I was recently sent a copy of Hadley Freeman's The Meaning of Sunglasses to review. I wasn't exactly sure that I would enjoy it; you all know how I feel about most of the fashion-industrial complex. Also I have exactly one pair of (prescription) sunglasses, and they're decidedly not designer (they're very nice tortoise cats-eyes, classic, I've had them for years): what on earth would I find to like in a book called The Meaning of Sunglasses?
The answer, of course, is "quite a bit". Hadley's voice is wry and quite often exasperated and she doesn't take either herself or the fashion industry too seriously. We also agree on the core issues, e.g., dresses:
A good dress will never make you feel fat, it can be worn with flats or heels, and everybody can find a style that suits them—absolutely none of these statements can be applied to trousers with 100 percent certainty.
The brilliant thing about the sudden and surprising emergence of the thick heel—aside from the fact that, after 2000 years, shoemakers seem to have come to grips with the idea of weight distribution—is that it doesn't look like you're trying so hard to be sexy, and this, in itself, is sexier.
Of course, there is much that Ms Freeman and I disagree on: she's very down on orange coats (my favorite coat of the fall was traffic-cone orange); she's not a fan of Liberty ("Liberty prints have a kitsch appeal and so can only be worn in measured doses"), and neither does she like cardigans ("it is a rare woman who gets too excited about buying just one cardigan, never mind four or five" — I must be a rare woman, then …). Wacky eyeglasses also come in for a little bit of finger-wagging. But her tone is such that I know if I met her in a bar wearing my orange coat, a cotton cardigan over my riotous Liberty-print dress, with bright-blue eyeglasses, she'd roll with it, and we'd have a great time.
Another plus: I laughed out loud several times, especially at this bit about Karl (He-Must-Be-Stopped) Lagerfeld: "Now he looks like a psychotic sixteenth-century German courtier, just as he'd intended."
Ideally, this is a book that a close girlfriend would give you as a gift, with the funnier parts called out with little post-it tags. At $24.95, it's just slightly too expensive (and the content slightly too lightweight) to really justify as a fashion-library addition. Also, if you read it straight through (as I did), some of it has the feel of reworked newspaper columns (Ms Freeman writes for the Guardian), with some repeated phrases and jokes. In fact, while you're waiting for someone to give you this book, I recommend subscribing to her RSS feed.
As for the sunglasses … you'll have to read the book to find out exactly what they mean. This is a spoiler-free zone, people!