I bought Women in Clothes as one of my Christmas presents to myself. I’ve been a “clotheshorse” for my entire life, it seems. This may have happened, because my grandfather was in the garment business and my mother had access to a lot of manufacturers or because, I grew up in a time when men, women and children dressed in different outfits for different occasions. Commercial air travel was fairly new in those days; getting on a plane was a big deal. We wore our best party clothes. I look at the pictures of my mother climbing the stairs onto the plane, in long gloves, matching hat and bag, stylish heels and a fur-trimmed coat, I just laugh. Getting back to Women in Clothes; it’s a book of conversations with a total of 642 conversations, which include some individual pieces. I include one of these here:
HOW TO DRESS IN OUR NEW WORLD by Margaux Williamson.
1. We see now that every part of our lives needs cleaning up for the new world – for the contemporary situation. Like what we wear.
2. We can just start here. We can see what we have. Recent face science has shown us that our faces communicate almost everything we thought we were hiding or enhancing with our clothes.
3. The new face science has shown us that most communication happens with the twitches of our muscles, with the way we move our eyes and lean our heads in. We have learned that people see who we are before they even look down.
4. There used to be seminars on how to dress like a strong woman, how to dress like a deer. WE used to dress to show the real us, or or the other us, or of course to stay warm or without shame; to show our sex, our carelessness, our professionalism, our nihilism, our money; to be camouflage, a glossy magazine, a protest sign. But now we see – this old game is only a gam of playing matchy-matchy within our souls.
5. The name game is to be misunderstood. And the new challenge is to learn how to be misunderstood.
6. Being misunderstood makes everything easier. It makes clothing acquisition less time-consuming. The contemporary situation is taking plenty of your time, no time to waste.
7. Getting dressed used to be a game that happened too quickly, lasted forever, and was boring to win. Like Monopoly. But things are different now. Things are worse, but also better.
8. The store are dying or being killed. It is a new time of not so many private helicopters to take you to old ground, not so many fur coasts on racks so far away from the forest, not so many black and white balls where we pour champagne down the gutter in the ceremony to remember where we came from. We must find new ways to acquire clothing, new ways to show we are both of the sky and of the earth.
9. So now, if you find a T-shirt on the street and it is 100% cotton, maybe it is time to put it on. That is a great find, to find cotton on the street, so far away from the fields. And though improbably advertises a bad system that you don;t believe in, everyone knows from your face what’s in your head. And besides, our personal investigations are as valuable as our speeches. See what it is like to match your face with the bad system. There are not so many vacations anymore, but we still must go places.
10. If a kindly older woman gives you a coat that makes you look like you’re on the wrong side of the money wars, wear that coat to you comrade’s or nemesis’s dinner party. If we can’t practice our beliefs and our empathy and our experiments over dinner, what is the point of dinner?
11. It might seem like, in the new world, clothes are nowhere to be found, but they are are everywhere. In the desert, at the funeral home, in the garbage.
12. There will never not be enough clothes. We made so many. Galaxies of factories were born int he name of individuality. Our person-to-clothing ration spiraled out of control and the resulting great piles of clothes made more visible the meaninglessness of our individuals lives on earth.
13. Stores were built up with marble bricks and were filled with empty clothes. They were guarded by kindly workers or menacing security guards in an attempt to show that a dress was still hard to come by, still meant, maybe just for you.
14. But they needed the marble again, for the marble wars, so the game now is to make meaning of that more visibly depressive pile of production.
15. Now, we must remember, the less effort we spend before that pile of production, the more meaning. It is not about finding the perfect you in that garbage heap, it is about economical movement and effort – what we can find here, at our feet. Since you are very much you, and anything else is again, a juxtaposition, a gift.
16. So now, if you easily come across a dress that fits you like a glove, but makes you look like a stranger, remember, this is fortune-telling game of meaning and ease – we must turn in the direction of what fits.
17. If you are worried you might be inappropriately dress, just keep in mind there is always a funeral somewhere.
18. What we love now are worn things, things that have made it through experiences with what appear to be travel scars and thick skin. We think, these dull blue boots are strong, I can tell they have been to the wood and the jungle and the foods and he dinner. Maybe we can’t tell what the shoes mean, since we haven’t been there, but we know they are still here. Sometimes, not knowing the meaning is not meaninglessness, but love.
19. We get dressed now like we are in love. We don’t need mirrors anymore, or the sides of the old shiny buildings or the placid lake, to see what is good. Mirrors are for amateurs, for people from the old tragic mirror era. We can use our bodies to feel what’s happening.
20. What we are talking about is something we have always known but have forgotten: Our bodies are smarter than our eyes. Our bodies are the newest mirrors and the ancient way.
21. Also, don’t look down. We now know that clothes can’t change the information on our face; but what we do with all the time we have save can. There used to be secret meetings about how to get people to look down, they always want you to look dow. But we know, and maybe always knew, that looking down is more time-consuming than heroin, academia, or beer.
22. Wash but do not make alterations.
23. This is not a make-work project. Make no adjustments beyond what scissors can do. If the shirt is too big, you will look young and poor. If the shirt is too small, you will look big and strong. If the shirt is much too small, leave it on the street for a smaller hunter.
24. We are not talking about comfort here, we are advocating fleece. We must always be a little bit uncomfortable. We are, are we not, part of this world? We have to be alert here, we can’t get too comfortable. As they say, if you are going to go anywhere, you mustn’t get too comfortable.
(quick note: back to gardening as soon as the weather takes us there)