Intelligent women, profiled intelligently
Life has a few reliable pleasures and The Gentlewoman is one of them. Now in its twenty-second issue, the format never varies: there are intelligent women, profiled intelligently; and there is fashion, photographed in ways that consistently surprise me.
One long-standing feature of The Gentlewoman is its Modern Details column: a writer (always a very good one) is given an object — a purse, a kitchen gadget, a neckerchief, or a foodstuff — and 200 words to play with. The language is antiquated, almost courtly in style; take this line, by Seb Emina, about a bag of polenta: “It is my contention that it’s overexamined by many, even in an era in which the grain bowl is in the ascendent”.
Another column, about an evening bag, is rather beautiful: “I like its moulded, sculptural carapace, reminiscent of a seashell when presented in its lustrous pink form”. The feature feels like a play on the kind of product placement you will find in most fashion magazines these days. Product placement in the Gentlewoman, by contrast, reads like poetry.
The Gentlewoman’s previous interviewees have included Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood and Bjork. The cover star of this issue is Janelle Monáe, but my favourite profile is of Fallon Sherrock, the first woman to win a game in the world darts championships. Idiosyncrasies of darts championships are detailed: there are cheerleaders, and synchronised laser shows, and every contestant has their own walk-on music (Fallon’s is Last Friday Night by Katy Perry).
I particularly love the portraits of Fallon, taken by Anton Gottlob, in specs and a shiny pink shirt playing darts at a local club in Portsmouth. The images are high-flash, and stylish in a nerdy, off-kilter way, and they encapsulate something that I love about The Gentlewoman: its knack for making you see a woman in a way she might not necessarily see herself, but that still feels genuine.