Cheap Clothes for Fat Old Women


AIARGHAKITA LASKI is the author of Toasted English, a book-length satire about the British Conservatives. The little article appearing below is reprinted from the New Statesman and Nation.


LTHOUGH the chief business of the fashion journalist is to find flattering alternatives to the phrase I have chosen for my title, the practiced wielding of a new and esoteric language has now become instinctive with her. I am not speaking of those copy writers in the daily press who offer Gowns for the O.S. Matron in a color range (nigger, saxe, eau-denil) that has elsewhere disappeared from the spectrum. My study is of the specialized grammar and vocabulary of the fashion writer in the glossy monthlies whose language, while representing the quintessence of glamour to thousands of women, must still be virtually incomprehensible to millions more.

Her grammatical usages really merit special research, and here I will refer only to my two favoriles. First, the Hypnotic Imperative—This season you will be wearing . . . reading... talking about . . . (The best example I ever met ran: Because it’s high summer you’ll buy a new aeroplane painted blue to match the skies.) Second, the Omitted Conjunction in descriptions of intellectuals— He lives in an old house in Essex, writes for Horizon, collects china cats . . .

But it is in the bold misuse of our contemporary vocabulary that the art of the fashion writer is seen at its best; and for those who may wish to penetrate into hitherto unexplored fields I append an all too short glossary. I should add that the abbreviation G.W. indicates a Glamour Word, extremely evocative in the righl context and of no real meaning what soever.

AMUSING: cheap.

BOLD: G.W.; e.g., b. backsweeping fullness.

BRIEF: very short in length; e.g., b. bolero, b. panties.


BULGE, UNSEEMLY: stomach fat.

CLASSIC: English garment (shoes, hat, suit) baroh susceptible to fashion changes.

CRISP: G.W.; e.g., a c. silhouette, c. touches of white.

DEMURE: (of hats and hair styles) those which symmetrically frame the face.

DERRIERE: but locks; e.g., tuck in pourd.

DIGNIFIED: (i) of women; old; (ii) of clothes: for old women.

DRAMATIC: virtually unwearable, but photographs well.

-EST: intensive used instead of “very”; e.g., palest gray, softest and finest worsteds.

EVERYWHERE: in a very few places; e.g., sable stoles are e.

FLATTERY: G.W.; e.g., the f. of mink, diamonds, orchids against gour skin.

FRANKLY: would be ugly if we didn’t tell you it wasn’t; e.g., a f. jagged hemline.

Fuzz, UNSIGHTLY: superfluous hair on the legs.

GENEROUS: (i) the designer is making nothing out of the dress length; e.g., g. cuffs; (ii) fat.

HAIRS, OBSTINATE or RECALCITRANT: the unwanted mustache; e.g., tweak out those o. (or r.) h.

HIGHLIGHT: a noticeable accessory. See also SPOTLIGHT.

HUGGING: tight; e.g., bosom-h., waist-h.

HUSKY: suitable for outdoor country wear.


INDISPENSABLE: G.W.; e.g., the i. pearl choker.

-IZE: verbal suffix; e.g., slenderize, glamorize, accessorize.


LIGHTLY BONED: of corsets (no corsets today are HEAVILY BONED).


MIDRIFF: stomach.


OLDER: (of women) old.

PUSHED: fabric fullness is pushed (occasionally pulled) to the back, side, or front; once arrived at the back, however, it becomes BACKSWEPT (formerly used only of vertically ascending hair).


SOFTLY: G.W .; e.g., s. rounded, s. draped, s. knotted.

SPOTLIGHT: to add a noticeable accessory. See also HIGHLIGHT.

SUBTLE: G.W .; frequently s. emphasis of . . .

TEAM: to wear one thing with another; e.g., t. pour palest gray dress with the subtle flatterp of a brief scarlet bolero.

THAT, THOSE: adjectives of distaste and eliminaIion; e.g., eliminate /. unsightly fudge, or, as above, tweak out t. recalcitrant hairs.

Finally I should, 1 suppose, give an example of the way in which my title, that epitome of tin whole thing, can be translated. A professional could, of course, do better: I offer Limited-Income Clothes for Dignified Maturity.

You see what a different impression you get right away?