If you’ve ever wanted to wear a bowler hat, Chelsea boots and carry a tightly rolled umbrella, tomorrow night is your time to shine. Halloween is one of those celebrations that lets you try on another persona in relative safety. I may have started out as a knight or soldier, but as an adult I started to skip the fantasy costumes (even the Vampire — tuxedos are hard to resist) and go for literary (or at least period movie) types. I’ve done the Brideshead aesthete, the Pink Panther cat burgler (Cary Grant proving too hard to pull off), played the ambassador in White Tie and Tails, and even tried on the main character from “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” which the ever-witty Mrs. E has dubbed “The Unbearable Longness of Movie.”
If I had a velvet collared suit, this year would be John Steed all the way. Halloween is the one day a year that I can get it out of my system without looking like an idiot to the average man.
Which is kind of my point. Fortunately, I have the eagle-eyed Mrs. E to save me from myself every other day of the year.
To paraphrase John Steed “Mrs. E, you’re needed.” Elegance, as Mrs. E so often points out, is quiet. The elegant person is not a standout in terms of clothing. Yes, (s)he pays attention to the details of his or her dress. But that elegance is achieved only in the absence of costume. In subtilty, for elegance begins and ends with discriminating taste. “The true dandy,” writes Max Beerbohm “must always love contemporary costume.” (And “dandy” doesn’t mean what you think it does either. Get lost in the extensive writings at Dandyism.net and discover the pursuit of elegance and its outward expressions.)
But for me, tomorrow holds a new test. My three-year old daughter has requested that I dress up “like a pumpkin.” And, of course, I will.