Literature: Attack of the Throw-Backs

by Editorial

New book celebrates “artful living and artfully lived lives” of the past.
By Stephanie Green

Style icon Audrey Heburn as Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Image courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.

“Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-yet-delightful, chic, useful, curious, and otherwise commendable things from times gone by”
by Lesley M. M. Blume; (Chronicle Books, November 2010)

It occurred to me that I am what author Lesley M. M. Blume refers to as an “incurable nostalgist”.

I was at the Kennedy Center last fall and surveyed the crowd on opening night of The Washington Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet.

Jeans. Corduroy. Cowboy Boots.

Attire one expects to see on the bleachers of a Redskins game, not in the seats of an opera house where the exquisite sounds of Petrokiev fill the air.

I suddenly realized why I and so many adore the show “Mad Men”, because the characters remind us of a time when men were men, women were women, and people knew how to dress and what to wear for the office, a dinner party, and an elegant night on the town.

“I think the show has fixated people’s attention on how good people can look. It’s a romanticized notion, “ explains Blume, a former Washingtonian whose new book, Let’s Bring Back, celebrates some of the people (Fred Astaire), places (Automat), and fashions (hats, gloves) of yesteryear that made our lives more glamorous, and, according to Ms. Blume, more bearable.

Let’s Bring Back is Blume’s A to Z wish list of various bon mots that have evaporated from modern society like tea time, vanity tables, letter writing, playing bridge, pocket watches, and cuckoo clocks.

Janey Bryant styles the cast of AMC's hit series "Mad Men" including January Jones, Christina Hendricks and Elisabeth Moss. Image courtesy of AMC.

Blume also includes recipes (ambrosia) and sayings (“she’s the bees knees”) from bygone eras, with guest contributors like fashion designer Kate Spade, Mad Men’s costume designer Janey Bryant, and former White House Social Secretary Letitia Baldrige ruminating on what they would bring back.

“The pleasantries of life are under assault, “laments the thirty something Blume, who says that the waning custom of dressing for “dining, dancing, and flying” over the past decades was meant to “celebrate your community. It was about honoring yourself and the

“Although I do see young people dressing for the opera without any embarrassment of showing off. I’m even seeing some opera capes”.

Still, the New York based-Blume, whose personal style icons are relics of the past like Diana Vreeland and Edith Head, says that she was inspired to write the book, in part, because many of her generation “didn’t know who Holly Golightly and Jackie Onassis are”.

She admits with relish owning a record player, collecting antique books, and hosting “game night” with her husband, but says that she and her book don’t “dwell on the past, but there are certain things and customs we don’t want to leave behind.”

“Modern living is increasingly about convenience, often leaving behind the pleasures of ornamentation and ceremony, “she writes.

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