Sunday, November 18

Tough Love From The Costume Designer For 2001: A Space Odyssey

In 1964, British designer Hardy Amies published The ABCs Of Men's Fashion. It was recently reprinted by V & A, and writer Julian Keeling fondly remembers having been given the book as a teenager.

His slim volume was a masterpiece of essential information, peppered with learned observations, withering put-downs, factual accuracy, arch and bitchy humour and decades of knowledge, all based on the premise that "a man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them."

Of particular delight was to have all my prejudices confirmed. The heading for "Shorts," for instance, simply contains the instruction "see Beachwear." Under "Trouser Cuffs," he has written one sentence: "You can't have any."

Similiarly, he comes down heavily on short-sleeved shirts, which are "ghastly": "In extreme situations, you may roll up your sleeves, but never above the elbow." And again on certain types of hosiery: "It is impossible to be elegant in thick socks" and "pale-coloured socks are right out."

He also offers useful advise for those with other-than-standard body shapes. The short man, he insists, should always strive to be dapper and wear "neat, smooth, well-proportioned clothes. He should never allow what little space given to him to be cut up by patterns in design or contrasts in colour."

To the fat man he offers the following advice: "If you are vain enough, as I hope you are, to read this book, surely you can be vain enough to want to make yourself less fat." He suggests, helpfully, that they "eat less."