Monday, February 21, 2011
Feminine Fashions columnist Kennedy Fraser wrote in the New Yorker forty years ago that a perfectly plain white silk shirt and perfectly plain black cashmere pants are not style. They are good taste plus timidity or fear. For feminine style requires boundary pushing.
Perhaps the modern exemplar of feminine style is Daphne Guinness, the woman in the photo. If I were ever to assemble a best dressed list, she would be on it, for her clothing combines a restrained palette with smashing-the-envelope textures and shapes. And what a challenge that must be for her escort.
You see, I was thinking about Ms. Guinness and those of her ilk in relation to how a man should dress to accompany a stylish woman. After all, pedal to the metal extravagance is rarely effective for any pair - look at photos of Mick and Bianca Jagger when both were young and dressing to impress. All that complexity is dizzying. There is a reason that the peahen is dull next to the peacock, for both look better when only one shines.
When the observer's eyes finally leave the dazzle of the female of a pair and turn to her companion, they are best rewarded with quiet familiarity. This was the reason for the long running success of first the tailcoat and then the dinner jacket, where a man could distinguish himself by the cut of his clothing or the quality of his dress set but little else (and it was also the reason for rejection of the dinner jacket's uniformity by publicity seeking males of all persuasions).
Now this is not an argument for drabness. A man's clothing should be the best he can afford, well cut and interesting in its own right. But it should not be remarkable relative to that of a stylish woman.
Vive la différence!