Peg Bracken on Clothing and Luck

Peg“Now, you’re lucky if you care a lot about your clothes and how you look in them, or if you don’t care at all.

If you care a lot, you give the matter creative thought and regular, painstaking attention. You develop, gradually, a sixth sense which sometimes enables you to understand what the fashion experts are talking about. And you’re never caught with your hemline down and your only good gloves in your other coat pocket.

It is equally advantageous not to care at all. If you feel this way, you can wear your leather motorcycling jacket with your Tyrolean dirndl, ankle socks, and medium heel pumps, and feel perfectly happy about the whole thing. Areas of serenity are scarce enough anyway, and if this happens to be one of yours enjoy, enjoy!

It is the in-between person who is in trouble, the lady who cares only moderately, most of the time, and hugely sometimes. But— not having done her homework, so to speak— she is never exactly prepared.”

— Peg Bracken, from The I Hate to Housekeep Book, first published in 1958.  The above excerpt begins chapter 11, “How to Look as Good as the Lord Intended”

 

When was the last time you read a fashion magazine that DIDN’T feature some combination of leather jacket/dress/socks/heels? Bracken was ahead of her time.

Despite having read hundreds of books and magazines about fashion, I’m what Peg described as “an in-between person.” I spend hours pondering personal style’s merits and implications, along with collar height, denier, heel shapes, dart length, and so on… and then I scratch myself, yawn, and slap on whatever T-shirt still passes The Sniff Test“Doing the homework” is a pleasure. Doing the legwork, no. Just me?

As a side note, isn’t the title “How to Look as Good as the Lord Intended” magnificent? For my money, it’s right up there with Loudon Wainwright’s “Attempted Mustache.”

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Comments

  1. Oh, you and me both, sister. Hours of considering palettes and fabric drape and layering combinations and which boots will simultaneously function in a rugged environment yet make me look urban and pulled together. I wear jeans and one of three rotating cardigans 90% of the time. I never feel like I’ve filled the “holes” in my closet, even with detailed shopping lists, perhaps because of the disparate roles I play. It’s fun, though, to do the fashion blog research and find out what resonates with me and why. And it’s challenging to then wrestle with internalizing character qualities I wish to embody instead of merely costuming myself in them. (But I’m all for the costume, too, when it can be done.)

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    Rebekah Reply:

    Angela, I love everything about your comment. Sisters, indeed!

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    Rebekah Reply:

    Also, if we had a dollar for every time we’ve wondered “but what does this haircut/sweater/sock SAY about me?” we could pool our earnings and buy Denmark.

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  2. Augh, too true. Every visit to SockDreams is plagued with “would these thigh highs say ‘fashion forward’ or ‘childhood issues’?”

    Let’s start tallying those dollars. “Angela and Rebekah, co-owners of Denmark” would be a pretty sweet business card.

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    Rebekah Reply:

    … and how does Sock Dreams convince me that all my life is missing are NEW SOCKS?! How do they make socks look so good?

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  3. For me, it all depends on where my mental health is. If I’m depressed and experiencing related tiredness, trying to dress cutely can be really stressful, and I just want to be comfortable. Even if I know in my heart that dressing up could perk me up some, I can’t get past the actual making-it-happen part. When I’m not so depressed and tired, I really need to put together a future-outfit list so that I can pull something cute and comfortable without having to make decisions on the spot…

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    Rebekah Reply:

    You’re right, mental state changes everything. I tend to daydream about clothing and personal style to escape reality, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I know Sal swears by her outfit list, but I don’t have many clothes, and don’t relish the idea of mapping outfits weeks or months in advance.

    If you have enough clothes/accessories, you could put together a few future outfits some lazy afternoon and set them aside for tough days. Keep a whole outfit on a hanger, waiting to be worn when the time is right.

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  4. Mia! I have to tell you and Rebekah (for some reason the page isn’t letting me reply to your comment, so I hope you see this) – after all the Sock Dreams talk earlier, I actually referenced your SD thigh highs review post (we have similar measurements) before making another purchase. Thank you for that info! (The teal color of the Extraordinarily’s looks much darker in the stock photo compared to yours, that helped, too.) Also, hello, nice to meet you. :)

    So, Jaunty…the power of suggestion won this round. I’m doing a thorough I Want People To Take Me Seriously sweep of my closet to remove the things that aren’t helping me out in that area. I guess I wanted to retain some sock-based joy in all the culling…? I will update you on the quantifiable joy once the socks arrive.

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    Rebekah Reply:

    Angela, I’m sorry about the screwy reply button. I’ve never figured it out. Mia’s a great Sock Dreams model, isn’t she? They should hire her, she’s had me pondering thigh highs for a long time.

    Good luck with the closet sweep! I want to hear all about it someday.

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  5. The comments are as funny as the post… I love it, and wish I could have Peg Bracken round for dinner! I think I’m one of the people who cares enough about clothes (and is generally pedantic enough) to do research and sew on lost buttons, and therefore feel OK about my wardrobe. However I am also plagued with a feminist sense that I shouldn’t care so much. Is it a failing in my deeper self? Maybe I don’t have a deeper self?!

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    Rebekah Reply:

    Carina, having read your entire blog archives this week…. yeah, you don’t need to worry about a lack of depth. If you wouldn’t apologize for enjoying paintings or nature, I see no reason to feel bad about enjoying wardrobe/adornment.

    I say that, but I know how you feel. I can gaze into the middle distance and ponder clothes/fashion/adornment for hours. You still wouldn’t guess this to look at me, but I’m improving; I finally started laying out my outfits the night before, and it’s prevented a heap of Sniff Testing and general sloppiness.

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  6. Thanks Rebekah! After all, why should we listen to ancient nonsense about clothes and adornment (read: women’s stuff) being inferior? Dressing is an art form, and we don’t need to be ashamed of it.

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    Rebekah Reply:

    I wonder if/when the pendulum will swing and men will dress to the nines again…. Until then, more pintucks, buckles, and fine fabrics for us. Or, you know, jeans and T-shirts, because times are hard.

    “Each species needs a sex that’s fated/ to be highly decorated/ that is why the Lord created men.”

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