One sunny morning I was walking past Readings in Carlton and a book in the window caught my eye – I immediately had to run in and buy it.
Now, I consider Circa to be first and foremost a “lifestyle choice” and one of the big personal benefits is that it’s actually my job to read wonderful books like this! My enormous library bulges under the weight of thirty four years of buying books on fashion, clothing and textiles but being a modern woman, it also includes many works on serious topics like gender and philosophy. This book combines all.
I’ve always loved clothes, always taken them very seriously: in fact much of my life is dedicated to the cause through collecting, studying, researching, buying, selling, restoring, presenting, displaying, discussing and promoting fashion of many kinds and all eras – and yet people have said to me that I’m wasting my time. That I should find a serious mission, something worthy of my efforts and attention. That I should have gone to university and studied Arts or Literature not costume design at a mere technical college….that I should get a real job (I could go on).
Why do I do this? It’s not sensible or wise…I used to have a “real job” and yes, it paid a decent wage and it gave me stability and security and even status, but ultimately – there are more important things than money. I believe that – and I believe in what I do.
We live in a world that likes to see fashion as silly, frivolous and not worthy of serious consideration. We are judged by our appearance, and yet we are judged too, for paying it any attention or spending time and energy in making more of what nature has endowed us with. We can’t win!
There is no doubt that life is better for those who are more attractive, better presented and yet so many of us prefer to look as if we’ve simply chucked on whatever was sitting on the bedroom floor when we got up. Is it so awful to care what you wear? To care how you look? I like to dress well and appropriately because it helps me be more effective in the world and achieve my goals.
Our grandmothers in the past showed the way: a simple cotton day dress would take them every where from a picnic to the supermarket and they looked and felt good in it. It was easily bought or made, for not much money and it served them well. When modern versions are available cheaply from Target (and even better, op shops) there’s no reason to dress in tracky daks unless you’re actually exercising.
Hmm, I seem to have got a bit sidetracked….back to Carol Dyhouse’s book “Glamour – Women, History, Feminism”. Dyhouse is a woman after my own heart: she’s a historian, focusing on gender and she’s written a book that perhaps I could have written if I had gone to uni and not TAFE.
She provides a history of glamour through the twentieth century, referencing film, fashion, cosmetics, perfume and music. As she’s British, she writes from a UK perspective which is refreshing in how she focuses on the class elements of glamour – class isn’t as much of an issue in Australia or the US but it’s still easy to see how, even when glamour is out of fashion (as it was in the ’60s and ’90s), it’s still important for working class ladies who make good, or successful ladies of colour. It explains why Motown singers like Diana Ross like their sparkle, because bling is an obvious element of wealth.
Whilst much of what Dyhouse talks about it is not new to me (I’m familiar with the bulk of her long list of reference materials – more than 60 pages of notes and index), I found it illuminating to see such a perceived unimportant subject matter given serious treatment. Not surprisingly, she comes down decisively on the side of Glamour being a power for good – as she puts it “a celebration of the human condition”.