Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Queen of the Cannibals

There are those who do not know the difference between ostentation and extravagance. Ostentation in fashion happens to people when, according to Emily Post, " matter what the fashion of the moment may be, are always too elaborate for the occasion; too exaggerated in style, or have accessories out of proportion. People of uncultivated taste are apt to fancy distortions; to exaggerate rather than modify the prevailing fashions..."

Certain amounts of extravagance are perfectly acceptable. I enjoy my glass of port before going to bed....or that piece of chocolate cake after dinner. But extravagance can become dishonest if carried beyond one’s income.
"The woman of uncultivated taste has no more sense of moderation than the Queen of the Cannibals. She despises sensible clothing; she also despises plain fabrics and untrimmed models. She also cares little (apparently) for staying at home, since she is perpetually seen at restaurants and at every public entertainment. The food she orders is rich, the appearance she makes is rich; in fact, to see her often is like nothing so much as being forced to eat a large amount of butter—plain."

And I like my butter...should I switch to margarine?

No. Beautiful and valuable items are extravagant for most of us. Not in the sense that they are overdone, but in the sense that they are meaningful. My collection of vintage clothes may be extravagant, but it is a collection, something of value to me.

Emily Post describes extravagance thus:

"To always to wear new gloves is an extravagant item for one with a small allowance—but scarcely vulgar! A laundry bill can be extravagant, flowers in one’s city house, a piece of beautiful furniture, a good tapestry, each is an extravagance to an income that can not easily afford the expenditure. To one sufficient to buy the tapestry, the flowers are not an extravagance at all.
To buy quantities of things that are not even used after they are bought is sheer wastefulness, and to buy everything that tempts you, whether you can afford to pay for it or not, is, if you can not afford it, verging on the actually dishonest."

It is so refreshing to read that wastefulness was not appreciated back in 1922. Just as the war made people realize that luxuries can be taken too far, so too our recent global recession has scaled back our tastes. Sales in luxury goods are down - not because we do not like them, but rather, is it necessary?

Well, if you insist on buying that ballgown, just don't wear it to breakfast.

John Galliano's Christian Dior's 2007 Fall Couture Collection


Lemondrop Marie said...

I love reading old Emily Post's ideas and rules, they still keep us thinking today about how we conduct ourselves. Lovely post~

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

Ms Post was quite advanced for the era that she wrote in....all applicable to today's times and all so true. I promise, I won't be wearing my ballgown to breakfast!

Noble Beeyotch said...

The great Emily again....she does sound like a very reasonable and mature woman!

Keith said...

This was great. Thanks for sharing it with us. I hope you're having a wonderful week.