Monday, January 21, 2013
The Way She Looks Tonight
I picked up "The Way She Looks Tonight" while staying in my friend Karen's guest room in Rochester last month. It looked like a light read that would lull me back to sleep but I became engrossed in the chapter on Jackie Kennedy's personal style. When I returned home, I quickly found a used copy online and have since devoured the book. I tried to find some information about the author Marian Fowler but there is little - I would love to write to her. Her read was salacious in parts but Fowler seems to have the street creds to back up her claims. I loved the book.
The introduction describes a certain type of woman, passionate about clothes with an innate sense of style. Instinctively, I know my mother falls into this category but I'm not sure I do. My style takes forethought and I find I am best turned out when I think about what I'm going to wear and plan it down to the last accessory.
Much more than that however, I enjoyed all the details in this book. I had no idea that Wallis Simpson spent over $100,000 every year on her wardrobe. Or that she felt shackled by her husband's infantile love. Reading his juvenile inscriptions on the jewels he gifted her with, made me shudder. Jackie Kennedy had a maid IRON her pantyhose? Just so that they would look nice in a drawer! I loved the descriptions of the clothes - Marlene Dietrich's organza hat in orchid (all I knew of her style were her black as night tuxedos). Eugenie Bonaparte wore crinolines so wide, she could barely fit through a doorway.
What I will take away from the book is that all the women featured had one fascinating thing in common - they all used their style as a personal talisman against sorrow and fear. Their style kept them focused, prepared to take on their futures, especially after it began to appear that those futures were becoming not what they imagined. This doesn't mean that focusing on themselves was completely sybaritic or self-indulging, but rather they used style as an ideal that led them and guided them when everything else fell apart. It morphed into self-care as well as hope. Their love of clothes was a sheer, unadulterated and faithful love that never steered them wrong and gave them strength to carry on. Despite the extraordinary clothes bills, and pantyhose with creases, I admire them.