What To Wear In Books

Monday, August 22, 2011

What To Wear In Books

I recently returned from the Amazon jungle. Now before your jaw drops, let me hasten to add that my trip was a mental journey made possible by the writer Ann Patchett. You see, I have just finished her new book, State of Wonder, in which she writes so visually about this part of the world that I had no difficulty at all following her along through her story, tripping over tree roots in the mud as I kept a wary eye out for strange and lethal insects. I came away with volumes of new thoughts after reading State of Wonder, not the least of which was the absolute certainty that Amazonian weather would give me a migraine of colossal proportions. I also had no idea what I’d wear. And after all, this is the month when I think about clothes.

Here, in August, the noonday sun melts the air into a gelatinous soup that even the most hopeful of breezes can never quite perforate. For lunch we have peaches and cheese, then join Edward for an afternoon nap.
Even the sunflowers droop.
This is the month when I hibernate with books and the September issue of Vogue. I indulge in daydreams as I read and often my daydreams feature those most colourful of temptations.... fall clothes. I read and I read, and I dream and I dream and, eventually, the two seem to merge into one - I see another glorious autumnal ensemble and then, quite naturally, I imagine myself in another glorious book and eventually, like magic, the two become one.
Take a look at these four mouth-watering new designs from the fall collections and see what I mean.
I know just what books they’d be perfect for.


For A Grand Party
My invitation has been sitting on the mantel for weeks.
Propped up against the silver candlestick, it is reflected in the old mirror above, thus doubling my joy over its presence.
I am going to Mrs. Dalloway’s party in this dress.
Of course I am.

“It is angelic - it is delicious of you to have come!” She loved Lords; she loved youth, and Nancy, dressed at enormous expense by the greatest artists in Paris, stood there looking as if her body had merely put forth, of its own accord, a green frill.
“I had meant to have dancing,” said Clarissa.

from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
dress by Valentino, Fall Couture Collection 2011


Looking for Houses in England
I have joined Vita Sackville-West in a house hunting expedition and our train has just pulled into Staplehurst station. We set out walking, past the old church, to the footpath that turns off to the left. It is an autumn day and everything shimmers in colours of nut brown and orange. The crisp air enters our lungs like an elixir.
We walk briskly, as is Vita’s way. Eventually we see it.
On the market for over two years now.
I wonder what Vita will make of it.

“Vita, peering through a hole, at once exclaimed, “That will be my library, and this, “ waving a teaspoon around the walls, “will be my sitting room”. Within a month or two it was, and it remained hers for the next thirty-two years. Few were ever admitted to it...She filled the rooms with books and her personal mementos - a stone from Persepolis, a photograph of Virginia, one of Pepita’s dancing slippers - and as the wallpaper peeled and faded, and the velvet tassels slowly frayed, she would never allow them to be renewed. Her possessions must grow old with her. She must be surrounded by the evidence of time.”

from Portrait of a Marriage by Nigel Nicholson
Ensemble by Ralph Lauren, Fall RTW Collection 2011


A Snowy Night in London
I have been driven through the London snow to Number 14, to accompany Mr. and Mrs. Darling to a party at Number 27. There is a strange chill to the night air, and I find myself frequently turning my gaze upwards, as though I expect to see something wonderful just beyond the grey clouds.
I pull my gold coat a bit tighter around my shoulders and shake my head.
It must be my imagination.

“No. 27 was only a few yards distant, but there had been a slight fall of snow, and Father and Mother Darling picked their way over it deftly not to soil their shoes. They were already the only persons in the street, and all the stars were watching them. Stars are beautiful, but they may not take an active part in anything, they must just look on forever. It is a punishment put on them for something they did so long ago that no star now knows what it was. So the older ones have become glassy-eyed and seldom speak (winking is the star language), but the little ones still wonder. They are not really friendly to Peter, who has a mischievous way of stealing up behind them and trying to blow them out; but they are so fond of him that they were on his side tonight, and anxious to get the grownups out of the way. As soon as the door of 27 closed on Mr. and Mrs. Darling there was a commotion in the firmament, and the smallest of stars in the Milky Way screamed out:
“Now, Peter”

from Peter Pan by JM Barrie
dress by Valentino , Fall Couture Collection 2011


After Dinner in Italy
The night air is cool in Italy this April.
I’ve left the dinner and wandered out on the terrace to stand in the moonlight and consider how far away I am from home.
I hear the others begin to assemble behind me and I retreat to a cover of green behind five tall cypress trees that stand guard in this part of the garden, protecting the unaware from the steep path down to the sea.
In my black dress, the only part of me visible is the gardenia that glows in my hair.
I look and I listen.

“That evening was the evening of the full moon. The garden was an enchanted place where all the flowers seemed white. The lilies, the daphnes, the orange-blossoms, the white stocks, the white pinks, the white roses - you could see these as plainly as in the daytime; but the coloured flowers existed only as fragrance.

The three younger women sat on the low wall at the end of the top garden after dinner, Rosa a little apart from the others, and watched the enormous moon moving slowly over the place where Shelley had lived his last months just on a hundred years before. The sea quivered along the path of the moon. The stars winked and trembled. The mountains were misty blue outlines, with little clusters of lights shining through from little clusters of homes. In the garden the plants stood quite still, straight and unstirred by the smallest ruffle of air. Through the glass doors the dining room with its candlelit table and brilliant flowers - nasturtiums and marigolds that night-glowed like some magic cave of colour, and the three men smoking round it looked strangely animated figures seen from the silence, the huge cool calm of outside”.

from The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim
Dress by Valentino, Fall Couture Collection 2011


I wonder.
What are you reading? And what will you wear?