Our caustic correspondent in her culottes.
A funny letter (you’ll have to take my word for it as I’ve lost it) from a reader in Coleshill (wherever that might be) invites me to rewrite the history of leather and rubber and its popular appeal for naughty doings. He even thinks I might be capable of writing the sexual history of the world in my free time which he seems to think is copious and filled with boredom and ennui. (I see now why I lost the letter, I must have thrown it away).
Anyway, Swindon Mousewhistle (not his real name because I’ve forgotten that as well) offers me his theories beginning with Henry the Eighth who changed all the romantic concepts and showed that husbands no longer needed to bring home bunches of roses, boxes of sweetmeats or engage in enervating love play; all they had to do was to place an axe prominently on the bedside table. Then Sir Walter Raleigh invented the cigarette for afterwards.
According to Swindon, the idea of dressing women in leather only came in the nineteenth century when John Wayne and the American cowboys wondered what to do with all the skins of the moo-cows they have been driving in endless cattle drives across the plains in order to keep MacDonalds supplied with enough meat for their hamburgers. They failed, it seems, to sell the skins to the Indians who were too preoccupied with trying to get Custer, and there was a limit to how many pairs of leather boots the cowboys could wear. Then some genius hired Marlene Dietrich to wear a pair fitted with heels and when it was realised what she was really offering the boys in the back room, the leather tanning business never looked back.
This success story impressed the rubber planters in the next century who were looking for a means of disproving the theory that money doesn’t grow on trees. If they could get women to wear waterproofs, there would be no excuse for them to stay indoors when it was raining and that would stop them nagging their husband to fix the leaking tap in the bathroom. Unfortunately, the women saw through the plot and that is why most of them don’t like wearing rubber.
I hope I got the gist of your theories Swindon dear, if not write me again. I’ll try not to lose the letter this time.
If you are, any of you, really interested in understanding the feminine attitude to sexual invention and dressing for pleasure, there is not real shortage of reading matter. Let me start you off on a book with a not very inspiring title but well worth the £3.95 that the paperback edition costs. “The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500 – 1800, by Lawrence Stone (published by Peregrine books, who are part of the Penguin Books group) documents in marvellous, lively detail the extraordinary “swing in attitudes towards the individual and towards emotion that took place in Britain in an age which saw huge changes in religion, politics and culture.” (I quote from the blurb).
I won’t attempt to produce yawns by quoting from the amazing accounts of marriage in that period of history but simply advise you to study it in the light of modern manners and attitudes and you will see there is not much new. Nor is fetishism a modern psychological condition, as you will discover when you start delving into the subject.
I am deep into another book about my sex – The Weaker Vessel, by Antonia Fraser, and I recommend this too. For centuries women were regarded (by men, of course, but unfortunately also by a large number of women) as inferior to men on every level. Having inherited the ‘sinfulness of Eve’ they were considered as weaker – spiritually, morally, physically, and intellectually. Completely dominated by fathers and husbands, my sex were useful only for their child bearing capacities and their dowries. No wonder, in the reaction to this fiercesome regime, women today won’t just wear, or do, what their husbands demand.
I will return to this subject -better believe me -when I have finished my reading. I will also review some other recent works on the subject that are very relevant to our interests, especially if you want to try and understand why we will and will not, and why desires become compulsions and compulsions become addictions and fetishisms.
|From I.S. Moden in West Germany to whom I have written asking where he got the fabulous high heeled rubber boots.|
The realities of human sexuality are quite different from the legendary sexual olympics you read about in Harold Robbins (ugh!) and Ian Fleming and all those heroines who feel the earth move every time it happens to them. The awful, unnecessary unhappiness caused by sexual problems between couples (usually hidden because it is not so easy to admit one’s failure at what is supposed to come naturally) damages the relationship and is, I believe, a major cause of divorce. Men and women begin with such expectations, and when they are not fulfilled sex becomes a burden. Fear of sex, I also believe, is the cause of fetishism and the lure of leather and rubber.
Speaking of literature, I was very struck by Sarah’s Story when I read it. This was not just because it is a most remarkably intimate biography, but nowhere in the original, or in the edited version published in this issue, is the word ‘sex’ used, or any of those anatomical or medical words that proliferate these days in any literature on the subject. Sarah has managed, amazingly, to describe, in the most detailed way, her intimate relations with David without being offensive. At least, that was my reaction, and, having wrestled with the problem myself in my book, I admire her original prose style. I shall be most interested to know what other readers think but I regard it as a marvellous story.
IN THE SHOPS
Open any of the fashion papers, consumer magazines, or switch on the TV, and both leather and rubber abounds. I was pushed out to tour the shops and see what this vinyl, rubber and leatherwear was like, and I can give you my reaction with just one awful shudder.
First l saw a voluminous leather coat that was styled like a marquee. If you want one for the family (it comfortably fits four inside and two on top) then it can be obtained for £600 from Joseph at 6a Sloane Street, and they accept most credit cards.
Hurry along to Libertys, they are selling rubber raincoats put together by someone called Barbara de Vries who was clearly influenced by army surplus clothing left over from the Indian Mutiny. Ladies, if you are fed up with your husband nagging you to wear a rubbermac, then get one of these and he will never raise the matter again – or let you out the house to be seen in public. It is so clever the way they have made it look not a bit like rubber at all but crepe de chine. I won’t mention the price, it makes me feel faint.
Then there is Fenwicks who are selling rubber-looking macs that are, I suspect, completely porous, and even the sales assistant admitted they were not guaranteed waterproof. I should think not. Not one seam was taped and the slit pockets (unlined) would channel the rain cleverly down your thighs.
I saw lots and lots of shiny vinyl but the sewing was so bad, rain would go straight in without bothering to pause on the surface.
In the Daily Telegraph on October 1st was a picture of a raincoat – “a cheerful stunner in bright yellow ridged rubber with black/white printed lining of brushed cotton”. It was designed, I read, by the young British firm of Memento. It was at Browns at South Moulton Street so I went to have a gander. I wish I hadn’t bothered. The smallest size they had, they claimed, was a 14, but it was really an 18, and the shoulders began at my elbow. It did not really feel or smell like rubber and it cost £200.
Serena Sinclair finished her article by saing of that coat that it was “a stunner that should get you a taxi on any rainy day”. Wearing that coat, you’ll need a taxi to keep you dry as I am sure all the seams are going to leak water.
The same article also mentioned Barbara de Vries “huge classic black rubber coat which took all eyes at the Olympia fair of autumn clothes. This, like Memento’s yellow coat, covers all the long flannel and tweed skirts we’ll be wearing soon”.
Well, I won’t. These great ugly tents are not for me or for any fashion conscious woman. As for the rubber, you’ll be disappointed because it seems to be the new chemically treated latex that has been cleverly designed to give the waterproof qualities without any of the stigma of shine, smell or feel that – so I was told – the lady customers don’t like. Isn’t science wonderful. What, you don’t agree?
Face it folks, rubber as you know it and love it is going out. I have it on the authority of the Rubber Research Association, who recently had a trade show of the new rubbers. Waterproof they are (if properly made up into coats) and attractive they are, but I have a feeling that – even in the hands of a top designer who knows about raincoats – they won’t appeal to our readers. Probably not to me either.
I hope my old faithful SBR riding mac and my satinised capes last out.
Don’t waste your time looking at any of this current rubbish in the shops, and don’t waste your money on it. If I hear of anything that has been nicely styled, is well made and is storm proof, I promise I’ll let you know. But I don’t expect to give you any good news just yet. If you get any good news, let me know.