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Shome Tome

January
15

On Fashion And (In) Fiction

bookshelf-fantasy-photo-9-bookshelf-and-lounge

Perhaps, an important factor to consider–when writing and reading fiction–is the description of characters. One of the ways for readers to relate to a work is visualizing the characters–to be able to form some kind of image in their heads, and this image becomes a base for the reader to attach themselves to the story.

 

Unlike in movies and TV shows, where we, of course, have a direct link to the appearances of the characters, the writer finds alternate ways to provide some kind of description for their characters through their words. Just as it is in reality, the concept of describing one’s wardrobe and attire seems unlimited because, well, because fashion and style are constantly pushing boundaries–the infinite combinations of the styles of clothes and accessories, from the specifics to the generalities, from earrings or bracelets to cardigans or skirts, much like in reality, fiction has the ability to mimic its ever-changing, diverse qualities (consider Lisa Turtle’s “What is art? Are we Art? Is Art, Art?”). This, in turn, can create a sense of freshness and originality in fiction just like it can in reality, while also providing certain imagery for readers to visualize. If not using fashion to describe a character, it can also be used to provide a setting, or it can be used merely to create some kind of imagery to help stimulate the reader’s mind. Ideally, these purposes will help bring in the reader. Below, you will find a list of various lines taken from literary works referring to fashion in one way or another.

 

Consider John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy Of Dunces. Right from the beginning, the author describes the iconic Ignatius Reilly by the clothes he’s wearing, in particular, his hat–the first couple of paragraphs focuses on Reilly’s hat. The opening line reads: “A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. (1).” The second paragraph goes on with, “Ignatius himself was dressed comfortably and sensibly. The hunting cap prevented head colds. The voluminous tweed trousers were durable and permitted unusually free locomotion. Their pleats and nooks contained pockets of warm, stale air that soothed Ignatius. The plaid flannel shirt made a jacket unnecessary while the muffler guarded exposed Reilly skin between earflap and collar. The outfit was acceptable by any theological and geometrical standards, however abstruse, and suggested a rich inner life” (1-2).

 

Moving onto Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, the protagonist, Cécile, describes her mother’s friend: “I ran up the stairs, getting somewhat entangled with my long skirt, and knocked at Anne’s door. She called to me to come in, but I stopped on the threshold. She was wearing a gray dress, a very special gray dress, almost white, which when it caught the light, looked like the sea at dawn” (35-36). This is very much a poetic use of fashion (through the use of a simile) to create a specific tone for this scene.

 

Sometimes the use of fashion and clothing styles can be more directly used to describe a character’s personality. For example, consider Sandra Cisneros’s story, “Edna’s Ruthie,” for her story collection entitled The House On Mango Street: “Ruthie, tall skinny lady with red lipstick and blue babushka, one blue sock and one green because she forgot, is the only grown-up we know who likes to play” (67).

 

Then there is William Faulkner’s Light In August: “From beneath a sunbonnet of faded blue, weathered now by other than formal soap and water…. Beneath the faded garment of the same weathered blue her body is shapeless and immobile….She wears no stockings. Her feet rest side by side in the shallow ditch. The pair of dusty, heavy, manlooking shoes beside them are not more inert” (11).

 

In J.D. Salinger’s Franny And Zooey, when Lane sees Franny at the train station, the passage reads, “She was wearing a sheared raccoon coat, and Lane, walking toward her quickly but with a slow face, reasoned to himself, with a suppressed excitement, that he was the only one on the platform who really knew Franny’s coat. He remembered that once, in a borrowed car, after kissing Franny for a half hour or so, he has kissed her coat lapel, as though it were a perfectly desirable, organic extension of the person herself” (7). In this description of clothing, not only does the coat describe Franny in one way or another, but it also becomes a medium for providing some insight into Franny and Lane’s relationship.

 

Sometimes, the author will provide a general sense of a character’s clothing, while at the same time, providing an insight into the character’s mind, and even the generality of the clothing still provides some kind of mental image for the reader. In Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the author writes, “Santiago Nasar put on a shirt and pants of white linen, both items unstarched, just like the ones he’s put on the day before for the wedding. It was his attire for special occasions. If it hadn’t been for the bishop’s arrival, he would have dressed in his khaki outfit and the riding boots he wore  on Monday…” (5). Later on in the novella, Márquez makes a comparison of clothing styles “I recovered numerous marginal experiences, among the free recollections of Bayardo San Román’s sisters, whose velvet dresses with great butterfly wings pinned to their backs with gold brooches drew more attention that the plumed hat and row of war medals worn by their father” (43).

 

In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the choice of gloves come into play: “The car had gone, but it had left a slight ripple which flowed through glove shops and hat shops and tailor’s shops on both sides of Bond Street. For thirty seconds all heads were inclined the same way–to the window. Choosing a pair of gloves–should they be to the elbow or above it, lemon or pale grey?” (25).

 

Finally, expanding even beyond the idea of using fashion to describe a character or to provide some kind of imagery to the reader of a particular setting and time, Jeanette Winterson, in her story, “Orion” (from her collection of short stories, The World And Other Places), the author uses clothing to describe the night: “As she looks at the sky, the sky is peacful and exciting. A black cloak pinned with silver brooches that never need polish” (60).

 

The list of examples of how fashion is used to provide a visual context for readers, whether it’s through depicting a character, or providing a context of time and setting, or describing nature, can go on and on. Its usage becomes a foundation for readers to help them to enter the story–to see the world through words and fashion…to see the colors of fiction and reality.

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January
13

On Fashion And (In) Fiction

 

Perhaps, an important factor to consider–when writing and reading fiction–is the description of characters. One of the ways for readers to relate to a work is visualizing the characters–to be able to form some kind of image in their heads, and this image becomes a base for the reader to attach themselves to the story.

Unlike in movies and TV shows, where we, of course, have a direct link to the appearances of the characters, the writer finds alternate ways to provide some kind of description for their characters through their words. Just as it is in reality, the concept of describing one’s wardrobe and attire seems unlimited because, well, because fashion and style are constantly pushing boundaries–the infinite combinations of the styles of clothes and accessories, from the specifics to the generalities, from earrings or bracelets to cardigans or skirts, much like in reality, fiction has the ability to mimic its ever-changing, diverse qualities (consider Lisa Turtle’s “What is art? Are we Art? Is Art, Art?”). This, in turn, can create a sense of freshness and originality in fiction just like it can in reality, while also providing certain imagery for readers to visualize. If not using fashion to describe a character, it can also be used to provide a setting, or it can be used merely to create some kind of imagery to help stimulate the reader’s mind. Ideally, these purposes will help to bring in the reader. Below, you will find a list of various lines taken from literary works referring to fashion in one way or another.

cod

Consider John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy Of Dunces. Right from the beginning, the author describes the iconic Ignatius Reilly by the clothes he’s wearing, in particular, his hat–the first couple of paragraphs focuses on Reilly’s hat. The opening line reads: “A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head” (1). The second paragraph goes on with, “Ignatius himself was dressed comfortably and sensibly. The hunting cap prevented head colds. The voluminous tweed trousers were durable and permitted unusually free locomotion. Their pleats and nooks contained pockets of warm, stale air that soothed Ignatius. The plaid flannel shirt made a jacket unnecessary while the muffler guarded exposed Reilly skin between earflap and collar. The outfit was acceptable by any theological and geometrical standards, however abstruse, and suggested a rich inner life” (1-2).

bt

Moving onto Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, the protagonist, Cécile, describes her mother’s friend: “I ran up the stairs, getting somewhat entangled with my long skirt, and knocked at Anne’s door. She called to me to come in, but I stopped on the threshold. She was wearing a gray dress, a very special gray dress, almost white, which when it caught the light, looked like the sea at dawn” (35-36). This is very much a poetic use of fashion (through the use of a simile) to create a specific tone for this scene.

mango

Sometimes the use of fashion and clothing styles can be more directly used to describe a character’s personality. For example, consider Sandra Cisneros’s story, “Edna’s Ruthie,” for her story collection entitled The House On Mango Street: “Ruthie, tall skinny lady with red lipstick and blue babushka, one blue sock and one green because she forgot, is the only grown-up we know who likes to play” (67).

lia

Then there is William Faulkner’s Light In August: “From beneath a sunbonnet of faded blue, weathered now by other than formal soap and water…. Beneath the faded garment of the same weathered blue her body is shapeless and immobile….She wears no stockings. Her feet rest side by side in the shallow ditch. The pair of dusty, heavy, manlooking shoes beside them are not more inert” (11).

faz

In J.D. Salinger’s Franny And Zooey, when Lane sees Franny at the train station, the passage reads, “She was wearing a sheared raccoon coat, and Lane, walking toward her quickly but with a slow face, reasoned to himself, with a suppressed excitement, that he was the only one on the platform who really knew Franny’s coat. He remembered that once, in a borrowed car, after kissing Franny for a half hour or so, he has kissed her coat lapel, as though it were a perfectly desirable, organic extension of the person herself” (7). In this description of clothing, not only does the coat describe Franny in one way or another, but it also becomes a medium for providing some insight into Franny and Lane’s relationship.

coadu

Sometimes, the author will provide a general sense of a character’s clothing, while at the same time, providing an insight into the character’s mind, and even the generality of the clothing still provides some kind of mental image for the reader. In Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the author writes, “Santiago Nasar put on a shirt and pants of white linen, both items unstarched, just like the ones he’s put on the day before for the wedding. It was his attire for special occasions. If it hadn’t been for the bishop’s arrival, he would have dressed in his khaki outfit and the riding boots he wore  on Monday…” (5). Later on in the novella, Márquez makes a comparison of clothing styles “I recovered numerous marginal experiences, among the free recollections of Bayardo San Román’s sisters, whose velvet dresses with great butterfly wings pinned to their backs with gold brooches drew more attention that the plumed hat and row of war medals worn by their father” (43).

mrsd

In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the choice of gloves come into play: “The car had gone, but it had left a slight ripple which flowed through glove shops and hat shops and tailor’s shops on both sides of Bond Street. For thirty seconds all heads were inclined the same way–to the window. Choosing a pair of gloves–should they be to the elbow or above it, lemon or pale grey?” (25).

world

Finally, expanding even beyond the idea of using fashion to describe a character or to provide some kind of imagery to the reader of a particular setting and time, Jeanette Winterson, in her story, “Orion” (from her collection of short stories, The World And Other Places), the author uses clothing to describe the night: “As she looks at the sky, the sky is peaceful and exciting. A black cloak pinned with silver brooches that never need polish” (60).

The list of examples of how fashion is used to provide a visual context for readers, whether it’s through depicting a character, or providing a context of time and setting, or describing nature, can go on and on. Its usage becomes a foundation for readers to help them to enter the story–to see the world through words and fashion…to see the colors of fiction and reality.

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December
04

Fashion Fushion by Shome Dasgupta

NancySinatraBoots

Whether it’s about the ice on your wrist or those made-for-walkin’ boots, the importance of individual expression has become apparent in all sorts of mediums such as movies and TV shows, photography, art, books, and of course, music. There are a myriad of songs out there about fashion, jewelry, perfume, and all other elements related to these themes. Earlier this year, The Guardian posted two fun articles, here and here, on songs about clothes. Check out their lists and playlists–there’s a nice blend of classics and present day sounds.  Additional songs about fashion and clothes can be found here and here.

 

Can you think of some more songs that could be included in these lists? What are some of your favorites or how about creating some of your own lyrics and lines about fashion? I think my favorite fashion line of all time is “Dressed in yellow, she says hello” by Young MC in his song, “Bust A Move.” And, let’s see–if I had to come up with a line of my own…maybe it would be something like, “I ride The Pony Express, wearing green with white laces, dressed to impress the best lookin’ faces.” Yikes… maybe I should just leave that to the professionals. Anyway, keep an ear out for those fashion fusions…who knows…maybe it can give you an idea of what you’d want to wear someday.

 

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