SOMETIMES, when I want to examine
the fabric of my life, I inspect the sartorial content of my wardrobe
where my suits and jackets hang like battle banners with which I have
fought and run away and lived to run another day.
Here is a
Clackmannanshire tweed suit, the tailoring equivalent of "Clyde built,"
which descended the cutters’ slipway in 1959, in a pattern favoured by
old-time bookmakers and music hall comedians, constructed, in a cloth,
reinforced, I believe, by steel wool and built to last, like the national
flag, a thousand years, the battle and the breeze. With it, would go my
Officers’ Mess dress tie of the Third Squadron, Albanian Bicycle Lancers.
in what is termed, "cavalry swill", in Sudan sand brown, is a suit of
dashing military cut, issued to me at an Army demob centre and in which I
still could, if so commanded, form into column of threes and change step
diagonally on the march. Topping that would be the walking-out neckwear of
the Tsarina’s Own Rasputin Rifles or, more appropriately for me, the
field-service grade tie of the Royal Army Mobile Stationery Corps with its
motif of crossed pens on a background of paper-clips, two sergeant clerks
rampant and its battle-advancing motto, Non Sequitur.
two time-warped suits, formidably double-breasted, heroically buttoned and
with trouser turn-ups that gathered more dust, fluff and matchsticks than
a vacuum cleaner in which, tightly-wrapped as a rolled umbrella, I bore
down on the flinching ranks of Scottish girlhood at Edinburgh dance halls
and, trying them on, metaphorically, for size, asked them if they would
care to slip with me into the next unseemly grapple.
looking as if confronted by an erratically-moving, black worsted beetle,
answered cuttingly that they had long-standing, pressing engagements with
other partners while others, regarding me as an off-the-peg,
run-of-the-mill shaky mover, resignedly went through the gyrations of the
waltz’s double-spin scissors’ lock with shoulder-pad-clutching variations
or the button-thread and bra-strap-straining sinuosities of the exhibition
I regarded these suits, with their reinforced
gussets, as in-valuable, not just for decoration-al but also for
protective purposes as on occasions like rugby club dances that were not
so much movements set to music but more like games of water polo played in
I have had other suits that formed my "Sunday best"
en-sembles which made me and others similarly clad, look like
stiffly-bound hymn books and some that seemed specially constructed for
office executive boardroom battles, with heavy lining, probably
stab-in-the-back resistant, and deep breast pockets, so useful for storing
dining-out bills in expense claims.
I have holiday suits in
travellers’ check and seersucker and, of course, several sports’ jackets -
what sports wearers are supposed to engage in, has never been clear - that
have all the allure of a peat bog but are probably resistant to any
destructive element except a direct hit by shellfire. It is, however, my
older suits that have pride of my tailoring place - garments that were not
picked off mass-production hangers and nipped and tucked afterwards, but
carefully-crafted by muttering tailors and cutters, in a flurry of pins
and needles and chalk marks on cloth, to produce, after three fittings,
almost a second skin to cover one’s peculiar contours.
suits, and even production-line ones, are, in my cut on the bias view,
statements of authority, probity and social responsibility, designed to
make the wearers blend tastefully into the broad cloth of civilisation.
are, therefore, not to be scorned, as is reportedly happening in London
and other British settlements where at clubs and bars, suit-wearing city
gents, reputed to be loud, rude, often drunk and aggressive, are being
buttonholed by bouncers and told to leave. De rigueur are expertly-torn
jeans, professionally distressed T-shirts and factory-fragmented, limited
There’s a silver lining behind the dark serge
shining. Many British and American companies are ending "dress down"
Fridays for staff because they are said to be bad for morale and produce
an adverse effect on customer relations. Casual garb will be replaced by
I believe that anti-suit, fashion Fascists will
swiftly become turncoats when the smart, and mostly well-behaved set take
their custom elsewhere. Meanwhile, I will keep a single breast of the
times and continue to suit myself.