocks. Gucci’s black and gold Jazz-Age dresses, central to the brand’s spring/summer 2012 catwalk collection, are already in evidence in Hollywood (Evan Rachel Wood channelling Clara Bow – the original ‘It-girl’ -- with cropped hair and crimson lipstick on the red carpet this month). The High Street has also paid homage to the Great Gatsby, most notably with Wallis’s 1923 collection, based on designs from the label’s pattern archives; clever Wallis, with prices at under £100, yet gleaming with the subtle patina of sartorial history.

Most authentic of all, however, is the forthcoming Kerry Taylor Auction, which will take place on Tuesday (the viewing starts tomorrow at the Royal Opera Arcade in Pall Mall). The items on sale include Elizabeth Taylor’s golden couture pieces, Audrey Hepburn’s ivory lace gown, the Duchess of Windsor’s patent leather handbag, and an early Gabrielle Chanel flapper dress, in beige crepe de chine, dating from 1920. The estimate for the latter is upwards of £6000 pounds, giving weight to the overused phrase, ‘investment dressing’, not that the lucky buyer is likely to wear such a valuable museum piece. Eurobonds or couture originals? If I had any money to invest, I know which I’d prefer…

9 comments:

enid said...

wouldn't it be nice if one could buy and wear the Chanel dress rather than use it as an investment. I always find it strange how some people store their artworks as they cannoy hang them becuse it is too rrisky and any way they are investments. One needs to enjoy one's acquisiotions. I am reading and loving The Dud avocado paris in the 50ties by Elaine Dundy

Lilacs In May said...

In that vein, as I watched the Antiques Roadshow last night (it's only made me cry once, on the Remembrance Day special, I'm not Ed Balls). They showed a Cubic Zirconia ring that was made to replace a ring the wearer kept in her safe. What a strange world we live in. Surely a mugger would still try to mug you, not knowing it was a fake?
Anyway... a great photo of youth and confidence for our dark and depressing times. This Christmas I will be experimenting with cocktails - double dip recession raspberry Martini anyone?

kairu said...

What Enid and Lilacs have said reminds me of the lovely French film 'Summer Hours' ('l'heure d'été'), in which an elderly woman (not that old, 75, still chic and beautiful) leaves her house and her late uncle's art collection to her children. Unwilling to keep the house just for the memories, for the nostalgia, the house is sold, the artwork bought by the Musée d'Orsay. Near the end of the film, we see the Majorelle desk, the Redon panel, the priceless vases, looking empty and sad in the temperature-controlled, spotlit glass vitrines of the museum. They were meant to be used, to be admired in a home, to be covered in papers or dust or filled with flowers. So it is with clothes, which are meant to be worn until they fall apart, and only the memory is left...

jaywalker said...

Just had to look up the origin of the world and found this on wikipedia:
The slang word flapper, describing a young woman, is sometimes supposed to refer to a young bird flapping its wings while learning to fly. However, it may derive from an earlier use in northern England to mean teenage girl, referring to one whose hair is not yet put up and whose plaited pigtail flapped on her back; or from an older word meaning prostitute. The slang word flap was used for a young prostitute as far back as 1631. By the late 19th century the word flapper was emerging in England as popular slang both for a very young prostitute and in a more general--and less derogatory sense--of any lively mid-teenage girl.

The word appeared in print in the United Kingdom as early as 1903 and United States 1904, when novelist Desmond Coke used it in his college story of Oxford life, Sandford of Merton: "There's a stunning flapper". By 1908, newspapers as serious as The Times used it, although with careful explanation: "A 'flapper', we may explain, is a young lady who has not yet been promoted to long frocks and the wearing of her hair 'up'". By November 1910, the word was popular enough for the author A.E.James to begin a series of stories in the London Magazine featuring the misadventures of a pretty fifteen-year-old girl and titled 'Her Majesty the Flapper'. By 1911, a newspaper review indicates the mischievous and flirtatious ‘flapper’ was an established stage-type.

Justine Picardie said...

What brilliant comments and observations -- thank you so much, for adding to the conversation.

Lilacs In May said...

Feathers gone mad;
http://designflourishes.com/?p=613

jaywalker said...

Oh dear...very bad typo above - meant the origin of the "word" of course!!

londonhideaways said...

Awesome blog man, the things you have mentioned above are really informative and are examples of your awesome writing skills and a good blog.
London apartments Bloomsbury

Broad Paul said...

The Lorraine is NRHP listed for both its architectural import and its significance in civil rights as the first integrated hotel in Philadelphia. student accommodation london