By Julian Wolf
I think it was early high school when someone first asked me why I wore velvet, silk (and their less expensive counterparts) year round. I remember replying without too much consideration that they just feel good. I then started to pay a bit more attention and realized that almost everything I owned either had a pleasantly tactile texture such as velvet, velveteen, silk, sateen, soft cottons, acrylic and poly blends and a variety of both real and faux furs and leathers. I tended (and still tend) to run my hand across racks of clothing until something feels nice, and then search for it in my size. Everything that didn’t fit into the delightfully tactile category were fancy dress, vintage and/or uniform pieces. I didn’t give it a lot of additional thought at the time, as I was far too busy being a teenager. Fast forward a few years and I find myself away from home, dancing our local club’s “Goth Night” every Thursday. Each week found me in either the obligatory next-to-nothing or donned head to toe in everything from suits to ball gowns. Many of my outfits consisted of little more than long silk scarves, frequently the same ones I wore tied around my neck other weeks. At some point in the early 2000s I was given the title of “Prince,” and while that was more related to my role than my clothing, my love fine dress coupled with hats and gloves became somewhat of a calling card. In all of this, I’ve found over the years that “dressing the part” isn’t just something you should do for job interviews, meetings and role playing.
The clothing that you wear can (and perhaps should) be both a statement as to who you are/what you’re doing, and a way to exercise your hedonistic side. I have found making statements with fashion worthwhile enough to integrate that intention into my lifestyle. While dandyism suggests a specific aesthetic, many of the delights of dandyism can be integrated into any style and presentation. It’s really all about the details. Is there a particular material that you enjoy? One doesn’t need to have the same level of fetish and fixation that “Venus in Furs” author and basis of the word masochism Leopold von Sacher-Masoch had with furs (and beautiful, cruel women in them) to enjoy tactile sensation. If you go look in your closet, chances are you have at least one “favorite thing” that you like to wear based primarily on sensation. I have a tee shirt that I’ve had since elementary school that I love wearing not only because of the pleasant memories, but because in its own age, it is incredibly soft. That softness is a frequent comfort while lounging about my home. On the opposite side, I have a scarf that my grandmother gave me that I’ve been tying into a cravat, wearing in my hair, using as evening scarf with suits or tying around hats for years, and not just due to its versatile color. I find the sensation of it around my neck or across my fingertips quite pleasing. In the days when I was working a mundane office job, I would frequently find an excuse to integrate the scarf into outfits so I would have an easy and subtle distraction on my most stressful days. The tactile reminder of more pleasant things was quite comforting.
For those of us given the opportunity, a pair of gloves can change a mundane experience to a private scene of sensory deprivation and management. I have a myriad of gloves, some purchased for their appearance, others for their warmth, and all for the wonderful potential that they hold both as fashion and hedonistic accessories.
As promised, each month I will be propositioning you with something that I hope will make your life just a little more interesting. Dear readers, let me propose that you take a moment to let your fingertips graze across the hem of whatever you happen to be wearing. Pant or skirt, shirt or sweater, glove or scarf, whatever you happen to be covered with will work. (If you are currently nude, let me suggest that you take a moment the next time that you don clothing to accept my proposal.) In that quick gesture, did you notice if the material is smooth or rough? Warm or cool? Are your fingertips quickly done with the process or are they tingling with the sensation? I propose that you now take a moment to really experience what your wearing. How does each garment feel and make you feel? Are you in clothing for work, play or both? Are you dressed for a date, meeting or something else entirely? With your eyes closed, imagine that you had gone to sleep nude and awoke to find yourself in these clothes- gently move and feel the material on your skin- could you guess what you were wearing even before opening your eyes? Are you comfortable or uncomfortable? (We don’t always dress for comfort.) Does the experience prepare you for what is to come? Taking a moment to experience your body in your clothing can turn any moment into a hedonistic wonderland.
Thank you to the generous Daniel Lee for contributing the photo, and using me as a model.