A month or so ago Mnet Star (my favourite TV channel by far for its devotion to offbeat and mainstream classics) screened Out of Africa. I watched it every single time it came on that month, so taken was I by Meryl’s exquisite colonial wardrobe and the epic romance that develops between her and the free spirited Denys, played by a dapper Robert Redford.
If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour. It is truly heartbreaking and oh so beautiful. The true story of the life of Karen Blixen, a Danish woman that moves to Africa to marry, Out of Africa is a visual archive of early 20th century style. An arranged marriage to a man she does not love, and who is happier off hunting with the locals than back at the homestead, Karen soon swaps her prim lace, silk and skirts for more hard-wearing linen and leather. As beautiful as her dresses are – elaborate, embellished and full – the transition is just the best. Structured shirts, wide-brimmed hats, men’s trousers and other masculine trappings – ties, boots, blazers and bandannas. The change is symbolic of Karen’s reclamation of her independence, and a statement against her philandering husband.
I love the idea of clothing being a visual metaphor for how one is feeling – how colour plays such a role in the way we perceive people, and how we wear certain things around certain people. It allows an element of dress-up to exist in day-to-day dressing. And it shows how powerful dressing can be.
I recently posted Lina Plioplyte and Ari Seth Cohen’s short film, Advanced Style. In it, one of the women says that people treat you differently when you are well dressed. I thought that was such an interesting and a true statement. It is often said that very beautiful or good looking people get treated differently – whether in a more or less favourable way. It follows that the way you clothe yourself will also have an impact on how you are treated. I really like that idea.