April 28, 2010

Every once in a while one comes across a book that is simply too delightful not to share with the world.

Genevieve Antoine Dariaux wrote such a book.

Specifically, in 1964, Dariaux penned Elegance: A Complete Guide for Every Woman Who wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions. From the front jacket flap:

From A (Accessories) to Z (Zippers) here is a truly comprehensive encyclopedia covering every item a woman wears or carries and describing how each may be selected for quality, attractiveness, and appropriateness. From the proper length of gloves according to length of sleeve, to the correct use of alligator and mink, to complete wardrobes on a minimum–and maximum–budget, to planning for a country weekend or southern cruise, this book is filled with common sense, stimulating suggestions, and reliable advice.

Because I’ve waited 26 long years to learn the correct use of alligator and mink, I’ll be tweeting choice gems from Elegance all day. And possibly longer–I suspect there’s gold in them there hills, and it may take me longer to mine it all. You can follow all this in my Twitter stream or by simply following the #elegance hashtag. (…Which is apparently in use in kind of a spammy way by fashion tweeps, but perhaps you can look past those.)

Girls will be girls?

February 28, 2008

Facebook is so helpful sometimes! Via a somewhat random friend’s profile, I found this article from the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago. It’s very brief, commenting only a little on the recent spate of books “for girls” and how they present different visions of girlhood. I have a little trouble with calling these visions different strains of feminism, as the article does, but I also haven’t read any of the books so maybe I shouldn’t talk. Anyway, I find this line particularly telling:

Whether girlie or girlist, girls, because they’re allowed more latitude in their identities, can still be girls: Boys, on the other hand, must be boys — unless no one is watching.

This really rings true to me. Perhaps this is a function of growing up in the 80’s instead of the 50’s or 60’s, or perhaps it’s a result of growing up on a farm with an older brother and a mother who almost exclusively wore overalls, but I enjoyed an immense amount of flexibility in my girlhood. I wore hand-me-downs from my brother, loved sports and action figures, and wouldn’t be caught dead (or at least extremely grumpy) in a dress. I did have dolls, but I was much more interested in buying clothes for my Kens than doing just about anything with the Barbies.

There’s a really interesting bit in Forever Barbie about how housewives hoped that the dolls could “cure” their tomboy daughters. I have trouble coming up with the right analog for boys–how do you cure a “girly” boy? Sports? Hunting? G.I. Joes?

I would argue, though, with the question Orenstein raises at the end of her article–“whether any more expansive vision of girlhood can survive without a similar overhaul of boyhood.” It seems to me that the ever expanding bounds of girlhood are, in part, what have allowed girls to achieve on into womanhood–causing a lot of panic over the boys. More women than men are graduating from college! Something is terribly wrong with boys! Why is this always a zero-sum game? Why can’t greater success among girls and women mean there’s something right with them, and not necessarily something wrong with boys and men?