Friday, March 27, 2009

Take the Veil

Read a wonderful anecdote about Isabella Blow yesterday in Sarah Lyall's hilarious A Field Guide to the British.

Blow was the leading style visionary of recent times. Fashion editor of Tatler magazine, muse to McQueen and Treacy, she was instantly recognizable for her flamboyant millinery. I had the good fortune of seeing her in person twice--on one occasion she was wearing a towering pair of purple platforms, well before every girl on the street was tottering along with head in the clouds and blister remedies in handbag. The lady stood out, in the best possible way.

If only I had witnessed the instance Lyall recounts, when Blow met Nicholas Coleridge for lunch.

"She had once shown up for lunch with her boss, the managing director of Conde Nast UK, wearing a pair of antlers. When he asked her how she intended to eat, given that swooping down from the antlers was a heavy black lace veil that obscured her face, she replied, 'Nicholas, that is of no concern to me whatsoever.'"

EXACTLY. An object lesson in how to wear a veil. Do it as though it is the most natural thing in the world. But do it in the appropriate setting. A veil is correct for a funeral of course, but it is far more effective in jollier situations. Like a really swank cocktail party, where people are actually wearing cocktail dresses (the women, I mean). Or a late-afternoon tea, if you are ever so fortunate as to partake in one. Or a night out at a tremendous cabaret.

One thing about a veil that is important to know: it devastates the right kind of man. The wrong kind of man will have an impulse to mock, because he is made insecure by that which he doesn't know. The right kind of man rises to its challenge and will long to lift it from your face. As long as you're not wearing it with antlers.

(photo by Henry Clarke for Vogue Paris, 1955)


  1. Nicholas ColeridgeMarch 27, 2009 at 5:08 PM

    As a matter of fact this famous exchange between Issy and me took place not at lunch but at the British Fashion Awards at the Natural History Museum, circa 1992. We were sitting at the Vogue table underneath the dinosaur. Issy was wearing an Arab head-to-toe burqa, with the antlers on top. Hope that helps!

  2. Thanks so much for correcting the story, Nicholas, and, more importantly, for making it true.