Or I could go out that door in the dearest pair of white go-go boots with lime green fishnet panty hose and an Op Art minifrock in psychedelic swirls of purple and orange and a white plastic space bonnet with a Lucite visor. I could go out that door in a black leather biker’s jacket with a 3-D illustration of Saint Francis of Assissi swen into the back and lined with an old British flag and a stretch miniskirt…
Or I could step out in the neatest brown tweed New Look suit with a cream silk blouse and Peter Pan collar and matching cream suede gauntlet gloves and a patent leather pocketbook slung over my wrist and a brown felt turban with a big pearl hatpin stuck into the side and look for all the world like a Sunday school teacher going to a revival meeting.
commentary: I cannot imagine how I missed this book first time round. I was alerted to it by a recent Twitter exchange, where some of my good friends there were all enthusing: Sarra Manning, Marian Keyes and others. It’s not that well-known – Marian K described it as ‘the book you love that no one you know seems to have heard of, let alone read.’ But you’d think I would have come across it, because the book and all the characters in it are obsessed with clothes.
It is a hilarious sendup of New York life in the 1980s, where Reality Nirvana Tuttle is working as a doorgirl at a club: she is the person who sneers at the waiting crowds, and decides who can come in. Based solely on appearance. She is a glorious creation:
I can be vamp, tramp, flapper, mod, postmod, Pop Art, disco, retro, rococo, go-go, gypsy, new wave, new romantic, New Look, Carnaby Street, Cossack, Bonnie and Clyde, directoire, debutante, existentialist, belle epoque, buffalo girl, baby doll, Barbarella, punk, post-punk, Pre-Raphaelite, even preppy if I want to, which is almost never.‘I’d wear a miniskirt in a snowstorm if I felt like it’ she says, giving me the opportunity to feature one of my all-time favourite blog pictures:
[It is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ie weather archives, shows a storm in Manhattan, and has the popular title ‘Miniskirt in a snowstorm.’]
Reality wanders through the book starting a nightclub, annoying her neighbours, looking for love and enjoying her clothes. There is a plot but there’s not much point describing it. The point is in the glorious descriptions of her life and her clothes, and in moments such as the one where she decides to get a tattoo of the Chanel logo:
“you have to suffer for fashion,” I tell Freddie as we are walking uptown afterward.
“Well in that case why did you beg her to stop after the first C?”…
“I’ll draw the other C in pen. When the bleeding stops.”
Reality has the winning combination of total self-awareness in some areas and a total lack of self-awareness in others. She is a creation of genius.
I loved this book, and hope – as seems the case – it is going through a revival. There must be many people like me, just waiting to be enchanted by Reality’s adventures.
And I’m keeping this short(ish) so as to cram in as many pictures of great 1980s outfits as I can… mostly from my own collection of fashion magazines of the era.
And thanks to the friends who so rightly recommended it to me…
I wanted to caption this one 'Get me the Fashion Police immediately', but of course this was 1980s, and no-one had a mobile phone. She is merely considering the possibility of a new tattoo...