Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
- "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
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
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
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
- accept consumer responsibility
- create a new economy
- adopt attitudes that encourage good stewardship and make icons of a new type of hero
- implement new rules for business and government
- 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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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?