Eva Perón is definitely an icon of something. Perhaps an icon of a woman who came from nothing and left life having everything. Reading up on her online, I have never seen such black and such white – Argentinians either love her or absolutely despise her. This is exactly what has led me to read her biography, so beautifully, and may I add severely critically, sculpted by Mary Main.
What a political bio review is doing on a fashion blog? Let me elaborate by quoting a very wise person who was kind enough to share a certain truth with me: “I believe“, he said, “that men can write only for men while women can write for both genders.” While the feminist within me was raising her eye brow saying “duh“, the realist thought baloney, everyone can write for everyone. On this occasion the feminist side of me, along with this very wise man, were right. THIS book could have only been written by a woman; as political and allegedly sadistic maneuvers of Eva Perón were described with a typical masculine emotionless distancing from the situation, which gave way to the revealing of even the most brutal details, for instance the fate of a student called Bravo, while the feminine attention to luxurious clothing and details simply coloured the black and white pictures of Evita. That is the reason this biography is reviewed for pret-a-reporter.
I referred to Evita as an icon of something. I could have said she was a style icon, seeing as she wore the most expensive and fashionable clothes in the world in her time. But giving her such a title would probably leave a bad taste in a lot of readers’ mouths very similar to US Vogue’s Asma al-Assad: Rose of the Dessert fiasco. You will have to forgive me for the fact that I will speak about her style but that does not mean the pretty surface will be seen in this review as an eraser to all the ugly that was within Evita, the hero and the villain.
Eva came from a poor family. She had little education, and in fact she had little interest in education. Instead of smarts she chose wits, one of them being manipulating others in order to get what she wanted solely by making use of her arguably greatest asset, her gender. As unorthodox as this may sound, I have respect for that. It takes a tremendous amount of drive, ambition and energy to get where she got in such a limited time frame as, lest we forget, she died at 33.
As many who come from rags to riches, she made sure her attire alone was worth a standing ovation, not to mention her emotional and painfully repetitive speeches. When she was addressing her “beloved shirtless ones” (a term she used which referred to her followers, the working class and people with low income) her lyrical speeches were almost hypnotic because of the never-ending repetition. The evidence of this shameless hypnosis, in this writer’s opinion, is a printed image of her resembling Virgin Mary. One probably can not get closer to God than that in this world.
The author of the biography explained the reason behind her lavish wardrobe and lifestyle really well. Here are some pieces of the puzzle: She had no female friends, she would not be photographed with females, she would give out toys to children which they could look at but could not play, she built strange and luxurious Ciudades de Infantes (City of Children) where kids would allegedly appear for show rather than really make use of the Señora’s humble generosity. Speaking of being humble, she referred to herself as “the most humble of the shirtless ones” or “a simple Argentinian woman” while donning the latest couture that she didn’t even pay for (or paid just half of the expenses), saying that the designer should have been happy that SHE decided to don his or hers creations. That led an array of fashion houses into bankruptcy, and others who demanded she paid up saw their shops shut down. The paradox was that she was just afraid to show weakness and worked on the notion that she was above competition. Mary Main compared her to a “little girl who had to have the best toys and dresses and would not share these with the rest of the playground.” An observation which I would sign my name under.
The book concentrated a lot on the gems that she wore – not a piece of costume jewellery in sight. Everything had to be encrusted in rubies and diamonds for the “most humble of the shirtless ones“, Evita. Unlike Kate Middleton or Queen Elizabeth, she’d never repeat an outfit – in fact on her visit to Spain (under Franco’s rule at the time), she would change outfits more that thrice a day, for galas, meetings and outings.
As a simple Argentinian woman, Evita stole hearts of many – she had a fanatical following and gave women the right to vote. But what’s not always mentioned is that she gave women the right to vote for her. This is why the “most humble of the shirtless ones” in the eyes of the world has become either a saint and deity, far beyond a mere style icon, or the reincarnation of Lilith – a demon who manipulated men, stole and shamelessly flaunted latest fashions, the money for which arguably came from the poor people that Evita loved so much. Maybe that’s why she loved them so?
Positives: A very well written biography which takes you right into the heart of 40s-50s Argentina and lets you not only sit besides one of the world’s most influential women but also enter her mind amid the repetitive speeches and emotional declarations of selflessness.
Negatives: This is a strongly-worded anti-Peronista book which does not portray Eva in positive lights at all. Not that it’s total anti-Perón propaganda, but chances are that it will make you think less of her. It might be a good idea to read something in favour of Evita and only then draw conclusions about her.
Recommend? Yes. It’s a ride, a deep and exceptionally well written ride. For a book with almost zero dialogue, it reads lightning-quickly and doesn’t spare any detail – be it rumoured political murder cover-ups or descriptions of gala gowns and silk chemises.
Last time pret-a-reporter read Fashion Babylon.