N.B. Here is another guest blog by the Manolo’s friend Sarah, who last time posted about the Shakespearean Stockings
The Manolo and I have had a bit of email correspondence, from time to time, on the entrancing subject of la nostalgie de la boue—longing for the mud— wherein otherwise apparently sensible people spend a few thousand dollars on clothing that appears to have been grabbed from the rag bag moments before being used to shove into a gap that is allowing the fierce winter winds to penetrate one’s attic garret while one burns blog posts to keep warm.
At the far end of the scale from this is the formal, mannered, perfect-in-every-detail, extensively focused on cravats and crinolines kind of style that, for me, is all about the movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel…
…and Grace Kelly, in Rear Window.
Somewhere in an erotically-charged sweet spot between the two extremes though, is the delicious notion of déshabille—careful carelessness, artful artlessness, delicately tousled perfection. This is where poetry lives. And poetry lives here because déshabille is all about suggestion, implication, nuance, and detail.
Déshabille is what inspired Robert Herrick, one of my seventeenth century poetic darlings, to write his poem “Delight in Disorder.”
A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.
Déshabille is that moment in Guys and Dolls when Sky Masterson tells Sarah Brown that she’s “all buttoned up…except for one button.”
Déshabille is this, the most famous of moments in the literary history of the shoe :
Déshabille is not, however, this: