Friday, October 24, 2008

With apologies to the lovely Ms. Pratishtha Durga, who's weathering temperatures in the mid-90s in Mumbai and would like a crisp autumn day; it is freezing here in New York. Unseasonably so. I'm shivering, drinking hot cocoa and thinking seriously about cold weather novelty.

Now I appreciate a light, glittery snow on Chanukah, and while it's fun to layer up, and even dig out the furs and pretend I'm an extra in Doctor Zhivago for a month or two, come January I am majorly sick of winter. And filled with dread about soldiering on through 3 more months. In mid-winter the subways are plastered with ads for getaways to Tahiti. Huge photos of white sand beaches and relentlessly sunny skies loom over the commuter landscape of florescent lights and wet wool. And I think: why must Tahiti mock me like this? I need winter novelty just to cheer me up. And I start with a scarf.

Sinuous ink and plump fountain pen nibs. Just click on the photo to see it larger. Aqua and purple are absolutely one of my favorite color combinations, and adding the black and white illustration, it's very evocative of the mid to late '70s. Charming black and white fountain pens and quills, some dripping purple ink, arranged unsheathed and ready like swords. A genie bottle of ink spills, missing the ink well entirely and leaving the ends of the scarf awash in purple. Not silk (silky acetate), but I'd be willing to forgo good fabric for this print. Not inexpensive, but worth it. It's for sale here. The pattern repeats at both ends of this enormous scarf (13" by 56"! My evening gowns are only 51" long from shoulder to floor, this scarf is practically as long as I am tall.) so no matter how you tie it, everyone can still see the print.

That's the real issue with scarves. Now I love scarves. I am devoted to them. I am usually wearing at least one. Sometimes a scarf and a shawl (even though that might sound like wearing a belt and suspenders, I can assure you it's not). But they can end up being for private viewing in the confines of my closet. I have so many thrilling scarves, but once they are tied around my neck you really can't see the print. You can't see the bluebirds in autumnal trees. Nor the Victorian men in top hats in row boats. Nor the entire Egyptian Book of the Dead. Nor that there's the galleon on fire surrounded by buoys, compasses, fishnets filled with starfish, telescopes, lobsters, sextants, the pole star, and symbols for the entire zodiac. (Yes, those are actual scarves I have. Although I did exaggerate a bit with the Book of the Dead, it's really an excerpt, but wouldn't the whole thing be amazing? A scarf with the entire text would need to be about the size of a sarong though. Then, I'd want another scarf with the entire Tibetan Book of the Dead for good measure, and maybe another printed with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and one with the entire text of the Geneva Convention, just in case I end up a prisoner of war. Then maybe a survival scarf: one printed with instructions on how to build a fire and send smoke signals, just in case I survive a plane crash on an ice covered mountain top. An ounce of prevention, as they say.)

I know the print is there, tied around my neck, peeking out of the folds of fabric. I suppose I could feel smug about it, but instead I'm constantly untying the whole shebang to show people whose eyes glaze over with disinterest. I guess I'm the only one who wants to see it.

Now and again I see Vera's scarf tying book on eBay, perhaps I should invest (and I am devoted to Vera scarves and prints). I seem to remember the title as something like: 52 ways to tie a scarf. (But perhaps I am thinking of Wallace Steven's 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird? Or perhaps one of Sondheim's list songs. I generally have a mixture of Wallace Stevens and Stephen Sondheim on the brain.) Though I know quite a few knots (did spend some time in France, after all), I found this website truly helpful. Yes, it's Brooks Brothers' website. Shocking, I know. But check out the lovely nautical, equestrian, and fishy novelty print scarves our preppy model is tying about her throat. (The prep aesthetic can yield some great novelty prints, the secret is to pair them with psychedelic prints in similar color ways, then they really pop.)

Here is another beauty available from the same seller. This one in silk.

I have been longing for a book print forever and this one would fulfill a lot of my needs. Any mix of red, powder blue, mint and goldenrod is bound to pop my rockets. I love that the placement of the books is not uniformly vertical. I also love the objects that are displayed on the shelves: the small clocks, sturdy jugs (or are those trophies?) and delftware. I'd wear this one with tweed and wellingtons.

If I could make all my dreams come true, I'd have several library dresses, and the books' spines would be legible. I'd have one dress with books in Latin, Greek and Arabic. I'd wear that one with this book scarf as a cravat, a tweed blazer and a pocket square with a photo print of the Rosetta Stone. I'd have another library dress with favorite feminist authors. You'd see bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Judith Butler on those spines. And I'd have a magazine clutch purse. But instead of some faux fashion magazine, it would be a vintage cover of Ms. Magazine, or Mother Jones or ... some other magazine created entirely from my imagination(hey, maybe I could arts and crafts one of those with a little paste and patience).

Then Marxist-Leninist library dress, in Russian, would be hilariously retro, paired with a Soviet chess master tournament lapel pin. Then a Magical Realism dress: a 70's style polyster shirt dress with a photo print of bookshelves with Gabriel Garcia Marques, Alejo Carpentier, and Mario Vargas Llosa's novels collaged with huge brilliantly colored butterflies. A Proust dress: photo print of a few pages Proust's orginal handwritten manuscript, also on a polyster shirt dress and a cravatte printed with Madeleines.

Whoah. I just went to some magical place there.

Much more economical, though equally gleeful, is this Leslie Faye scarf. Leslie Faye has some terrific 70s prints. I have a couple of Leslie Faye dresses that I adore. It is truly an under-appreciated label.

And here are a few museum scarf goodies. I am a sucker for a museum scarf. Go here to see a beautiful Chinese opera scarf from the Museum of Shanghai. All silk, and a mere $12.99. The images are copyrighted or I would show them to you, of course.

This Christo scarf, showing Christo and Jean-Claude's designs for The Gates in 2005 has sold, alas. But the designs and the traffic-cone orange curtains caught in the breeze would make such a great winter scarf. Christo and Jean-Claude know just how dreary New York is in February and The Gates sure cheered me up that winter.

This Egyptian scarf has sold as well. And it was also made by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lovely, yes, but I often wish that whoever decides which museum pieces would look good on scarves didn't always make such safe choices. Why not a scarf of Picasso's "Guernica"? Any of Anna Mendieta's works? Banksky? True, the folks with the wampum to shell out for silk scarves usually aren't fans of Ms. Mendieta nor the elusive stencil artist. But with a scarf tied around your neck and the pattern mostly-obscured, wouldn't some rich folks relish the subversion of it all? After all, Spartacus and I were at a MOMA benefit where M.I.A. performed "Paper Planes" and I have an indelible image of white dudes in tuxedos singing along.

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