Friday, July 4, 2008

One can't go to work in a caftan


"This is the caftan. The style we see most frequently originated in Morocco, and it's a natural for the older woman, whether she is as thin as Gloria Guinness or as well-endowed as TV's Maude. One can't go to work in a caftan, but for entertaining at home, or dining out or at resorts, it's unbeatable. A caftan is almost as flexible as a dress, in that it can be as simple or as formal as you want. The lines, the shape of the garment is where the enormously feminine flattery lies... In a caftan, one is well-covered but still very soft, very feminine-looking, with a hint of mystery that is attractive to men. I love the flow of a caftan as well as the great range of fabrics and styles."
--Pablo Manzoni, Instant Beauty (1978)


Sadie Stein just wrote about working at home in Muu Muus, and the "business costume" she wears to impress. I don't even own a costume anymore. I should put that on my building-a-wardrobe-that-makes-sense list. On the rare occasion that I need to look like a Modern Career Gal, I usually head begging to my sister's.

When I write at home in the warm months, I'm usually in a dress because it's one step. This year I can't stop wearing several linen tunic dresses (tunics, caftans, muu muus-- all in a genre). When I go out, I sling an extra-wide leather belt around my hips.

A little makeup definitely makes me feel more put together, and since I am indeed nearly, "as well-endowed as TV's Maude," I enjoy bras, but the most important thing is shoes. I rarely ever write barefoot and ballet flats don't really do it; I need a bit of a heel. I have a pair of cork wedges that are good for writing. They slip on with just one red leather strap, and are quite high.

In the winter, thing get less glamorous around here. The heat in my old, rambling Brooklyn apartment is... uneven. I layer on as many ancient, pilled cashmere sweaters as it takes. Upon once finding me in this state, my ex commented, "How old money of you."

I bought my winter writing shoes five years ago while spending time at an arts residency in Connecticut. That May was not as mild as the weather I'd packed for, and my assigned studio was across a span of wet grass in a charming, but "unevenly" heated barn. I shopped the sweet, small town's limited resources for something to keep my feet warm and elevated above the dew. I was finally reduced to PayLess, where I found my still-cherished Writing Clogs.

They have a thick, two and a half-inch platform of hard rubber with a deep, gripping tread. The upper is faux brown suede, and they are lined in faux brown fur. They are so (faux) woodsy and solidly delightful. Clomp, clomp, clomp across that field, and now up and down the long hall of my apartment. Turns out it isn't the glamour of a heel that makes me get down to business, but only the height.