Lileks apologizes for his incoherence. Garrison Keillor bathes in his. (Keillor doesn’t seem to realize humor requires a certain level of coherence – it needn’t be high, but it can’t be quite this low.) Manalo analyzes sockless fashion (which perhaps Robin Givhan would like – then, perhaps, not; without knowing the sockless one’s political allegiance such decisions become difficult). Meanwhile, Plame begs the press to stop respecting her privacy at Beautiful Atrocities. Muir shoots the Kennedy fish(23) in the Cuba barrel & recovers nicely.(25-26)

With Fussell’s status seeking and status defining (and somewhat sad attempt to make hierarchical what is more complex than he clearly understands) in mind, Givhans makes a point that isn’t really bad, in the midst of her overheated judgements:

Dressing appropriately is a somewhat selfless act. It’s not about catering to personal comfort. One can’t give in fully to private aesthetic preferences. Instead, one asks what would make other people feel respected? What would mark the occasion as noteworthy? What signifies that the moment is bigger than the individual?

I’ve been watching more forties and fifties movies lately and have been struck by how much harder it was to dress then – how much more uncomfortable men must have been in those heavy suits and women in their heels and sheath skirts and gloves. Certainly, the fashions of those years seemed to require sacrifice for reasons of both propriety & aesthetics. Fashion reflected a sense of what is owed the public (and in a sense the public self). We’ve lost & gained in the time between; I think comfort is a gain but I suspect we’ve also lost a sense that thinking of others is also important. The years in which a culture emphasizes duty (say 1880’s, 1940’s & 50’s) seem to emphasize more formal clothes than those that emphasize expression (say the 1920’s and late 1960’s, 70’s).

Of course, one might well observe that I’m not someone to listen to on this; last Sunday, when I got home from church, I realized my dress was wrong side out. (I wonder if anyone noticed the seams on the outside? Well, the way I keep on going is assuming no one notices whar I probably wouldn’t.) Anyway, what would make other people feel respected? That can lead to ridiculous conformity but if you keep your sense of proportion it can be a nice example of deferential libertarianism. You decide what is important to you – that you don’t compromise on. But you decide that there’s a lot of stuff out there that you don’t care about and some others do. You might as well please them since it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot to you. (I do not intend, for instance, to spend much effort on my wardrobe; on the other hand, I will more seriously check which side the seams are on.)

Clearly aimed at the older crowd – Leno & Letterman.

4 thoughts on “Diversions”

  1. Nice post. I like the Fussell critique especially.

    I suppose it’s revolves around where to draw the line for “appropriate” dress. For the Chinese communists, it required the negation of the individual as shown by the Mao uniform. At the other end is the libertine, wholly dismissive of cultural mores and sensitivities to others. Flamboyance, shock, and disregard are his tools.

    Givhan seems overly sensitive to a certain form of appearance, as is much of the left. The fifties were capital B Bad. McCarthy and all that. So one mustn’t dress that way. Ever. (Unless one does so with ironic distance).

  2. But the movies from the 1950s — really good. That’s where a younger person like myself would see any of the dress from that time, without thinking about McCarthy, necessarily. On the other hand, that is a lot more work (and nowadays, more expensive) to dress that way all the time.

  3. I like the way Manolo commented on this:

    “We wish to dress well and fashionably for many reasons, for thepleasure of having beautiful objects, for the pleasure of eliciting the envy or desire of others, for the pleasure of the feelings of self-confidence, but most importantly, we should wish to dress well because the clothes they allow others to give us respect.

    “The Manolo he does not wish to go all Foucault on you, but by this “give us respect” the Manolo he means that the clothes they are the signifiers of position and power.

    “The fact it is that others they judge us by our clothes. It is not fair, but it is nonetheless completely the way of the world. Thus we should dress well because the good clothes they earn respect and admiration that is not necessarily deserved, but is nonetheless useful.

    “Of the course, ultimately the clothes they are irrelevant to whether or not that initial respect and admiration they are maintained. True character, as the Miuccia rightly knows, eventually emerges.”

    from Interview with Miuccia

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