There’s a conventional belief that it’s horrible to grow old, because old age is ugly. As a result, a woman has her white hairs plucked, or dyes them; she uses makeup to hide her wrinkles, or at least, tries to add some luster to her faded cheeks with the deceptive glitter of bright fabrics. I don’t want to make a long catalogue of cosmetic artifices, so I’ll stop there. But note that instead of banishing the signs of old age, such devices merely make them more lasting and more glaring.
The young quinceañera is seemingly always in a ball gown. She is in pink, green, blue or other pastel colour, festooned and bejewelled, and with a large skirt that sways in a way that affirms the hooped crinoline underneath. She is beautiful and brimming with excitement for her impending journey into womanhood. Her mother typically accompanies her, helping her with her dress and fixing her hair just so as the photographer captures the moment in front of a city’s landmarks.
There is today no stronger argument against the claim of Humanness in women, of Human Dignity and Human Rights, than this visible and all-too-convincing evidence of sub-human foolishness.
In one case the crown was lifted and swollen till it resembled the loathsome puffed-out body of an octopus; and this distorted bladder-like object was set on an irregular fireman’s brim – to be worn side-ways.
Christopher Wylie had an outfit. His whistle was directed not at a government, but its nebulous digital equivalent; perhaps it took someone steeped in the intricacies of personal branding to jam up the algorithms that governed it. Or was this persona too crisp, a meme more than a movement’s spark? Most whistleblowers dress to deflect attention. Daniel Ellsberg, the military intelligence contractor whose leak of the Pentagon Papers helped end the Vietnam War, rubbed elbows with flower children in a suit and tie.
Never, perhaps, have women been better coiffed: hair is waved, frizzed, braided, raised up into wings, brushed back and twisted into ropes … all with truly astounding art. The Parisian comb is the equal of the Greek chisel, and hair submits with greater docility than the marble of Paros or Mount Pentelikon. Would an Athenian sculptor or a Renaissance painter be able to arrange the hair with more grace, ingenuity or style? We think not.
Dressmaker Lizzie Morrin made waistcoats and jackets with hidden pockets so guns and weapons could be smuggled unobtrusively. Catherine Byrne was praised for her ingenuity when she rolled a note into her bun to avoid being caught. To the men involved, these women blended in because of these everyday roles and outfits, so much so, that they became quite literally invisible. Which explains why Marie Perolz, having dressed her little niece up in a velvet coat and bonnet, was able to fulfil her secret tasks unnoticed, despite the fact that she was also carrying a basket full of revolvers.
Ms. Fen, a wholesaler, has glossy black hair and nails. She is twenty-eight years old. When we meet, she pulls up in a white Aston Martin, pristine except for a crack on the right rearview mirror. She is wearing an assortment of beautiful clothes: distressed jeans, a négligée tank, a forest-green Chanel bag. She’s aware of what this all conveys. ‘People see me and feel envy. But they don’t know what I went through to get here.’