All my life I’ve enjoyed poring over old photographs of Mum and Dad back in their salad days. Like Fr Brendan, I’m too inexpert to editorialise about women’s fashions but I do know these two things are true: women are still expected to make an effort and, second, the modest dresses ladies wore in the rationing-afflicted 1940s were more flattering than the creations most women will ‘wear’ to the 2023 Melbourne Cup. As for the men, the less said the better. Only a few have a clue – unlike even working class men of yore. My favourite era in the old photo albums, style-wise, was the 1940s and 50s. Mum made her own dresses then but looks like a star.
Star Trekisation doesn’t help, aesthetically. Millions are now forced to wear hi-viz – whether or not they’re realistically in danger of being squished by a pantech – or crummy uniforms consisting of a company logo stamped on a Chinese-made polo shirt. Beauty and mystique are becoming luxuries for an un-vizzed beau monde that – unlike young Mum and her friends – has cultivated too little of either to draw from when it actually matters. There’s an ancient saying in theology: ‘Lex orandi, lex credendi.’ The way we worship is what we believe and who we are. ‘Clothes make the man’ – vestis virum facit – is a cousin to the axiom no more than once removed.