Sunday, 4 March 2012
The Closet Thinker: Au Revoir
This is my last Closet Thinker for Stella, but not a goodbye to closet thinking. Perhaps it wasn't entirely coincidental that my sturdy old MacBook Pro finally gave up the ghost yesterday, and after three hours at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Brent Cross, I came away with my date retrieved, and a new laptop. I thought I'd be bereft to say goodbye to the old computer (it's seen me through the roller coaster of three books, thousands of articles, and a zillion emails and blogs) -- and actually, it's come home with me, for a safe retirement -- but the new one is thrilling, too.
Closet Thinker: March 4th
Ever since I started writing this column for Stella, over six years ago, I’ve been reminded each week of the way in which clothes are threaded through the stories of our lives; what we wear providing clues to who we are, where we came from, and how our futures might unfold. Fashion is a transient element -- an observation not intended as a dismissal, given that the intriguing vicissitudes of style can be a reflection of cultural shifts. But some material rises above fashion, whether christening gown or widow’s mourning. Just think of the shoes in which you walked towards independence; the suit that carried you into a different job; the jeans that reminded you that freedom is not only for the young.
And so it is that I find myself considering a wedding dress, after finding love the second time around; a symbol of how beginnings can arise out of endings, and alternative narratives unfold, even when a chapter of your life has come to a close. I still have my first wedding dress (white linen, from Nicole Farhi, worn when I was a slip of a girl; oddly undamaged, despite the onslaught of moths and time); but now I have the unexpected pleasure of finding a different dress, and joyous summer celebrations to come.
What should the grownup bride wear, when a white meringue is entirely inappropriate? Wallis Simpson provided a certain kind of chic template in June 1937, the divorcee in Mainbocher’s buttoned-up blue silk couture; reinterpreted with panache by Stella McCartney for her father’s new wife, Nancy Shevell, last October (in white, and shorter than the Duchess of Windsor’s full length gown; but with a similarly nipped in waist and long sleeves).
Given my immersion in the Chanel archives, having written a biography of Coco Chanel, I cannot help but be inspired by her iconic designs from the Twenties and Thirties; and doubtless my own passionate attachment to these was inspired by my mother’s choice of a Chanel-like little black dress for her wedding in 1960. Ideally, I’ll find an outfit that has a life beyond its ceremonial first outing (I’ve worn my mother’s wedding dress to countless parties), as well as suggesting tangible links with the past (something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?). As yet, the details remain unclear; for in fashion, as in life, certainty can be elusive; which is no reason to fear the unknown. This is my last column as the Closet Thinker, but not altogether a farewell. Here’s to the future, and all that it may hold…