Where a Man Goes to Become a Gentleman

Fashion and I intersect at the crossroads of “I half-wish that I could do that, but haven’t got the interest, the money or the time to really try it, though maybe I ought to wear more belted dresses.” I do, however, love fashion photography, particularly the old Hollywood glamor shots and some of the more contemporary underwater photos, but my interest peaks there. And here, at a fashion blog run by Scott Schuman called The Sartorialist.

In one of his recent posts, Schuman describes a store in Brussels full of canes, cufflinks, fedoras and all manner of high-class (if somewhat forgotten) male fashion paraphernalia. He describes it as “the kind of store where a man goes to become a gentleman.”

That got me thinking… where would a woman go? (Not where would she go to become a gentleman, but the rough equivalent of a cane-and-suspenders store. Ahem.)

When I started this blog, I made a conscious effort to avoid topics that would prompt comparisons to Carrie Bradshaw, the fictional sex columnist/protagonist in HBO’s Sex and the City. Sex made up a large part of what Carrie discussed, and I doubt we’d intersect there. (Ever since Paul Theroux said, “There’s a lot of self-revelation in the way a writer describes sex,” I’ve been terrified to try it. I do not want to self-revelate in that manner.) Many of Carrie’s musings could overlap with mine, though. She talked about making her way as a writer in New York, balancing passions with necessities, understanding herself enough to know when things were right and when they were wrong.

For instance. There’s a scene in one episode where her toilet breaks and she struggles to fix it. Her boyfriend ultimately rescues her, a poignant moment because it’s the last thing he does before they break up. I was reminded of this scene today as I struggled to put two air conditioners into my apartment windows. I finished the task with two stubbed toes, sweat drops on my glasses, one trembling tricep and a stream of curses. Would I have liked a man to do all that for me? Sure, but what I would have liked more was another pair of hands, just to help. As a modern woman, it doesn’t have to be all-by-yourself or doublemint twins. There is a middle ground. It’s right where the window comes down onto the top of the AC box.

I saw a media screening of the new Sex and the City movie last week. I described it afterward as “offensive, shrieky and trite — with cute hats.” I won’t get too involved in reviewing (not getting involved being the most SATC thing I could do), but I will say the characters felt like shadows of their former selves. The four women in this movie were stick figures compared to the Rubenesque goddesses they used to be. Their situations, dialogue and problems were lacking in zest and intrigue. (Not sex, you might note.)

It’s as if the writers forgot the character’s depth. Or maybe the girls lost their way to the shop where they became women. I wish they hadn’t, because now I’ll have to find the way on my own.