22 OCTOBER 1954, Page 20

The Why-Not School of Fashion

By E.' ARNOT ROBERTSON WHY not wrap a man's woollen scarf—oh, so casuallY —round the shoulders of your strapless evenial, dress, by way of contrast ? Why not use rows of small paper-clips, as the French do, to decorate the little black frock without which. . . . ? Why not gild fir-cones ? WbY not make a summer hat into an amusing wastepaper basket, and a wastepaper basket. . . . ? Why not, indeed. cligi Iits I never see phrases starting with those words without a pang of anxious guilt. Are they all my fault ? Did I start something which now, I suppose, cannot be stopped ?

For two frustrating years in my early youth I was fashion editress to a pair of London periodicals. Eventually I was sacked from both. No one could ever have deserved this morn. I can't imagine why they waited so long to get rid of me and put in someone whose interest in clothes went further than the personal art of disguising her own worst points, whieb is as far as mine has ever reached. I was so passionately bored, writing about garments which I had to go and see, but had no desire to own, that I began inventing colours as I distraction. ' Bruise blue' was one of them, and I was mildlY gratified to see it reported in someone else's column, three weeks after its birth in mine, as worn by a well-known actress. But this sort of thing palled when I started writing my first novel, mainly in office time. I loathed interrupting the shining joy of composition to visit collections of haute couture. 00 press day the comp's boy would appear at my elbow while I was scribbling away at my chosen work, to say. ' Five more lines on the fashion page, please, Miss.' It was then I dir covered, irresponsibly and with great gain to the novel, the uses of why-nottery. It took no time at all to fill in an inen or so of that, and obviously no one could require me to go out and see the results of my ideas. As I was only making suggestions, they couldn't exist yet. If other- women had anY sense, they never would.

But after my small success with ' bruise blue' I have never been sure that women's sense was anything like 100 pet cent. reliable in this way. Now, every time I see somebody I dressed up in a manner which defies other explanation, wonder if some weary fashion writer, of whom I am spiritually I head with vicarious shame. Instead of artificial flowers the bodice, why not have one of those ornamental bunches leathers, cunningly cut to look like flowers ? ' That was I mine, but I saw it in print the other day. Soon I may see c feather-flowers themselves, and feel awful. If only I kit is not, of course, only clothes that can be affected by 'INiot journalism. As a free-lance, I found Tomato Lapkins °filable. (This was after I had been sacked. It seemed a tY not to use my hard-earned knack occasionally to make °neY, so that I could afford to go on writing books which ,ed not sell.) In all those papers which can be thought of 'lectively as ' Woman and Woman,' there ,are columns how to what is really a horribly significant social subject now to waste time, for those who can't be bothered to read, lot for more than five minutes at a time. Tomato Lapkins e wonderful that way, each takes at least an hour to make, 1 you produce them in sets. You can give them to your l'Ildn, too. ' If you are thinking of having a cocktail are rtY. but find the expense daunting, why not give your guests 111,410 cocktails served in a new way ? You can make these just as festive as other drinks by presentin them on nlato lapkins, which you can. . . .' These are tiny mats two coloured linens, red and green, shaped like a tomato 11.(1 its stem, with a leaf adhering. The foliage is especially j eakY. Requiring no end of tiny stitching. And there is 9 ming to stop you adding another leaf, to make one or two tio set different from the rest, when you have absolutely kling else to do.

NIa further article I suggested—why not—what to do with things if your friends unaccountably grow tired of tomato vi,e, and you don't need so many lapkins. (Presumably they 41 have drifted away to other cocktail parties, where the 1lor is harder, and have no intention of returning, so that gi will be quite safe in disposing of the mats.) Cut rounds biPtly larger than a penny, I said, out of the-tomato-coloured I's. Then cut rounds slightly smaller than a penny out of rain old lampshade, and stick (a) over (b), to make such 1, c'vely new-looking lampshade. Just the thing (this I didn't 1 3 -‘31 tO brighten up a room into which nobody now comes. starthut undoubtedly it is in connection with the female clothes teen in linen n the streets today that my responsibility—if I am in ka1 way responsible—must lie heaviest on my conscience. k're!Y if ever, in history, can they have been uglier. Those ii:t1111-slim skirts round non-pencil-slim hips, those pipe-stem bie,lis bulged out by stalwart, womanly thighs—they are part ish the contemporary scene; no one can avoid seeing them. ii,.eY are much more generally depressing than lapkins or ;11'lliing made out of them. After all, if people don't like t„°111' cocktails they needn't come to your house and observe iv4r knick-knacks. But if you go about out of doors decorated gording to the suggestions of someone whom I have remotely "Lueoced, thousands of people will have to put up with the 11"1 of yqu. 14,1.1 anyone can assure me that the why-not school of fashion fling existed before 1930, I shall be so grateful.