Scarves: I Want to Dress Like Virginia Woolf
Virginai Woolf saw clothing as a metaphor, a representation of her interest in themes such as modernity, time and the tension between one's internal life and exterior norms. In her diary, she wrote, "My love of clothes interests me profoundly; only it is not love & what it is I must discover."
Here, in a photo by Lady Ottoline Morrell ca. 1926, she sits in a vibrantly-printed dress and a simple dark cardigan:
|Photo: National Portrait Gallery London|
Woolf's words resonate now, when so many women seem to have parked not only love, but even like of their clothes. (See "Pandemic Dressing Takes a Dark Turn" by Rayhan Harmanci in the New York Times, in which she blasts her Everlane GoWeave pants with both barrels.)
Why am I now drawn to the motifs of 20th-century arts and crafts, a period that summons Woolf and her friends drinking tea drawn from a samovar? I do not long for corsets or shoes that require a button hook, but rather to the craftsmanship of the era, a time when "art" joined "craft" to produce beauty that respected function. Prints were woven into silks or wools, or printed on the fabric with ink and a mallet, giving a far deeper effect than today's digitally-printed fabrics.
Three women artists
I look for actual textile or wallpaper designs, not, for example Monet's "Water Lilies" turned into a scarf. Details from three notable women designers; two of whom are currently working.
Left: "Pushkin" narrow silk scarf by English Eccentrics; price, £185. The British artist Helen David is a fantastic textile designer; her company offers her lush designs as scarves and, for the true eccentrics, shirts and tunics.
Upper right: British textile designer Cressida Bell, the granddaughter of Virginia Woolf's sister, Vanessa, has carried an artistic tradition forward in her own expressive work in both textiles and home goods. This silk crepe "Mexican Tulips" shawl is but one of many beauties on her site; price, £112.
Bottom right: Daphne Dagobert Peche was a multi-disciplinary designer and renowned figure in the Austrian arts and crafts movement in the early 20th century, producing textiles, ceramics, glass and jewellery. Vienna's Österreichische Werkstätten is devoted to preserving the arts and crafts tradition, and sells this charming silk scarf of her design ((70cm x 180cm); price, €120.
eBay and Etsy finds
The craft market offers endless options, from a rectangular scarf made of Liberty "Juno Feather" silk navy and gold crepe de chine, listed at about $US 47 from eBay, to this art deco Japanese kimono silk piece by Justine Dalton on Etsy; price about $US 175.
How to wear these striking textiles? On top, something simple in a colour that existed in that era: mustard, bottle green, reds from ruby to rust, the beiges and browns, and nearly any blue.
Woof also wrote, in Orlando, "There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them. We may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”
I would like my heart and brain to be moulded toward calm, hope and good will. Maybe that's why I want to wear such accessories, pulled from an old leather suitcase in which I store these heritage pieces.