Sunday 19 July 2020


Like La Vie En Rose and Coco, Before Chanel, the two recent biopics of Gabrielle Coco Chanel, Colette is sumptuous. Every screenshot of every scene could serve as a painting in a gallery of nineteenth century artists. Attention to details make such films a cinematic joy for someone like me, who cannot withstand much of today's Marvel visual and graphic acrobatics. My eyes and soul are soothed by period pieces. A slower pace unfolds on screen, and no expectation of a car chase or a villain plotting to end the world.


While very aware of my current immediate access to antibiotics, monoclonal antibody therapy and immunoglobulins only made possible by modern progress, the rhythm of my days (pre-pandemic too) mimics an earlier century. I still hand write my poems. I live with my parents. I potter. I go for walks in the same village I was once a teenager in. What would Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette make of my current wardrobe? She would be horrified, I think. Sweatshirts. The very term would make her recoil. Anyway, she was French, and even when she was at her most gauche in 1893, she was svelte. Sweatshirts. Joggers. Jumpers. How do these even translate across time and culture?

I have had my moments. If anyone were to describe my style (someone polite), I am sure they would mention my penchant for feminine swirls, but I also like the masculine escape into non-figure consciousness - a term I have just coined. Which itself points to how very far removed I am from Colette. I want to be blanketed. At my most ill, I simply want to wear a bed. And in place of wearing a bed, I wear my father's cosy oversized wool sweaters from M&S. The ones his sister Saida bought him in the 70's and 80's. 

They have large colourful or sober stripes or diamonds on them. Some have shrunk over the years and the arms are an odd length. One has a giant gash in the sleeve. These are the ones I pinch. I feel safe in them. Like and unlike myself. Who am I in someone else's clothes? Still, and always, myself I suppose. The dark and the light. Scruffy or neat.

Coco Chanel would disapprove of this arbitrary giving away of my form to chronic illness. TB never stopped her from becoming the doyenne of fashion in her time, and still now, in ours. BUT Coco was almost single-handedly responsible for introducing the world to silk pyjamas - the European world, that is. The word 'pyjama' is Persian in origin (pai: leg; jamah: clothing), and the loose, flowing trousers were then adopted by the conquering Arabs. So, really, the perfect attire for a descendant of Persian-Arab-British colonial empires. Coco and Colette can't really disapprove, after all... 

Now all I need is a pair of cream pyjamas with black piping, a slender cigarette in my hand and voila!


Sherry Blue Sky said...

You would totally rock cream pj's with black piping. I love retreating into old movies, too, which seem like gentler times. (A fave is Howard's End). I will have to check out Colette.......have you seen The Bookshop? A really sweet story set in a small seaside English town.

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