imomus (imomus) wrote,

The pattern of modern foppery

Fopling Flutter is a character in George Etherege's 1676 comedy of manners The Man of Mode. But it's also the name of my favourite Berlin clothes shop, on the Lausitzer Platz in Kreuzberg.

Here -- to show you what manner of personage Sir Fopling is -- I reproduce the dialogue introducing him in Act 1 of Etherege's play:

Young Bellair No man in town has a better fancy in his clothes than you have.
Dorimant You will make me have an opinion of my genius.
Medley There is a great critic, I hear, in these matters lately arrived piping hot from Paris.
Young Bellair Sir Fopling Flutter, you mean.
Medley The same.
Young Bellair He thinks himself the pattern of modern gallantry.
Dorimant He is indeed the pattern of modern foppery
Medley He was yesterday at the play, with a pair of gloves up to his elbows and a periwig more exactly curled than a lady's head newly dressed for a ball.
Young Bellair What a pretty lisp he has!
Dorimant Ho, that he affects in imitation of the people of quality in France.
Medley His head stands for the most part on one side, and his looks are more languishing than a lady's when she lolls at stretch in her coach or leans her head carelessly against the side of a box i' the playhouse.
Dorimant He is a person indeed of great acquired follies.
Medley He is like many others, beholding to his education for making him so eminent a coxcomb. Many a fool had been lost to the world had their indulgent parents wisely bestowed neither learning nor good breeding on 'em.
Young Bellair He has been, as the sparkish word is, brisk upon the ladies already. He was yesterday at my Aunt Townley's, and gave Mrs. Loveit a catalogue of his good qualities under the character of a complete gentleman, who (according to Sir Fopling) ought to dress well, dance well, fence well, have a genius for love-letters, an agreeable voice for a chamber, be very amorous, something discreet, but not overconstant.
Medley Pretty ingredients to make an accomplished person!

The shop Fopling Flutter tries -- almost heartbreakingly hard -- to take the basic grammatical elements of contemporary garb (the stuff we tend to buy; hooded tops, hats, t-shirts) and push them, through invention, over the top into mannerism. Dull pragmatic hoods become enormous and decorative, sleeves are tied together at the wrist, straitjacket-style, hats sprout ears. Despite this restless energy (the workshop at the back is full of sewing women chatting and laughing as they corrupt the practical with the fantastic), the shop is always empty when I look in. In contrast to the age of periwigs and powder, ours is apparently a time terrified of all mannerism in its apparel. We seem to agree with Flutter's rival Dorimant: "I would not have a woman have the least good thought of me that can think well of Fopling."
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