English Version | If I leave the house, I’m not staying in

20 Jul 2022
By Carolina Queirós

The glamour of past summers, this mood board constantly in construction, still remains one of the great mysteries of our time, and one that makes us permanently wonder about the recipe to the absolute chic, or what they were putting in the water during the decades that justify this description. We went back in time, in the first tense.

The glamour of past summers, this mood board constantly in construction, still remains one of the great mysteries of our time, and one that makes us permanently wonder about the recipe to the absolute chic, or what they were putting in the water during the decades that justify this description. We went back in time, in the first tense.

The doors and windows are open, the white linen curtains fall still from where I hung them, and there isn’t a single breeze in the air. Outside, you can hear in the background, the buzz of the crowd, the street bands, and the clinking of glasses and cutlery on the overcrowded esplanades. The air is dry and torrid, fed only by the rhythm of the countless languages and dialects that fill it, tired of praying alone for rain when the rest of the world delights itself. I feel a drop of sweat running down the curves and counter-curves of my back, which runs and disappears while I difficultly try to read the last pages of a book that I started on purpose for the occasion. Everything is prepared. It's summer in the city.

Now, let’s brace ourselves. Although the aforementioned description does not intend to illustrate this particular season as paradise on earth - it is not always so -, we can safely say that more than dizzying temperatures, summer carries the responsibility of being (by far) the time of year for which humanity lives in the most permanent wait. It is in it that we choose to place all our collective need for escapism, adventure, for a life in the awareness of the infinite possibilities that the sun and heat can represent. The portrait of past summers is a carousel. Every year it seems to stay the same while simultaneously they become something entirely different, leaving behind new memories and aspirations in between, as each year turns and passes. However, in this back-and-forth, nothing is lost, but much is transformed.

The very particular way in which summer fashion was lived, say, 50 years ago, had little or nothing to do with what we see today. The first point to consider is how different the social norms were back then. Very succinctly, we seem to have gone from the notion of personal neatness, taken so many times to exponents of madness during the times of this recent past, to the obsessive mixture of a cult of our own personal image that we almost forget to apply in everyday life. I will explain. The way we take care of and present ourselves to the world has undergone severe mutations, and so many of them are motivated by a need to project who we are (or parts of us) online. The endless amount of photo editing apps and filters on social networks can verify it. At the same time, the gap between this attempt at perfection and the way we go out on the street has never been greater. Although there is a minimum standard that society has taught us to keep as “decent” to allow peaceful coexistence (and avoid the risk of fines for indecent exposure), a minimum that has been present since Man came out of his cave and realized that, in the harsh light of day, one has to make an effort, the pressure that was previously encapsulated in the term “presentable” has significantly decreased. It’s easy to discard the rigidity of formality that used to be required when walking around with your shirt uncovered to go to work, or wearing sports clothes to do the grocery shopping, which was absolute impossibilities. However, we have lost what can only be described as the charm, the glamour, the real chic that is dressing to go out in the only way that supports the expression, “If I leave the house, I’m not staying in”.

Add a teaspoon of hellish temperatures to the mix, and we have the perfect cocktail for the exponential climb of the Havaianas per square meter ratio, whose clicks on the heels of those who wear them have the power to drive just about anyone crazy. A blue-sky day with temperatures above 15 degrees is enough to raise the question of how come we collectively agreed that from the first half of June to the second of September, it was a good idea to dress as if we were, forgive my bluntness, constantly on the way to the beach. Theoretically speaking, one could argue that this more or less general trend stems simply from the need for a more “relaxed” lifestyle, less prone to “frivolous” and “superficial” anxieties, as many consider to be the case when it comes to the glamor codes of summer that we immortalized in past decades. Those same ones that still make us dream of Saint Tropez in shades of deep blue, with Alain Delon and Romy Schneider in La Piscine (1969), with three weeks on the Riviera, and Linda Evangelista in a beret and striped culottes on a beach in the Hamptons. In reality, it’s nothing but symptomatic neglect. We no longer relate to the intellectual effort that is needed to be able to take the summer “seriously” as far as Fashion is concerned, especially due to the delicious association between this season and being on vacation.

In a time not so long ago, going on vacation to the south of Spain, the Amalfi Coast, the Greek Islands, or Albufeira, implied a lengthy thought process and wardrobe preparation that could be equated with any true form of meditation. Going on vacation in itself was a luxury, a costly privilege in terms of resources and time that few were able to enjoy - we were still a few decades away from low-cost flights at 10€. It was precisely this need of the so-called jet setters to escape the routine of a known place, that inspired the Cruise or Resort collections, created by Madame Gabrielle Chanel herself, over 100 years ago. The idea was simple, and I dare say that in the official calendar by which the industry rules itself today, the timing of these proposals makes perfect sense: an intermediate collection, between the main autumn/winter and spring/summer presentations, which aims to inspire the style of a “getaway”, especially in search of more favorable temperatures and atmospheric conditions. Acting as true style capsules, the essence of a Cruise collection has evolved far beyond a simple early introduction to summer collections and has allowed the great Maisons and couturiers to open the doors to other worlds and places from which it is always possible to channel inspiration. From the predictability of the European Rivieras, we flew to Cuba with Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel in 2017, we dreamed of the California heat in San Diego with Louis Vuitton for the 2023 proposal, and we danced with Maria Grazia Chiuri in shades of crimson red in the Plaza de España for the latest Dior collection. More than excellent holiday destinations, the choice of location for the presentation of a Cruise show implies the awareness that there must always be (or at least should) a connection with the local savoir-faire, with the history and culture of a place whose beauty deserves to be recognized.

But whether it was to travel, spend the day playing cards in the shade, or enjoy a book that you never had time to read before, the summers of old are immortalized in the memory of those who lived them as a time of distinction, a particular form of belle époque to which one always returns with some nostalgia, because they were times well lived – and well dressed. Admittedly a 90's baby, I'm not at all the best suited to offer a first-hand testimony of what it was like to experience the glamor of a past summer like the ones we’re discussing here, at that time when the value of Fashion was measured more by the beauty of inspiration behind the pieces, and not just for the value written on their labels. However, I'm one of those incredibly lucky people to have a grandmother I can call and ask about things I haven't experienced – a grandmother who, by the stroke of fate, is a very elegant woman, who has been following the evolution of the fashion industry for 60 years, and who worked all her life as a seamstress. I remember several instances in which, between stories and conversations about different subjects, she would add small comments that would reflect her sensitivity to recognize the sartorial details that passed under the radar of the rest of the world. “Yes, but Mrs. Graça was always very elegant, with the flared dresses that she had made with three-quarter sleeves. She was a woman who didn't believe in having to roll up her sleeves to do anything.” Or “No wonder your jacket is piling, São Quiqui is the only one in town who can find the right tweed for that cut, the rest will always shred to pieces.” From an early age, I got used to looking at clothes with different eyes because of her, because she learned to recognize the traits of high-quality Fashion under the light of the sewing machine in the ateliers, between Portugal and the United States, creating made to measure pieces for clients who commissioned her the most desired trends of the season. “We didn't just make clothes for weddings or christenings. At that time, every season, we had requests for entire wardrobes, or for key pieces that were meant to be worn over and over again, and not just for a few hours. The ideology was completely different because people wanted to feel exceptional at every moment, whenever they walked through the door to leave the house, came rain or sunshine.” I thought to myself that some of the motivation for this level of composure and excellence when it came to wardrobe glamor was perhaps due to the feeling that people would be judged more by others if they didn't make the effort. “People today judge in equal measure, maybe even more, they just follow different rules. Fifty years ago, more than wearing this or that logo, people wanted to be appreciated for their elegance, for the intelligence behind a well-built silhouette, which molds and elevates the body to the best of its versions. Your generation's reasoning is biased, kids today make an effort to dress well almost just because they are afraid of being judged. You just wait until they discover the adrenaline of wearing a unique piece of clothing made just for you.”

We were getting somewhere. The relationship between personalization, the idea of made-to-measure, and ready-to-wear tailored to each individual's idiosyncrasies, seemed to take a central place in defining what it means to be truly chic. But there had to be more. Spinning around in my head I had a carousel of images that I keep as my most precious references, from Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot to Jan de Villeneuve and Claudia Schiffer, the series on the beach by Peter Lindbergh, Paul Newman in a Cadillac convertible to arrival on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, or Susan Sarandon on the balcony of the Majestic in 1978. It is not exclusivity in itself, although it applies to the experiences that give context to these references. The look we're talking about implied something I still couldn't decipher, an intangible quality. After a break to properly express how much we admire Susan Sarandon, a point that naturally needs no further explanation, the eureka moment. “These people you're telling me about had what every customer calling me late at night to ask for this or that piece was looking for: the haute couture attitude, even when they're wearing ready-to-wear. The basis for everything is that the cut must be correct, the fit is the heart of glamour, but this remains just a means to achieve what gives meaning to everything else, and which becomes a true source of inspiration: confidence. knowing that at that moment, your look reflects the best version of you, your more confident, more naturally elegant side. The primary concern should be to preserve an attitude that you identify as irrevocably yours, personal and unique. That’s what, in the end, gives life to what you wear.”

It's true what people say, that it's important to talk to the grandparents we have in this world, whoever they are. The people we have near or far and who, almost without realizing it, keep within themselves the superpower of teleporting us to other worlds, with all the emotion and sensitivity of someone who speaks in the first tense. I don't think we'll ever be able to arrive at a formula of colors and lines, or a cut-and-sew equation that will make it easier for us to decode the attitude that creates what we call true glamour. In the absence of a one-way ticket to the other side of the world to discover it, a little introspection might be more than enough.

Translated from the original on The Sunny Vibes Issue, from Vogue Portugal, published July 2022.Full stories and credits on the print issue.

Carolina Queirós By Carolina Queirós


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