Karina Chronicles

Salinger: Poet of Fashion?

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KD Crystal BIOCrystal Hammon is a vintage fashion enthusiast who blogs at Dressed Her Days Vintage. When she isn’t working as a writer, she teaches yoga, plays golf, sews and reads. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Is there anyone who isn’t salivating over a chance to learn more about one of the world’s most famous recluses, J.D. Salinger? As part of the hype surrounding the recent release of the David Shields/Shane Salerno documentary and book Salinger, Vogue published an article in September by yet another Salinger biographer, Thomas Beller. (Beller’s book is due out next spring.)

Beller says there are few writers more attuned to clothes, fabric and design than Salinger, whose work put New York department stores on par with the city’s central landmarks. The possible inspiration for Franny in Franny and Zooey, according to Beller, was Salinger’s sister Doris—an influential buyer at Bloomingdale’s during the 1950s.

See why Beller calls him “a poet of clothing” in this passage from Salinger’s Franny and Zooey

Franny was among the first of the girls to get off the train. Lane spotted her immediately, and despite whatever it was he was trying to do with his face, his arm that shot up into the air was the whole truth. Franny waved extravagantly back. She was wearing a sheared-raccoon coat, and Lane reasoned to himself, with suppressed excitement, that he was the only one on the platform who really knew Franny’s coat. He remembered that once, after kissing Franny for a half hour or so, he had kissed her coat lapel, as though it were a perfectly desirable, organic extension of the person herself.

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And then there’s this passage, which attracted my interest because it documents a moment in literature (probably the mid to late 1950s) when women started carrying Kleenex in their handbags instead of handkerchiefs.

“You want to use this a second?” Lane said abruptly. He was holding out a folded, white handkerchief. His voice sounded sympathetic, kind, in spite of some perverse attempt to make it sound matter-of-fact.

Franny: “Why? Do I need it?”

“You’re sweating. Not sweating, but I mean your forehead’s perspiring quite a bit.”

Franny: “It is? How horrible! I’m sorry…” Franny brought her handbag up to table level, opened it, and began to rummage through it. “I have some Kleenex somewhere.”

Franny wouldn’t hear of using Lane’s handkerchief because she couldn’t bear getting it “all perspiry.”

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Who has read Franny and Zooey? Not only does it have a spiritual undertow; it’s also loaded with fashion references. Fashion, fiction and faith—together? Sounds like a nirvana, doesn’t it?


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