Have you any clothes to sell?
The years make a stain you can’t conceal,
Your fabric’s eaten, you discard
That part of your life for which you cared.
You pluck a thread from your cuff; it winces
Straight to your shoulder. Ambition grieves
In trunks and bags; moth-featured, minces
From closets, beating empty sleeves.
Vivienne Westwood’s ability to provoke public discussion – both through her fashion and her media appearances – has characterised her career since the 1970s. In the past ten years Westwood has regularly taken advantage of her status to raise awareness on climate change and to protest against the political institutions that support the overexploitation of natural resources. As such, she is adamant that her clothes should be perceived as public statements and politically-charged products. It is no surprise then, that her autobiography is a further extension of the designer’s activist persona. But while the book explicitly presents her fashion and political engagement as parallel and complementary, it also downplays the contradictions at the roots of her public self.
‘To create a being out of oneself is very serious,’ wrote the late Clarice Lispector in her 1973 work, Água Viva. The personal branding needed to attain commercial success and visibility in today’s fast-paced, oft-intersecting fashion and literary circles lends Lispector’s words a strangely prophetic resonance. For women in the arts especially, the necessity to carefully craft a desirable public image – particularly by paying close attention to personal style – so often determines the content of the conversations that arise around their work.
I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
“I’ll make you one,” he said, “and balance it
Perfectly on you.” And I could almost feel
The plumb line of the creased tweed hit my heel,
My shoulders like a spar or a riding scale
Under the jacket, my whole shape realigned
In ways that suited me down to the ground.
The man’s clothes were new – all of them, cheap and new. His gray cap was so new that the visor was still stiff and the button still on, not shapeless and bulged as it would be when it had served for a while all the various purposes of a cap – carrying sack, towel, handkerchief. His suit was of cheap gray hardcloth and so new that there were creases in the trousers.
What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waist. What is this current.
What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.
I started going round to his for dinner at the end of autumn, when the leaves were on the point of falling, when the runners started wearing fleecy swathes of cotton bonded to their ears and hands. He avoided corn, and gluten, also dairy – foods that he decided made him ‘fatally apocalyptic.’ He strained his own nut milk using a mesh pouch which he had bought online, and stored batches of red quinoa and adzuki beans in his fridge.
In writing of experience or beauty, a cloth emerges as if made
from a twin existence. It’s July
4: air is full of mistaken stars & the wiggly half-zeroes stripes
make when folded into fabric meant
But she dared not look in the glass. She could not face the whole horror – the pale yellow, idiotically old-fashioned silk dress with its long skirt and its high sleeves and its waist and all the things that looked so charming in the fashion book, but not on her, not among all these ordinary people. She felt like a dressmaker’s dummy standing there, for young people to stick pins into.
Some days she flicks through the clothes hangers but finds nothing to wear. She doesn’t find it because she does not know what she is looking for. She picks out a silky shirt and dark trousers. The garments feel all wrong. Clothes that don’t quite match, trousers that don’t quite fit. Short of time, she leaves to meet the day, meet him. He says she’s beautiful. His words are ill fitting too.
Bending over she found one of the braids of Marjorie’s hair, followed it up with her hand to the point nearest the head, and then holding it a little slack so that the sleeper would feel no pull, she reached down with the shears and severed it. With the pigtail in her hand she held her breath. Marjorie had muttered something in her sleep. Bernice deftly amputated the other braid, paused for an instant, and then flitted swiftly and silently back to her own room.