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?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
- You have a plan, a strategy, an overarching r'aison d'etre for going shopping. There is no randomness to the shopping trip where you wander listlessly from rack to rack, with no clear thought about what it is you're looking for. For some of you, this element of Shopping Consciously alone will change how you shop.
- You have done some pre-playing in your wardrobe and know what you need. You've done a bit of a wardrobe chuck-out and have identified any legitimate gaps in what you have and what you need. This may have taken you a whole day or 10 minutes. However long it took, you didn't just leap into the car and point it in the direction of a shopping centre with no further thought. You got some "good intel" before going shopping. And you got it from your own wardrobe (and brain).
- Once purchased, the items on your shopping list will fit your lifestyle and will also play nicely with at least 3 other items, if not the entire closet. This way, you will not be bringing home any 'orphans' that don't go with anything else (or require additional items to be purchased to make them work -- see last post on Ange's jeans shopping debacle)
- During your shopping expedition, you keep a focused head about you. You know what you're there to buy, and you keep that Front And Centre. This is not to say that you don't enjoy all the lovely other things on display. You just don't want to be a sitting duck, vulnerable to every alluring table display and group of mannequins displaying gorgeous things that you don't need. Stop - admire - even try on. But keep focused on what you're there for.
- If you do find something gorgeous that's not part of your strategy (ie: not on the list) and you are Seriously Considering buying it, that's ok. Just make sure it ticks ALL of these boxes: Does the colour suit me? Does the style flatter my body shape? Does the item fit my lifestyle? Will I be able to wear it with at least 3 other things already in my wardrobe? Will it be relatively easy to care for (ie: no hand washing or dry-cleaning every time you wear it)? Does it fit well or can it be easily altered? Does my bum look big in this? (well, every woman asks herself that last question as a matter of course, don't they? Even if they're trying on shoes)
Shop less, but more. Really! I'd suggest that you are better of going shopping 2 - 4 times a year, consciously, than once every week or so, randomly. This way, you shop based on your "intel" (do a wardrobe review and chuck-out - then build your list of Must Haves -- not the seasonal must haves, mind. No. These are your must haves) -- not based on what the fashion merchandisers are flaunting right at this moment.
So go shopping less often, but for longer. You'll need a longer shopping trip because you've got specific and numerous things to purchase. You devote more time to the expedition, but you come home with only what you need.
This way, shopping fits into its proper place. It isn't a hobby or a contact sport. And in the end, this approach will save you time. Woooo - saved time! Isn't that what half the women's magazines (and a quarter of the men's) are saying we are all desperately short of? Well, here's a way to scrape some of it back!
When you shop this way, you enjoy shopping, but it doesn't become your life (your life is too important to devote to shopping).
Switch to the ON position. Shopping consciously implies that your brain is switched to the ON position. I say that with the greatest affection, you know. I have often been shopping with my brain switched to the NEUTRAL position. That "there but not there" state of vagueness where you are actually hyper-suggestible and therefore likely to come home with a few more bags and a few more pages on your credit card bill.
Please don't go shopping in that state. The only people that that's good for are unscrupulous retailers who are only interested in volume sales - not developing loyal customers who go home thrilled with their purchases.
If you are too tired, too overwraught, too stresesed, too whatever -- don't go shopping. The temporary pick-me-up it provides wont last anyway, and it'll be accompanied by some "below the line" feelings of guilt and "oh no, now I have to go return this thing anyway".
Only go shopping when you are feeling alert and energetic. Pay attention to what's going on around you, and what's going on inside you. Yes, let's get all woo-woo for a moment here. If something doesn't feel right, it probably won't work for you - so pay attention as much attention to your instincts as you do to the sales staff. Maybe more.
You know when your brain is switched to the ON position, and when it's not. Only go shopping when it's ON.
Investigate other options. Instead of always hitting the mall or large shopping centre, you might want to consider new but not new options (which I talked about here and here. And remember consignment shopping - it's the best!). Including this type of shopping, and those types of stores, into your shopping expeditions will add some colour and variety and fun. You'll likely find some unique treasures, and not just the mass produced stuff on sale in the big department and chain stores.
It's worth it. You're worth it. If you've been a serious shopper, someone who shopped regularly, and randomly, then developing some new habits around how you shop will take a bit of time. Shopping consciously is where you want to be, though, so stick with it until you can shop this way easily.
Shopping consciously will save you money and time and it'll also save your sanity in the long run. And we all need a little more of those, don't we. Right?
Friday, August 6, 2010
- jeans were to cover and slim her hip/thigh area. I'd guess that 4.7 women out of 5 are looking for this particular design feature, so it didn't seem unreasonable to imagine that would be a tick! no problem, madam, would you like that in dark, stone, or ripped?
- jeans were to lengthen and slim the leg. Few of us actually resemble in any physical way the models we see sporting the jeans we end up buying. Those models are all 7ft tall (everyone knows that, right?). So this also seemed like a design feature that was not altogether unexpected
- jeans were not to gape at the back. Few women would enter a jeans store and say "well, I don't care what colour or style they are. But they absolutely positively must gape at the back so that my underwear is visible from the cab of any passing 18-wheeler, ok?". Another check in the box of Reasonable Request
- jeans were to be dark denim. As you can now get jeans in colours from Prussian blue to sand-blasted to 'destroyed' denim and silver jeans. Dark denim seemed a fairly easy-to-find quality in a jean
- jeans were to have some shaping quality to them. This is one of the advances in fabric and garment construction that those of us with less than stick-like figures have benefited from. What you see on the outside may be a virtual magic trick made possible by the shaped panels inside the garment.
- jeans were to be in stretch fabric. Since we've all been wearing Lycra-infused garments since Brooke Shields first exhorted us to not let anything come between us and our CKs, this didn't seem unreasonable to request either
Ok, I'm sure you've got the picture. Ange was fairly specific in what she wanted. But also not an unreasonable set of design requirements. I have 3 pair of jeans (out of a total of 14 pair) that fit those exact specifications. Two of them are from Target, I might mention.
The sales person "assisting" Ange brought out a pair of jeans that closely resemble those in the photo accompanying this article. No exaggeration. Promise.
Apart from the dark denim bit (requirement #4), they possessed none of the design features Ange asked for.
"They look great!". What happened next is even more astonishing. Ange is standing there, looking like she's been poured into these jeans, and the sales person exclaims "oh, they look great on you!". At this point, Ange began to wonder if this young woman didn't have some kind of visual impairment. There was no possible way that the words "great" and "you" could be applied to the vision of Ange in those jeans.
When Ange protested that she didn't feel good, or didn't feel she looked good, the response was "oh, well you could wear a longer top, and a little ankle boot" (yes, the jeans were wrong from both ends - with muffin top and cankles appearing as if from thin air. Doing wonders for Ange's self esteem, into the bargain).
Ange responded that she didn't want to have to adjust her entire wardrobe to be able to make the jeans "work" (although she felt that nothing short of an amputation was likely to make that happen in a hurry).
Less confidence in sales staff. Ange walked out of the store jeans-less. She told me that the entire experience left her less confident in sales staff in general. "Even if I do need help, when I walk into a store and someone asks if they can help, I say no. Because I don't trust their advice". How sad is that?
And the answer is... behind door number 3 of course! The answers are obvious. Here's a few I made up just now:
- sales staff need to be knowledgeable. And not just about the product their store is selling, but about their customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to know a bit about the human body shapes that exist. And what looks good on the various human body shapes. And that's not even getting into colour or personality dressing. And here's a bonus free tip: skinny hipster jeans do not look good on real curvy women of any height (and I'm not talking 'Hollywood curvy' there).
- sales staff need to be focused on the customer, not on selling stock off the floor. This is sheer heresy to some retailers, I know. Ange said that when she was working in retail, they had the 7 Steps to a Sale, from "greet the customer" through to ringing up the sale. The focus was on selling the product, not on helping the customer. And YES, of course they should be the same thing. But how many times have you walked out of a store and wondered if they even saw you, let alone were focused on helping you? (If you can get staff under 21 off their hand-held electronic devices long enough to even notice that you've entered the store, you're doing well).
- sales staff need to have the judgement and communication skills to provide honest input to customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to be able to ascertain (in your best judgement) if the item is flattering to that person. Then you need to be able to express that viewpoint with diplomacy and courtesy. If everything "looks great on you!", then you know the sales person has no idea and their comments are on automatic loop.
- sales staff need to be able to offer options to customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to not only be able to provide an opinion on how flattering the current garment is on them, but offer them options if it's not. This usually requires a brain switched to the ON position.
- sales staff need to do all this so that the customer walks out happy. And does not come back, unhappy and having complained to as many people as will listen, to return the item. A happy customer will not only tell lots of people about their experience, but they will become a loyal customer.
Now if you walked into a store and were assisted by a sales team member like that, wouldn't that be a treat? Wouldn't you be telling anyone who'd listen long enough all about it? Wouldn't you become a loyal customer? I sure would. Well, if I were still shopping, which I'm not right now. Naturally.
So, Ange is still looking for a pair of jeans. If only she were my size, she could have a pair of mine. Right?
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
- Sometimes I write about the fashion world or the marketing/merchandisers who lure us into purchasing new items that we may, or may not, need or even want.
- Sometimes I wrote about shoppers and shopping centres.
- Sometimes I write about various challenges or successes or I'm having on (or ways I'm coping with) the challenge.
- Sometimes I write about observations I've made about shopping from being out and about.
- Sometimes I write about TV shows (fiction and documentary) or movies and their relationship to this challenge.
- I've been fortunate enough to have some media attention and I write about that, too.
- Sometimes I write about the building blocks to creating a working wardrobe, like colour and mixing and matching. I'll be writing more about the other building blocks, too, soon (like conscious shopping and style & shape)
- Sometimes I write about ways to inject something new into your wardrobe, without buying new (or buying anything). Like here, here and here.
- Sometimes I write about what I've learned or I'll stop and do a review, just so we can collectively catch our breath.
- the challenge is simply too hard -- habits were too entrenched, temptation is too irresistible, sales were too pervasive. Willpower is not just the name of an Australian racing car driver, although it may be just as elusive.
- the challenge was too isolating -- despite there being a good few people who joined the challenge, maybe it felt too Robinson Crusoe to some folks. Not too many of us can remain stimulated and enthused when working in a vacuum. On something really hard.
- the challenge didn't offer enough support. It may have felt that the challenge was not just all-on-your-ownsome, but doing it without a net as well. Hard to keep on keeping on when it feels like there's no-one there to catch you if you fall. Or even notice.
- there weren't enough distractions or new ideas. Bribery and distraction work for toddlers in supermarkets, and they work for adults, too. You can't just take something away and not replace it with something. Well, not if you want it to work. You've got to fill up the now-empty space with something else. Preferably something good.
- the focus was on "doing without". This feeds into the human fear of scarcity -- never having, or being, enough. Which is not a life-enriching or spirit-lifting aura to surround yourself with.
Now, who knows if these things affected any of those 50% of good GAAD people who didn't make it. Maybe halfway through the challenge, they all got jobs at Calvin Klein and got massive staff discounts. We may never know, and thank Jimmy Choo for a bit of mystery, I say.
So, does this mean that 12 month challenges are too hard to stick with? No, no, no, and no! They can work... (well, they do - 50% of the good GAAD people stuck with it, right? And let's not forget me - it's working for me, too). Here are the things that need to be in place to make it work.
1. support. You gotta know that there's a helping hand, a bit of tough love, and possibly a large polo mallet (gently and infrequently applied) that will be activated to help keep you going. And someone will notice if you fall of the wagon.
2. inspiration. You gotta know that there'll be new ideas, distraction and large amounts of cavity-inducing chocolate available to get you thinking and feeling differently about your wardrobe, your shopping habits, and yourself.
3. guidance. You gotta know that someone who's qualified, experienced and has a more than adequate grasp of the English language is going to offer you some juice on how to do things differently. And by that, I mean better.
The 12 month program we've got going has all that in spades. I told you a bit about the experts we're attracting to the program in the last blog. When you join the 12 month My Year Without Clothes Shopping program, I'll
- make it as easy as it's possible to be
- make it fun and fulfilling
- make it inspiring and practical
- be with you the entire time
- remind you that if I can do it, you can, too
That's the deal. Check it out. Decide for yourself. Click the big orange button. We'll still be friends, no matter what you decide. Right?
Friday, July 30, 2010
- We've been taped by Australia's Channel 7. Their evening magazine show, Today Tonight is doing a story on recovering shopaholics, and I'm one of the featured people on it. The show is probably going to air early next week. Like heavy towels on a cloudy day, it takes time for a story like this to air properly. I'm looking forward to airing. (actually, while we're talking about this... if you watch the show, you'll see the shots of my wardrobe. Which is not only one of my favourite rooms in the house, but is also a converted bedroom and very deliberately designed and laid out. Just for a bit of context, I have attached a photo that shows a portion of Mariah Carey's wardrobe. All we see are some of her shoes - not even all of them. And that's just her shoes. Heaven knows how big the entire thing is. I'm thinking football field sized).
- We have moved full steam ahead on getting our 12 month My Year Without Clothes Shopping program knocked into shape. Check out the updated website here. I'll wait while you check it out..... back? Good. What did you think? We're pretty pleased with the site and have received some positive feedback to it. Which is better than a poke in the eye with a wet fish, isnt' it?
- We've got some great guest writers/contributors lined up to be part of the 12 month program. Avis Cardella (author of Spent: memoir of a shopaholic) is going to be part of Months 4 and 9. Jennifer Selby Long (author of Wealthy Types) is going to contribute to Month 8. Helen Robinett of Image Quest (image advisor extraordinaire) is going to contribute to Months 2, 5 and 11.... It's all go, I tell ya. There'll be so many fabulous people contributing to this program, our heads will collectively spin.
Ok, before I get too business-y here, let me get onto what else I want to talk to you about today. You'll probably have noticed the words the Shop Your Wardrobe website. And you're probably wondering: what does that mean? Good question, and I'm glad you asked!
And if you're really asking: I wonder if it's too early for lunch? Or, is Chelsea Clinton really going to serve gluten-free cake at her wedding? Then I'm sorry but you've come to the wrong website for answers to those burning questions. So let me go ahead and answer my own question, and try to stay with me, please!
Ok, so here's the scoop. There's two bits to Shop Your Wardrobe. Well, two bits I could think of anyway. Here they are:
1. The first bit is about attitude. Psyche. Thoughts patterns. What goes on in the upstairs department. You know how you can look at the stuff in your wardrobe and be silently saying "yeah, this is all ok... but what I really want is....[insert name of desired object here]!". Desired object may be the latest Must Have item you've read about or seen tantalisingly displayed in a store window. At the moment, I've noticed a lot of military-inspired stuff around. Which is not for me. You put military-style with animal-print and I'll look like I'm about to stage a coup in some third-world country. Not the look I'm going for.
So, back to this attitude thing. Maybe you're looking at your winter jackets and wishing for a military-inspired jacket instead of what you've got now. Whatever it is you're wishing for, what that's doing is creating or reinforcing a feeling of want. You feel something is lacking. Now, maybe your wardrobe has the goods, maybe it doesn't. That's not the point here (it's the next point -- let's keep our points in order, shall we?)
If you want to Shop Your Wardrobe, you gotta have an attitude of what I've got is enough. Your 'tude should be one of enjoying and using what you've got to the full. Easy enough to say, harder to do. But it can be done.
And of course, it's easier if point #1 and point #2 are in synch. Let's get into point #2 now, shall we?
2. The second bit of Shopping your Wardrobe is to create a working wardrobe. Oh, so what the Gucci is a working wardrobe?, I hear you ask. Sheesh, you're asking all the great questions today.
A working wardrobe is one where every single item in it:--
- works for you. Every thing makes you look good and feel even better
- pays its rent. You wear everything in your wardrobe. None of that "oh the last time I wore this was when I went to see The Godfather when it first came out at the drive-in". No. It all gets worn. Regularly. Seasonally. Frequently.
- plays well with other items. Every item coordinates with at least 3 other items in your wardrobe. And 3 is just the minimum. There's no maximum.
- has been purchased consciously. None of that random whirling through a store, picking up things thither and tither, with no overarching plan in your head of what you're there to buy, why you're buying it, and how it's going to fit into your current wardrobe. Working wardrobes don't get created that way. The people who stand at their wardrobe, staring into it with a slightly white-eyed look, lamenting "look at all this stuff! Yet I've nothing to wear" have usually shopped in that random fashion. There's no consciousness to that kind of shopping.
Working wardrobes usually take a bit of time to develop. Mine has taken 10 years to get to the point where it is now. 10 years ago is when I started getting conscious about pulling my wardrobe together.
10 years ago is when I learned about and applied the building blocks of a working wardrobe (and this is also a useful guideline for me in upcoming blog pieces I should cover, right?).....
- colour. What colours support me and make me look my best? Ok, you might or might not buy into that whole colour thing. That's ok. But I reckon there's something to it, and it sure makes shopping easier
- style and shape. I'm not a fan of Trinny and Susannah's body shapes that are modelled on inanimate man made items (who wants to be a 'brick'? or a 'bell'? yegods). But there is something to understanding the different shapes that we humans tend to come in, and knowing yours in particular. Then dressing accordingly. It's the way nature intended it. I mean, there's a reason why hippos, rhinos and elephants come in standard grey, isn't there?
- personality dressing. You don't have to be Carl Jung to know that people come in different personality packages. This is also the way nature intended. Take birds for instance.... peacocks are different to eagles, and both are different to owls, and they're all different to doves. Right? (And let's not even get started on the hairy woodpecker). However you slice and dice it up, we all have different personalities, and knowing yours can help you determine a style of dressing that supports or expresses or even informs who you are. Assuming you have your eyes open and your brain turned to the on position, you'll likely feel quite different wearing a navy blue structured suit than you will wearing a pair of board shorts and thongs.
- lifestyle. When I worked for an international consulting firm, what I needed in my working wardrobe is really different to what I need in it now. Putting that knowledge into practice to keep my wardrobe truly working for me is part of Shopping My Wardrobe. Out with the suits! In with the animal print jackets! I didn't have a single animal print jacket 10 years ago (and now I have 12.... ok, don't say anything! That's why I'm on this challenge, right?)
- mixing'n'matching. There's a skill to pulling a whole bunch of outfits together from only a few items of clothing. You truly have a working wardrobe when your options expand exponentially every time you bring home something new. Which leads me to my next, and final point....
- shopping consciously. You gotta have a plan, or at least some broad ideas of what you're going out there to buy. Without it, you're a walking duck, vulnerable to the sassiest table displays and most alluring window displays. You're like Isla Fisher walking along the street with the store mannequins beckoning to her (loved that part of the movie!). For me, having a plan meant that I could shop purposefully. I knew I'd never bring home an 'orphan' that wouldn't play nicely with any other item in my wardrobe. I discovered my love of consignment shopping, which meant I could shop for quality items without breaking the bank. And who doesn't want an unbroken bank, right?
Ten years ago is when I stopped shopping randomly. Ten years ago is when my working wardrobe really started to take shape. I was in training before then... I had some good ideas, but I didn't really know what the building blocks were, and I sure didn't know how to pull it together. Now I know. And I can honestly say that I shop my wardrobe. Neat, huh? (that, or slightly annoying. I know).
And I can help you do it, too. True blue. (you can read more about why I'm qualified in that particular department about halfway down this page).
So that's the skinny on what I've been up to and what shop your wardrobe means. You're up to date. Right?