Like many people I thought it was Maya Angelou who wrote “ When I am old I will wear purple…” or some words to that effect; however, in checking on the cite, I see it was Jenny Joseph.
Jenny Joseph in Warning Poem writes,
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals…
Funny how we grow into purple, a colour I shook my head at when my younger daughter adored it – always. But now, passed age 60 I cannot get enough variation of it, from lilac to purple-gray to almost fuchsia, it draws me like a hummingbird. From plum eye shadow to lavender shoes, it tickles me. I find it rich and regal and delightful, funny and fantastic. No surprise then it was once considered a royal colour , a spiritual colour highlighted by ermine by monarchs, its value cherished due to its longevity, obtained from Mediterranean sea snails.
Most people will tell you that getting older sucks. My mother used to guffaw at the notion of The Golden Age. There are more deep wrinkles, more aches, slower moves, more forgetting names and a trend towards being a lesser-you—unless of course you have the body of a power athlete and the sharp brain of a scientist. Perhaps that is why we spend hours on bettering ourselves on games such as Luminosity every morning and twisting into the difficult El Doa poses at Pilates as we try to preserve what is vanishing like snow that once glistened on the roof.
what I do find enjoyable is how people of a certain age have begun to dress, carving out their individuality through their wearing apparel.
And it seems to matter less how I look on a daily basis so if I slip out to the store with a bright green fannypack slung low on my protruding tummy, I hardly care. Wearing makeup for a jaunt to the grocer’s seems downright silly too. I see others my age behaving similarly. Hair is less than coiffed, maybe with a baseball cap pulled low, pants comfy and relaxed, not the tight pinched jeans emblazoned with designer monikers once purchased to display curves. I see in these other passerbys that I do not approach a kinship, a community of women who would, like me, adore wearing purple. Instead of following the latest fashion fads, they have become relaxed about themselves, their outward appearances, forgoing trends for individual eccentricity. Many have forged their own unique style. . I like that.
A month ago I observed at the corner of Yonge and Roxborough a mature woman who had put herself together as Annie Hall might have, hat, upturned collar, slouchy pants and I gasped –in pleasure. Not a Halloween getup but I assumed an outward expression of her appreciation of a way of dressing. Inwardly I laughed but thought if this were California, no one would even looked twice but applauded her ingenuity- or perhaps it was her own style that merely reminded me of Woody’s paramour Annie. In any case I enjoyed her way of arranging herself that spoke out.
In contrast 65 year old Caitlin Jenner’s pinup pose left me cold. When I read Judith Timson in The Star’s Current affairs, on Jun 03 2015 , I realized that Jenner was calling on the “ beauty” of her generation, not the present day, to identify herself as a fully attractive woman, complete with bustier and boobs. So it seems that even when we strike out, society has brainwashed us with indefatigable images – such as even the iconic Annie Hall- as we are tied to uphold and exceed the ideals with which we first struggled. To explain ourselves as women, we call on the concepts we associate with our sense of what is /even once was considered desirable ,packaging ourselves as society has suggested we might be, even quirky versions.
But rather than veer into the psychological, I prefer to stay on the outside , the textural superficial that charms the eye . For that reason I I love to contemplate the aesthetics of clothes and when Comme des Garcons, many many years ago first put seams on the outside of garments I thought it brilliant to turn a fabric inside out to reveal the construction of a piece of clothing. We could simultaneously view process and product. Wearing the internal on the external, bringing both parts together? How post-modern is that?
I adore the texture, the structure above all, the cloth, the design of things: from doorknobs to fabrics. I have thought that fashion is merely wearable art in the hands of a gifted crew. Who cannot gasp at the clothes of the protagonist in Scandal as she emblazons in white, donning her modern gladiator togs suitable for a heroine in Washington battling Evil. Maybe it is the reverse of the old you can’t tell a book by its cover, but here, oh yes! You can as the avenging angel avenges-so stylishly.
I have friends who put down Vogue magazine, noses pinched tightly above the glitter of fashion, but for me it is a rich picture book, often with Grace Coddington weighing in by visual references to paintings in her thoughtful borrowing from famous art works, landscapes in her fashion shoots. The recent gory tantalizing Hannibal television show does the same, rearranging his corpses a la Botticelli and it is so terrifyingly beautiful, you cannot tear your eyes from the scene as you peruse the horror of the frozen images arranged for perpetuity.
Perhaps art is in fact that: life fixed forever in a framed canvas. So why not elegantly painted scenes in the ground stones of cobalt or the Madonna faces that look beyond into another dimension or even the flashes of billowing colour combinations that speak to tensions, and freedoms and the presence that exceeds reality?
However, as I once again ruminate, moving from style to society mores to art, I want to recatch my initial fascination with how women dress. And in spite of Dial soap’s ground breaking decision to use real women in their advertisements, none, I believe, was wearing purple! Ha.