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?