The Boutique as a Sartorial Temple

By Alex Roest

Can the quest for sartorial perfection be taken seriously ? I wrote in my review of The New English Dandy about how the level of perfection of one’s everyday outfit could provide an inner calm no religion could possibly give.

A charging statement obviously, but what kind of ideology would the adherents to this alternative liturgy propagate exactly ? Hypothetically speaking of course…..
Well, it would very likely be aimed at overcoming the prevalent fear of looking even remotely formal which has taken on diabolical proportions.

We will explore some basics first, as one does in any serious study, to finally reach a sensible conclusion. It’s all about structure in the end.

So where did it all go wrong ? During modern times those who could afford it would always dress for the occasion, which meant changing several times a day.

The idea still works today

A most appealing thought, albeit more of a distant, subconscious common memory really. It was only just before the second World War that things had begun to gradually change. The younger generations wanted to free themselves from having to follow the existing conventions and had already started to dress more casually and loose. After the war, with the idea of egalitarianism, the first signs of sportswear being worn out of context ( on a larger scale ) also became apparent. Probably during the late sixties or early seventies ( depending on where you lived ) the need for people, or adults anyway, to dress more or less formaly most of the time ultimately evaporated. The definitive caputilation to the youthful and sporty mood of the young was there….

If you thought of yourself in any way as ‘hip’ you didn’t want to be mistaken for ‘The Man’.

You didn’t want to be associated with his ilk

If I would have to summarize that change in attitude I’d put it like that. Without assuming for a sec matters were no more complex than that. What followed was the age of experimentation ( for good or for evil ) which would result in drifting further and further away from traditional smartness as a norm. Apart from pockets of resistance that wouldn’t have any of it this notion took a permanent hold on the average person’s dress sense.
I take it that every style conscious body will be aware of the current situation when it comes to schmutter, so I will leave it at that.

It seems we have now reached the point where hardly anyone is able to recognize the simple beauty of looking smart for the sake of looking smart alone anymore. Pragmatically speaking it is still understood there’s a necessity to ‘compromise’ for business, weddings, funerals and court appearances but alas, that’s not the same thing !
If we’re talking ideology discipline doesn’t have to be a hindrance at all though. i.e. Applying the frame of mind where a certain uniformity is required as a starting point for adding subtle individual notes in private situations too.
This can work astonishingly liberating if one is willing to cultivate that slumbering tendency within their very soul.
I’m referring to the attire so inappropriately dubbed as ‘Casual Smart’. Not to be confused with throwing on expensive, labelled clothing without any care or thought behind it during evenings or weekends, preferably topped off with scruffy barnets. I mean the pared-down version of what’s generally seen as The Look by those ‘In The Know’. Some would call it Hard Dandy….

This unusual ensemble works in a very individualistic manner only. A true Stylist….

The clothes shop that has an informed an innovative approach towards selecting their gear is still called a boutique in my book. This brings us back to spirituality and the conclusion of this humble essay.

Religion has always used artists to get a particular message across and so the window dresser can play a similar role. Clever colour-scheming as well as other subtleties and attention to detail may work their way into the hearts and minds of the possible converts passing by. This is a part of the ‘mission’ that’s not to be underestimated. Even better if the images presented in the shop window succeed in luring aspiring dressers into the sartorial temple the boutique can be, if it so desires.

The ‘mission’ can be further completed through the sheer enthusiasm op the assistants, the true missionaries of the cult of threads. In other words : they’re in a perfect position to set an example (and thus teaching classic style or how to ‘rock’ one’s clobber in earnest) by looking smart in a traditional sense, with a contemporary slant. Their playfulness and imagination will appeal to the young (at heart) if carried out spontaneously rather than contrived or manufactured. i.e. Breaking rules, if need be, in a clever and educated manner with an (again) understated overtone. It can be as simple as that really. If you’re still with me that is….

I’m sure most cities will have a little shop like that where the aspiring dressers congregate. Now will those modern dandies eventually go to heaven, or have they already created their sartorial valhalla here and now ?

To be continued…..

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