Recently I read a description in a style magazine of stylishly appropriate and inappropriate houses. Among the latter group was Henry Higgins‘ in the movie of My Fair Lady. (You know, the blockbuster with Audrey Hepburn making you feel fat and Rex Harrison making you feel dumb. That one.) According to the magazine, his was absolutely the kind of house YOU DO NOT WANT.
I think I read that statement over at least twice. Not want? What was wrong with Henry’s house? It was well staffed and well appointed with yards and yards of William Morris wall paper on the walls and lots of carved mahogany everywhere (except Eliza’s bedroom) and lots of books. What man in his right mind wouldn’t want to live there?
Then, as sometime happens, I hear my husband cough discretely behind me and I see I’ve overlooked the operative word here: man.
Women don’t want to live in dark houses full of mahogany and books. In a line that never ends, they want an army of their friends to come and jabber and to chatter and to tell you what the matter is with – well, with everything, really. And they want all this on an open floor plan, with plenty of light, stainless steel appliances, and naturally, a walk-in closet.
But I don’t see the point of a walk-in closet unless it is paneled in oak or mahogany, and you can closet yourself inside it. If you and your clothes, and your books, and your stash of red wine and perfume can’t make common cause in this “closet” on a slipper chair, with the cat purring on the beat-up oriental carpet beside you, and some Miles Davis on the sound system – what good is it? It’s just another repository for shoes.
Other times, although I never do go for open floor plans (open auditions for clutter, in my experience), I see the point of wide spaces and white paint and bouquets of flowers, but when I am in my Henry Higgins moods, all I want is the aforementioned claret and the quiet of the undiscovered tomb.
There are fragrances that go along with it, and two are my absolute favorites in the dandy A Rebours category, Floris 89 and Mouchoir de Monsieur. When I cross-dress fumically, I go right back about a hundred years. No 89 is mostly a darkly domesticated rose with a bit of wood along with the flowers. It’s as if your valet, who used to be your bat man in The Boer War, had arranged a large vase of crimson General Jacqueminot roses on the grand piano. It’s that sort of perfume, very civilized, and like a member of The Diogenes Club, not too chatty unless you get him started on the subject of his old campaigns.
Sometimes though, I like my dandyism to take on a French accent and this is when I wear Mouchoir de Monsieur. This Monsieur, he is a naughty fellow, he has been all over Paris and even in parts not generally seen by the public, or not generally seen by the public in public. But what do you want? He is French, after all.
I seriously love all the phases of Mouchoir de Monsieur. I love the lemon and the civet and the rose and the tonka bean dry down. It is simply a sinuous Louie Fuller dance all the way down to the last molecules whirling on your wrist. If I lived at Downton Abbey, I’d wear No 89, but if I got a grace and favor apartment at Versailles – like Colette* – I’d never stop wearing Mouchoir.
Oh well, not gonna happen. Most of the rest of the time I wear florals and my dreams are of the requisite pastel tint.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could closet myself with Pickering and the port and wallow in the atmosphere of a gentleman’s club.
*(Colette wore Jicky by repute, which is of course just the feminine version of Mouchoir de Monsieur.)