After my husband heard an interview with Paul Rudnick on NPR in 2013, he went directly to the bookstore and bought me a copy of the author's then new novel, Gorgeous. He knows I'm a sucker for a good fairytale, but a good fairytale that includes fashion and humor -- that would get him bonus points! Since he handed me this gift (and a gift is truly what Gorgeous is), I've read the book three times and with every read through I get something different from the story. Today as I stood in the sunshine and wind at UC Santa Barbara, waiting for my eldest son to finish up the dreaded LSAT exam, I shed a tear as I read the last page. Once again I was reminded that anything is possible -- as long as one wears the right pair of shoes.
I have a profound affection for couture clothing. One t-shirt from Comme de Garçon will last a life time, unless, like me you decide to do your laundry because it's four in the morning and you're a young twenty-something aged girl who has arrived home from one of the many roving clubs that used to abound in Los Angeles in the 80's. Does anyone else remember them? God they were fun. I'm not tired -- I'm wired, so of course -- I decided to do my laundry.
No need to sort, it's all black anyway -- just toss it together in the washer and dryer. I pass out on top of the bed with my long braided hairpiece that was attached to my skull eight hours earlier by my English-hair-stylist-roommate. I laid face-up with my beloved Peter Fox black suede chunky high-heeled shoes still attached to my blistered feet, and my perfectly faded and fitted Levis denim jacket with the black faux fur collar trim tossed ever so decadently on the floor. My exhausted body was left wearing a heavily silver studded black bra, wide belt, short flared black skirt and funky (everything was always so damn funky) black leggings.
In the late afternoon, when I woke up I had a vague premonition that I may have placed my trés expensive black Comme de Garçon t-shirt in the dryer. With trepidation I crawled toward the evil machine and pulled out the half wet items - but my beloved t-shirt was not there. In its place was an imposter. A tightly woven infant sized version of what had been, for a year, my favorite piece of clothing, ever. Profanities spilled from my mouth as I reminisced about the day I had purchased the beloved t-shirt in London with every penny (and I mean penny) that I had saved for months from my tiny paycheck.
Tears burst forth from my heavily charcoaled eyes as I thought of the first time it had fallen over my body -- it was the most expensive piece of clothing I'd ever bought. The unbelievable feel of perfectly bred cotton. Thread with a pedigree. The simplicity of the cut and how it made everyone who was lucky enough to wear this item (or one like it) feel and look like a million bucks -- even if, like me they bought their lunch with luncheon vouchers and had to get up at four in the morning to light the flame under the gas heater if they wanted a hot shower by six -- because as a twenty something fashionista living in a tiny freezing basement flat in London, this was what we did -- and this is why I 'get' Rebecca Randle.
In Gorgeous Mr. Rudnick saw through our female armor. Eve was stripped -- her emotions naked. He saw past our bargain eyeliner and supermarket shampoo and conditioner and understood that we're all princesses wanting to escape from our dormant lives. He recognized our secrets and wrote about us so poetically, and with humor and realistic language. But he also shared the sadness of losing our friends to 'that truly repulsive disease.' That hit home with me. In the world of fashion in the 80's and 90's, we'd never know when we turned up for a shoot if news of another artist's death would be shared with us on set. It was so sad.
I hope that Gorgeous is in every high school library or better still that it is placed into curriculums across the globe because we all need to laugh more and celebrate the lives and bodies and faces that we have been given. And one day, when all of the hours that we women have spent waitressing, cleaning hotel rooms and toilets, listening to people complain, and been thrown up on by babies, well, maybe one day we'll get to experience the magical feel of a perfectly fitted little black dress. Please God -- if at all possible, make it a Chanel...