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In the World and Of the World

"He looked straight ahead, down Fifth Avenue, where graceful women in fur coats walked, looking into the windows that held silk dresses, and watches, and rings. What church did they go to? And what were their houses like when in the evening they took off these coats, and these silk dresses, and put their jewelry in a box, and leaned back in soft beds to think for a moment before they slept of the day gone by?

The most fashionable. Unknown model and unknown photographer, 1940s.

The most fashionable. Unknown model and unknown photographer, 1940s.

Did they read a verse from the Bible every  night and fall on their knees to pray? But no, for their thoughts were not of God, and their way was not God's way. They were in the world, and of the world, and their feet laid hold on Hell." (32)


Baldwin, James. Go Tell It On The Mountain. New York: Signet, 1963 [1952].


Clothing, the worldly; religion, the eternal. The taking off of clothes enters his religious mental discourse here without sex, but instead a ritualistic aspect.

Kings Of Leon

"So last weekend that happened, and I walked up to the bus and I said to the bus driver, like, 'Hey, the subway is off, but it said that I could take the bus to the subway, do you know where I can get off?' And the bus driver said to me, and I quote, he goes, 'I don't know anything about the subway.' I was like, You don't know anything about the subway? You're wearing the same outfit as the man running the subway! 

Nathan Followill from Kings of Leon wearing a Burberry t-shirt, 2009. What could he say about other tattooed men in snoods? Photo from  My Many Bags , where you can see many celebrities and models in this shirt.

Nathan Followill from Kings of Leon wearing a Burberry t-shirt, 2009. What could he say about other tattooed men in snoods? Photo from My Many Bags, where you can see many celebrities and models in this shirt.

If someone said to me, 'You see that guy walking down the street with the khaki shorts and the Kings of Leon t-shirt? You know anything about that guy?' I'd be like, 'Yeah, I'll tell you a few things about that guy. I know that he could use somebody.'"

 

Birbiglia, Mike. Excerpted in Episode #515 of This American Life, "Good Guys." Listen to it here--it's obviously much better when he tells it.

 

Occupational Dress vs. Tribal Dress. All the people wearing the same things know the same things! I wonder what he was wearing on that tour, maybe some khaki shorts?

I Make Clothes for People To Wear

Sasha Weiss: So there's a lot more freedom today when it comes to clothing than it was in the 80s, surely, but I wonder now that things are less coded and less formal, at least for people working in a creative setting, it's kind of harder to dress for work, and I wonder how women who are entering the work force learn the norms, because it is harder to draw the line now.

Cartoon by William Hamilton, 1980s (?), found  here .

Cartoon by William Hamilton, 1980s (?), found here.

Susan Morrison: That's interesting. Emma Allen, a young Talk of the Town writer here [and I] were talking about this yesterday, that when she graduated from Yale in 2010, every student was given this thing called "Life After Yale," a little publication produced by the Career Services people called a Survival Guide for the Class of 2010. And for women there's a long section about what to wear, and here I'll read a little bit of it:

If wearing a skirt, you need to wear nylons. Sheer is best. Don't forget to keep an extra pair of nylons in your desk in case of runs.

Now, I can't even remember the last time time I owned or put on a pair of sheer nylons. When I first saw this book I thought, "This is preposterous," but then I was thinking about my own teenage daughters, who I think just because they're younger and they don't feel as confident about knowing the ways of the world tend to have more conservative ideas than I do often about what's an appropriate thing to wear.

 

From The New Yorker's Out Loud podcast, September 13, 2013. Sasha Weiss discussed "Work Clothes" with Rebecca Mead and Susan Morrison.

 

Are the "rules" of (work) fashion generational? How do you dress for work? Susan Morrison thinks the only no-no is "being inappropriately revealing." But that's relative too, isn't it? Up to a certain point, I guess. Oh, and no flip-flops. Agreed.

This piece has some worthwhile contemporary observation of work dress and dress codes in literary and creative offices.

Socks are his Vice

"'This is the only thing my son is into,' she said. 'If socks are his vice, I can live with that.'

Nike Elite Socks. Photo copyright Nike.

Nike Elite Socks. Photo copyright Nike.

...Added Jake Lefferts, 13, a basketball player from Maplewood, NJ, whose team won its suburban-league championship two years ago: 'All the good basketball teams have the cool socks. It's like we know who's good, but the socks reinforce that they are.'" (14-15)

 

Rubin, Courtney. "Athletic Socks that Give a Foot Bragging Rights" New York Times, Sunday, September 29, 2013.

 

A forgotten gem, noted that day on a hidden page. The lowly sock! Creating meaning beyond Hanes' grandest expectations...

The Single Strain

"Annabel had invented the game; or rather she had evolved it from an old one. Basically, it was no more than the ancient sport of what-would-you-do-if-you-had-a-million dollars? But Annabel had drawn a new set of rules for it, had narrowed it, pointed it, made it stricter. Like all games, it was the more absorbing for being more difficult.

Ad for Gunther's Furs, 1937. Silver fox coat: so terribly common.

Ad for Gunther's Furs, 1937. Silver fox coat: so terribly common.

Midge played with a seriousness that was not only proper but extreme.

The single strain on the girls’ friendship had followed an announcement once made by Annabel that the first thing she would buy with her million dollars would be a silver-fox coat. It was as if she had struck Midge across the mouth.

When Midge recovered her breath, she cried that she couldn’t imagine how Annabel could do such a thing—silver fox coats were common! Annabel defended her taste with the retort that they were not common, either. Midget then said that they were so. She added that everybody had a silver-fox coat. She went on, with perhaps a slight loss of head, to declare that she herself wouldn’t be caught dead in silver fox.

For the next few days, thought the girls saw each other as constantly, their conversation was careful and infrequent, and they did not once play their game. Then one morning, as soon as Annabel entered the office, she came to Midge and said that she had changed her mind.

She would not buy a silver-fox coat with any part of her million dollars. Immediately on receiving the legacy, she would select a coat of mink.’

Midge smiled and her eyes shone. ‘I think,’ she said, ‘you’re doing absolutely the right thing.’” (30-32)

 

Parker, Dorothy. "The Standard of Living" in The Portable Dorothy Parker. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

But how would one know such things if one didn't have such a tasteful best friend? I just love that she changes her answer and that makes everything right, just the saying of it, and how satisfied Midge is with the professed upswing in taste.

The Silly Gown

The Red Dress

I always saw, I always said

If I were grown and free,

I’d have a gown of reddest red

As fine as you could see,

To wear out walking, sleek and slow,

Upon a Summer day,

And there’d be one to see me so

And flip the world away.

"A Girl in a Red Dress," Pietro Antonio Rotari, 1775.   El Paso Museum of Art  .

"A Girl in a Red Dress," Pietro Antonio Rotari, 1775. El Paso Museum of Art.

And he would be a gallant one,

With stars behind his eyes,

And hair like metal in the sun,

And lips too warm for lies.

I always saw us, gay and good,

High honored in the town.

Now I am grown to womanhood…

I have the silly gown. (212)

 

Parker, DorothyThe Portable Dorothy Parker. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

What is it to be grown and free? Or just grown?