Monday, May 19, 2008
How rich do you want to look?
Linda Grant over at The Thoughtful Dresser unleashed a torrent of posts on scarves, and one woman (I assume) commented that she did not wear Hermes scarves for fear of looking bourgeois.
I began to wonder, as opposed to what? Insouciantly bohemian? Stoutly working class? Private-jet megarich?
Fact is, I am a femme bourgeoise. Middle-aged (the upper reaches), middle-class, respectable. I vote, work, look after my teeth, teach my children some social skills and pray they stick. My first reaction when hearing of a divorce is sadness (but not judgment). I like buying good things and making them last.
And so on.
No matter what your class, and especially if you blur or straddle these too-easy distinctions, everyone has an Inner Snob. Mine is peevish and superior, and nags, "Don't look suburban." For Inner Snob, suburban is shorthand for a mall-centred esthetic that prizes buying the latest me-too trend and utter devotion to logos.
If told I look like a European haute-bourgeois woman, I'd be complimented. I think of my Swedish friend Towe, in fine wool pants, merino sweater cut like a shirt and patterned cashmere shawl, relaxed and elegant. She says, "I let my clothes speak, so I don't have to use so many words."
Or of Jane Birkin (below) whose style I love but cannot really replicate as I'm heavier.
To be fair, what's behind that fear of "looking bourgeois:" too safe, uniform-y, rigid, is something I worry about too.
You can look tense and overdone in any class to which you belong or aspire. I see overdressed punks every day. And it's risky to attempt a look far outside your natural order.
My GF Suzanna's sister sometimes dresses, as she says, "looking rich": more gold jewelry than Mr T, $600 jeans (no I don't know the brand but she told me the price) and a Tod's bag. To me she just looks overwrought, put together by a stylist.
While some of us like to think we're beyond these class distinctions, sales people and marketers know differently.