Some people inherent long toes or elegant clavicles. My strangest inheritance is moths. My childhood was pierced with shrieks of outrage from my mom as she discovered that yet another sweater had fallen victim to the mandibles of larvae. When the professional darner she’d turn to retired, it was like a death in the family. (I loved to hear stories of my dad learning to darn as a Boy Scout, but I never saw him do it.)
Now, the descendents of those moths come with me wherever I go, and new holes mar my seasonal reunion with beloved sweaters however much I vacuum, steam, freeze and foreswear vintage woollens. No helpful hints please, Heloise! I’ve tried them all, with the exception of toxic mothballs. In truth though, “however much” is relative. I’ve probably spent more time poring over my dog-eared special clothes-care issue of Martha Stewart Living than implementing its lessons. Still, in the parallel life I lead in my head, I vacuum closet crevices routinely, pare back so every piece in my wardrobe can breathe, and buy individual Tupperware for all my sweaters, not just the three most expensive.
Lisa Mesbur, who brilliantly matches old with new to create our Find/Refined column (this month on tailored coats, page 66), actually has such a closet, which I revere, and its existence reassures me that my dream is attainable. But on the flip side, I’m also reassured by our food columnist, Leanne Shapton (who writes about spaghetti, page 154). She showed up at dinner recently in a moth-eaten striped sweater, looking great, as always, and shrugged, saying, “J.Crew will probably start selling pre-holed sweaters soon.”
Not yet, but the denim line R13 is selling a slouchy sweater with holes at the seams; the new webby Saint Laurent sweaters by Hedi Slimane have a decidedly Mothra-meets-runway-meets-runaways quality; and at the spring shows there were several examples of what I call apocalyptic lace. Jeremy Laing, for instance, used a cool, intentionally unpretty fabric formed out of random holes and sheer spots. Even the ladylike mid-century woman who dominated fall was wabi-sabi (the Japanese aesthetic that reveres imperfections), as our pastel story, page 180, shot by Petra Collins in Niagara Falls, Ont., emphasizes to beautiful effect. I didn’t get a chance to ask our cover subject, Alexa Chung, if she ever wears a moth-bitten knit, but if anyone could get away with it, it’s her.
In this issue of FLARE, as is our job, we’re in step with fashion, whose main message in a sea of crosscurrent trend-lets is: Own your style, moth nibbles and all. Of course we’re talking about clothes, but it’s a broader message. Never before have so many distinct personalities, styles and voices rung out through the stratosphere (well, through the cyberoptic cables, but it’s so boring to say it’s all because of social media, again). The downside is the chaos and mental exhaustion from keeping up; the upside is a greater freedom for experimentation and self-definition.
Viia Beaumanis writes about new studies illuminating how and why alcohol works the way it does (page 124), and comes to the contrarian conclusion that she’s perfectly fine with being a drinker. Jennifer Goldberg tries out the mikvah (page 150), a Jewish ritual bath taken after menstruation to cleanse the body for (married) sex, which has fallen back into favour among young women, and finds she likes it. And in “Moving Pieces” (page 188), shot by Norman Wong and styled by Tiyana Grulovic, we celebrate both the impasses and the thrills of setting up shop in a new city. Even if you’re in the same old place, as the chill sets in, it’s a good time to ask: What would I do, and what would I wear, if all of this was new? Like our sweaters, we are never stable. Embrace feeding the cycle of life; respect the holes.