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“Painters write well. They do most things, except choosing their clothes, better than other people; they can sail boats and prune fruit trees and bandage cut fingers and work out sums in their heads. The truth is that far higher gifts are needed to paint even a bad picture than to write a good book.”

Evelyn Waugh, from a book review, 1937

I’m willing to assume that the artists of Waugh’s era, both of brush and prose, fit his observation. Both callings then still had some cachet. Things today are much more dire; few writers seem to be able to read, let alone write, and even fewer painters can draw, let alone paint. For me the more curious part of the quote is the bit about painters not choosing their clothes well. Remember that Waugh was considered a type of fashion plate himself (even if, as he aged, a progressively cracked one); even more revealing, he exited college and entered adulthood flirting with the arts before seriously taking up writing. Possibly like his fabled Charles Ryder, a painter, who grows into the storyteller of Brideshead. I don’t blame Waugh for approaching writing with caution; his father was a known author who ran a large publishing house, and his older brother, Alec, was a famous novelist at the age of 17. His brother is even credited with inventing the pre-dinner cocktail party in the ’20s. Who wants to compete with all that?

But if there is any truth to the idea of painters being sartorially challenged, then it might begin to explain my current closet a little better, as well as my disheveled history. As for other artists (keep in mind that the repro vintage sneaker/skinny jeans/ironic t-shirt hipster, though poorly dressed, is unlikely an artist, or even knows one), the idea that a real visual artist, the one person who should be most in tune with optical harmonies, would be unable to co-ordinate shirt and and pair of pants is rather alarming. Years back I had a playful email exchange with art writer and historian James Elkins* wherein I gently mocked the clashing shirt and tie of his author photo. He was kind enough not only to politely respond, but to not involve the police.

In ’29 Waugh wrote a piece about mens clothes, Beau Brummells on £60 a Year, for the Daily Mail, excerpted below from a 1983 Penguin collection: (more…)

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Just in time for Spring- the Selig Brother’s spring and summer wholesale fabric catalog of 1928. This treasure is courtesy of the ReVamp boutique’s archive in Los Angeles. A  huge thanks to proprietress Anna Marie, who, during my visit to her atelier, allowed me access to the cache of materials she has collected over the years. Below is one such article of anachronistic awesomeness. Including the “Correct Dress Chart”  and the “Table of Proportionate Measures” which are particular favorites.

There are 18 enlargeable images below. Just click on an image to open a larger view.
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