Off, Off Damned Coat

An appeal to cool logic in the matter of summer dress

Senusret wore a kilt to work. A short linen kilt and the white crown of Upper Egypt. Nothing more.

The well-dressed pharoah of 1974 B.C. chose his wardrobe to accommodate the ferocious summer heat of the Nile Valley-weather that was not (if both temperature and humidity are considered) much more oppressive than San Antonio in July. Un­equipped with air conditioning, he recognized quite matter-of-factly that even formal cloth­ing should make concessions to the reality of a torrid climate. He was not the first of his line to reason so, nor was he the last; similar dress characterized the Egyptian royal court for eleven hundred years.

Other civilizations have learned independ­ently the same sensible lesson. The Etruscan with his flowing cloak; the Greek’s Ionic chiton shirt, open-sleeved and spacious; togas arranged in cascading mantled folds, the pride of patrician Romans. Hot weather and loose garments have ordinarily gone to­gether as fashion adapts to utilitarian demands.

Not so in America. What are we to make of the thousands of business suits that arrive regular as clockwork in downtown office buildings each weekday morning? In a Texas summer can this be happening, where tem­peratures break 90 and humidity is not far behind? Senusret would gape. Tightly-buttoned collars and cuffs hold in the body heat; a strip of colored doth wraps around the neck; trouser legs block circulating air; and on top of everything rests a coat.

A coat?

A coat: another tier of heavy fabric to keep the torso warm. Of

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