Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Feb. 9, 2006--Letter from Manhattan Beach


I feel I should write something about the way people dress around here. After all, I'm living near the epicenter of the glamour capital of the world. But this won't be in detail or at length because what I know about fashion was learned going through stacks of sale items at Kohls and, long ago, with side effects still waiting to bloom, looking at the bones in my feet through the x-ray machine in the Sears Roebuck shoe department at the 63d and Halsted Street store in Chicago.

I limit my observations to women type people because male dress continues to be relentlessly uninteresting. Leather, camo, cascading utility pockets and zippers up the gigi just don't dazzle the eye, at least not this observer's eye.

Saturday morning is Double V Day in MB. Everyone, en masse, is out in their very best velour or velvet exercise outfits. It's a virtual sea of pile out here. I would estimate, and this is just using the designer garments that passed my table in the "Founded in 1963" (see Feb. 7 Letter) last Saturday between 9 and 10:30 a.m., that if you carefully cut this never ending train of garments at the seams some twelve year old in Bangladesh spent hours putting together, you could outfit a very large billboard into a framed quilt of plush that would keep three or four "Elvis on Velvet" artists busy doing their thing for days. The rainbow of colors of these pieces, which run from dusky desert dawn to jet afterburner heliotrope, would be a challenge. So would those silken stripes that flow across shoulders and down the sides of legs. But in the hands of the right artists I'm certain these problems in the materials at hand could be turned into inspired details of realism. You know what I'm talking about. We've all seen photos of the late in life Vegas Elvis.

Footware is a whole other world. Rhinestone flip flops are big. And so are feathered flip flops. Don't forget beaded flip flops. And stenciled, inked, crocheted, and finger-painted flip flops. Painted toes abound--tickled and tortured by rubber and leather strapped accoutrements defying imagination. The possibilities of what can be done with the lowly shower shoe seem endless. At least the end hasn't shown up here.

Finally, what really catches the eye in regard to women's apparel are the handbags, or whatever they are called today. Long ago in a land far, far away we used to have the "purse" and the "pocketbook." Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the great historian of women in colonial times, has written about the power represented by the small pouch containing items related to their daily work that women carried about with them as they did their chores in the late-17th century. This tradition continues, at least this is what I am told, in those secret places within today's bags that hold cell phones. I, however, cannot personally attest to ever having seen a cell phone around here returned to the inards of a handbag.

There is no doubt that the bags are works of art, and probably come with price tags to match. Michaelangelo's shop of artisans would be working day and night on these things. If Rembrandt were alive, "The Night Watch" would never have been executed, all of his work would be on totes of varied sizes and shapes. Paul Revere's silver shop in old Boston would be polishing studs and intricate clips and smoothly functioning hinges and flashing bangles with an unbelievable ferocity. Commerce and art happily wedded.

And who the hell makes all of those sequins? I haven't seen that many shiney scales of plastic on women since Busbey Berkely movies were colorized.

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