My friend e-mailed me last night to tell me that there were some new posts on Joseph’s Shaw’s blog about modest dress. I read the first two ones which were in reply to Tracey Rowland’s attack on Traditionalists and their sense of style, but since I had been away for the weekend, I hadn’t read these. I am just about to start reading the second part written by Lucy Shaw (who is, I assume, the Queen of Puddings?). I have to say that I loved the first one! Yes please, more of this!
One thing that I learnt from the first post was that Balenciaga was a Catholic (I didn’t actually know anything about him), and a truly devout one it seems. Not like modern ‘devout’ celebrity Catholics. Whenever I am in Paris for a few days, I try to get to the Museum of Fashion because they always have a special collection of dresses (which they change periodically, so you will see a different collection each time you go), dating back all the way to the very first collection of a particular designer right up to the present day. It is fascinating. I have definitely visited the museum when they had Balenciaga’s designs there. Since I have no money to buy designer clothes, all I can do is admire them, but I do enjoy doing that, at least!
I feel that modest dress is such a minefield nowadays and it took me a little while to work out what I do and don’t like, where to shop, how much I should be willing to spend and so on. I am still learning and I have to forget all my old habits. I have thrown out almost all my old clothes and I look at old purchases with new eyes. I have a French Connection dress that I bought in the sale about two years ago which I judged to be too dowdy…because it reached my knees! Oh, how times have changed. I tried it on the other day and now I love it. I think I will wear it today, actually.
This is one of my favourite quotes from the first post:
The first thing one notices, studying his [Balenciaga’s] creations, is the extraordinary breadth of vision. Clothes for every occasion, and for many different types of women – there is no classifying his clothes with a single adjective. There is no apparent rule for hemlines, for instance: some gowns sweep the floor with magnificent trains while some suits are above the knee. The more one studies the clothes, however, the more one does notice certain patterns. The wedding dresses, for example, are much more modestly cut that the ball gowns. They have sleeves and high necklines, and are easily distinguished from the evening gowns which are often cut quite low, and are sleeveless. A suit with a short skirt will not have a low neckline. A low neckline on a cocktail gown will be complemented with a longer skirt, or sleeves. I do not think that Balenciaga necessarily considered these things consciously, and again we need to avoid the temptation to draw up rules based on his creations. However, I think that he took it for granted that modesty was an intrinsic part of any beautiful garment, and as he was completely focused on creating beauty his gowns were naturally not immodest