The Looks I Love

A number of questions popped into my head last evening whilst watching the Kevin Kline/Ashley Judd movie “De-Lovely.” The picture dripped elegance from the costuming to the sets to the dialogue. (Although it can be difficult to watch in parts, at least it has a whiz-bang production number at the end! And it features the Murphys, who are my touchstone for graciousness.)

The costumes were designed by Giorgio Armani and in an interview he states that he enjoyed doing the film as it harkened back to the era of male elegance that continues to inspire him today. (And who can blame him for being inspired by the 20’s through 50’s? I’d also like to know why the modern singers included in the film sing anything other than this kind of music after they discover it?) Mr. Armani does beautifully cut modern interpretations of bias cut dresses in silk and a very good modern interpretation of the 20’s silhouette for men (tighter jacket, fuller trouser.)

Mr. Armani,however, prefers to dress in jeans, sneakers and a black t-shirt. All perfectly clean, laundered and pressed.

A lot of designers don’t seem to actually wear the clothes that they design for us. But they have developed public personae that they seem to think suit themselves.

What about you?

Finding your look is essential to developing your elegant image. Are you more continental? (J.P.Tod’s founder Diego della Valle, Gianni Agnelli.) More American? (Older Fred Astaire, JFK, 1950’s Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart.) More British? (HRH Prince Charles, Hugh Laurie’s Wooster, Sir Paul Smith.) Or somewhere in between? (Young Fred Astaire, Ralph Lauren.) Casual? Buttoned up? Formal? Eccentric? Old Fashioned? Timeless? Unsure?

I confess to having a bit of trouble with this myself. I am usually of two minds about everything. And that means that I am equally comfortable in timeless clothing (usually leaning towards the classic 1930’s mold….) and things more modern (like modern Italian suits or the odd trousers/linen jeans and sportcoat.)

How do you decide? Ask yourself this question: what item of clothing do I value the most? Build your wardrobe around that item Cultivate your appearance. Here’s the part that may be most difficult. When you find what works for you, stick with it. Refine it. Own it. If navy blue is the best colour for you, vary the stylistic details, but stick with navy blue. If you feel most elegant in a plain white shirt, have them made to fit you perfectly.

And that means staying away from trends, seasonal forecasts … fashion, to a point.

For years it was my blue blazer. Then my dinner jacket. Then a perfect grey flannel suit (DB). Then a sportcoat that could go with anything. Cashmere turtlenecks entered the fray one winter. Then white linen trousers. Then perfectly cut grey flannel trousers. Sometimes with Hollywood waists. Then the archetypal blue suit. A perfect polo coat and the right leather jacket were hunted down and bagged. Don’t get me started on brown suede shoes.

See a pattern?

My dueling sartorial personalities are joined by their aesthetic counterparts in interior decor. My tastes, like all tastes do, are evolving, thanks in large part to the wonderful design blog community. Where the scenery used to be a glamourous backdrop for the well-dressed actors, it is now a player.

I recommend re-watching of “De-Lovely” for exactly that reason. That’s living, baby. It is a mix that attracts me. (Especially the mix of houses. New York. Venice. Paris. MA, USA, even.) But the mixture of (forgive me decor friends as I murder the period attributions) Louis XVI (?) French, Italian, Chinoiserie, Deco, etc. etc. etc. It is a glamourous grand tour of theatrical proportions as befitted les coleporteurs. Hand me a winning lottery ticket and sign me up.

Finally the movie in its scripted dialogue sparked in me a desire to hear people speak that way again. Fortunately, I have the movies. Life seems to have gotten smaller.

In particular, I urge you to listen to the scenes between Ms. Judd and Mr. Kline (and use the subtitles as I do.) When people used to use the word “love-making” this is the sort of stuff to which they referred. Sure he’s used to thinking in terms of lyrics (“Until you can say it better in words, Cole sings.” Says Gabe.) But shouldn’t speech be at least a little lyrical? Bring back the double-entendre. The bon mot. A lovely turn of phrase. And best yet, romance. This is, after all, a love story.

Still here? Wow, thanks! Then I’ll leave you with this:

Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom
When the jungle shadows fall
Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock
As it stands against the wall

Like the drip drip drip of the raindrops
When the summer shower is through
So a voice within me keeps repeating
You, you, you

Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me, or far
It’s no matter darling where you are
I think of you
Day and night, night and day, why is it so

That this longing for you follows wherever I go
In the roaring traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
Day and night, night and day

Under the hide of me
There’s an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me
And this torment won’t be through
Until you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day

“Night and Day” Cole Porter.

Fade to black.

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