The other day I happened see something about a fashion photographer’s memoirs and was bored and the ebook was available from the library, so I succumbed to the temptation of my phone and looked. It had the expected condescending, self-assured tone, with a rhythm to its prose like the jolting trot of a school-horse (willful, tired, and hard to sit through) – but fashion is intended to be uncomfortable to those outside it. I did not read it through, but slipped to the chapter on ‘taste’, which formed a coda at the end, a guide for the fashionably perplexed.
At first, the essay charmed. He distinguished nicely, wearily between fashion, style, and taste (so often conflated to the confusion of all) and mocked (brutally, savagely, accurately) the banalities of advertisements that sell the lie that correct taste is (a) some tangible thing that exists and (b) can be bought. He also said that, concerning clothing, one needs to consider how things suit what one is and how one looks – where the line cuts, I believe was the phrase. Certainly appearances (given money and time, etc.) can be modified, but the core of character remains and cannot be so easily retouched; indeed, ’tis character that gives clothes their power (otherwise there’s only a stuffed suit or a belching socialite).
I also thought he said that this held true for ideas – that one needed to consider the ways in which the ideas one holds are fitting for one’s character (or the character one would like to be) not just something one apes from those one admires (or wishes to become). When I went back through to copy out the quotation (for I was sure there was a quotation), I could not find any such stuff. The second look also showed up the poor tailoring of the prose to its content, and the glamour of the text not surprisingly faded. I make a note of it here, however, because it (the text, the idea of what I mean to write) kept going through my head and I hope, by attempting to articulate my error, to be rid of thinking about it.