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I was going through some old boxes full of oversized Hypercolor sweatshirts and Nirvana concert tees when I unearthed a mint J. Peterman catalog from 1994. I was overjoyed. I had saved it because I couldn't believe that someone would actually write the ridiculously ornate descriptions that accompanied the clothes. I remember reading it in my kitchen and thinking, "No way. No effin' way is someone serious about this." For example. Read this selection from the description above:


A small village on the French coast. Not a shop. A private jumble of swords, velvet chairs, sepia daguerreotypes, ancient taffeta dresses. Uncut emeralds scattered on a tabletop.


Three extraordinary hats, suitable for coronations.


A small black-haired woman with amber eyes, an enormous sleeping white cat. Not much patience with my foreign French. I point to an incredibly detailed cotton dressing gown, gold with age.


It goes on to detail Indiana Jone's quest to attain the alluring dressing gown even though he finds himself distracted and maybe even falling in love with the equally alluring, mysteriously protective, cat-loving gownkeeper. Wow. Pardon my French daguerreotype - but it's just a fucking nightgown. No one is going to take you Out of Africa just because you're wearing it. I feel kind of bad for the people that long for that though. They just want to go back in time.


This next one was my favorite. I had to include the text in its entirety.






He was a physicist (famous) at the Sorbonne. She was a young student, she was brilliant, she had ash-blonde hair, she was the "woman of genius" he'd longed for.


Intimate conversations about crystallography led to bike rides, picking wild-flowers, marriage, then years of backbreaking experiments.


(At night, they would turn off the lights in the laboratory and watch their discovery glimmer, phosphorescent blue, in tiny glass dishes...)


She was devastated when he died: "Your lips, which I used to call greedy, are colorless...it is the end of everything, everything, everything." But she continued the work. For both of them.


A second Nobel Prize to add to the one they'd received for isolating radium. One hundred and fourteen other decorations and titles.


Madame Curie's coat. Cotton laboratory worker's coat of odd, precise French design (curious breast pockets for burettes, densitometers, pencils?). Very narrow notched collar. Below-the-knee length. Back vent. Two flapped front pockets and two side-seam pockets. Worn open over a dress or jeans, it contributes a rather bracing sense of purpose.


Women's sizes: S, M, L, XL.


Color: Sun-bleached Black. (The only color she wore after losing Pierre.)

Price: $172



Oh my gosh. So romantic. Who was it that told me Madame Curie's notebooks are still so radioactive they have to be stored in lead-lined boxes? That coat should be glowing and deadly!

I think I should stop there. The passages are so rich they have a kind of numbing effect if you read too many of them.

You know, I get it. They set a scene. You're supposed to be transported to a magical world where you go on safaris and fly around in biplanes or something. Clearly, the consumer is buying the entire nostalgic experience, not just the nostalgic garment. Some people just want to walk around pretending like they're in The English Patient and I get that. What I loved thinking about though, as I tucked my J. Peterman catalog back into its time capsule, was what it would look like if they tried to pay tribute to my Hypercolor sweatshirt, fifty years from now.



INSERT STRIKING WATERCOLOR LIKENESS OF HYPERCOLOR SWEATSHIRT HERE


A humid gymnasium, the scent of Malibu Musk fills the air. Gerardo. Nelson. She lingers by the vending machine. It's glowing like a ruby in the antechamber. Her bangs are immobile, but her sweatshirt is not. It's changing, visibly. Like Monet's playful brushstrokes, its purple hues are giving way to pink. She's sure now. He's going to ask her to dance.






3 comments:

whitney said...

Oh I do love a curious breast pocket! It looks like a lab coat that someone not-so-gracefully dyed black & ran over with a car.

caitlin said...

Seriously. I keep thinking that it's kind of like buying a Halloween costume. Which just reminded me that you bought Jimmy a Ghostbusters costume for Halloween which in turn reminded me you are the coolest person ever.

Emily said...

Caitlin, I am so glad you have updated. I love to read what you have to say. Thank you!