Proust as connoisseur of clothing

I've written once already on Proust, but he has much to say on the subject of presenting oneself through one's clothing. In this passage, also from Volume 4 of La Recherche..., the narrator's lover/companion Albertine is introduced to M. de Charlus--an important figure in courtly, literary, and royal circles--and the slightly controversially portrayed gay man. M. de Charlus is a complicated character, but his comments on women and the importance of fashion are simple, direct, and clear.

The description of Albertine's suit and dress is just magical, the way she unveils the shards of color from their enclosure of grey--the dazzle of the action is lovely.

"Why, what have you been talking about?” said Albertine, astonished at the solemn, paternal one which M. de Charlus had suddenly adopted. “About Balzac,” the Baron hastily replied, "and you are wearing this evening the very same clothes as the Princesse de Cadignan, not her first gown, which she wears at the dinnerparty, but the second.”

This coincidence was due to the fact that, in choosing Albertine’s clothes, I sought inspiration in the taste that she had acquired thanks to Elstir, who greatly appreciated a sobriety which might have been called British, had it not been tempered with a gentler, more flowing grace that was purely French. As a rule the garments that he chose offered to the eye a harmonious combination of grey tones like the dress of Diane de Cadignan. M. de Charlus was almost the only person capable of appreciating Albertine’s clothes at their true value; at a glance, his eye detected what constituted their rarity, justified their price; he would never have said the name of one stuff instead of another, and could always tell who had made them. Only he preferred—in women—a little more brightness and colour than Elstir would allow.

And so this evening she cast a glance at me half smiling, half troubled, wrinkling her little pink cat’s nose. Indeed, meeting over her skirt of grey crêpe de chine, her jacket of grey cheviot gave the impression that Albertine was dressed entirely in grey. But, making a sign to me to help her, because her puffed sleeves needed to be smoothed down or pulled up, for her to get into or out of her jacket, she took it off, and as her sleeves were of a Scottish plaid in soft colours, pink, pale blue, dull green, pigeon’s breast, the effect was as though in a grey sky there had suddenly appeared a rainbow.

And she asked herself whether this would find favour with M. de Charlus. “Ah!” he exclaimed in delight, “now we have a ray, a prism of colour. I offer you my sincerest compliments.” “But it is this gentleman who has earned them,” Albertine replied politely, pointing to myself, for she liked to shew what she had received from me.

“It is only women who do not know how to dress that are afraid of colours,” went on M. de Charlus. “A dress may be brilliant without vulgarity and quiet without being dull. Besides, you have not the same reasons as Mme. de Cadignan for wishing to appear detached from life, for that was the idea which she wished to instil into d’Arthez by her grey gown.” Albertine, who was interested in this mute language of clothes, questioned M. de Charlus about the Princesse de Cadignan..."

A soft, dove grey shell with a kaleidoscope of multi-colored interior chambers. I'm just waiting to see something like this from Olivier Theyskens, Alber Elbaz, or Roland Mouret.