Jill ponders her year without shopping in a fun, fresh, engaging and occasionally informed way

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We Have Moved!

Hello! Thanks for stopping by! We outgrew this space and had to pack up and move! It's an exciting move though, and we're happy to be in our new home (the packing wasn't so fun, but not one plate was broken (although we did crack a couple of glasses)).
So this blog can now be found by clicking here or copying and pasting this into your Internet browser: www.shopyourwardrobe.com/blog
Come see us there! We'll sit on the verandah, put our feet up, watch the sunset, have a glass of something nice to drink.... it'll be fun!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sydney Style

Hello and welcome to blog #70! I've been in Sydney for the last few days. Gotta love that city! It is Australia's edgiest and paciest city - I think I can say that without fear of too much heated debate. Sydney is a bit of a siren herself, don't you think? It is a city that just demands to be looked at in awe. It demands attention and mostly, we're happy to give it.

Just on that "siren" thing that I wrote about in the last blog piece... I've been trying out those four personality dressing names since they came out of the vault that is my brain. (for those who need a quick reminder, the names are: The Suit, The Siren, The Subversive and The Sandwich... or just go back to that post and read it again).
Do they fit? At this national conference I've been attending, and in my own observations in walking around the Emerald City, I've been 'trying on' those categories -- you know, applying them to real live breathing human women and seeing if they 'fit' or not. And you know what I've discovered? Those categories really work! You can see people who are dressed as Sandwiches or Sirens, Suits or Subversives... And you can also see those women who have combined two categories -- Suited Sirens or Subversive Sandwiches.
And you know what else I discovered? Those categories generate a lot of discussion -- every single woman I have mentioned them to wants to know more. They say "what's a Sandwich? And how do you know I am one?". I was also asked "how am I a Suit? How am I dressing that makes me one?". And my favourite was "how could I be more like a Siren?". Women get those categories, and they seem to like them. Who'd've thunk it, from all that silliness?
I'll write more about those categories in an upcoming post - there's clearly more to explore. For today, let's talk about where style really comes from. Clue: not from the mall. But I don't want to give away the ending straight away, so please read on!

"When you don't shop, you have better style". Ok, that's an attention grabbing statement, right? I love it! And I can say all that because I didn't write it. Sarah Wilson did. Sarah is a journalist and writes her own blog as well as being published in an actual print publication - the Sunday Life supplement of the Sun-Herald newspaper. Sarah wrote a piece today on "I don't buy style". Well, pack my bags and mount my horse, if that doesn't get me reading this article in double quick time! I sped through her article, then re-read it to make sure I'd caught the heart of what she'd said.
Here are my favourite bits (called "excerpts" in the literary world, I believe) from Sarah's article:
  • "when you don't shop, you have better style".... Ms Wilson goes on to 'splain why this is true in her case. She found herself treasure hunting through her wardrobe and discovering all manner of gems that she combined in new and jaunty ways (the Thai silk matinee jacket teamed with the animal print cami was my favourite of those she described - go figure). Could it really be true that style isn't found in the mall? Whoa.

  • "the momentum to shop builds. And then... I get a grip. Do I really need to trek to the mall?" Indeed. And a great example of how a well-placed rhetorical question can actually be useful. I love how Ms Wilson describes the momentum to shop -- how the pull of shopping yanks at our sense of adventure, our sense of self and our sense of escape. It distorts and deranges (to borrow heavily from the lyrics of Annie Lennox) and the only way out is to WAKE UP and get that grip that Ms Wilson suggests. She suggests we ask ourselves if we really need to trek to the mall? Who but the most unconscious of individuals (or those in desperate need of toilet paper and corn flakes) would say YES to that question? The underlying question seems to be: What if what lies within the walls of the mall is not the answer we're really seeking? Oooh, that's deep. It's amazing that something considered so superficial has the ability to plumb such depths, isn't it? Oh, and if you're wondering, I'm guessing the answer is behind door #2 and is: "no, the answer isn't at the mall", aren't you?

  • "how limiting it is to constantly reach for external solutions... buying something new and "fashionable" (her quotes, yesiree) is all about reaching for an external style salve at the expense of playing freely with your own identity". Oh, my. Now if that doesn't echo and build on a point of view I've been playing with on this-a-here-y blog over the last few months, I'll walk to the Gulf in those animal print wedges that make me about 6 foot 2 from blog #5. I love the link to identity that Ms Wilson sneaks into that sentence. It's like she knows how much depth there is to this topic (shopping isn't really just shopping), but she doesn't want to scare us. It's Sunday, after all. There's football to be watched and naps to be taken. I love how accessible she makes it -- "playing freely with your own identity"... like anyone can do it. We can all play, right? If not the French horn, then at least with the contents of our own wardrobes. And once we start playing at that level, we get to glimpse our identity through a new lens. Who knows what we might discover?

I love finding other people who's thinking matches my own. Like someone who agrees that Woody Allen's movies are not all the same. Or I really can continue to eat chocolate whenever I feel like it after turning 4o. And that shopping is not the answer. It's not even the question.

Thank you Sarah Wilson - I'm with you on your experiential journey to make life more meaningful, happier, sweeter. And I like your style. And I like it even more because it didn't come from the mall. Right?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dressing for the Many Me's

G'day and welcome to blog #69. Exactly ten blog posts ago, in the oft-referenced blog #59, I gave a working definition for the term Shop your Wardrobe. I talked then about how you didn't have to be a world-class thinker like Carl Jung to know that people come in all kinds of personality packages. And this is how nature intended us to be - different.

Knowing a bit about your personality is one useful key in creating a wardrobe that really works for you. Why and how is this so?

Express and inform. Repeat twice. Rinse well. Clothing both expresses something about who we are and informs us on who we are. Clothing shouldn't define us - that limits us and gives our clothing too much power. But when we see clothing as a way to express some part of who we are, then clothing becomes fun, it becomes one way to let others know something about who we are. Not everything about who we are, note. Clothing can be as powerful as the words we use to express who we are.

Clothing can also inform. If you've ever put on a particular item of clothing and felt great, and yet another item of clothing makes you feel uncomfortable and 'less than', you'll know what I mean. Knowing what makes you feel like your "best you" helps you make better choices in what you buy, and what you choose to wear each day. Make sense?

Thank you Meredith Brooks. Of course, there's always the "multiple personalities" that most of us live with to consider, too. As Meredith Brooks sang in the now iconic 'Bitch' song, most women living outside of a cave these days have more than one role to fulfil. More hats than one to wear. Although hopefully less personalities than Sybil to befriend.

I personally can relate to the "sinner" and "saint" line of the 'Bitch' song chorus, although I'm not prepared to give details. On occasion, I'm sure my nearest and dearest could relate to the "I'm your hell" line, although I'm sure they mean that in the nicest possible way (you know, fiery).

So I get that whole I'm more than one me thing. By sharing the following categories I'm not suggesting that we fulfil only one of them. Some days I fulfil 1.26 of the following roles and other days I do each twice before lunch. Some days I mix 'em up so I'm a bit of everything, and other days I barely make it into one category (Some days I'm sure that I'm half a Sandwich).

You're probably the same, right? Not one of us can be placed neatly into a box. And thank the reclining couch for that! How dull would it be if we were all the same?

Oh! Before you read on, read this first. The four categories below are metaphors, which means they're not meant to be read literally. What this actually means is I made these categories up, and I had my tongue firmly in my cheek as I did it. So, just because you relate to The Suit doesn't mean you actually wear a suit.

So, what are the four styles of dressing? Check out the image that accompanies this post, top left. I'll wait here whilie you have a quick look at it. (dum de dum.... ) You can see a difference between each of those four styles, right? Each of the four styles represents one of the four styles I've described below. I'm sure you've already worked out which picture goes with which category, right?

Worth noting that each style has something fabulous to offer, and yet none of them is right for all occasions. Which is pretty darn neat, because we aren't either. Right?

Here they are! Try these on for size:

The Suit. This style takes its cue from the structured garment of its name - before one word is even spoken, you know what you're getting and it's something you can depend on. Clothing tends to be tailored and classic with predictable shapes and appropriate lengths. There is not a lot of excess skin on show - buttons are for doing all the way up. Colours tend to be neutral and strong, which is also how they generally like their elected representatives. Confidence-inspiring patterns like stripes make an appearance alongside tailored pants and straight skirts in colours like navy, grey and black. With very little additional effort, you can be ready to attend a job interview or a funeral at a moments notice.

The Siren. This style takes its cues from the flashing, loud apparatus that sits atop emergency vehicles. You can't miss it, even if you desperately want to. We're meant to look, and once we start, it's hard to look away. We see more skin than with our Suit style sisters, and there's often a dramatic hue and unexpected drape that draws the eye. Cleavage, of both the breast and toe variety, is fair game. Patterns include anything eye catching, such as geometric and animal, although faux is best (no squares were hurt in the making of this geometric scarf!). With only a small adjustment to your perfect pout, you'll be ready to .... well, do anything really.

The Subversive. This style is inconveniently erratic and takes its cues from nobody, thank you very much! Or perhaps more accurately, they take their cue from everybody. Mixing eras and styles with a triumph of individuality over conventional aesthetics, The Subversive style goes to extremes. No make-up or a face full of it. Patterns and colours are mixed together to create a volcanic ensemble that raises both the eyebrows and the curiosity of the observer. Orange teams up with turquoise, lime green with bubble gum pink, and that's just the underwear. With a swipe of bright orange lipstick, you'll be ready to join the cast and crew of the Cirque du Soleil.

The Sandwich. This style takes its cue from the casual culinary style that the sandwich epitomizes. The Sandwich style of dressing places comfort in the priority position. Colours soothe the eye and fabrics soothe the skin - white cotton, pale blue linen, grey soft wool. We may see a subtle pattern but we're more likely to see block colours teamed together to create a just-crawled-into-this look that gives new meaning to the term laid back. Effect is kept to a minimum, which coincides with the amount of overt effort put into this relaxed look. At any point in time, The Sandwich style is ready to take a stroll or take a nap.

Ok, so what does all this mean? Apart from the fact that I'm either a very creative thinker or slightly deranged and a little bit dangerous. (by the way, I should mention that this entire post has taken me aaaages to write. I just hope it's taken you nearly as long to read).

Repeat twice. Here's how you can use this deliriously prepared information to help you in your quest to create a wardrobe that's working harder than you are:

  • dressing for your personality on any given day will help create a look that expresses something important about who you are. At least for that moment in time. This should not limit or define you in any constricted way. But if you want to impress a client with your creativity, then the navy blue suit teamed with a white shirt and black pumps is probably not going to do it (although you may calm them with your capability in such an ensemble). Right?
  • dressing for your personality on any given day will support who you are and who you want to be. If you've been paying attention and tuning in, then you know how much clothing forms a continuous feedback loop with how you feel. Don't dress like a Siren on a Sandwich day, not unless you want to feel out of kilter for 8 hours. Right?
  • use these categories to have some fun and add some variety. If you're going on a date (even with your husband of many years, or perhaps someone else's husband of many years), try out the Siren and draw some attention to yourself! If you usually play it safe with The Suit (or the Sandwich, or a combo of the two - the Suited Sandwich), mix it up a bit and get Subversive. Try on different looks and see how they expand your definition of yourself! Clothing should be fun!

Dressing for the many yous that exist shouldn't be a burden. If you have a 'portfolio' life that contains a bit of this, a smattering of that, and dose of the other, then embracing the many yous in how you dress may be one of life's unexplored joys. Go out and have fun with it! Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go and wind up that siren. I've got some noise to make. Right?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No Stockists Page Required!

A hail and hearty hello from deepest Wednesday, dear reader! We're up to blog #68 and today I'd like to talk to you about something that I've been pondering for some time.

Fashion magazines. Sigh! Love 'em. Loathe 'em. They both inspire and infuriate. Raise and lower self-esteem. They're a conundrum. Wrapped in a riddle. Tied up with a piece of paradox string.

Ludicrous, I say! The fashion spreads are often ludicrous. They're often so artfully produced that you can't identify the items of clothing that are being featured. The lighting is arty, creating a am I really seeing that? effect. The models are often reed thin, unnaturally tall and super young. They look like giraffes that have just been born. All legs. The locations are bizarrely exotic. I mean, do we really need to see fall fashions displayed with the backdrop of a Marrakesh marketplace? If so, why? Apart from providing an opportunity for the model, photographer, stylist, wardrobe person, make up artistes and other associated crew to travel, I'm not sure what the purpose is.

I don't get a lot of fashion spreads in fashion magazines, as can plainly be seen. I make no apology for the lack of understanding I have about fashion spreads.

But not all of them..... There are some magazines that make their fashion spreads easier to, shall we say, access. In Style is one such magazine. You can actually identify the items of clothing they are showcasing (ah - it's a trench coat! with jeans! and ballet flats! riiiiight - got it!) .

Oh, Ita.... Way back when the media doyenne Ita Buttrose was editor of the Australian Women's Weekly, she instituted fashion pages where one could not only identify the items on display, but one could imagine oneself actually wearing them. Ground-breaking!

And the problem would be....??? Fashion spreads in magazines can create a burning want, a yearning desire, for something we never knew existed until we laid eyes on it. There we were, happily living our lives, and wham! We see an animal print trench coat (well, name your desired object here) and we want it. We crave it. We wish to possess and make it all meynne!

We become infatuated with a man-made inanimate object that we are somehow convinced will fulfil an emotional need. We'll feel happy, or something, when we own it. We'll be content, when the object of our desire is turned into our possession and hanging in our wardrobe.

Except we don't. Feel happy, that is. Or if we do, it doesn't last long. It only lasts until we turn the page, metaphorically or literally, and see yet another thing that our heart desires (well, we think it's our heart -- it sure ain't our brain making these evaluations).

So, there we are... our emotional state in something we could call yearning... and we see those words in fine print. The stockists information. Telling us how much the item is and where we can purchase it. Ah! Emotional release is at hand -- we can turn our yearning into relief by purchasing the item! Hooray!

Disclaimer: not all magazines with fashion spreads produce fashion spreads which then produce this result for all readers all of the time. Naturally. But enough magazines with fashion spreads produce enough fashion spreads which produce enough of this result for many readers much of the time. Got that?

Now, does this mean I am against fashion spreads in magazines? Well, you may be surprised to hear the answer is... no. I'm not. I actually think they can serve a very useful purpose. They can:
  • show us what's current. If looking contemporary and reasonably up-to-date is important to you, this is handy info to have
  • show us how to put different outfit combinations together. For those of us who can get a bit bored with mixing and matching the same pieces together all the time, this can be a shot of inspiration that has us creating new looks and fulfilling a need for variety

These are good things. Helpful things. And fashion magazines are in a perfect position to bring them to us.

What comes with it, often, is the manufactured need to go shopping. We feel something might be missing from our own wardrobe, and we have to go get it and fill that gap. This is not such a good thing.

So what's the alternative? Ah, well, that's the thing, isn't it? Before we get to that, let me show you this, dear reader!

Stealing the Look -- one way to go.... The photo accompanying today's piece is from a rather inspiring blog called Steal the Look for Le$$. I love the idea this blog is based on -- take a photo of a celebrity wearing an outfit that we like and would like to create for ourselves. Ms Gucci (the blog owner, I swear I could find no other name on the blog by which to identify the creator of these looks) then gives us a pictorial display of the outfit's, er, components + she gives us some options of where we can procure each item at a cheaper price. Neat, huh?

This site is very creative and provides some helpful information. If you want to follow in the sartorial footsteps of certain celebrities, of course. Which some of us do, and some of us do not. But, all in all, I'd say this site is a positive thing.

What I take out of it is some ideas on how I could look at my own wardrobe differently. What fresh take could I put on existing items, to freshen up my look? To create some variety?

How about this? And this is one alternative that fashion spreads could take. Instead of showing us combinations made up of new items that must be purchased.... they could show us combinations of outfits we could create out of our existing items. Sure, they'd have to tell us what those core items were. Naturally. But they could take some fairly educated guesses at basic pieces most of us would have - like jeans and tailoured jackets and coloured t-shirts and plain pants and white shirts and long-sleeve t-shirts and black pants and so on.

And then they could give us a list of options on how to add 'missing' pieces to our look, without breaking the bank or even buying new. Such as swapping, consignment or op-shopping.

Now we're cooking....Now, that'd be fairly neat. I'd be interested to read an article like that. How much more creative would that be? How much more inspiring? And how much more sustainable would that be? Damn straight. Right?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Airport Security

Greetings dear reader to a confused Sunday here. We've had sunshine, we've had showers, I'm expecting a windstorm at any moment. It's like a James Taylor song.

We're up to blog #67 today. I'd like to chat today about the impact that airport security has had on the fashion world. Well, not so much the fashion world, but us as people who wear fashion. Or clothes, which may or may not be fashionable.

Shoe me!... The first contribution that airport security has made is that we are now a lot more aware of the kind of socks and hosiery that people wear beneath their shoes. I feel sorry for the airport security people, having to handle our stinky shoes. But there we all are - taking off our shoes and surrendering our stockinged feet to airport flooring.

Particular shoes are singled out, I've noticed - it has to do with the heel. I'm not entirely certain, but particular heels are more conducive to holding any number of ingredients capable of being mixed with certain toothpastes, hair gels and liquids to form a combustible liquid, mixed up in the plane's loo.

I wore a pair of high heeled boots on an international flight to San Francisco once. Including the two stopovers I had between Brisbane and San Francisco, and the multiple security points I had to endure because I was not carrying US identity documentation, I took those boots off and put them back on a total of six times at airport security stations. I wanted to surrender them to an airport bin by the time I arrived.

Press me! The other thing I've noticed at airport security are the wands they wave over a "randomly selected" passenger, which they then test for traces of something. Explosive particles or dandruff, perhaps. You know, if they made those devices heated, one could get a nice press of one's jacket and pants while we were at it. Then we'd arrive at our destinations not only declared a safe traveller, but freshly pressed as well. We might not mind being "randomly selected", either, if this little laundry service was included, mightn't we?

Just on this, I was once "randomly selected" at Heathrow to be patted down. I was a bit tired and grumpy from a long flight (I think it was from Minneapolis) so wasn't too keen on it. But you have to be courteous, or at least not rude, to airport security people, don't you? They can hold you for the length of time a root canal takes with no provocation or explanation. So, you don't want to annoy them.

Anyway, I was randomly selected to be patted down. Well, this very tall and rather attractive security woman did the patting. It was actually quite relaxing, and quite intimate in a pervy kind of way. I stood there with my feet hip-width apart and my arms out to my sides. She ran her hands from my shoulders to my fingertips and back again underneath my arms. Then down my ribcage and across my stomach. Down the outside of my legs and up the, er, inside (stopping at a discrete non-body-contact point). I felt like we should have perhaps exchanged phone numbers after it. That, or asked if she did full body massage. She had a nice touch. For a security person.

Strip it! The other thing that you sometimes have to do at airport security is remove clothing items with metal on them. Like belts. I was travelling through Sydney airport to Melbourne earlier this year, and was in a rush. I had my carry-on bag and seemingly every other bag in New South Wales with me - I felt like a sherpa. I forgot about my belt, and went through the thing which then beeped like crazy. So, I dashed back through ("sorry, sorry"-ing the people behind me, waiting to go through the thing), threw my belt on the conveyor belt, dashed back through the thing, which did not bleep. I then picked up my bags and ran to the gate.

Oh darn! It was only when I was on the plane that I had a sudden shocking awareness - I'd left my belt at airport security! Oh, no! I may or may not have said "oh darn". The vowel "o" was certainly involved, and the final word may have had four letters in it.

Y'see, this was no ordinary black leather belt. It was a very fancy pants animal print "bling" belt that I'd bought in San Francisco in November 2009. It was not only an expensive belt, a belt I loved, but it was the belt that had caused me to realise that I had to stop spending. And hence, precipitated this very challenge I am now writing to you about from post #67.

So it was a meaningful belt. Well, I was sitting next to this rather seat-filling gent who preceded to tell me all about every single corporate training event he'd ever attended, and the unique contribution he had made to each and every one of them (I had foolishly told him that I was on my way to Melbourne to run a corporate training workshop). I tried to pay attention, I tried to paste a look on my face that indicated I was vaguely interested. But I was really thinking about my belt.

When I arrived in Melbourne, I bolted to the Baggage Services people, who sanguinely told me that if I rang this number, my belt would be put in a bag and sent to Melbourne, wherein I could pick it up at the airport on my return. This turned out to be utter crap, as I learned when I phoned that number.

It was a recorded message that informed me that they only worked between the hours of 7.00 and 8.15am, and the only time you could pick up lost items was between the hours of 1.00 and 1.07pm. Ok, that's not exactly true, but the hours they worked were similarly unhelpful. I left a message, trying not to panic or repeat myself more than four times. "The belt is animal print, with these big bling-y circles, and the buckle is a big bling-y circles. and did I mention it's animal print?". There was just something about the Whole Thing that made me uneasy.

Ninja Julie to the rescue? Unable to be mollified by the recorded phone message, I enlisted the help of Ninja Julie, who was travelling to Melbourne the very next day. Her flight took off at 7.00am, making it very difficult for her to get to the lost'n'found department at its stated opening hours. Being a gal who's stimulated by challenges, Ninja Julie took this as a test of her personal effectiveness, and pledged to get me my belt back.

Bzzz, bzzz. The next morning at 6.45am, my phone bzzz-bzzed to tell me a text had come in. It was from Ninja Julie - she had gotten my belt back. Unbelievable! She'd turned up to the Baggage Services counter at 6.35am, which is immediately adjacent to the Lost and Found department at Sydney Airport. There was no-one at the L'n'F, but there was a quaintly bureaucratic "service" person manning the Baggage Services counter. Ninja Julie asked the BS person when the L'n'F counter opened. 7.00am was the stern response. Knowing that she'd be ascending into the skies at that time, Ninja Julie asked if she could access the L'n'F cupboard now. No was the economical reply.

I haff vays of makingkh you.... Ninja Julie then proceeded to apply verbal Chinese water torture to the BS person, saying that a phone message had been left on the L'n'F hotline, that she could describe the item in detail, that it was a small item, that she was about to board a plane to the outer Hebrides and may not return for years upon which time the woman finally said "AWRIGHT! What does it look like?". A full description then passed Ninja Julie's lips, and the BS woman retreated into the L'n'F cupboard to see if said item was, indeed, in residence.

She returned and pronounced that yes, the animal print bling-y belt was there. But she couldn't give it to Ninja Julie because the L'n'F people didn't get there until 7.00am. By this time, Ninja Julie's flight was being called. More verbal Chinese water torture was applied, which yielded the surprising result of the BS woman going back into the L'n'F cupboard, retrieving animal print, bling-y belt, exiting the room and throwing the belt at Ninja Julie.

Yes, she threw it at her. Ninja Julie actually had to catch it. We could wax lyrical for several more minutes about the appropriateness or otherwise of the BS person's behaviour. But let's not, because the story has such a happy ending. I got my belt back! My beautiful, expensive, meaningful belt.

Is the story finished yet? So, there's 4 minutes of reading time that you'll never get back. I know. But it's such a great example of the impact that airport security has had on our travelling lives.

Remember the days....I love watching movies from the 1970s - it's one of my favourite eras. What's so charming and nostalgic about some of them are the scenes set in airports. With people going from check-in to gate with nary a stop in between, except to the restroom or public telephone. There's no airport security. There's no laptops at all, let alone any to be taken out of their cases and placed in large Tupperware boxes for screening for last year's version of Windows. There's no "random selecting" of dark-haired and swarthy male passengers for additional security screening. All that was in front of us. Including those of us still in primary school (which I'm compelled to tell you that I was, in the 1970s).

Has it really? Yes, Chuck, I'm afraid it has. Airport security has changed the way we travel, it's impact is indelible. It's also changed how we feel about public undressing and personal modesty. Right?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hoodwnked: A Trinket Economy

Greetings from the deepest of August days. Here we are at blog #66. I've been reading this fascinating book, Hoodwinked. It's written by John Perkins who is a self-confessed Economic Hit Man. Apparently, that was a real job (could still be one for all we know -- it's shrouded in mystery, the economic hit man business).

Mr Perkins is talking about how and why the financial markets imploded to create the GFC we've all been trying to get over (like a bad break-up, just when the pain seems to be nearly over, wham! you're watching a toilet roll commercial and crying like a baby, all over again).

Trinket Economy. He talks about the "trinket economy" where poor quality crap nobody needs is produced and marketed to us, the sucker consumer. That we buy this unneeded stuff is the exclamation point to that sentence. Trinket economies are doomed to failure. We've all participated in the creation of this trinket economy -- the trinket makers, the trinker marketers, the trinket salesmen, the trinket buyers, the trinket resellers on eBay. No-one is blameless. And that's just the introduction to the book. There's more.

Flattened. Mr Perkins says that our human psychology is particularly sensitive, suggestive and fragile to these marketing messages of the trinketeers. We're convinced that more, and more, and more, is what we need to make us happy. So we buy more and more of this useless crap and no-one is there to put the brake on either our thinking, or our spending. Until .... a GFC comes along that literally blows us out of our houses with a gale force wind of consumer debt proportions.

It's an uplifting kind of book.

Unwinking the hood: He says that to get the hood off our wink, here's what we need to all do, in five easy steps (just add water):
  1. accept consumer responsibility

  2. create a new economy

  3. adopt attitudes that encourage good stewardship and make icons of a new type of hero

  4. implement new rules for business and government

  5. honor our individual passions

So I don't want to go all heavyosity here on you. It being a Tuesday and everything. But I did read those words and think.... "hmmmm. that's kind of what My Year Without Clothes Shopping (MYWCS) is all about...". No, really! And I wasn't under the influence of any chemical substances at the time (although I may have overdosed on Lemongrass and Ginger tea - knockout combo).

So, how is MYWCS anything like the unhoodwinking strategy that a brain the size of Mr Perkins has come up with? Let's try this on for size:

  1. accept consumer responsibility. Well, that's a no brainer. Surely? I'm accepting responsibility for my own spending... and through this challenge, my own thinking about my own spending. But my spending about my thinking about my spending, well that's another matter. Seriously, that's a big check! Done! Dots connected on that one. Right?

  2. create a new economy. Well, clearly this is something that I can't control or even influence if you think of it in terms of the nation's or the world's economy. Even if you think of in terms of my suburb's economy, really. But I am creating a new economy within my own family unit. We're living simply -- "Have fun with frugality. You can!" - and spending less. Well, spending nothing on clothes, as you know. So, depending on how flexible your definition of "economy" is, this one gets a big check! Dots connected! mark, too. Right?

  3. adopt attitudes that encourage good stewardship and make icons out of a new type of hero. Well, two things here -- good stewardship and new types of heroes. I love the word "steward", and not just because I read a lot of Dick Francis in my 20s. If we see ourselves as the stewards of all we think we own, it changes our attitudes. Right? If I'm a good steward of all I think of as mine -- my house, my cat, my relationships, my clothes, those 65 shoes left in my wardrobe, my neighbourhood, my country -- then the way I take care of those things has got to improve. Yeah? And as for creating new types of heroes, I'm all for that. We've made heroes of people who don't deserve that status, and I'm thinking specifically of celebrities here. It's utter madness. Madness, I tell you! Ok, enough of that. But clearly, MYWCS strives to encourage good stewardship -- of all that I have now in my wardrobe, of my credit rating, and my overall sanity -- and to make icons out of a new type of hero. We may not know precisely who those heroes are just yet, but we know who they aren't. Paris Hilton and her BFFFFFFs for a start. So a big check! Dots connected there. Right?

  4. implement new rules for business and government. Ok, this is where the dots get a bit far apart. MYWCS is not looking to influence the government or even business, for that matter. Although, hmmmm, let me ponder that for 4.2 seconds longer. I wouldn't mind influencing the retail sector. This one is a bit of a stretch, but in principle, MYWCS lines up very closely with this one.

  5. honour our individual passions. Ah, well this is another no brainer, surely? MYWCS is all about honouring passions. This entire 12 month challenge is about a passion gone unchecked, that's now being honoured by not indulging it. If that convoluted logic is even possible to follow. I'm honouring my passion for clothes by enjoying and using more fully the ones that I have. I'm honouring my passion for shopping by recognising how much I enjoy it and also acknowledging the dark side of it. There's no Batman without Heath Ledger. So, I'm saying check! Dots connected! on this one, too. Right?

I Think Therefore ... You know, this is the first time I've taken the work of a "thinker" like John Perkins and applied it to this challenge. When I first started this challenge, I didn't think of it as having any kind of lofty purpose. And I'm not saying it now has one.

But I am aware that it's movement on the path of "better". Better thinking, better spending, better living. To live well with what you've got. Isn't that a live well lived?

The hood is off. There's no winking going on. Thank you Mr Perkins for Hoodwinked. In stores everywhere. Sure opened my eyes. Right?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Only 6 Items

Greetings and welcome to #65, dear readers. I'm back in the land of sunshine, although sunshine is in scant supply on this overcast Friday. We're in the home stretch of winter here so I should make the most of the shorter days and lower temperatures.

We're also heading into voting weekend here in Australia. Who will it be? The redhead or the Speedo wearer? We are so spoiled for choice here in this country, tell ya.

Six or Less. Egad. So, there's a NY Times article that I read recently about a challenge that a couple of women in America started called Six Items or Less. The challenge lasted for 31 days and the "sixers", as they were called, had to wear those six, and only those six, items for the full 31 days.

Benefits being....?? Sixers found all kinds of 'benefits' to the challenge, including not being so stressed in the mornings about what they were going to wear. They stopped over-thinking their ensemble for the day (seeing as there was none).... and the conclusion was that because they could take this off the mental agenda, they had more brain space for more important things.

Best part of the day.... Maybe that's so. I find that so fascinating. Y'see, I love getting dressed in the morning. Sometimes it's the best part of my day - things can sometimes go downhill from there. So, taking that away the choosing of what to wear in the mornings might actually be a negative for me.

I'll take black. Oh, and another black. And could you throw in one more black.... Here's what else is fascinating about the Six Items or Less thingo: the items people chose to include for their 31 days. The ones that were showcased as part of the media piece (and can be found on their site) were all basics. Plain, neutral colours (lotsa black) + plainly constructed items. No fru-fru skirts in fuchsia. No zebra print jeans. No thigh-length leather jackets in sunshine yellow. The items people chose seemed to be a lot like these:

  • black t-shirt or tank top

  • black jeans or pants

  • black dress or skirt

  • black jacket or blazer

  • blue jeans or shorts

  • white or semi-neutral t-shirt (and by semi-neutral I mean those perennially safe colours such as a blue or pale pink t-shirt)

There's a theme to those six items, isn't there? A definite consistency, I note, in those items. The presence of items in the colour range near or approximating "black" is possibly the most note-worthy thing (a bit like the collection of black items in the photo accompanying this piece, really). I wonder if that's because the ladies who started this challenge are New Yorkers? They like a lot of black there, in the Big Apple, don't they? A bit like Melbourne in that regard. Not a lot of duck-egg blue overcoats in Melbourne, I noted, when I was there over the last 10 days. Except for mine, of course.

Jazzed up. It should be added that "sixers" were allowed to bring in accessories to jazz up their outfits - belts, jewellery, tights, shoes, underwear -- these were excluded from the "six". And thank Manolo Blahnik for that, I say. You'd go rigid with boredom otherwise, wouldn't you?

Uniform? I asked some fabulous women lately about their shopping and 'working wardrobe' challenges. It was fascinating to hear what they had to say. Clothes are not just clothes - whether we love 'em or hate 'em, love or loathe shopping - clothing evokes emotions. Not sure that's true? I don't mind a bit of healthy skepticism, so that's ok. Get your mind around this one then:

One of the women who responded to my crafty questions said she found it tiring and frustrating to sort out her clothes for the day and was thinking of starting to wear a "uniform". You know, the same outfit every day. Like Wilma Flinstone or Betty Rubble from The Flinstones (no matter how many times you watch that show, Wilma's always wearing that white strapless number with the zigzag hem and those white beads in a choker necklace, isn't she?). Kinda like the "sixers" but even more austere - there'd be no choice at all in her daily wear.

Now who'd say something like that except someone who has a strong emotional response to clothing? Of course, she is more down the "loathe" end of the spectrum, granted. But she's far from neutral. She cares about clothes - it's just in the form of abhorrence than adoring.

More deviance please! That kind of undeviating consistency in daily outfit choice isn't for me. I don't want to wear a daily uniform, or feel the need to evacuate that part of my morning routine by removing all choice in what I wear on a daily basis. I love clothes and enjoy the variety, choice and diversity that a large wardrobe provides.

But I say - go uniform (or "sixer") if you want to. What's the worst that could happen? Well, according to the sixers who participated in the 31-day challenge, some people close to them (like husbands, and workmates who sat next to them every day) didn't even notice they were wearing the same gear, day after day.

Which says to me: dressing for the day should be about you -- expressing and informing some essential element of you-ness. Not about dressing for others. Now, I realise that the entire Real Housewives reality TV franchise would fall into a pit of oblivion if more women lived their lives on that principle. But I don't care about them. I care about you. So, wear six items for a month, wear 66 or 366. Just don't wear 666. It's bad luck. Right?