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Instruments of bondage? An advertising poster designed by Hans Schleger for the Charnaux Patent Corset Co. Ltd, c.1936, on display at the V&A in "Undressed: A Brief History Of Underwear" (Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate)


I have not noticed a fashion page so far in the pages of Standpoint, so I would like, as a woman whose mother taught her the importance of a perfectly matching accessary, to rectify that. I have been travelling by Tube from Lancaster Gate to Southwark each day and it has been an eye-opener. The journey is short, two stops to Bond Street, then the marvellous Jubilee Line in four jumps to Southwark station. I have enjoyed the voyeurism of it all. The entire carriage is plugged in to earphones and tapping on their phones and the rest are reading free newspapers showing Pixie Geldof’s party chums  sticking out their tongues. Eighty per cent of them, myself included, wear black puffa coats, wrinkly leggings and resemble sinister caterpillars. Women with gothic make-up and platinum extensions apply layers of ochre brushwork via self-lighting mirrors.

The curved windows make for wonderful Hall of Mirrors entertainment for me. If I’m standing, which I usually am, I rise up and down on my heels so that men with bald heads appear to have one elongated trunk of a head and people with backpacks have no head and four legs. I’m easily amused.

Sometimes a young man will give up his seat for me, which gives me mixed emotions. They are generally foreign, often Canadian — they just see the grey hair and up they bound. I always respond by looking astonished and flirtatious at the same time — I’m an actress, I can do these things — then sink gratefully into the uncut moquette. Often English people stare at me in a rather hostile way as if to say: “What’s she doing on the Tube? Can’t she afford an Uber?” Mostly, though, I am unrecognised and free to stare at the rows of ripped jeans and killer heels opposite me.

Ripped jeans. Knees poking out roundly, rumps exposed and Shredded Wheat thighs. Can there be a better example of designers’ utter contempt for their clientele? It isn’t cynical enough that the proletarian man’s trousers have been usurped by the upwardly mobile, but the cheapness of the item must be disguised by changing the cut each year, forcing the gullible buyer to pay two week’s wages to conform. “Boot cut can’t be seen this year — are you nuts, sooo 2015!”; “Low-slung like rappers? You won’t get in the door, man”; “High-waisted is the only wearable cut this season.”

Wide-cut, skinny, flared, Gaucho, embroidered — can’t you hear them? — the hose-hipped people with the D.H. Lawrence beards whining at the little Korean ladies in the dismal workshops: “Oh My Gaaad — what’s left to do? Dammit dude, I’ve run out of ideas — slash frigging holes in ’em for all I care, I’m going for a toffee vodka.’’

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