01 December 2021


I cannot find another reason to post this lovely portrait than one out of love for beauty. It came from the NYT a few months ago, I snagged it off the screen then put it on my desktop.

I look at it with curiosity because I begin to see all the relationships that this designer had  going on in this dress. First of all, it is just so visually striking in every regard that it appears, like all greatness, to possess a unity of proportion, texture, colour, design, and purpose. It is at the very height of its craft and a metaphor for so much more with its delicate ruffled sleeves, and those rich yellow polka dots spread out over the chest like wild daisies. Everything speaks of the flower, fragile, tactile, handle with care! The drop from the waist whispers of something chaste, innocent and young.  

But without a doubt, it also evokes the Colonial aesthetic of America's antebellum past, light and darkness, enterprising but fraudulent, inventive and inhuman. This dress reminds me of the black slaves themselves, who served their white masters with far more dignity than their masters deserved. And because slaves had nothing but hand-me-downs from their owners, they resorted to invention by creating much out of so little. American slaves, in the face of such indignities, rose up to make the best of their tragic situation. This dress possesses so much of that spirit. As they say about life when in difficulty "When you get lemons, make lemonade". 

These days white Americans don't realise that Black Americans gave so much more than they ever took from America. It reminds me, as a white man, that some of its richest cultural legacies come from the Afro-American experience. And I could certainly go on and on about this but I promised a faithful reader to try to keep these ideas brief.

But I haven't said anything about the simple, unadorned beauty of this model, especially because she compliments the dress. Her shy pose is also a hint to the past, slightly subservient, gently awaiting instructions, fragile like a flower blooming too early in Spring.

I have no idea who designed and created this as I didn't save the article sadly. Was it a man or woman, or someone in between? (as one must acknowledge these days) Was it a person of colour or white, Asian perhaps, or some beautiful mix of the two, or three even? Of course this only matters for context in the worlds of fashion, economics and socio-political spheres. But for me, as a painter, it is just sensuous  and, dare I say simply "beautiful". Yes, when I see the craft of beauty like this, it gifts me a feeling of some optimism for a future in this world, one all too often ruled by the ignoble and crass.

All this, and more, has the designer revealed to me in this dress. So, to celebrate this first day of December, here is something to remind of us of Springtime which is but a few months aways in reality.

No comments:

Post a Comment