I just finished a great book about clothes in general, and the restorative power of fashion in particular, called The Thoughtful Dresser--The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant. In the chapter "To The Shops" Grant writes about shopping in a way that struck a chord with me. A few gems:
"Shops, like cinemas, are dream factories. They sell glamour and illusions and unfulfillable desires. We see the goods, but most of them we can't have, yet it is usually enough to be among them, for a few hours."
"The point, for me, is to be in proximity to clothes. To see the things that are in the magazines. To gain some understanding of fabric, texture, and color."
"I think of shopping methodology as the difference between hunting and gathering. To be in the shops has nothing to do with shopping, it's just going to take a look, and this is the true pleasure of what appears on the surface to be shopping but is more akin to spending an hour or so in the National Gallery, wandering from room to room and educating one's eye."
"And last of all, the shops are free. Inside them, those glittering cathedrals of beauty, as long as you're properly attired, you are welcome."
I went out to the shops in Soho this weekend with a dear friend of mine. I spent all of $2 on a fabulous homemade peanut butter cookie, with peanut butter filling, at The Treats Truck, a truck with baked goods that drives around from place to place in city and sets up shop wherever it parks. Here are some of the shops we visited: Jack Spade, J. Crew Men's Shop, Meeka Meeko (jewelry), Louis Vuitton (Update: the $6,200 bag I wrote about here and want to visit should be in the store mid-August). We also went to A Second Chance Resale Boutique, where I got to see one of my ne plus ultra bags the Hermes Kelly, in red box calf leather, 32cm, gorgeous gorgeous, $4,000. I asked the saleswoman about the bag and commented that I'd seen others like it online, also secondhand and about the same price but with far more scratches. Her response: "Those can be polished out. It gets better with age." She laughed. "I'm telling you, it gets better with age."
She was in her late 50's, I'd guess, and in that laugh and that sentence, eminently quotable, I couldn't help feeling that she: 1) Had an Hermes Kelly of her own, and 2) Was talking about much more than a bag. All of which made me: 1) Want to own a Kelly more than ever (hey, a girl can dream), and 2) Want to get older (did I just say that?) to discover what, exactly, she was talking about.
To the shops indeed, where little mysteries of fashion, retail and life are revealed to me.