Monday, May 30, 2011

Clothes Communication

Clothes Communication

On this very last weekend of May, we enter into the time of year when, just like a schoolgirl, I tend to wear a uniform each and every day. Linen trousers, loose linen shirt, flat shoes, one lone strand of pearls, and my hair piled up on top of my head. It is soon to be too hot to even contemplate any ensemble more elaborate. However, dashing through a department store a couple of weeks ago, I found myself brought up short by a linen jacket. More of a frock coat really, it was the colour of sweet buttermilk, and made of a sumptuous wrinkled linen.  Adorned with a most unusual collar that could be worn up just like an Elizabethan ruff, it possessed the ideal amounts of both elegance and whimsy, two ingredients that I always find irresistible in any garment. I simply could not help myself - I was enchanted, and scooped it up before entertaining another thought. I haven’t worn it yet but I will, when I want to communicate a certain summer serenity, tinged with a hint of nostalgia. For though their language is delightfully subtle, clothes can communicate volumes. Even my summer uniform speaks, softly I hope, of crisp clean comfort - iced tea and ceiling fans, light dinners and peony gardens.

The way we as humans tend to reveal ourselves through our sartorial choices has always rather fascinated me. It starts early, when babies are identified by pinks or by blues, and it continues on through bridal white to mourning black. There are certain ensembles we reach for when we need to feel confident - when we want to stand out, or totally avoid notice. It is a lovely way to communicate that so often reveals more about us than we even realize. Think of Katharine Hepburn’s trouser-clad style. She once said, “ I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding which clothes to wear”. That wardrobe spoke volumes about who she was and what she deemed important.

We all know clothing can convey tribal affiliation. In Scotland, tartan patterns speak not only of personal identity, but of centuries of familial history and legend. I always pick up a piece of my own MacDonald or Sinclair whenever I am there. But I am talking more of individual communication here. Consider the red and white polka-dot dress that Princess Diana wore on her 1986 trip to Japan, its pattern a quiet hello to the Land of the Rising Sun. And of course, there was that spectacular black dress she wore on the very night her husband gave the rather squirm-worthy television interview confessing his oft suspected adultery. A frock that was later dubbed by the press as “the revenge dress”, it related her message eloquently.
As first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy charmed the French on her state visit to that country by, among other things, wearing only French designers. The French noticed. And of course, for all the historic symbolism that surrounded the Queen’s recent visit to Ireland, none was more charming than her many outfits of green... green feathered hats, an evening gown adorned with over 2000 hand-sewn shamrocks, an Irish harp brooch. Why, even her ladies-in-waiting were sporting over 40 shades of green. Again, a lovely articulation.

I suppose it was a little red dress that first taught me the language of clothing. I was about six years old, and I loved that dress enormously, soon realizing that I behaved differently when I wore it. I felt more ladylike somehow. I did not have to be told that this was not a garment for the playground. The dress itself told me that. Eventually, under the tutelage of that favourite dress, I began to listen to what other pieces of clothing had to say to me, soon learning to choose the ones that best reflected my mood or intent.

Of course, this is a holiday weekend here and as I write this piece I am comfortably ensconced by a breezy open window with a glass of cold berry lemonade at my elbow.
With my hair tied in a knot and my feet bare, I am clad in white cotton pajamas. This is an ensemble that should tell you absolutely everything about my plans for the weekend.
But what about you?
What is your outfit saying today?


  1. Today I'm wearing knock around, don't care much, coverings, loose and sloppy because I'm stuck here trying to solve blogger problem of followers disappearance, and blogger is just not responsive. Sigh. Time to wash up, dress up, an wander out into the real world on a weekend when everyone in town is out and about at fairs & festivals. Enough of this electronic communication!

  2. Two pairs of socks, thick jeans, a woolen jersey over a couple of under-layers, an open-weave linen scarf, and a down gilet. Indoors. With the central heating on. Yes, we are having a VERY cold Scottish May. I long for heat, and have enjoyed living vicariously through your description of airy, cool clothes.

  3. I am wearing a long white v-neck t-shirt that is perfect for this day of high heat. Add to that bright pink shorts with white polka dots. I wouldn't necessarily "go out" in this outfit. However, it satifies my passion for comfort while walking around my garden.

  4. Says mine: "Really dear, you must return to exercising. I don't believe my seams can take much more stretching."

  5. Oh but I bet you look so much more chic in your white pyjamas than I do when I make an effort. Today I am wearing my uniform - dog walking trousers, cashmere cardy and tee shirt. It's chilly here in Cheshire.

    I hope you post a picture when you decide the time is right to wear the new frock coat.

  6. blue plaid petal pushers and old tee shirt, both paint smeared. Am painting the bathroom - pink.

  7. was in pj's 'til 9 or so...
    back in pj's by 6....

    what does that say about today?

  8. What I wear on the outside, an extension of my skin, reflects what is on the inside.
    Changing from flip flops to heels elevates the lady within. cotton to lace, girl to woman, and so it goes on.
    So much is reflected in the colour, fabric, style expressed to the world.
    A lot, I think, about the energy extended to the Universe at large.

  9. Getting ready for thei fair all day today so definitely wearing layers that can be stripped off and replaced according to the whims of this very British spring day!
    Love your photo - when I think back to my little girl dresses I remember my 'best' winter dress being terribly itchy!
    Have a lovely lazy Sunday

  10. Pamela, We are rainy and cool, just a couple of quick errands and pants top and jacket, with sandals makeup (light) and books!

    Art by Karena

  11. Unfortunately the weather's a bit unpredictable today - cloudy with showers (in the UK. Plus I will be a) crafting b) cooking lunch and c) painting the garage, so I am wearing sensible jeans, a green t-shirt and wedge shoes. Plus some beads to liven it up.

  12. Back from a lovely English Spring - and my one day in Scotland required nought more than a light sweater as it was warmish, sunny, and blowing a still gale along Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

    Here, the NC heat and humidity zapped me as soon as I exited the airport - 90 degrees at night time!!

    Today, garden chores - and trying to live comfortably with 5 fox kits plus their mama, outside my back door - so throwing on comfy cotton cropped pants, a soft loose tee and my running shoes!

    Looking forward to seeing you in the new jacket - sounds gorgeous. My only clothing purchase while home, elegant pale grey linen jeans (wearing them rolled for Spring - Italian fabric to die for! Oh, and a Black Watch cashmere muffler for next Winter - couldn't leave Scotland without something tartan.

  13. i love a uniform... 12 years of parochial school indoctrinated me well. today calls for comfort: a misty, cool 50 degrees farenheit here in northern japan. wearing my husbands thermals, wooly socks, thick henley, no makeup and hair knoted at the nape. aaahhh, wedded bliss. lisa

  14. How cute is Miss Pamela, a true Southern little lady with her foot gently poised forward. You were showing your true colours even then. :)

    This coat you described has me yearning for more. Would love to see (hint, hint)....

    So interesting that you wrote this post today. I just returned from an outing to a local Antique Fair. A virtual treasure trove of all that you described here. You would have loved it!
    My outfit today is saying 'I gotta be me'. LK Bennett jeans rolled a fraction, soft suede blue flats, navy jersey singlet with my new favourite top, a light coffee coloured linen top. Think is a cross between a jacket and a comfortable! A light scarf from India in paisley pattern with touches of beige, blue and green and my necklace, a cross from Bethlehem which I never take off. Oh yes, and my Polo men's sunglasses..all the things that say 'I gotta be me'. I call it "midlife beauty, take it or leave it" :)

    Best wishes Pamela and thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    Jeanne xxx

  15. I loved this blogpost about the language of clothing and I agree with you that clothes can communicate volumes. I was just thinking of the recent royal wedding and how we were all fascinated by the clothing worn by everyone involved. From Kate and her beautiful sister Pippa to Prince William and Prince Harry to the guests and their very English outfits and hats. The elegance was off the charts.
    Today I will be going to the local farmers' market and will most likely be in my most comfortable white jeans with a summery tunic and some bare sandals.
    I am so happy to discover your fabulous blog and will be following it now!

  16. Dear Pamela,
    Well, my outfit at this moment in time ( 5.00pm in the late afternoon) are gardening clothes, not really worthy of any description !! However, it is a Baank Holiday weekend here in the UK and tomorrow we are off to celebrate our son's birthday so, I shall dress accordingly.
    I love the sound of your new jacket and it sounds so 'you'. ....and, I can remember a dress similar to your red one, although mine was lemon. You look so ladylike in it.
    I really don't subscribe to the designer 'thing' but, I love anything that is different and has some sort of detail or asymetrical hem or a tailed jacket or the like.....and, I'm afraid, they are nearly always black !! I now call it my signature !! haha. XXXX

  17. A golf shirt and jean shorts and black converse sneakers.

  18. It's 5am here and I have snuck downstairs to have a quiet hour before the day begins. A vintage linen nightie and bare feet....that's me right now, xv.

  19. Loving your post and the comments you have received thus far. So far, all weekend I've been in my sleeveless white cotton with lace collar nightie. I wear a blue cardigan sweater over it and the usual barefeet....for when I have no place to be and don't have to deal with traffic..a good time to re-do lists, organize and plan, or do nothing but dream, looking out at the wettish spring day with sun and low maintenance style..

  20. Like the sound of that jacket Pamela - I too love linen - particularly trousers.

    As to what I am wearing - I am sitting at my computer in my dressing gown putting off going upstairs for a shower. As to what I shall wear later - sadly it is a cold, wet day here so it will be something warm.

  21. Your new frock coat sounds wonderful as do your choice of cool, crisp linens for the heat of the day! Here it has been cool and showery but I'm indoors pottering, cleaning and cooking ready for a family visit tomorrow. I grabbed the nearest thing to hand today so am wearing a longish blue denim skirt, a navy and while top and navy leather mules:)

  22. I confess that clothes don't rank all that high on my list of important things. I suppose I like to look co-ordinated and appropriately dressed for whatever I'm doing. These days that is mostly gardening, walking the dog and similar occupations which entail 'sensible' clothes:) What I'm wearing today would tell you that it isn't very warm and that I plan on going out with the dog again pretty soon.

  23. I've stepped out to visit with writer friends, in my coal grey linen trousers and coal grey linen jacket-coat. Eileen Fischer, one of my favorite designer, for casual, flowing good lines. Classic and simple. My only adornment, a silver cuff bracelet with blue/green stones.
    Yes, I felt classy and in control today.

  24. When I was five or six, I had a Sunday best dress - deep red with smocking. My grandmother had given it to me and it was better quality than what my parents could afford at the time. HOWEVER, I didn't care for red. I mutinied in my own quiet way. I took a pair of scissors and cut a tiny notch in the skirt, hoping then I wouldn't have to wear it. My mother noticed of course and wondered how it came to be. But being an excellent seamstress, she mended it. I then had to wear the mended dress. Well, that taught me. I still don't care for red, though . . .


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