Monday, May 9, 2011

Dressing to be alone

I'd venture to suppose that the occas-ion must be seen to be so rare, that any oversight of its character in the marketing of fashion must be a func-tion of that dreariest of presump-tions, that we are subject to a law of supply and demand. Otherwise, we should expect to be seeing panorama of surpassing wit in couture, for one of the more privileged states of existence - the luxuriant consciousness of being alone. The motorcyclist, the surfer, the cowboy, the scholar with his tomes and the keeper with his bees - fortunate tangents all, from our roiling sphere of social compulsion - are clothed well enough for their conduct but how derisorily, for their passion.

Yet even these few occupations, resonant of Virgil, Kerouac and Rechy alike, are distributed so broadly if discontinuously among us, that one would think the distinction would be famous, between the morning stretch by the pool in Los Angeles and the after-noon stroll down Melrose, in search of Kevin. Taking nothing away from that custom, much less from its fruition, we indulge a moment's speculation to recall the perfection of composure to be extracted from possession of one's life. It is then that the defaults of our couturiers hang heaviest about our form, in contradictory outcry of a preference we have flown. In so few further mo-ments, we'll be embroiled in the berserk again, and yield them back our body for their pains.

Meanwhile, the countryside's young scholar wants his reading coat in red, a bodice splashed in blue to celebrate the lowered head, and wear and tear of climbing trees to ventilate the knees, the wraithlike waist lent silver to withstand a sudden breeze. But how many of us can reasonably count on this solicitude to our specifications, from the urban haberdasheries to which most of us are relegated? Who will clothe us for our surfing flight from coastal congestion, not to be seen but to enrich achievement of solitude? When will couture accept that estate as one of arrival, rather than escape?

Yet we came to this inquiry not to debase the commerce chosen by our fellow man, but to inspire some spirited response to that possibly most elevated tier of couture's focus in the first place, our accession to the rank of being singular. Who would not trade a few snapshots of his last moments of peace before a ball, for a rising in couture to the occasion of shaving? Is there really any reason for that window of extravagance to have been locked so tight between the wrappings of a towel and the knotting of our tie, that no sympathetic attire could have been created for that interval of grace?

From the evidence adduced already, it seems the genius of couture is as compressed as all our other pursuits, by the propinquities of town life, and a little rustication would not be premature. As Addison remarks in his 19th Coverley Letter, My greatest difficulty in the Country is to find Sport, and in Town to choose it. Inertia of "the Chace" has captured couture, it seems, to a fare thee well, in the very vortex of solitude's highest valuation. Send us a mode for our best moments, we're tempted to bar-gain, and maybe you may watch.

Sir Joseph Addison
The Coverley Papers
  Letter XIX: A Summons to London
Addison and Sir Richard Steele,
The Spectator, 1711-1715
The Heritage Press, 1945©


  1. Beyond the sarcasm, this little essay in a quiet voice is so beautifully written that I can hear its tone even now. Do you care for Glück?

  2. In May, particularly. :)