The Sartorial Decline

sartorial (adj.)
“pertaining to a tailor,” 1807, from Modern Latin sartorius, from Late Latin sartor “tailor” (source also of French sartre “tailor”), literally “patcher, mender,” from Latin sart-, past participle stem of sarcire “to patch, mend,” from PIE root *serk- “to make whole.” Earlier in English in same sense was Related: sartorian (1660s). Sartorius as the name of the long leg muscle is because it is used in crossing the legs to bring them into the position needed to sit like a tailor.


Lately I have dismissed my lack of attention to clothing as a product of being overweight. Even though there are some large men and voluptuous women who are nattily dressed, the frequency is hardly the norm.  The fact of the matter is that finding clothes for big people is a challenge in the first place. Only recently have a few department stores begun to parade a “big and tall” selection. And in any event the entire effort is generally trumped by the absence of interest (read: vanity) in the subject. At that level, tailoring really is about its etymological “patching”.


Long before I started putting on weight the world of fashion was changing. Men had begun doffing the business suit and ladies were wearing pants.  It was to some extent considered pretentious to wear more formal clothing in the office as it was incompatible with the universal relaxation of public standards. CEOs of major corporations were regularly seen advertising their own products while wearing jeans and an open-neck shirt.

Retired people frequently attract attention to their almost arrogant frippery in the clothing department. Crocs® and running shoes are ubiquitous among retirees. The sudden evaporation of the business climate ushers in the brazenly indifferent world of fleece and synthetic textiles which can always be conveniently laundered.


Because the world of fashion extends to so much more than clothing it is however possible to maintain a vestige of involvement through more than one avenue and without having to correspond to one’s current weight. There are shoes, gloves and hats. Jewelry for example admits to endless indulgence and it may even act as a distraction from the other less appealing features of one’s appearance. I have adopted an almost secretive ambition with my latest key chain, a device which for me combines aesthetics with utility.

When of necessity I am required to heighten my appearance for some infrequent social engagement I call upon the emblematic use of the silk scarf which invariably triggers the recollection of more sophisticated apparel. This subterfuge clearly represents a synthesis of the old and the new and is part of what is now distinguished as “smart casual”.  Combining similar elements with dignified “designer” clothing (everything from casual slacks to oversized sweatshirts) can effectively translate an otherwise outrageous costume to one of understated elegance.


Two facts remain in spite of changing fashions and the escalation or loss of weight.  First, youth can get away with almost anything; second, the elegance of an elderly woman never goes unnoticed.