Monday, May 31, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
In blog #28 (Lyle and Kasey) back in early April, I promised I'd come back to this topic of what does clothing mean. I mean, it's just not possible that clothing is only and always just way of hiding our nakedness, is it? For some people in the world (and its the third that I'm thinking specifically of here), this is undoubtedly true. Sobering moment, with a silent prayer and moments' silence about how blessed the rest of us are.
For the rest of us, clothing is a marker, a message sender, a meaningful form of expression, even if we're not entirely sure what it's saying. Ok, here's some examples I've come up with to bolster this side of the discussion that clothing matters.
If clothing did not matter:
- no Australian or British teenager, attending a high school that enforces the wearing of a school uniform, would ever feel the need to differentiate themselves in some small way from the crowd. There would be no "huh, uniform says my socks must be white -- ha! I'll rebel: mine will be white with a blue stripe!". I remember my high school uniform-wearing rebellion. The girls at our school wore white shirts and frog green skirts (that's the colour, not the texture, of the skirt). I delighted in wearing different and brightly coloured bras under my white shirts. Schools being schools, it became something of a game for my classmates to check out the colour I was wearing that day. I so beg the forgiveness of every teacher who ever had me in their class during Grade 11 and 12. But I should put this in perspective: my rebellion, in uniform-wearing ways and all others, was considered mild in the school I attended. Mild, people. It's all context, right?
- no American teenager, attending a high school that does not enforce the wearing of a school uniform, would ever be teased or picked on for wearing something that others deemed to be out of style or geeky or unusual. Think Molly Ringwald in "Pretty in Pink". Those "richies" making fun of her $15 second-hand shoes and mix'n'match pink volcanic ensembles - she showed 'em! And thank god for Duckie (in an extreme departure for Jon Cryer from his character in Two and a Half Men) who dressed in even more eyebrow-raising styles than Molly did. And what about James Spader's character, Stef, wearing those crinkled linen suits -- really? He represented the "in" crowd with that get-up? Yikes! Ok, my '80s nostalgia is over now, but evidence exists elsewhere! There's "Clueless" with more of a makeover theme to it, but the same "here's whatcha wear if you're IN, people!" And don't get me started on Sesame Street.
If clothing did not matter:
- Muslim women would not wear the abaya and hijab
- Arab men would not wear the keffiyeh
- Catholic cardinals would not wear crimson red, and Catholic Bishops would not wear purple (and Priests black)... in what is a regimented and respected dress code that is never wavered from
If clothing did not matter:
- there would not be television shows devoted to the "after Oscars" workshopping of the best and worst dressed actors from the awards ceremony
- there would not be the countless number of make over shows! Style by Jury -- complete strangers assessing your personal qualities based on how you look. Style Her Famous - making you over based on the style clues left by celebrities. How Do I Look? - makeover show that takes a hapless or hopeless case and injects style into their eyeballs with the help of 3 'accomplices'. Trinny and Susannah - do not get me started on this pair, but one cannot ignore the fact that they are out there on TV, telling everyone the stuff they're telling them about how to dress. How to Look Good Naked - you wouldn't think this was about clothes, really, based on the title of the show, would you? Nevertheless, it is. The gorgeous and generous Gok (in the UK - the US show has another host, Carson from Queer Eye) helping women with appalling body image issues to take the blinkers off. And these are just the shows I can remember off the top of my head. A thorough 65-second investigation of the Austar TV guide would possibly yield the names of a number of other shows in this genre
- Branded clothing companies would not sponsor the hosts of high profile television shows(eg: Pippa is dressed by Portmans. She is. Really. There's even a piece on the NZTV website about what Pippa is wearing)
- we would never have known that Britney was not wearing underwear
If clothing did not matter:
- I would not feel a certain way when I wear this, and another way entirely when I wear that
- You and I could meet for a coffee and swap clothes and we wouldn't feel any different to how we felt in our own clothes (ok, this does not apply to me and my friend Jennifer, who, when I was in San Francisco last year, we actually did swap clothes quite a bit. Gosh, I looked good in her gear)
- there's be no such thing as power dressing or 'dress for success'. Whole rainforest's could have been saved because 147 books on this topic would not have been written and published, including the classic How a Navy Blazer Changed My Life. Real title.
- no man would ever wear a tie. Ever.
- Ben Sherman would not be putting signs up in his stores like the one in the photograph above. Big bold statement, Ben! Taken in Auckland.
And just to finish on reality. If clothing did not matter:
- Superman would not need to wear red underpants on the outside of his blue tights
- Catwoman would not need to wear that skin pinching black Lycra
- Batman would not need to wear that beard chaffing and only-flattering-if-you-don't-have-a-double-chin face mask
Monday, May 24, 2010
- a kiwi (that's the fruit, not the bird) scented tea light candle from the Devonport markets. $1.50
- a Koru glass piece to go with our 2 other Koru glass pieces bought in 2006. This one has more of a "figure 8" shape to it (the ones we already had were more like a "6" and a "9" in shape. I'm sure the Maori people who created these beautiful shapes would be so happy to hear they have numerical equivalents). $69.90
- a miniature decorative wooden Maori paddle with beautifully carved 'pointy end' to it. About $80
- a large (and very heavy) white platter with a native palm tree embedded on it. Gift.
- 6 DVDs (Confessions of a Shopaholic; The Hustler; Pretty in Pink; Rachel Getting Married; The Business of Strangers; So I Married An Axe Murderer)
- a vegetarian cookbook
Those are the extras we brought home with us. Finding homes for all those things was easy, as they either had an existing place to go (DVDs and cookbook) or I'd thought about where I wanted to put them before I bought them (glass Koru and wooden paddle).
What temptation? I was also really pleased that I'd not bought anything on the trip, and not had a terrible time resisting something irresistible. I'd exercised some habit-breaking muscles by going into some stores for the sole and exclusive purpose of appreciating without consuming. And I'd learned a whole lot about the world of media. Altogether, a stunningly successful trip! Now it's back to business as usual in the home office, which feels like a great place to be right now. Feels like All's Right With The World (you know that feeling, right?).
More Right Feeling. In our other online enterprise, I've revamped the I'm Listening Now home page and the two click-through pages behind it -- there are new words (written by me) and a new image that illustrates our "power up your best self" new tone/feeling. You can explore more about this All's Right With The World thing by going to this page and doing the 45 second exercise there. Something about being away from the everyday brought me more in touch with my creativity. New Zealand was an 'opening' experience. More creativity, more connectedness, more clarity. 3 darn good C's. Right?
Friday, May 21, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
This photo (right) was taken recently and it has summed up my approach to almost all the "shopping" I've done lately (well, except shopping done in grocery stores and other utilitarian places like shoe repairers, video stores, dry cleaners -- can you imagine if it weren't? Imagine walking into the Blue & White Dry Cleaners - "just browsing!").
Just Looking. If one is "just looking", does that actually qualify as "shopping"? I looked it up and there seems to be some grey area here. Shopping is defined as having some intention to it, namely the intention to purchase.
My little win. Today, we were wandering around the swanky suburb of Ponsonby in Auckland. We came across a nice-looking pre-loved store called Encore: Fashion Recycle. When we first saw it, my reaction was immediate: do not go in that shop! Possible danger! It was almost a physical aversion and it happened before my brain had time to join the party. It was only after I was fortified with a bottle of organic apple & pear juice that I had to time to actually consider the situation. Thus fortified (in all manner of ways), I was able to untangle those jumbled thoughts and decided that I could, if I wanted, have a quick look in this store as we passed it going back. And this I did. At the threshold, I spoke quite firmly to myself but with Dan as my witness, saying "I'm going in! But I'm not buying anything!". A woman coming out of the store gave us a smile and making a fairly natural assumption, assumed I was talking to my husband and not myself. She said "you negotiate girl!" I should've got her number.
I like clothes. Ok, let's have a collective Homer Simpson moment of "duh!" here. I have a walk-in wardrobe of generous proportions and it is filled with clothing I have lovingly collected over a long period of time. So it's pretty obvious that I like clothes (and some of them quite like me, too, I've discovered, although others do not appear to like me as much if their less-than-flattering appearance on my body is anything to go by. Items such as those usually are exited fairly swiftly once their true feelings about me are discovered).
So, looking at clothes is something that I enjoy. Why shouldn't I look at it? Whilst I do not wish to spend my life in a state of "just looking", I also don't want to feel that clothing stores are the enemy and that I cannot enjoy being inside them from time to time. Now that I get down to it, the pattern I have been trying to break is:
- oooh - look at this! Isn't this lovely, how gorgeous, (appreciating noises)
- I must possess it
This is really the heart of the matter. The soul and centre of it. It's the vanilla essence of the challenge.
What is it not? When I worked with corporate clients doing stuff around strategy, well, we never called it 'stuff' to start with, but I would usually suggest that when they think about what they want, they also think about the opposite. It can be very illuminating to think of what you don't want - it can help shed more or a different light on what you do want. This is called "moving away from" goals or ideas or thoughts or whatever it is for you. Someone a lot smarter than me thought that one up, but it's a good one to use when you remember to. So, it's a good thing for me to consider what this challenge is not.
The challenge is not to attempt to stop enjoying clothes. I would need the assistance of a large ice pick and a medical officer with dubious ethical standards to effect such a change in my personality and personal preferences. And hey, I gotta be me, right? You could have a go at being me (and some days I'd happily outsource the job of being me), but it probably wouldn't work out real well. And the me that I am loves and appreciates clothes.
The challenge is not to avoid clothing stores. What's tripped me up about this one is that gamblers avoid casinos. And alcoholics avoid bars. And drug addicts avoid particular street corners or private schools where they purchase their drugs. (ok, so that's a joke there about private schools, no offence meant for any particular private school or the private school system in its totality, in any state, territory, county, region, country, continent or in any area located anywhere in the known solar system. really). But I'm trying to get my head around this one, so I can have more positive experiences like I did in Encore today. I enjoyed looking at what they had (lots of black, as it turned out) but I didn't buy anything AND I didn't feel particularly inclined to buy anything. I just enjoyed being in there, having a quick squiz around, and moseying on with my day.
Still looking? No. When I know I'm not going to buy anything, it changes the way I look at clothing in stores. The intention to buy is not there. Maybe I'm further along in breaking the pattern than I give myself credit for. Wouldn't that be good news. Right?
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Greetings from Napier, the Art Deco capital of the world! We are up to blog #39 and thanks for reading. Napier is on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand and has a reputation the world over for 'doing deco'. After the 1931 earthquake, the city was rebuilt by three architects (and many builders and craftsmen) who all agreed that a consistent style should be used for every new building.
Art schmart, deco schmeco? The art deco style is very distinctive. In architectural terms, two iconic buildings characterise the style, both in New York: The Rockefeller Center (now famous to a whole new generation as being the workplace of those funny folk on the TV show 30 Rock) and the Chrysler Building.
Art deco had an influence on everything during its time - architecture; car design; interiors for everything from homes to offices to ships; modes of travel; music (art deco is sometimes used interchangeably with the term the jazz age); and of course clothing. The way I think of art deco is: if you can imagine Agatha Christie's famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot wearing it, travelling on it, eating in it, dining with someone dressed like it, displaying it in his Whitehaven Mansions apartment -- then its likely to be art deco.
You can read up about art deco in many places on the internet, but here's the bits that were relevant to this blog. Art deco had three main influences:
- the massive progress of science, technology and automation and the effects of these on the industrialised world, like factories, car manufacture, ship building, skyscraper construction and other male-dominated and gripping areas of enterprise like that. How this showed up in the art deco style was in the use of "speed lines" and lightning flashes (the zig zag pattern)
- the dawning of a new era and overthrowing of old conventions. How this showed up in the art deco style was use of new-day-dawning motifs such as "sun rays" and rising sun images. They also used contemporary images of the day to embody this influence and one of these was the Egyptian motifs. King Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered in 1922 and as the London Times co-sponsored the expedition, they were kind enough to publish and distribute photographs of it in their newspaper. Art deco designers the world over grasped a hold of those icons and images and wove them into their designs. In Napier, indigenous Maori designs were also integrated into the art deco styles. This was considered very avante garde at the time (and startlingly obvious to us now)
- the increasing independence of women. We were still a long way from Betty Freidan's The Feminine Mystique and Germaine Greer was yet to be born, but women were making inroads into mobilising themselves out of the Second Class Citizen car, and were achieving things that we can't imagine having to fight for now, like getting the vote. Art deco was in its heyday after World War One as women were breaking out of the box and doing eye-brow raising things like wearing pants, especially if they had a temporary job like being a truck mechanic in the army reserve. Many of the photographs of art deco show art deco fashions, as in the drop-waist, feathered head-band, ankle-strap, opera-length tied pearls kind of fashion. But when it comes to the graphics, motifs, images and icons of the art deco style as it relates to Influence #3, it seems to come down to naked ladies in athletic poses. These are usually bronzed and either holding up lamps the size of giant beach balls, twirled around long drapey pieces of fabric in Cirque Du Soleil style, or contorted into a back-arching pose that makes you wonder if her vertebrae is perhaps made of rubber. Maybe the thinking was: if women are independent enough to wear pants and have jobs and fix carburetors and vote and drink beer, they're independent enough to be shown nude. I don't know. But I do find this element/influence of the art deco style to be particularly fascinating.
Art deco came to a screeching halt as style de rigeur during the Great Depression. It was considered inappropriately ostentatious, gaudy and gauche to have all those images and icons of prosperity, when people were lining up around the block to get food stamps. You can see their point, can't you. But I'm sure glad that the places like Napier maintained this style and we get to go and look at it. As a beautiful little city, Napier is a stand out, and its because of this almost institutionalised art deco-ness.
Back to Poirot. And the pervasive presence of the art deco style is one of the things that makes watching Agatha Christie's Poirot such a treat. The attention to detail in everything on this show (over 19 years in the running) is amazing. Everything from Poirot's spats (these are things he wears on his shoes, and do not refer to a small altercation or something a cat does if she's cross with you) to his cutlery is carefully considered. Although there's nary a bronzed naked lady juggling illuminated globes to be seen. Not Poirot's style. Right?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
- Military. Apparently, clothing that is military inspired is in. These are items that have things like shoulder detailing (like epaulets), brass buttons and other detailing (like decorative studs), and combat boots. I read about this trend before leaving Australia, so when I came across this military-inspired jacket recently, I knew a photo opportunity had magically appeared. Note skeptical look on my dial.
- Clogs. This is an item of footwear made primarily out of wood. This gives you an indication of how flexible it is, and how much support it may provide to one's foot. Clogs are in because, I read, Karl Lagerfield (the "kaiser") used them in one of his recent runway shows. The fashion editor where I read this did make an amusing comment which was along the lines of: if I couldn't wear them when I was 14, I wont be trying them again now. Touche. Plus, clogs don't look good with orthopedic inserts.
- Chunky knitwear. "Artisan" knitwear is the go, with chunky, fluffy and hybrid wools being used to create cardigans, sweaters and dresses that previously were the sole domain of cottage industries and sold at weekend markets along with organic capsicum and second hand cutlery. Some of the items illustrating this piece were indeed like works of art. And that's probably where they should be displayed - on a wall somewhere, not on somebody's body. Especially if that person is shorter than 6ft3 and weighs more than 40kgs.
The thing that trips me up about these fashion trends is, well, a two things actually:
- who decides this stuff? I've seen The Devil Wears Prada and everything, and I still don't get who determines fashion trends, or more precisely, why they get to decide them. Yes, I heard the monologue that Meryl Streep delivers to the hapless Anne Hathaway about where a fashion trend starts (which in short is: on some designer's runway, which other designers then copy, which fake-artists with cheaper price tags then copy, then into some bargain bin where Anne's character Andy* digs it out of. *[Insert own name here if a bargain shopper]). Ah, so our fashion reality is determined by the fantasy world that is a haute couture fashion show. Good to know.
- why do we buy it? Where is our sense of personal style, our awareness of what suits us (regardless of what's being touted as being 'in'), our own internal style-meister? Pumpkin skirts for example should be worn by reed thin girls who are 11ft tall. This means that only the blue-skinned cast of Avatar should even consider wearing them. And as for chunky handcrafted-looking knitwear? Sheesh. If you aren't a fisherman on the Irish Sea, it's hard to pull off and look like anything other than the Michelin man. Bulky sweaters add, well, bulk. And as for clogs, and military-inspired clothing and [insert whatever fashion trend some magazine is saying is in here] ..... it's easy to see how some women can get confused and end up looking like a mish-mash of all manner of fashion trends. Where's YOU in all this?
French style. An article in one of the many magazines I've been reading lately about Ines de la Fressange (French model and long-term muse of the aforementioned kaiser of fashion) caught my attention. She was asked about French style:
"In England, people follow fashion much more than in France. I imagine Bridget Jones working in an office and dying to go and buy a pair of shoes at lunchtime, you know. French women have a kind of arrogance. It's 'I ignore fashion. I do my own thing'".
I don't see it as arrogance. I see it more as an internal certitude, a level of self assurance that no amount of pressure and attention from the fashion media can shake. Sure, they may be criticised (got a lesson in that myself recently, so know how that feels). But even more importantly: they know themselves and are true to that. A fashion-leaning version of "to thine own self be true", I suppose. Ah, the bard. Shakespeare said all the stuff that was really worth saying. Right?
Friday, May 7, 2010
Press. Release. So I crafted a press release, of sorts. I found a template of a press.release on the internet and basically followed it, like a formula. Inserted a few silly sentences, all based loosely on the truth. I then did a google search of New Zealand media. Very high tech. I typed in terms like "New Zealand television" and "New Zealand radio". Gosh, it was thrilling stuff. I sent the press.release off to a few people with a short email note. I had no idea what the response would be. No. Idea.
Ring ring. The next day, the day before we were to leave Australia, I was at the hairdressers, as one does... I'd just finished being massaged and rinsed off (hair, people, my hair we're talking about) when my mobile phone rang. Dripping and slightly concerned about electrocution, I answered the phone and it was a producer from NZ TV's Breakfast show. They thought it was a fabulously interesting story. I may have added in the "fabulously" later. Long story short (or it is it too late for that?), they scheduled me to come on the show. Who'd've thunk it? I was really thrilled. And surprised. And the shoulders of my shirt were really wet.
The white room. We spent a quality 20 minutes in a white room, I think they reserve the proper Green Room for the VIP guests, politicians, celebrities, CEOs and suchlike. Ours was most definitely not green. But we did get tea and coffee in a very functioning flask and I got to see how they were positioning my segment in its lead up. They like to tease a bit on this show, all in good humour and I must say, the presenters on this show are love-ee-lee.... but I did start to feel a bit nervous. Like I might be made out to be Imelda Marcos without the subjects and political tax evasion scandal.