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Déshabille | Manolo's Shoe Blog


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

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Straight Up Pimernelin'

…and Grace Kelly, in Rear Window.

Grace Kelly


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 :


By mistake she kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take?

Déshabille is not, however, this:

The Olsens

A wealthy urchin in her night shirt

Got it?

9 Responses to “Déshabille”

  1. Amna March 30, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    I love a post like this. Art,cinema, fashion and a hipster urchin.

  2. venus velvet March 30, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Followed the link and wound up ordering the 1982 Scarlet Pimpernel dvd from Amazon. Can’t wait to see it. Thanks for the elegant food for thought.

    • Sweetbriar March 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Watch the original on netflix (or outlet of your choice.) Oh, to be loved as Leslie Howard loved Merle Oberon. He set the bar very high, indeed.

      • venus velvet March 31, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

        Looking forward to a contrast and compare…

  3. erik nabler March 31, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    Sometimes the best, and most subtle deshabille is merely a careless lock of hair, slightly out of place, adorning an otherwise perfect look.

  4. gemdiva March 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Oberon and Howard in Pimpernel = Perfection. “Is he in heaven? is he in Hell? That damned elusive Pimpernel”

  5. gemdiva March 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Please excuse the abominable grammar in previous post. It’s been a really rough day.