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

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Howdie and here we are nearly at the end of March. One month into autumn and we have even had a few days that felt autumny. Not blisteringly hot is what I really mean. We're up to blog #27 so we're making good time, my fellow travellers. Lost, but making good time.

So, what's this picture all about? Well, for those who have travelled to the emerald isle, it's Kylemore Abbey which is located in the north of Ireland. We visited there in 2004 and that is indeed me standing there, pensive-like, gazing upon the glorious abbey. The reason I've included this photo and have titled this posting Travelling is because I'm curious about something. If you are not a shopper, how do you spend the lions share of your time when travelling? My guess is the answer is: looking at things. Like abbeys. And piazzas. And ruins. And long lines of tourists standing in front of you to enter the Louvre.

In the last ten years, we have travelled to these countries/regions/cities. And I have shopped in every single one of them: Japan, China, Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Hawaii, San Francisco, Baltimore, California, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York, New Zealand, Toronto (and other parts of eastern Canada), London, Capetown, Dallas, Hobart, Melbourne and Moree. That's a lot of shopping. And such fun too! I love looking at things I have bought in those places and sifting through the photo album in my mind (and on my laptop), reliving the experience of being in that place..... (fade to flashback scenes)

  • The stationery in Tokyo set up like a grocery store where I bought plastic primary coloured pencil cases out of the "fridge"
  • the markets in Malaysia where the smells almost overwhelmed us and that was even before we got to the food and spice section
  • the clothing store in Kowloon where the shop girl abruptly removed an item from my hand, rehung it on the rack and said "you too big" whilst simultaneously turning on her heel with such a haughty air, I was temporarily struck dumb. Thank god I had taken an extra self-esteem pill that day.
  • the animal print trench I bought in Hawaii - 50% off and a Petite, which is not about girth but height (before you laugh into your sleeve about what I was doing buying a Petite). As I have extra short arms, it meant I wouldn't have to spend an additional $20 - $30 having the sleeves shortened
  • the zebra print wedges I bought in Baltimore that nearly hobbled me when I wore them on the plane to Toronto and ended up being passed along to a pre-loved store
  • the earrings I bought in Minneapolis made out of real butterfly wings. No butterflies were harmed in the making of those earrings.
  • the soft teal silk shirt I bought in London, after carefully weighing up do I need food today, or can I afford to buy this item of clothing instead? Gawd, London is one pricey town.
  • the sensational square toed chocolate boots I bought in Wellington are the best boots I have ever owned. Thank you New Zulund!

It's also true that in all these places, I did other things apart from shop. Like sleeping. And eating. And sight-seeing. But shopping has always been a part of my way of getting to know a place. Even a window-shopping expedition, sans purchasing anything, can tell you something about a place that visiting its museums, harbours, art galleries and drinking establishments will not.

Going Au Natural. I like visiting urban places, cities, where shopping (or at least shops) are often hard to avoid. I guess for people who prefer to travel to places with, like, natural delights (like mountains that require trekking, and wetlands that require tramping, and lakes that require canoing), then shopping is not something that comes up a lot. There not being too many shops in, say, Base Camp. Lots of dogs, but not a lot of shops (I saw a documentary on it once).

Wake me up when we're done. Even the shops in big cities that carry gear you need to visit those places (like North Face and Patagonia) bore me a bit. They're full of camping equipment and porridge-coloured thermal underwear and wicking-away outer gear in exciting colours like maroon, grey and navy. Necessary items if you are about to trek the Laya Gasa in Bhutan, I'm sure. But it's all a bit samey-samey. I mean, where are the cheetah print thermals? The zebra print sleeping bags? The ocelot waterproof gators? Maybe the thinking is that such printed items would frighten the wildlife? Or maybe such adornment would be too flighty, fancy and silly for the serious business of trekking. I mean a serious trekker has dun-coloured boots, not leopard-printed ones. Right?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Greetings one and all and welcome to Blog #26. Today I'd like to talk about Desire. But before I do that, some folks have been telling me that they are finding it hard to make a Comment on thiseehere blog. Right! I understand that to post a comment, you need to first Sign In. I can only imagine that this is to prevent some crazed lunatic who is merely passing through from leaping onto the commenting bandwagon and making inappropriate remarks without leaving a trail. Of course, there may be some other reason why blogger have this requirement but lets not ruin a good fantasy with facts.
I beg you. Please do not ask me any technical questions about posting comments - I share only, and in a parrot-like fashion, what I've been told by those who have commenting expertise. I do want your comments (especially the nice supportive ones) and that's the one hoop I understand you need to leap through to get to the blackboard. Of course, you can always contact me "off-blog" at jill@imlisteningnow.com. OH, and here's something interesting -- we had over 60 unique visits to http://www.imlisteningnow.com/ from this blog in the last 2 weeks. Google Analytics has a lot to answer for, doesn't it??

Desire. Not merely a streetcar or a cool song by U2 (or an "erotic masterpiece" by Luis Buenel, gawd, you'd need the extra strong stuff to watch that, wouldn't you?). And does Marlon Brando, star of the original screen version of A Streetcar Named Desire (pictured) need any explanation? Surely not. (and speaking of Marlon, that's another arm/leg/torso of the desire story, which we might leave for the after 10pm timeslot).
What I've learned about desire and shopping is that for some people the two an inextricably linked. These are people who when they hear about a challenge like this one I'm on, they nod and empathise and oooh and can't wait to visit the blog to share in my pain (presupposition: I am in pain. Why? Because I am not shopping for a year, of course!). In the shopping-desire realm, these are people in my "tribe". (Tribeism has become quite the in-thing to talk about of late, have you noticed?).
Then there's other people, who have no discernible connection between desire and shopping. I was reading someones ezine just yesterday who made this comment: "shopping has never been my favourite pastime at the best of times". Fascinating! Of course, I've been aware that some people don't like shopping, but it's been like knowing that the South American indigenous peoples practised aquaculture -- a piece of factual data that I had no direct or compelling interest in or reason to further explore.
Women, shopping and desire. Do women have a greater desire for clothes shopping, I wonder? I know a few men who enjoy clothes shopping, but only a few -- most of the men I know only enjoy shopping for specific things and those are usually to be found in hardware stores, sports stores, technology stores or car wrecking yards (yawn - have you ever been into a mowing store?? And by that I mean a store that sells equipment to mow your lawn. Gawd, how the staff stay awake all day is beyond me. See there's that desire thing again! It's probably quite fascinating to them). My anecdotal data about knowing 2 men who enjoy shopping for clothing is hardly what one could call a "representative sample", so I'm interested in who you know who enjoys shopping?? I know many more women who enjoy shopping than men. What about you? In researching this blog posting, I came cross this interesting bit of info: on average, women spend nearly twice as long per month shopping for clothing as men. Only twice? Really?
And here's something else quite fascinating (and I can't quite tell if it's insulting or not).
A "new study" has revealed that when women are in their "luteal phase" (approx 10 days before their period is due), they have less control over their shopping habits. The study goes on to say that a good shop during this time is a way that many women use to reduce pre menstrual stress.
Study Schmudy. Ok, ok, someone at a university (Hertfordshire) did the study so its probably not complete bunkum. But here's what's interesting to me. I wonder about the items of clothing that women are purchasing during this time, knowing a little first hand about the roller-coaster nature of a woman's "phases". Clothing purchased "in luteal" -- do they even fit 10 days later? Do the women even like them once they are through that unpredictable luteal phase? Or do they look at their in-luteal-purchases and go "eeeww, what was I thinking?"
The final word one researcher from this study insightfully made was that women purchase for emotional reasons which can create "buyers remorse" later. Ground breaking! (this is the thing about research studies, isn't it? They somehow attempt to legitimise common knowledge through the intellectual rigour that a study shrouds the data in. But I digress).
Desire is a very personal thing. What one person finds irresistible is repellent to another. And that applies not only to the activities we find desirable (shopping anyone? ok, alternative: driving nails under one's fingernails? -- It's a coin toss as to which one is more uninviting?) but to every aspect of our lives. How else can you explain someone wanting to marry Tommy Lee? Right?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Resist and Avoid (the Twin Towers to Defeat Temptation)

G'day all and sundry. (who is sundry, I ask? and do they mind such an ambiguous title? Sun and Dry being two terms that are usually mutually exclusive, unless of course you are referring to the very strange weather we have been experiencing here on the Coast in the last 2.5 weeks).

It's all Ashley Fogel's fault! Or Helen's! Ok, ok - it's all ME! We are up to blog #25 and today, this gloriously ambiguous (weather-wise, at least) Sunday, I'd like to talk about Temptation, and ways in which it can be approached. I've been using Avoidance as my primary strategy for staying on the straight and narrow, shopping challenge wise that is. And it works a treat! Just yesterday I came face to face with how effective it is, and what happens when I employ something other than Avoid and Resist. I found myself in a pre-loved store in Peregian Beach (don't ask) that I occasionally frequent. Well, less occasionally and less frequently in the last 3 months of course, but prior to that, I'd go there - it's funky and quirky. I came across an Ashley Fogel animal print skirt. Now Ashley Fogel is a New Zealand designer whose clothing is of beautiful quality. This skirt had a straight cut to it, rather good for my shape. And it was animal print. And it was $25. I succumbed.

Dear reader, don't desert me now! It actually was something of a no-brainer purchase (if I conveniently forgot I was on this challenge), not only because of it's aforementioned qualities but these two compelling attributes as well:

  1. it fit like a glove. Like it was made for me. Perfect around the waist (often a problem for me, not possessing one), and a super length (just below the knee, very Perry Mason's secretary) with an alluring 4-inch split up the centre so as not to induce a Geisha-like ambulatory style

  2. my image advisor friend Helen has been exhorting me to wear more skirts/dresses, to better illustrate that I possess legs (in the first place) and to show them off, my pins being of showing-off qualities, apparently (if you can forgive the colour of them, resembling somewhat the surface of the moon. With freckles).

So, there I was. Faced with temptation. And I followed the discerning advice given many years prior by that sagacious philosopher, Oscar Wilde who famously quipped that "I can resist everything except temptation" and "the only way to handle temptation is to yield to it". Ah, no truer word spoken! I'm actually a fairly disciplined person.... I can sit and do something I don't really like to do, knowing that I'll find great pleasure in accomplishing it and seeing it finished (ironing comes to mind as an example here). I did my MBA over 6 years through correspondence, requiring me to sit and study evenings when Melrose Place was on (thank god for video recorders, which is what we used back then, kids).

But in that moment, temptation won out, and I was left holding the bag. Literally. And it had an Ashley Fogel animal print skirt in it, which fitted me perfectly and filled a gap (identified by an expert and everything!) in my wardrobe.

Turning out Temptation. In preparation for writing this post, I did some research on temptation. Movements that are very familiar with the insidious nature of temptation, and exhort their members/followers to resist and avoid it are religious groups and anyone with Anonymous after the first word in their organisation title. I came across this religious article, with a 5 point strategy for dealing with temptation. It quite fascinated me, and not only because each of the strategies begins with an R word (and I quote from the article verbatim here, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried):

  1. Recognise your tendency toward sin

  2. Run away from temptation

  3. Resist with the word of Truth

  4. Refocus with praise

  5. Repent quickly when you fail

I particularly like #2. It has a Monty Python-esque quality to it. And worth noting that nowhere does it suggest that you stay in the presence of your temptation and metaphorically (or literally) beat your head against something solid and unyielding as a way of overcoming said temptation. That kind of strategy will give you not much more than a huge egg on your head. And who needs that?

It works, why else would we do it? The whole Name-Your-Temptation Anonymous movement is also based on Resist and Avoid approach. AA, NarcAnon, Gamblers Anon and all the other Anonymous family of 12-steppers, does not suggest that you spend time in bars, limbering up your capacity to be in that environment and not drink. Even Al Anon, which supports the loved ones of alcoholics, suggests the use of avoidance if application of its opposite becomes too painful or spirit reducing. The Anonymi suggest you avoid situations in which your chose poison is available, if at all possible. If you can't avoid, then move to Step 2 - resist.

So, I'm convinced that there's something to this Resist and Avoid approach. When I started the challenge, 3-ish months ago, I had this idea that maybe the real challenge was to stop wanting. To banish desire for shopping from my repertoire of Things I Desire. I don't know if that's the goal. Appetites harnessed may be a more realistic, and a more human, enterprise.

Resist and Avoid as vehicles toward the challenges destinations are ruthlessly effective and to be employed when required. Why resist resistance? That's just crazy and unnecessary. Plus you end up looking like a Celebrity Rehab contestant, which is not just crazy and unnecessary, but with bad hair to boot. And who needs that, right?

[and for those not up with the latest news, www.imlisteningnow.com is ready to receive you as a valued visitor!]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Toddlers and Tiaras

Howdie and here we are at blog #24. Canya believe we're just over 3 months into the challenge? I was reflecting on that the other day when I went into one of my favourite clothing stores on the Coast here, Zambezi, and they were having a (gasp!) s-a-l-e. Yikes! I got my gift voucher and got outa there. I did note something fabulous -- a giraffe print cotton/silk overshirt by Marc Cain. Over $700 original price, now 50% off. Wasn't quite as bad as my worst challenge nightmare (if it had been, it would have been reduced to $1. oh, ok $100). Anyway, I got out of there without a scratch, although I confess that I was discussing possible birthday presents for my Big Birthday month of April with someone shortly after that, and I did happen to mention the Marc Cain overshirt to them. (they were practically desperate for ideas on what to get me, I tell you).
So what are we talking about today? Well, I thought we might delve into the billion-dollar topic of make up.
When reality isn't real. Reality television has a lot to answer for. The fact that we know the names of people like Kardashian for one thing. Not to mention watching celebrities try to make a go of running a hotel in southern France, or try to master an incredibly difficult things like being married. I mean, really! There are some fascinating shows though. One of them that I have occasionally stumbled across is Toddlers and Tiaras. (again with the punctuation! Sorry if I've missed a whatsit in that last sentence). Toddlers and Tiaras chronicles the week's lead up to whichever beauty pageant is being showcased in that particular episode. I have noted that many of these beauty pageants are held in the southern states of the United States. I have no idea if that is representative or not, but certainly Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Kentucky seem to have many pageants held within their borders. The toddlers & tiaras shows I have watched focus on young pageant participants -- and by young, I'm talking around 6 years old. (which is not really a "toddler"... although "6 year olds and Tiaras" doesn't really sound that hip, does it?)
When is too young? Ah, the perennial question, which could be asked about drinking, voting, going to war, sex, driving, and - I'll add to the mix -- wearing makeup. All the important milestones in life. These girls are made up to within an inch of their peachy faced lives. They have more make up than Ru Paul's Drag Race contestants, and often take about as much time to apply (hours!). The end result is they look like a combination of a porcelain life size doll and a scaled down Dolly Parton. And their hair. Or should I say hay-are (it's definitely a two-syllable word, they way its done). It adds feet to their height it's so BIG. I look at these tots and wonder where the child is. They are so adult-ised, they don't even look like children. These pageants are often called "full glitz" pageants, and makeup is only a part of the preparation -- fake tans, false teeth (called 'flippers'), dance/singing lessons, and the dresses. OMG, you should see them. They look like the dresses that Qwpee dolls wore on top of the spare toilet rolls, except with extra ruffles and bling on them. Is this too young for girls to start wearing makeup?
My first time. We'll by-pass all the other "too young" categories and go straight to make-up, this being a PG-rated blog. My mum bought me my first bit of makeup when I was about 6. It was not as part of my role as contestant into a beauty pageant, I might quickly add. I don't think Queensland (or even the country) had beauty pageants back then, and I don't think they have too many more now. But I digress. I was about 6. Ok, we were in a department store and they had a display of cheap lipsticks in a cardboard box at the checkout counter. I may have been angling for a lipstick, or I may have been staring longingly at them. Knowing me, it would be hard to imagine my mouth not being engaged, being the little talker that I was (well, am).
My first real proper time. But that wasn't my true introduction to makeup, because I didn't start wearing makeup, like, "properly" until I was in my late teens. My mum arranged a makeup lesson for me with my aunt Evelyn, who was a Nutri Metics consultant. I was 14. This was one of the most excellent things I recall from what was otherwise a fairly hideous year (not being a kid anymore, and certainly not being close to approaching womanhood). Evelyn showed me how to apply makeup so I did not look like a clown or Tammy Faye Baker. She told me about blending (so the makeup doesn't fall off your face where your chin meets your neck). She told me a bit about colour (go easy on it). She told me about using makeup to highlight, not conceal. That was my first true introduction to "proper" make up -- the products and its application -- and I remember it to this day.
Every year, you say? I love make up. I enjoy wearing it, and shopping for it... I have spent hours in Sephora, the US makeup store - trying on this and that makeup. In the 10 minutes that I practised as an image consultant, back in 1999, I would advise my female clients to review their makeup every year. Don't just keep applying it the same way, year in and year out. For a start, new products emerge that you'll miss out on, if you don't keep at least half an eye on the makeup industry. Like mineral make up -- what a fantastic advancement that has been! No more liquid makeup! Fantastic! The last time I had my makeup reviewed was in Hawaii (yes, darling, fabulous it was too). I went to a Bare Escentuals counter (complete with improper spelling) and had a gorgeous Hawaiian young woman do my makeup. She didn't pressure me to buy, and I got some new tips on how to keep my makeup fresh and "me".
We could talk for hours about make up and all the pros and cons of it, and what it has and hasn't done for women (and drag queens). But in the interests of keeping you all awake and allowing you to get on with your day, I'll sign off with my perspective. 6 is too young to start wearing that kind of makeup. Even if it is Full Glitz. Right?
(you knew I wouldn't forget, didn't you??) And if you haven't visited our beautifully renovated working website: http://imlisteningnow.com -- please do! We're thrillareno'ed at how it's come up and the response to the reLaunch last week.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Greetings. This is blog #23 and today we're talking about colour. Or color, depending on where you live in the world. By the way, has anyone noticed how lacking in punctuation skills I am? I do apologise to those readers who actually know about punctuation and find my lackadaisical (or is it more oblivious?) approach to it galling or annoying.

I've been Done. So, colour! Many women have heard of the colour system. These colour systems have been around for centuries, but it was in the early 1980s that they became popular, and women everywhere were "having their colours done". This entailed going to see a "colour consultant" (and not one who worked out of a paint store) who would analyse and then categorise you into one of four categories: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. You were given a colour swatch and instructed to purchase only clothing in colours that matched your colour swatch. So, if you were designated an Autumn, say, then your colour swatch would have Autumn colours on it, and you were to henceforth and forthwith to only purchase Autumn coloured clothing. And any non-Autumn clothing in your wardrobe was to be sternly appraised and hopefully dispatched from your wardrobe, never to be worn on your tawny body ever again.

And we're doing this because...??? The whole idea behind colour systems and consultancies is that we each have a set of individual characteristics based on our personal colouring -- our eyes are a certain colour, our skin has a certain tone to it, our hair has certain colour qualities to it (which, if you are a rock star or follow in their footsteps, may change with some frequency). All these things -- the colour of eyes, skin, hair -- combine to form our personal colouring. The idea of colour analysis is to put clothing on our bodies that harmonises with our individual colouring . Keyword: harmonises. So, if you have Autumn colouring, say, and you wear Spring colours - well, you'll look bad. Or not as good as you could. Or so unwell people will wonder if you have contracted a serious and chronic illness.

Don't fence me in! I know a number of women who don't believe in the colour system. When pressed (something I do only on unusual occasions, ahem!), their objection to "being done" (from a colour perspective, I mean) is they don't want to be boxed in. They don't want to be told their colours are a-b-c, which means that colours x-y-z are off limits to them. They are possibly like some men who baulk at the idea of marriage -- it's not that they don't love the one woman in the white dress walking down the church aisle, it's just that they fear from being deprived of all the others. In the bar. In the gym. Well, you get the idea.

Who me? I've not had this experience, myself. Knowing my colour direction is Warm Light (more on that in a sec, hold up and we'll get to it soon) has been positively liberating. It makes shopping so easy peasy lemon squeasy -- I know the stuff to avoid, and the stuff to gravitate to immediately. A rack of fuchsia clothing I know is something to stay away from; a rack or orange, turquoise and sun yellow gear is something I gravitate to. That's when I was going shopping, of course. Not an experience the last 3 months has afforded me. Naturally.

Am I really a season? The four-category system of colour has been superseded by more sophisticated systems. And thank goodness for it. I mean, does it seem plausible that every person in the world could fit into one of only four categories? Nope, not to me either. Although some people I've noticed around and about the place could quite reasonably be categorised as a Tsunami or at least Exceptionally Windy.

The colour system that I reckon is useful is the one my pal and image advisor extraordinaire, Helen uses (check her out at http://www.imagequest.com.au/) which has 18 categories based 3 dimensions (it takes a mathematics professor to work out all the possible combinations of these 3 dimensions to come up with the 18 categories):
  • Depth. Is your colouring what's called "deep" which roughly translates to dark -- tanned or dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair. Or is your colouring more toward the light side - fair skin, pale eyes, light hair. It is something of a continuum.
  • Temperature. Ok, are we on a cooking show now? No, this has to do with Warm and Cool.... this is where having some actual skill in colour systems comes in handy, as some of us wouldn't know warm hair colour vs. cool if we were hit over the head with a L'Oreal box. But if we cast our collective memories back to when the Royal Family was not either divorced, dead or disgraceful, we would remember Fergie (warm -- red hair, warm brown eyes, tawny skin) and Princess Di (cool - silvery blond hair, cool blue eyes, pink toned skin).
  • Clarity. Sounds like a character from the TV series Deadwood I know ("Ma naime's Clarity. Clarity Charity Calamity Hickok. Nace to meet yer"). What this actually means is how clear/bright your colouring is, or how muted/soft/blended it is. So, if your hair, skin and eyes are all roughly "in the middle" -- brown, brown and brown, say... then you might have muted colouring. If your hair, skin and eyes are all really different colourings -- say jet black hair, violet blue eyes and pale skin (haven't I just described Elizabeth Taylor in her gorgeous Cat On a Hot Tin Roof glory?), then your colouring may be described as clear or bright.

Ok, that's Colouring 101. Entire books have been written about this topic, not to mention endless articles in magazines and the Internet about it. "Doing" yourself -- trying to analyse your own colouring -- has a 9.7 degree of difficulty, so I would strongly recommend that if you're interested in this -- go see a professional. Whatever you pay for the consultation will come back to you in spades. Think of all those mistakes you wont be making at the shops!

Photo finish. The photo above was taken this morning in my wardrobe, with the colour wheel that I carry around with me all the time (not that I've needed it recently. Not having been shopping in the last 3 months. Naturally). Those with penetratingly clear vision and/or enormous screens may be able to see that the colours of (some of) my jackets are indeed to be found on the Image Quest colour wheel. It works! I tell you, it really works!

Listening Jill (vs Whispering Jack). And finally, today is a big day in other news. Our I'm Listening Now website (http://www.imlisteningnow.com/) has been ReLaunched. Colour me happy, but isn't today a day for celebration! You can read the back story of this momentous occasion by visiting our blog page, and check our celebration prices which go until Monday morning. And if you're real interested, I can tell you why turquoise is the chosen colour for our logo. Not by accident, of course. Right?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

International Womens Day

G'day and welcome to Blog #22. Today is International Women's Day. Who knew huh? Well, nearly 300 women at the breakfast I attended sure did. My friend Peta (aren't we gorgeous? And modest. That's us, left, at the breakfast this morning) invited me to join her table, a perfect vantage point from which to view the room full of women of all ages, sizes and shapes. And with a wide variety of attitudes about and aptitudes for style, if what was visible to the naked eye and the casual observer was anything to go by.
Duly Different? You know, I find this positively fascinating. There's lots of talk about how different the sexes are. The guest speaker at this breakfast herself talked about how different men and women are, especially when it comes to connection and conversation. The meandering path that women often take when they talk together, vs. the bullet-point approach to discussion and debate that men often take. Whilst these broad brush strokes have a ring of truth to them (and garnered lots of laughs during the talk this morning, largely due to the performance skills of the speaker), they don't tell the whole picture.
Take this morning. Even though this was a business women's event, the interpretation of what is appropriate for a business breakfast were as wide as the grand canyon. Everything from wafty skirts with flat, Roman style sandals and spaghetti strap tops, through to fitted dresses teamed with killer heels. And everything in between. There were navy blue suits, a-line dresses, wraps over crinkled skirts, satin shirts with pencil skirts, bare arms, long-sleeve wrap tops, full length skirts, shorts, tailored pants, jeans. Even a school uniform. No board shorts or bikinis, but most other modes of dress appeared to be represented. You can't get much more 'different' than that, right?
A basis point or two. A woman from one of Australia's "Big 4" banks was there in her uniform - a snazzy combination of a black pencil skirt with a satin-esque (shiny) black short-sleeve shirt - who knew NAB was going sexy? Maybe its their way of keeping the customers focused on something other than their rising mortgages repayments? Clevah.
Don't pin me! We were all given purple ribbons (with the "office of women" printed on them) to commemorate the occasion. My major concern was that it didn't match what I was wearing and the safety pin would damage my silk shirt. Peta, a veteran of International Women's Day, had prepared her outfit so that the purple ribbon coordinated with what she was wearing. Now that's what I call planning ahead! Right?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Allure of Pre Loved

Greetings from a rather soggy Sunshine Coast. We have had rain for nearly one week now. When this happens, I feel so sorry for the holidaymakers whom I am imagining are holed up in some two-bedroom apartment, looking out of their sliding glass doors onto a small swimming pool accumulating on their balcony with a fine mist of never-ending rain blurring their view. Those facing the rear wall of the adjacent apartment block may find this an improvement in their view; others may find their view has been depreciated somewhat.

This is Blog #21. And I'd like to share with you today, fabulous readers, my love of pre-loved shopping. Or as the Americans call it, consignment shopping. My photography tendencies are nothing but quirky, and the photo accompanying this blog post was taken almost exactly one year ago in Santa Barbara , a very lifelike town in southern California. It's known for movie types and wine country (brilliantly combined in the movie Sideways, which if you haven't seen it... well, I could digress for the entire posting about that film, but I shall resist. Except to say: see it!). I stumbled across two consignment stores in Santa Barbara (and we were only visiting for a couple of hours - so howzat? My laser-like honing device for consignment stores is something to behold. I can spot one from a moving vehicle at 100 paces) neither of which offered up anything for me on the days I visited, but both were still worth the look.

What I love about consignment store shopping is it's like a treasure hunt. You never know what gems you are going to uncover. The underlying great thing about consignment stores is they are (almost always) full of quality clothing. They aren't like thrift or charity stores, where the quality of the clothing can be variable and many of their clothes started their life new in discount department stores. Consignment stores carry designer label quality clothing in great condition. I have purchased many a loved item of clothing, sometimes purchased NWT (New With Tags) - never been worn.

The downside to consignment shopping is sizing. If you find something you love and its not in your size, you can't ask for them to search "out the back" for the same item in your size. I have walked out chagrined from many a consignment store having found something gorgeous (usually animal print) in a size too small. Things too big can usually be altered (although depending on the alterations, they can cost as much or if not more than the original purchase). Things too small - well, short of an amputation, can't be altered to fit. (and the body parts that would need to be amputated are generally considered vital, or at least, desirable, to keep).

Dallas. In Dallas in August 09, I found two consignment stores, both of which I visited twice, once with my friend Katherine and her aunt Helen, where we spent a fun-filled few hours trying things on and modelling for one another. (just like guys do in hardware stores and car parts wrecking yards, right?). Visiting these stores was such fun that I had another whack at it on my own. Well, Dan (husband and driver for the day) was waiting outside with a newspaper. These stores - Re-threads and Clotheshorse Anonymous (great name huh?) - provided hours of entertainment. And the thing was - they were so much larger than the consignment stores in Australia (which btw, are often called pre-loved clothing stores).

The downside to these Dallas consignment stores was many of the items were in sizes too small for me - American size 4 - 6 seemed to be the size of much of the items in store. This is roughly the size of a appropriate-weight-to-height-ratio 10 year old boy, and I can only assume that many of the Dallas diva's who consign their clothing to these stores are thin as rails. I did find some fabulous items including:
  • an Escada silk animal print shirt - NWT (never been worn) - $50. Equivalent new would be over $500
  • two pairs of designer jeans, both my size and both hemmed to the right leg length - amazing! $20 each. Equivalent new (including alterations to fit me) would be over $120 each
  • the most amazing pair of animal print slides, faux-patent (wanky fashion talk for "shiny"), with diamante detailing on top. Never been worn - $25. Priceless (if I were a pair of shoes, I'd be these)

Pre and now Me Loved. Four of my gorgeous animal print jackets and 3 turquoise jackets were purchased pre-loved and they're some of my favourite pieces. (and if you are wondering, the answer is "of course a gal needs 3 turquoise jackets when she lives in tropical Queensland". and the other answer is "yes, I do have more than 3"). I can't name all the beautiful items in my closet that I love that previously belonged to someone else, there's so many. These are different to sale items. Pre-loved clothing are like foster children who never found the right home - until now (well behaved, designer foster children, I might add.)

I have found consignment stores tucked away on side streets, and inside cute little locals shopping arcades (which is where the Santa Barbara one was) - they are often off the beaten track, and almost always worth a visit. The USA in particular is a great place to go consignment shopping, if you have the patience and time (and curiosity. And don't mind being chagrined from time to time when a stunning gotta-have-it piece is too small for you. A good chagrine won't kill ya, I've found.)

And then there is the money....The final great thing about consignment shopping - apart from the magical mystery tour it takes you on, is the pricing. You can find sensational, quality, stylish, unique items at greatly reduced prices. I have a pair of Fendi high heels, that new would be out of my price range, that I purchased for $120.

So, gotta love consignment shopping.

I'm Listening. Really! I've also started blogging for my other enterprise, you know, the money making one -- I'm Listening Now (http://www.imlisteningnow.com/) which has finally finished its renovation period! Haaah! I just hope I don't get my posts all mixed up and start blogging suchlike: "the other day I was listening to an animal print jacket and a pair of ballet flats and the most amazing thing happened....". Right?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Three Kinds of Shoppers

Welcome to Blog #20.... My average seems to be slipping -- reckon it has something to do with the Waiting for Inspiration that amateur writers might be stricken with. This is just me hallucinating, but I wonder if that's the thing that separates professionals from rank amateurs -- professionals like inspiration, they prefer to have it, but they keep writing even if there's none to be found (did you look in the sock drawer? behind the couch? in the fridge? no inspiration to be found? none whatsoever? ah well, sit down and write anyway...). I've been waiting for inspiration to knock on my door or hit me on the head or in some other way make its presence known, over the last week or so. I even sat down on Friday and gazed longingly at the screen for a few minutes, hoping that if I simulated a writing situation, inspiration might fly in the window and sit on my shoulder. Nope. So I'm writing anyway.

On the weekend, I found myself in a huge shopping centre and was observing the shoppers I encountered. I talked about this before (see blog #4) and I've refined the categories into which shoppers seems to fall:

  1. Taskers. These are people who know what they're there for. They are coming to the shopping centre to find and purchase The Thing. They prefer to shop alone and therefore like to avoid bringing shoppers #2 or #3 with them on their shopping expedition, but sometimes it can't be helped. They have a goal - they are coming to get It, they will not be deterred or distracted from this task, and once they have It, they are going home (or at least, away from the shopping centre). These people can be identified by their purposeful walk, their laser-like eye movements, and their uncanny ability to avoid the physical pitfalls that can befall other shoppers, such as bumping into one of those triple-baby carriers, or getting caught behind very slow dawdling shoppers, or being snared by one of those temporary stall holders who want to sandpaper and massage your hands with some fantastic new product dredged from the bottom of the Red Sea (that never seems to ever get used if you fall into the trap of actually buying it). These people are not actually fixated but they are focused.
  2. Day Trippers. These are the people who see shopping as an outing. They are almost always clustered in groups of 2 or more and fall into two sub-categories: (a) teenagers. Groups of girls, groups of boys, or mixed groups is how you'll find the teenagers who day-trip at shopping centres. You wouldn't really want to have an up-close-and-personal encounter with any of these groups, as they all possess rather green social skills and their interactions can leave you wondering if you, yes you, were quite that awful when you were their age (yes, you probably were). If you actually spot any of these people interacting with one another, as opposed to interacting with their technological devices, you should stop and capture the moment in your memory. Often they are texting one another, with such profound missives as "OMG!" and "LOL!". You wont find them in stores such as Robin's Kitchen, Howards Storage World, Godfreys Vacuum Cleaners or the Cigar Store. You will find them in abundance in anything selling technology, anything selling cheap nasty disposable clothing made by under-age workers from third world countries, and anything selling food with zero nutritional value. The other group in the Day Tripper category is (b) women. Often these are women who are bringing a shopper from the third group (below) -- because their good-for-nothing husband couldn't babysit for a day, one lousy morning with the girls, I ask you! -- or they may be older women who are having a Day Of It... some morning tea, some meandering, some lunch, some meandering, maybe a movie, some meandering. Heaven help you if you get stuck behind the older women Day Trippers - it can take you hours to get out from behind them as their sensory acuity for other shoppers seem to decrease as all their attention is focused on each other and the lovely time they are having of it.
  3. Prisoners. These are people who do not wish to be at the shopping centre at all, and are only there because they are with one of the aforementioned groups, usually a person who falls into Category #1. There are two kinds of prisoners: (a) children under elbow height, often incarcerated in a wheeled device of some sort, from which their faces turn radish-red as they bleat out their protests to an unyielding (and seemingly unhearing) ambulatory person. They can sometimes be found being tugged along in a shoulder-wrenching action as their feet drag along the floor. The other day, I heard one such prisoner denounce her captor thus: "I don't like you anymore!" to which stony silence and an even more intense scrutiny of the magazine he was reading was his austere response. This was shortly followed by cries of "Mummy! I don't like Daddy anymore!" as a harassed-looking woman approached this sad huddled mass and proceeded to whisk them away to places unknown. Away from me was all I really cared about. The other kind of prisoner is (b) men, usually husbands (what boyfriend would put up with this?). The experienced ones will be wielding a newspaper and are adept at seeking out the seating provided by some shopping centres for such occasions. The inexperienced stand around in loose disconsolate groupings outside clothing stores, shoe stores, kitchen stores.... well, all stores really except perhaps Godfreys Vacuum World and the sports stores. They wear a facial expression connoting slight despair coupled with mild resentment -- I imagine the soundtrack inside their heads runs something something like: "will this ever be over, and how did I get myself talked into being here, again, on a crowded Saturday morning? I can't decide if I hate her, me or my life at this moment more....".

So, that's my wrap on the kinds of shoppers you often encounter in large, fakely lit and aired, Gruen Transfer designed shopping centres. (oh, and if you're interested, the photo above was taken a few years ago in Hong Kong, the land of Extremis Shoppingus). It makes for an interesting sociological study, even if it just a cursory one as I got in, got The Thing, and got out. Right?