October 20, 2020

Anne Marsella

Among my favorite pieces of clothing are my aprons, this one in particular, with its mock Catholic iconography, its Little Bo Peep plays the Virgin Mary theme. Most importantly it has pockets. I wore it to work this summer at The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore in Paris, kept cell phone, scissors and pencil in the front pouches. At first this surprised Penelope, the owner and my good friend, but then she liked it so much we decided to have some made with the bookstore logo. It has long been my habit to put on an apron to write. Not only is writing a form of mental cooking, it also requires the fuel of endless cups of tea, coffee and chocolatey snacks which would blight my clothes without the pinafore. The apron keeps me clean. I have a wide-ranging and beloved collection folded in a special drawer though some hang on the hooks in the bathroom ever ready for a dash of inspiration. Lastly, I will venture to say that the apron is inherently sexy as it girds the waist and the hips; it both covers and reveals. One of my favourite Parisian couturiers, Anne Willi, designs wrap-around, apron-y dresses that feel right for both work and evening play. Speaking of play, notice the apron behind the Virgin Mary tunic. This gorgeous little number has no pockets and ressembles a dress. I love it and have found it’s best worn alone, sans rien d’autre, but of course the company and occasion must be right for that.

Which textiles haunt me? The wall coverings and draperies in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom. I am not in the least a fan of the overly ornate and actually find the Chateau de Versailles appalling, but that particular ribboned assembly of greens, floral pinks, blues, and purples all delicately festooned in gold presented me, the first time I laid eyes on it, with a visual feast that made my whole being hungry. I wanted to ingest the celebration of fabric, to wrap my organs in the linens like little presents or poofs, my insides a queenly dwelling place. When in need, I watch Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette to revive this lust; it’s much easier than taking the RER train to Versailles and wading through lines of tourists.

As for my dream textile object… I desire a beautiful corset from the Maison Cadolle. The house was founded by Herminie Cadolle who was involved in the Commune de Paris alongside the revolutionary anarchist and teacher, Louise Michel, today a feminist icon in France. Cadolle invented the first bra, called a “corselet-gorge” by halving the traditional corset and displayed her invention at the World Fair of 1889 (alongside the Eiffel Tower). I admit that I love the feeling of being held like an erotic possession beneath my clothes. There’s a trend I’ve noticed among my students to eschew bras; the pleasure of feeling free and untethered I also understand, but the confident posture and the sensations of silk and Calais lace against the skin that fine, well-fitted lingerie offers a woman ought not to be dismissed. I might add this to my syllabus.

Anne Marsella, Paris-based writer, has written and published in both English and French and is the author of the award-winning collection of short stories, The Lost and Found and Other Stories (New York University Press) and the novels Remedy (Portobello Books), The Baby of Belleville (Portobello Books) and Patsy Boone (Editions de la Différence). She runs Madame du Châtelet Productions, a literary salon in Paris celebrating the feminine erotic.