Year of Grace, Day 102. On fashion and guttation

I started my day reading Walden Pond; I awoke around 4 am. By rights I ought to say re-reading, but I read it for the first time so very long ago, and my memory is not what it was, that it was like a whole new discovery. I haven’t finished it yet, but I wish to share a few nuggets with you.

On fashion, Thoreau says: “I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men may get clothing. …as far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched.

“When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my tailoress tells me gravely, “They do not make them so now,” not emphasizing the “They” at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates, and I find it difficult to get made what I want, simply because she cannot believe that I mean what I say, that I am so rash. When I hear this oracular sentence, I am for a moment absorbed in thought, emphasizing to myself each word separately that I may come at the meaning of it, that I may find out by what degree of consanguinity They are related to me, and what authority they may have in an affair which affects me so nearly; and, finally, I am inclined to answer her with equal mystery, and without any more emphasis of the “they”—”It is true, they did not make them so recently, but they do now.” Of what use this measuring of me if she does not measure my character, but only the breadth of my shoulders, as it were a peg to bang the coat on? We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcae, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same. I sometimes despair of getting anything quite simple and honest done in this world by the help of men.”

I often feel the same. Long ago in my teens, way before off-the-peg clothing became the norm, I used to design my own clothes and a seamstress aunt made them for me. These days when I have an idea for something simple that I would like to wear, I do not find it.

I mourn the loss of some blouses bought in Tokyo of an ageless design: a simple collar, long sleeves, two pockets — the whole cut generously and it hang well. I haven’t found the like in all Bonn. Blouses nowadays have all sorts of frills and unnecessary details on them. Or, they come in only one colour. The colour of the year. And next year, if I were to hanker after last year’s colour, well, that’s just too bad!

I do believe the time has come, once more, for me to design my own clothes, but alas, my talented aunt has gone to where all happy seamstresses go. Perhaps it is time to learn to make my own clothes too.

For today’s thoughts, I am grateful to Maria Popova of Brain Pickings – a source of never-ending inspiration – for focusing on Thoreau, and for Thoreau himself, for thinking all these thoughts at less than half my age when he wrote them. And as well for Project Gutenberg for bringing Walden Pond and other books online.

As for Miss Amaryllis – her fourth bud now in bloom – she is at the peak of her glory, brightening up the sitting room. Thanks to her, as I came up really close this morning, I noticed a fascinating phenomenon. Plant physiologists would call it guttation. There were a few drops of moisture on one of her petals. I have only seen this natural wonder on the outer edges of leaves, such as on the hydrangeas. Never before on a flower. She has made my day!

Click to enlarge to see the glistening drops of guttation.



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