Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Random Ramble about Clothes

As I rapidly head towards my 50th birthday, I'm a tad bewildered by 'How To Wear...' fashion articles (pun intended).  Are methods of wearing clothes really a mystery, when all any person need do is stick their head through the neck hole, their arms through the arms holes or sleeves, pull the garment into place around the body then use any fasteners supplied.  This season's trending item will be next season's disparaged rag - assuming a person actually cares about such stuff.

Thomas Joseph Walton used to say, "When I'm out, the wardrobe is out."  He was referring to his habit of wearing same clothes year in, year out.  When something finally fell into undeniable shabbiness his wife would ensure it vanished into the bin.  I saw him wear the same trousers for seven years, and they were already old when I met him.  Yet he did have better clothes; I once saw him dressed in a very smart evening suit with matching raincoat and trilby hat, when he hadn't been expecting to see me.  The shabby gear was a uniform of sorts, worn deliberately - perhaps so he could move around cities without drawing unwanted attention to himself, and perhaps also so his image became imprinted in the memories of his circle of pupils as one way of creating mind-links, (think of the person, visualise their image clearly, and the link is made).

My husband has a lot of clothes - far more than I do - yet they're virtually the same.  He has countless black t-shirts and black polo shirts, jeans, white sports socks and dark, clumpy walking boots - and little else.  When he goes clothes shopping, he goes into one store and buys an armful of the same thing.  That's a far as his interest goes.

My father was similar; he wore brown cardigans, white shirts, brown or beige trousers, brown or beige jackets, and his mandatory brown flat cap.  He refused all Mum's decades-long efforts to get him into a trilby, saying they were for pretentious snobs. 

Mum herself has vast wardrobes and chests of drawers full of clothes, hardly worn, all waiting for the right occasion.    She has maintained a life-long determination to Wear Things Out, which means she's spent years plodding around in ill-fitting, down-at-heel knitwear which once belonged to her own mother.  She's saving her good clothes for when Someone Important comes to visit, whenever that might be.  Some of these precious items have been waiting so long that they don't fit her now, as advancing age has reduced her size considerably.

As I child, I was dressed in clothes which my older sister had outgrown after our even older sister had outgrown them, and these had been bought second-hand.  No-one else was wearing 1940s dresses in the early 1970s.  Now we'd call it retro.  Back then, it was embarrassing.  Later on, after I'd fallen in love with Marc Bolan, I recall being incredibly proud of a pair of crimpolene trousers with an elasticated waistband, bought on Newton-le-Willows outdoor market.  They were black with knee-high triangular  side-inserts of canary yellow, with three big white plastic buttons stitched up the yellow. 

When I was fourteen, my mother declared that now I had a Saturday job in King Street Market, in Leigh, I would be buying all my own clothes, toiletries, school supplies and paying for my own high school bus fares from then on.  I'd also give her half of the £2.50 I earned.  Later, with Hazel's help, I got a better Saturday job on Leigh Market where she was working on a toffee stall, and I learned to lie about how much my earnings had increased just so I could get through college, otherwise I'd have been in rags - and I mean that literally.

Earlier this week I saw a teenaged girl wearing a pair of black and white stripy peddle-pushers like the ones I'd worn some twenty years ago.  I loved those pants at the time!  I have photos of me wearing them with big white wooden clogs and a silky, flowery shirt which I'd thought was very LA Guns/Dogs D'Amour.  Well, sort of...  The clogs hash-up the look but they were actually really comfy.  (And now I'm playing Malaria for old time's sake).

Mark Twain said, 'Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.'   So often we hear the PC chant of "Appearances don't matter," even though we all recognise this to be perfect bunkum.  If we all truly believed this, the clothing and cosmetics industries would have an annual turn-over of billions. 

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