That World

Note: this post is about the pleasure of looking through clothing catalogs.  Ratty gentlemen, I’ll be curious to know,( if any of you read any farther) whether you can describe any comparable reveries.

In certain catalogs, it is , as Zelda famously said about her memories of Paris, “always either teatime or late at night”.  (Well, very occasionally early morning,  so the model can be shown emerging from artfully disarrayed sateen sheets in a lacy negligée) .  But in general the clothes are displayed against a slightly shadowed, late afternoon interior, gleaming floors, meubles  luisants, or on the stone steps of a patio, so cool looking…the beautiful model (not too young,)  always has a glass of white wine in her hand, she’s looking expectantly yet dreamily toward other guests, out-Of frame ( at least,  I assume she didn’t get so beautifully dressed to dine by herself. ) Those  others, we just know, have turned to watch her entrance; for just a moment they’ll be so dazzled they won’t speak…..she’s perfect, it’s all  perfect.  I’d go into that world, slipping through the crease in the fold of the pages, if I could.

In reality, I never buy clothes that expensive.  Who does?  In one catalog, (not  the kind I’m describing,  but one of the stratospherically priced ones where the models  look sulky and lounge in harsh daylight  against rough grey wood walls) I saw a short, short-sleeved , nondescript jersey knit shift for (wait for it!) Five Hundred ($500.00) Dollars.  I marvel at it still.

Another reason why I don’t buy clothes as expensive as the ones I do admire in my favorite catalogs is that I prefer to be the hostess, and the pale, delicate,  trailing outfits displayed by those ladies would be likely to be—no, they would be—fatally compromised at some point during my determined  and assiduous service.  Similarly, I can’t hope to emulate, or not for very long at a time in any given evening,  their  delightful,  contemplative indolence.  I imagine them wafting the fragrance that emanates from the catalog’s glossy pages.  Me? I’m smelling like dinner, with,  possibly,  a grace note of the stable, depending on how close I’ve cut my time.

Which is all great!  “See some fit comfort every state attend/ And pride bestowed on all, a common friend,”  as Pope wrote.  I consider me a fabulous hostess, and, well, people seem to agree, at least, they come back.

But I do experience extreme pleasure when I see these catalogs arrive, when I sit down to leaf through them, imagining the linen or sateen against my skin, savoring in imagination the generous attention of a pleasant company assembled for a delightful evening.

O Ratty, can you tell me of any comparable pleasure of your own?

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25 thoughts on “That World”

  1. I have tended to buy clothes I rarely wear because they’re inappropriate for the climate. (Example: I owned three black suits while living in SW Florida.) I may have been suffering from Geographic Displacement Disorder.

    Now that I am 6 hours away from my favorite Saks, I find myself ordering from JCrew for basic capris, summer weight jeans, shorts, bathing suits, cotton shifts, etc. and am actually wearing what I buy! I’m slowly but surely weaning myself away from the glam. (:

    Exceptions: Italian hand bags and shoes. That’s an addiction I can’t kick and I will drive the 6 hours to buy them.

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  2. Hypatia:
    Admit it, ET: you own that li’l $500 jersey number, doncha?

    Just funnin’!  I picture you as very glamorous!

    Hyp,

    Wouldn’t pay $500 for jersey- has to be lined and at least made from silk. 🙂

    As for being glam, my husband (jokingly) greeted me today with “Good Morning Hesperus!”

    I blame Florida.

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  3. Snooks gets an avalanche of catalogs for clothes that, even if she made a purchase, I wouldn’t be able to afford to take her anywhere that those clothes would be appropriate.

    She does dress nice for meeting clients in her office, and she wears dresses to church.   Her go-to catalog is Talbots, and she monitors them for sales.   That is a trade-off to achieve the look and quality appropriate to her position without breaking our bank.

    Of all her catalog purchases, though, my favorites of her dresses all came from Boden.

    I get sporting goods catalogs, but, since my primary use of the nearby Conservancy Woods is walking, I don’t spend much time actually looking at all that camping and fishing gear.   The one item that has been a hit with us, and which we quickly made subsequent additional purchases, was insect-repellent pants, shirts and socks.   We got ours from LL Bean and from Cabelas.   [Liz, they have very lightweight treated clothes that would be pretty well suited to your Natural Area, also.]

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  4. MJB, when I was traveling to D.C. for Heritage events, I always went to Talbots for the little black dresses with a conservative fit.

    I’m not too shy to express my admiration for your contributions to this post!

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  5. MJBubba:
    Snooks gets an avalanche of catalogs for clothes that, even if she made a purchase, I wouldn’t be able to afford to take her anywhere that those clothes would be appropriate.

    She does dress nice for meeting clients in her office, and she wears dresses to church.   Her go-to catalog is Talbots, and she monitors them for sales.   That is a trade-off to achieve the look and quality appropriate to her position without breaking our bank.

    Of all her catalog purchases, though, my favorites of her dresses all came from Boden.

    I get sporting goods catalogs, but, since my primary use of the nearby Conservancy Woods is walking, I don’t spend much time actually looking at all that camping and fishing gear.   The one item that has been a hit with us, and which we quickly made subsequent additional purchases, was insect-repellent pants, shirts and socks.   We got ours from LL Bean and from Cabelas.   [Liz, they have very lightweight treated clothes that would be pretty well suited to your Natural Area, also.]

    I never heard of Boden, just looked ‘em up.  Nice stuff.  More’ n I would spend.

    But, so you don’t see the sporting clothing catalogs as a grimoire,  where you might slip into the green and blue world the models seem so happy in?  To each his own;those catalogs make me tired.  I’ll skip to the part of the day where the sweaty workout gear has been shed, the shower has been had, and the cool drink awaits….

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  6. I like Talbot’s too, and there’s one in my town where I’ve picked up some favorites. But I don’t look at clothing catalogs so much as circulars for book stores and home decor catalogs – I like to see what’s out there for both of them.

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  7. Pencilvania:
    I like Talbot’s too, and there’s one in my town where I’ve picked up some favorites. But I don’t look at clothing catalogs so much as circulars for book stores and home decor catalogs – I like to see what’s out there for both of them.

    Check out https://www.sundancecatalog.com/

    I’ve not only bought some clothes there but furnished my new living room with their home furnishings.

    Warning: Not cheap but so unbelievably unique I spent $200 dollars on individual pillows and $2500 on a chair.

    What’s wrong with me? 🙂

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  8. Hypatia:

    MJBubba:
    … avalanche of catalogs ….

    I never heard of Boden, just looked ‘em up.  Nice stuff.  More’ n I would spend.

    But, so you don’t see the sporting clothing catalogs as a grimoire,  where you might slip into the green and blue world the models seem so happy in?  To each his own;those catalogs make me tired.  I’ll skip to the part of the day where the sweaty workout gear has been shed, the shower has been had, and the cool drink awaits….

    Well, yeah.

    Snooks gets some catalogs where all the pictures look like they were taken on a swanky cruise.   And the only place she would wear those clothes would be on a more expensive cruise than we are likely to take.

    And Pencilvania’s home decor catalogs are a hoot.   The bedrooms are all 25 feet wide, and there are snow-capped mountain peaks outside the windows.   Sure, I might buy that couch, and I might buy the window, also, if someone would build a mountain backdrop for us.

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  9. Closest I ever came to That World was a woven-leather Talbot’s bag found for $5 at a second-hand store.  The obvious move at that point was to declare supreme victory and decamp to an alternative venue.

    The mature fantasy is a two-week pack trip up in the mountains.  We salt the cattle, check the herd on the upper pastures, and then head out for a long, long trail ride in the beauteous mountains.  Our company includes fabulous camp cooks; comely youth who love nothing better than to hunt, fish, put up the stoves and the tents, and split wood; storytellers and musicians; old guys with lots of stories.  Of course I ride a mule outfitted with a superbly-tooled mule saddle.  The horsemen have their own lovely accoutrements.  Saddlebags?  Sure thing, partner!

    Practical work boots go without saying. Oilskin is even more practical than leather in wet conditions, and know what?  It is pleasing aesthetically, as is leather, for some reason, perhaps having to do with the texture and the workability of the material.  So yeah, I need oilskin rainwear and also an oilskin vest.

    When the mailman flings those catalogs into the box, I am quite out of commission for the next little while.

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  10. Yes.   We will all look fabulous in those fabulous duds.   There won’t be any mud or Spanish needles or beggar lice along the trail, the temperature will be so perfect that not even a single bead of sweat will form on our brows, no insects would dare join our party and all the vegetation will be at optimum beauty.

    Hah.

    It is sort of like those shaving commercials that are allegedly peddling shave cream but actually are selling that fantasy babe who admires the clean shave of the hero.

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  11. EThompson:

    Pencilvania:
    I like Talbot’s too, and there’s one in my town where I’ve picked up some favorites. But I don’t look at clothing catalogs so much as circulars for book stores and home decor catalogs – I like to see what’s out there for both of them.

    Check out https://www.sundancecatalog.com/

    I’ve not only bought some clothes there but furnished my new living room with their home furnishings.

    Warning: Not cheap but so unbelievably unique I spent $200 dollars on individual pillows and $2500 on a chair.

    What’s wrong with me? 🙂

    Only that you have excess money. Luckily you found a cure 🙂.

    I like Talbot’s too, but am too cheap to shop there much. And I understand they are getting less classic   and more trendy since they surveyed their customers and found out they all thought Talbot’s clothes were really for older women than themselves. Including their customers in their 60’s!!

    I am impressed that MJB knows where the dresses come from.

    I used to catalog- dream but now I just toss them generally. I did keep a super glossy, detailed travel one to fantasize with briefly not long ago. And then I tossed it.

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  12. EThompson:

    Pencilvania:
    I like Talbot’s too, and there’s one in my town where I’ve picked up some favorites. But I don’t look at clothing catalogs so much as circulars for book stores and home decor catalogs – I like to see what’s out there for both of them.

    Check out https://www.sundancecatalog.com/

    I’ve not only bought some clothes there but furnished my new living room with their home furnishings.

    Warning: Not cheap but so unbelievably unique I spent $200 dollars on individual pillows and $2500 on a chair.

    What’s wrong with me? 🙂

    Gads!

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  13. G.D.:

    EThompson:

    Pencilvania:
    I like Talbot’s too, and there’s one in my town where I’ve picked up some favorites. But I don’t look at clothing catalogs so much as circulars for book stores and home decor catalogs – I like to see what’s out there for both of them.

    Check out https://www.sundancecatalog.com/

    I’ve not only bought some clothes there but furnished my new living room with their home furnishings.

    Warning: Not cheap but so unbelievably unique I spent $200 dollars on individual pillows and $2500 on a chair.

    What’s wrong with me? 🙂

    Gads!

    Let me count the ways!

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  14. Hypatia:
    Note: this post is about the pleasure of looking through clothing catalogs.  Ratty gentlemen, I’ll be curious to know,( if any of you read any farther) whether you can describe any comparable reveries.

    Well, as much as I used to like Banana Republic  — as  teenager, I though that was just the height of cool — and some of the finer selection from 5.11 and Altama, the real frisson comes from hardware stores and technology sites.  Interestingly, while no doubt the silky smoothness of you favorite socks or whatever must come across better in the store than in the magazine pages, the hardware store is such a physical experience, that a catalog hardly does it justice.  It means nothing to me to pick up Graingers and stare at post-hole diggers, but at the hardware store, I can heft the thing and say to myself, “now this will dig some f**** post holes.”

    Meanwhile, technology is almost always only a good experience in store if you arrived prepared to pay, grab, and walk.  Otherwise, the website, with its endless access to more and more information about the information technology product is actually better than seeing the plastic in person.  Sure, I want to try the keyboard, and see the screen, etc, but the little card next to the the technological marvel, written by a hemi-semi-literate minimum-wager who thinks that the word “Pentium” is A) spelled with two n’s and no t’s, and B) somehow relevant, is more often than not factually incorrect, and there’s nobody in the store who can figure this out.  Physical retail has become the shopping experience of last resort.

    Except for hardware, where the sissies, the fakers, the poseurs, the Metrosexuals and those otherwise divorced from reality are unwelcome, and openly mocked.  Don’t tell me why this is a good hammer if you have soft hands.  Panty-waist.

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  15. Talbots?!   I’m thinkin cable knit cardigans with matching plaid, or brightly flowered skirts, depending on the season, and most iconically, the shoes: flats in a variety of colours (one to match each outfit, naturally) with leather flowers  on top!    Is this a southern thing?  This is how the most popular girl at my boarding school (a Virginian) dressed.

    Fashionwise, it’s obvious the Ratty ladies are too rich for my blood.  (Although @jzdro, I can relate: all tack and riding apparel is exorbitantly expensive, at least in the East! I reckon it must be cheaper out West where horses are still more of a way of life.) I was thrilled when I discovered Fashionmia, where $24.00 would be at the high end of the prices of their dresses.  And I mourn the demise of Kmart; they had much better clothes than Walmart, where, yes, I also get clothes.

    As or Sundance,  I do get that one, and I check out Robert Redford’s  picture.  But I don’t wanna go into that world; I just know those people wouldn’t like me….that’s the Burning Man crowd, innit?  I look at for style, the way  they’re wearing the clothes.  Who knew you could wear your shirt tucked and untucked at the same time?

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  16. Haakon Dahl:

    Hypatia:
    Note: this post is about the pleasure of looking through clothing catalogs.  Ratty gentlemen, I’ll be curious to know,( if any of you read any farther) whether you can describe any comparable reveries.

    Well, as much as I used to like Banana Republic  — as  teenager, I though that was just the height of cool — and some of the finer selection from 5.11 and Altama, the real frisson comes from hardware stores and technology sites.  Interestingly, while no doubt the silky smoothness of you favorite socks or whatever must come across better in the store than in the magazine pages, the hardware store is such a physical experience, that a catalog hardly does it justice.  It means nothing to me to pick up Graingers and stare at post-hole diggers, but at the hardware store, I can heft the thing and say to myself, “now this will dig some f**** post holes.”

    Meanwhile, technology is almost always only a good experience in store if you arrived prepared to pay, grab, and walk.  Otherwise, the website, with its endless access to more and more information about the information technology product is actually better than seeing the plastic in person.  Sure, I want to try the keyboard, and see the screen, etc, but the little card next to the the technological marvel, written by a hemi-semi-literate minimum-wager who thinks that the word “Pentium” is A) spelled with two n’s and no t’s, and B) somehow relevant, is more often than not factually incorrect, and there’s nobody in the store who can figure this out.  Physical retail has become the shopping experience of last resort.

    Except for hardware, where the sissies, the fakers, the poseurs, the Metrosexuals and those otherwise divorced from reality are unwelcome, and openly mocked.  Don’t tell me why this is a good hammer if you have soft hands.  Panty-waist.

    Thank you, HD!  This is the kinda masculine perspective I was hoping for.  I know my husband would agree about physical retail being the shopping experience of last resort.  People working in those stores, he tells  me, have no idea how the tool  they’re selling, works, what it does.  And they don’t care!  To paraphrase Wilde, they are not only ignorant, they are the cause of ignorance in others….

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  17. Hypatia:

    Haakon Dahl:

    Hypatia:
    Note: this post is about the pleasure of looking through clothing catalogs.  Ratty gentlemen, I’ll be curious to know,( if any of you read any farther) whether you can describe any comparable reveries.

    Well, as much as I used to like Banana Republic  — as  teenager, I though that was just the height of cool — and some of the finer selection from 5.11 and Altama, the real frisson comes from hardware stores and technology sites.  Interestingly, while no doubt the silky smoothness of you favorite socks or whatever must come across better in the store than in the magazine pages, the hardware store is such a physical experience, that a catalog hardly does it justice.  It means nothing to me to pick up Graingers and stare at post-hole diggers, but at the hardware store, I can heft the thing and say to myself, “now this will dig some f**** post holes.”

    Meanwhile, technology is almost always only a good experience in store if you arrived prepared to pay, grab, and walk.  Otherwise, the website, with its endless access to more and more information about the information technology product is actually better than seeing the plastic in person.  Sure, I want to try the keyboard, and see the screen, etc, but the little card next to the the technological marvel, written by a hemi-semi-literate minimum-wager who thinks that the word “Pentium” is A) spelled with two n’s and no t’s, and B) somehow relevant, is more often than not factually incorrect, and there’s nobody in the store who can figure this out.  Physical retail has become the shopping experience of last resort.

    Except for hardware, where the sissies, the fakers, the poseurs, the Metrosexuals and those otherwise divorced from reality are unwelcome, and openly mocked.  Don’t tell me why this is a good hammer if you have soft hands.  Panty-waist.

    Thank you, HD!  This is the kinda masculine perspective I was hoping for.  I know my husband would agree about physical retail being the shopping experience of last resort.  People working in those stores, he tells  me, have no idea how the tool  they’re selling, works, what it does.  And they don’t care!  To paraphrase Wilde, they are not only ignorant, they are the cause of ignorance in others….

    …and you are so right about Banana Republic!  As I recall, they used that commercial art presentation even before J.Peterman  did, the clothes looked so great in the drawings.  (But in my experience with both o those, they are always boxier and disappointingly less tailored when they arrive. ). I’m amazed that is still called banana republic; isn’t that now kinda a, idk, a white  nationalist slur….?

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  18. Good point on the banana republic name being somehow not quite aligned with right thinking any more.

    Re the banana hammock trope. I buy my husband boxers at American Eagle because he likes them. When I venture in there once or twice a year I cannot wait to leave. And I have to wade through what seems like dozens of pickle and banana themed ones to find something acceptable. So maybe that is the banana basis.

    I don’t think banana theme boxers make a good impression fellas.  Grow up. I am trying to think of something equivalent for women and I can’t. Um Georgia O’Keefe undies?

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  19. Hypatia:
    As or Sundance,  I do get that one, and I check out Robert Redford’s  picture.  But I don’t wanna go into that world;

    Interestingly enough, the clothes remind me of the late sixties. I am a tailored girl- black, white and grey only- (too many yrs in NYC), but they’re so pretty, I actually broke down and bought two embroidered t-shirts in pink and aqua.

    My husband who rarely comments on clothing snarked, “I didn’t realize I was married to Carole King.”

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  20. Jojo:
    Good point on the banana republic name being somehow not quite aligned with right thinking any more.

    My biggest beef with them- too generic. If I want to go casual, I like JCrew.

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