Continuing in my recent trend of grizzling like a miserable old biddy about how the world around me seems to be taking a turn for the irksomely baffling, I thought I’d address current fashions. It all started when I ventured out to do some clothes shopping the other day and I found the whole experience rather alarming.
I had previously considered myself someone who was not in any real sense opposed to fashion. I’m not an avid follower of the latest hot designers or anything. I never buy fashion magazines or go to fashion shows, but if I was stuck in a waiting room with nothing but a Vogue magazine for company, I think I could contently flick through the pages without suffering any undue distress.
Fashion, I presumed, was something that would take more effort to avoid than it would to follow. I figured that merely by purchasing garments that were for sale in clothes shops, I would be keeping up with fashion trends by default. I reasoned that they wouldn’t sell things if they weren’t fashionable and that I would be able to buy whatever I liked, confident in the knowledge that it was at least trendy enough to be available in stores*.
So I set out to the local mall to commence the retail-focused exploration, my step light with optimistic enthusiasm at the prospect of my impending purchases. Perhaps, I thought, I might even buy something other than a T-shirt or jeans, if the mood should so take me. After all, the world still seemed at this early stage in the expedition to be full of wonder and opportunity, and I felt that it was not inconceivable that the day might come when I might like to wear something different. Alas, as happens too often in this cruel world, the heady hopes of the innocent were all too soon dashed upon of the jagged rocks of despair.
Upon entering the first shop, which I understood to be a clothes shop as I had ventured in there on a previous occasion and successfully purchased a garment**, I was confronted with a terrifying array of confusing items. I presume that the strange and puzzling fabric-based enigmas were clothes as they were draped over hangers and arranged on racks in the usual manner of garments in fashion stores. However, it was beyond anything I could fathom to work out how on earth these perplexing masses of cloth were supposed to be worn. There seemed to be so many draping folds of fabric and strappy appendages that I doubted I would even be able to successfully unravel the object off the hanger, and even if I did manage that, I would never get it back on the hanger, much less find a way to wear it***.
The anguish induced by this mystifying garment must have been clear on my face for a helpful assistant hurried over to me.
“Isn’t this cardigan great?” she enthused. “You can wear it five different ways.”
I nodded politely, but inside I was shaken to the core. Cardigan? It wasn’t like any cardigan I had ever seen. If that bewildering swathe of material was a cardigan, then it must have been using a design adapted from alien technology or the ancient robes of an obscure origami-worshipping cult whose fabric-manipulating techniques have been hidden for centuries as these secrets were rightly deemed too dangerous and corrupting for the fragile human mind.
I found the assertion that the alleged cardigan could be worn in five different ways even more troubling. Was it meant to be clothing or the textile equivalent of a Swiss Army knife? What possible cause could a cardigan have for such pretensions to multi-functional versatility? When I get up in the morning in a bleary-eyed state of uncaffeinated confusion, the last thing I want is to be confronted by a garment that has multiple options for how it can be worn. I am barely capable of ensuring that whatever simple clothing I do put on is not inside-out or back-to-front. I don’t need things made more challenging. It’s not like I have a French lady’s maid to help me get dressed every day. Possibly if I did, then the notion of a versatile cardigan wouldn’t be so daunting. ‘Would you like me to arrange your cardigan in the Parisian swan or the coiffured poodle configuration today, Madame?’
I found that as I stood transfixed in bewildered horror at the mass of material that was reputed to be a cardigan as though I was a timid rabbit caught in the gaze of menacing predator, I did start to imagine some of the possibilities.
It had two enormous swathes of cascading fabric, rolling down the front on either side, like two tablecloths from the wrong side of the linen cupboard had affixed themselves to the shoulders of innocent knitwear during a torrid, static-electricity-charged encounter in the tumble drier.
In my confused state, I began to picture situations in which such a copious amount of seemingly useless fabric might become vaguely functional, rather than just a hazardous excess of flouncing material that was likely to get caught in machinery or car doors. I mused over scenarios wherein I was strolling through sunny meadows and picturesque parks with cheery companions.
“Gosh, what a lovely day,” one of smiling friends remarked. “I wish we had thought to bring a picnic blanket. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a picnic now in this nice, sunny, grassy meadow?”
“Well, it’s interesting you should say that, smiling friend, for it just so happens that my cardigan doubles as a picnic blanket,” I informed them. (I may have sounded a little smug about this but no one objected. My imaginary friends were greatly accommodating like that and, besides, they were all too impressed by the fact that my cardigan could transform into a picnic blanket to pass judgement).
My cheery companions clapped and cheered as I smoothed one of the plentiful drapes of my cardigan upon the ground, providing us with a spacious picnic blanket.
“This is great!” exclaimed one of my most enthusiastically impressed companions. “If only we had lashings of ginger beer and neatly cut sandwiches, this would be the best picnic ever.”
“Well, it’s interesting you should say that, enthusiastically impressed companion,” I said with a knowing smile. “For it just so happens that I have an entire picnic hamper filled with delicious treats, tucked under the folds of the other enormous drapey front part of my cardigan.”
“Hurrah!” declared my smiling friends. “You have the best cardigan in the world!”
“Yes,” I replied. “And if I sacrifice a goat to the dark lord Zargogh on the next full moon, then I shall get to learn the secrets of the other three functions of my cardigan.”
Unfortunately, my revelry was then interrupted by the helpful store assistant, inquiring if I wanted to try the cardigan on. I declined the offer. It was too intimidating a prospect. I knew deep down that I wasn’t ready for the mysterious complexities of such a garment. Whatever wondrous powers it might bestow, there would always been a hidden cost to be paid for dabbling with the dark forces of inscrutable fashion items.
More to the point, I couldn’t shake the fear that any attempt to wear that baffling array of drapes and ties would only result in some sort of hideous accident. The fact is that I am the last person who should ever be tempted to wear something with unnecessary dangly or drapey bits. I struggle enough with not spilling everything I eat or drink down the front of my clothes; I cannot imagine how I would cope with clothing that has frilly dangling parts that would eagerly plunge into whatever potentially staining substances are nearby.
The whole experience was nearly enough to make me wish I was a boy, or at least to start dressing like one. Men’s fashions never really seem to change that much. Once they have mastered the difficulties of doing up buttons and zipping flies, they can pretty much continue on in their lives, content in the knowledge that they are unlikely to ever encounter a garment they don’t understand.
Admittedly, at times they are expected to wear ties, and if my memory of the occasions when I had to wear dress uniform for school serves correctly, ties are chokingly uncomfortable and something of a nuisance to put on. Still, they have their benefits. I have been reliably informed by a Canadian gentleman that there is considerable pulling power to be gained by fastening one’s tie in a Full Windsor knot. I believe it was considered that the Full Windsor was the knot that ‘drives the ladies wild’.
I fear that no cardigan, no matter how versatile or perplexing, can boast such assurances. I find it hard to believe that anyone, male or female, has genuinely been whipped into a passionate frenzy of desire by the sight of knitwear, no matter how fetching the woollen garment in question. The cardy that launched a thousand pick-up lines? I doubt that very much.
No, let the cardigan remain as it was, and as it ever should be. A simple, humble item of clothing that’s worn with ease and comfort to fend off chills in colder months. Who would be so foolish as to wish for anything more complicated or troubling than that in the trusty, reliable cardigan?
* This is assuming that clothes stores haven’t had some evil conspiracy to plant some unfashionable stock in amongst the fashionable items as a cunning ploy to trick the fashion ignorant. Maybe I have been dressing in an appallingly untrendy way for years and fashionable people have been sniggering at me behind my back all along. “The fool!” they have sneered. “She has clearly bought all the uncool clothes that exist only to trick people like her into revealing their humiliating lack of understanding about fashion.”
**Yes, in case you’re wondering, it was a T-shirt.
*** OK, not entirely true. I could have stuck it over my head and pretended to be a ghost, but I have perfectly adequate sheets at home should I ever need to impersonate a Scooby-doo style poltergeist.