Well, it's that common knitting-design quandary. I'm deeply immersed in secret projects at the moment, and while I'm super-excited about all of them, I obviously can't blog any of them yet. There's a little something I'll be releasing on June 1, but for now, all I can offer is a little rant.
For starters, have you seen this?
It's a very, very silly article. VERY silly! Is this the kind of thing the Washington Post generally publishes? I was under the impression they were a pretty reputable paper, but now I just don't know. So, for those of you that don't like to click links and read long, silly tirades, George Will tries to claim here that blue jeans are a sign of moral and sartorial decay, symbolizing a cultural decline into infantilism (yeah, you read that right) and slovenliness. Plus, he says, they look bad on fat people. He locates in denim a harmful nostalgia for everything from a Steinbeck-esque agrarian lifestyle, to the 1950's rebel-without-a-cause posturings of James Dean and Marlon Brando. This nostalgia, says Will, is really bad. It's emblematic of everything wrong with our country. His solution? I quote:
For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.
Fred Astaire. Way to sock it to the destructive nostalgic longings for an unattainable past age, Mr. Will. Very nicely done. A top hat and tails is just the thing for a family picnic. And Grace Kelly! What a practical, reasonable suggestion of a sartorial role model. I mean, she was a Hollywood star and also a PRINCESS, routinely clad in such bargain-basement brands as Chanel and Givenchy. She not only carried a $5,000 handbag, but had one named after her. So, conforming to her style choices should be easily within reach of the average American. And crinolined, wasp-waisted organza party dresses are so flattering to the obese among us!
I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of Grace Kelly's wardrobe. That pink suit she wore in To Catch a Thief, with the matching open-toe pumps? That amazing black and white confection Jimmy Stuart makes fun of in Rear Window? So gorgeous! But this article exemplifies a certain attitude, one I'm always afraid, as a person interested in vintage clothes and the stories they tell, that people will think I share. So let me go on record as saying that while I do think the fad for pre-distressed jeans is a bit decadent, and I have some concerns about the sustainability of cotton as a crop, I am socially pro-denim. I am not in favor of reverting to an idealized version of the past, in which gender roles were upheld even more rigidly than they are today. I am not for enforcing five pounds of underwear per woman, a top hat for every man, and a barrel and sheet for anyone who doesn't fit into those two categories. Classic 1940's and 50's femme is a place I love to visit, but oh honey, I would not live there if you made me Princess of Monaco.
Not only that, but I think denim is just as eloquent a storyteller as formalwear, and I think its stories are just as worthy of being heard. One of the many ridiculous claims that Will makes is that people who wear jeans now - he evokes, for example, Apple CEO Steve Jobs - are attempting to cash in on a Brando-esque rebellious image of which they obviously fall short. He doesn't acknowledge that the social meanings of fashions, as of all art, evolve over time. Steve Jobs is not making himself out to be Marlon Brando; he's making himself out to be a casual, approachable guy who likes to be comfortable, and likes his audience to be comfortable.
To see just how silly Will's argument is, let's think about music. Let's think, in particular, about the waltz. Modern conceptions of the waltz range from stodgy to romantic: floaty Regency women circling around a ballroom in the arms of Napoleonic officers. A nice instrumental waltz makes pleasant background music at an afternoon tea to which you're inviting your grandmother. Yet when the waltzing fad hit Britain in the late 1700's, it was so scandalous that even Lord Byron, notorious bisexual bad-boy and rock star of Romanticism, found it to be too much. H.C. Robinson, a contemporary of Byron's, wrote that
The dancing is unlike anything you ever saw. You must have heard of it under the name of waltzing, that is rolling and turning, though the rolling is not horizontal but perpendicular. Yet Werther, after describing his first waltz with Charlotte, says, and I say so too, 'I felt that if I were married my wife should waltz (or roll) with no one but myself.
By Will's logic, then, any young person wishing to learn the waltz is tempting scandal and should be taken firmly in hand. It's preposterous. Just like Brando's cosume designers changed the meaning of denim in the 1950's from "country laborer" to "teenage rebel," so the signification of denim has continued to evolve and branch out. Depending on how it's worn, it can now mean "raver kid," "50's schoolgirl on a picnic," "80's skateboarder," "crusty punk," "mainstream casual weekender," "hippie/free spirit," "little league coach," "spunky co-ed," "down and out," the list goes on. All of these types can evoke stories I'd like to hear, no matter what George Will has to say.
And the funniest part: Grace Kelly?
She wore jeans, too.