Perhaps the runways at New York City’s most recent fashion week will be seen as a signal of further change. Designer Carrie Hammer drew serious attention for her debut show when she had Danielle Sheypuk roll down the runway in her signature newsprint skirt, becoming New York Fashion Week’s first-ever wheelchair-using model. Still, in an interview with The Guardian, Sheypuk chastised the Lincoln Centre for its steps-only entrance: “I had to find the ramp, which was located down an alleyway-not a glamorous entrance at all, and feeding into the negative [idea] that people with disabilities do not belong at Fashion Week.”
-from “Revolutionary Style” by Rea McNamara in Fashion May 2014
F. Scott Fitzgerald may have had Daisy crying over beautiful shirts, but here are three brilliant women writers who loved fashion as much as we do–all of them, incidentally, kept diaries, so you can read them for yourself if you don’t believe us.
1. Anaïs Nin
I am dressing more simply. I have felt much less the need of an original way of dressing. I can wear ordinary clothes now. Why? Costumes was, for me, very symbolical. It meant many things. It had, first of all, a poetic significance: colours for certain occasions, evocations of other styles, countries (Spanish flavour, Moroccan touches, etc.). It was a sign of individuality (I never wore what everybody wore; I designed my own costumes). I did not follow fashions. I did not wear neutral colours, neutral suits, plain or homely or nondescript things. I wanted striking clothes which distinguished me from other women. Costumes added to my confidence, as I suffered so keenly all my girlhood to be badly dressed with the castoff clothes my aunts sent me from Cuba. I had to go to American schools with clothes designed for the tropics, pastel colours, silks, and all of them burnt by the sun so that very often they would split and tear during a party, or during graduation exercises […] Layer my mother selected my clothes, and again they did not resemble or represent me. I invented many original things to wear, had my watch set in a wide, soft Russian link bracelet, put fur on my winter shoes, made dresses out of Spanish shawls, etc.
-Anaïs Nin in The Diary of Anaïs Nin Volume One 1931-1934
Nin’s diaries are full of descriptions of her outfits, the clothes of others, and the power that she felt dressing up gave her. Clothes were like costumes for her, and she very often wrote of how a veil over her face, or a dress of her own design influenced her mood. It was much more than sexuality, which Nin was famous for, but more of identity and carving out a space that could be her own.
2. Sylvia Plath
So I walked along, loving, narcissus-like, my reflection in store windows, in the chromium of cars, superimposed on all we passed. There I was, tall, light-haired, in a kelly-green coat, a full black taffeta skirt.
-Sylvia Plath in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath ed. Karen V. Kukil
Plath was super, super smart (she was a Fulbright scholar, thanks very much). Her sense of clarity and precision of detail carried over to her sartorial choices. Her early diaries are full of what descriptions of what she wore on dates when she was in college, and when discussing new people she had met, she never failed to include a description of their outfit. Even The Bell Jar is full of outfit descriptions–a vintage-lovers dream!
3. Dawn Powell
Why shouldn’t the factory girls dress well–they made high wages, living was cheap, and nine hundred girls in a town needed to step fast to compete for the stray men. They went down the street giggling and nudging each other, in pink velvets, accordion pleats, lavender and orange satins, their hair peroxided or natural but always elaborately curled, their faces heavily powdered.
-from Dance Night by Dawn Powell
Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) bemoaned the relative obscurity of American author Dawn Powell in Season 2 of Gilmore Girls–you know if it’s on Gilmore Girls, it must be good. Indeed, Powell has a masterful sense of the Midwest the way Steinbeck did of California. Her books, short fiction, and diaries are excellent, and a must-read for every woman. One of her novels (Powell was a prolific writer), Dance Night, is heavily focused on clothing as a means of expression and identity.
What Lorde is most tired of is the intolerable double standard that happens in her line of work. “It would be perceived as unacceptable for a woman if I had shown up to this photo shoot and said, ‘Look we’re gonna need better clothes,'” she says, referring to a situation that has happened in the past. “I would be viewed as a diva, as difficult, as grumpy in that situation. Look I want to make the best pictures possible, because I have a high standard for my art. That shouldn’t be contested because I am female.”
-Lorde in “War Lorde” by Elio Iannacci in Fashion May 2014
She was a tallish woman, and big-boned, but she appeared slight, and even boyish. This was because of how she did her hair, which was a rough, streaky gold, cut like a boy’s; and because of her clothes, for which she had a great natural talent. She took pleasure in the various guises she could use: for instance, being a hoyden in lean trousers and sweaters, and then a siren, her large green eyes made-up, her cheekbones prominent, wearing a dress which made the most of her full breasts.
This was one of the private games she played with life, which Anna envied her; yet in moments of self-rebuke she would tell Anna she was ashamed of herself, she so much enjoyed the roles: ‘It’s as if I were really different- don’t you see? I even feel a different person. And there’s something spiteful in it- that man, you know, I told you about him last week- he saw me the first time in my old slacks and my sloppy old jersey, and then I rolled into the restaurant, nothing less than a femme fatale’.
-from The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Did you know that international shoe and accessory retailer ALDO is a Canadian company? It was founded in Montreal in 1972. Other than what sounds like a pretty killer diversity policy, the latest from this store (available across Canada, of course) offers up a collab Canadian fashion-obsessives could only have imagined until now: a capsule collection of shoes and bags by Ostwald Helgason.
You’ve seen celebs like Solange and Miroslava Duma sporting the iconic bold stripes, now get thee to a mall and scoop up your own bag before its too late! Pretty decent prices, too.