I’m very good at sleeping. I can sleep for 12 hours straight. Or even more. But apart from my bed linen I don’t place much value on the way I Iook in bed. A t-shirt and boxers, that’s it. Sometimes the colours don’t even match. I blame my mother for that.
You see, in 1980, I was 12 at the time, my parents and I travelled to the United States to visit friends in New York and San Francisco, and as it was quite a hot summer we spent a lot of time in all kinds of air conditioned places, department stores being on top of that list. Saks on 5th Avenue has many floors but I remember only one, the one with a man’s nightgown by Christian Dior. Out of day and time, yet on display for me. It was hanging there on its hanger, white with thin grey stripes and looked like it belonged to a young English gentleman, Edwardian on top of that. I was deeply attracted to young Edwardian Englishmen at the time as I had just discovered Saki’s stories. I was pretty sure Bertie van Than and Reginald would wear exactly this nightshirt. And its being by Christian Dior was the icing on the cake. But iced or not, I didn’t get that cake. For some odd reasons, I couldn’t convince my mother that I needed this nightshirt. I never recovered from that denial. I am traumatized. This explains my complete désintéressement as far as looking good in bed is concerned. We look best naked anyway. My cat is proof of that.
In November, 2002, I was severely broke. Actually, that’s nothing worth mentioning as I am usually broke, I have Saki’s Comus Bassington as a role model, and he drove his poor mother Francesca mad with his overly extravagant Edwardian lifestyle, mostly because she had to pay this extravagance’s bills, all of them, until she’d had enough of it and sent him to the colonies, to some God forsaken place really far away, I’m panic-fuelled when I think of it. Anyway, as I said, I was really broke, too, that month. Hermès, however, its Hamburg flagship store beautifully situated on my way home from work, didn’t care about that at all, and put a ring in their windows that made me stare at it for some twenty minutes, time enough for reevaluating if food was actually necessary, it seems to be causing all kind of diseases anyway, obesity, at the worst, and I had already given up all Châteaux that call themselves Grand Cru Classé en 1855, and switched to some of these Cru Bourgeois, they are quite drinkable actually, especially when you can’t distinguish a St.Émilion from a Côtes du Rhône, happened to me once, true story, when I decided to pull a Comus Bassington, meaning, I convinced my poor mother I couldn’t live without that ring. And so my poor mother paid the bill, I still have it. It’s a lovely memory. And I am still wearing that ring, in fact, I have never not worn it since November, 20, 2002. And most importantly, I am still waiting to be sent to some God forsaken colony far away by my poor mother …
It was a page that I didn’t turn, the one in W. Somerset Maugham’s novel “On Razor’s Edge” that had his narrator guess who designed his hostess’ elegant dress this time, this time being an afternoon in late 1920s Paris. Lanvin or Chanel? The dress turned out to be by Jeanne Lanvin on the following page, but I had already drifted away, to a world where Coco Chanel was alive and kicking, where I, the 14 year old that I was, was strolling through Paris, from couture house to couture house, stopping at Cartier and Goyard, sniffing my way from Guerlain to Caron, not buying, just looking, with my coral cigarette holder, the one I knew from Saki’s unbearable Bassington, wearing one of the exquisite shirts I had borrowed from J. Gatsby, and with a best buddy next to me, some partner in crime, like Sebastian Flyte’s companion Aloysius, a teddy bear friend, serving as alter ego and advocatus diaboli at the same time.
F.Scott Fitzgerald, W.Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, and Saki – these were not only my favourite authors for their exquisite stories, but more importantly, these refined guys introduced me to style in such a convincingly romantic way, that I was changed for life. Mousey will confirm all of it.