Dispatches | October 13, 2006

Last week I wore to the offices of TMR my “Hot Tin Roof” dress that I’d recently ordered from J.Peterman.  The catalogue trades on my vanity as a littérateur.  Its clothes are classic and well made.  I very much enjoyed floating around the office in my high swaggered bodice and flouncing skirt, fanning myself with a fiction submission and not once worrying about being identified with one of Williams’ desperate anti-heroines who rely on crumbs of kindness from strangers.  Though at the end of the day I did crave a mint julep.

I’ve even been tempted to order my husband J. Peterman’s Gatsby shirt.  I imagine him looking dapper in the simple band collar affixed at the neck with a tasteful brass stud.  The clothes horse in me loves the moment in Fitzgerald’s novel when Gatsby shows off to Daisy a wardrobe of sherbet-colored shirts hand-made in Paris.  The spectacle makes it easy to forget that our nouveau riche “old sport” gets gunned down during an afternoon swim in his pool. 

Like newborn babes, clothes are given names, usually stylish, upper-crust-sounding ones in hopes of promoting successful sales.  It seems to work in the fashion world.  Here’s my must-have outfit from Nordstrom:  A “Calista” vest worn over an “Arden” blouse with a “Hayward” skirt (I don’t know if that’s Rita or Susan).  I also covet the “Danielle” dress:  floral printed, lace overlay at the hem, a crisscrossed sash.  Obviously lesser fashions such as a gabardine vest dress don’t rate a name, only a manufacturer’s label.

It doesn’t take long to notice name snobbery at work; I haven’t found any shoes, handbags, or dresses named Karen, Jane, or Cheryl.  Admittedly I haven’t seen a lot of Kris fashions either.

Does naming clothes make a difference?  Does it increase our level of intimacy with them?  Or are designers wanna-be novelists?  And, most importantly, should I introduce my dress by name at a party? 

“I like your dress.”

“Yes, this is Audra.  She is made of raw silk and is cut on the bias.  She comes from Dillards by way of China.  I bought her thinking she was an only child, but, alas, she comes from a large family.”

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