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

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Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Art

Hello lovely readers and welcome to blog #44. I've just found out that Blogger (the good people who provide the software so I can bring this blog to you for free) have this thing called Blogs of Note. As far as I can tell, it's a way of bringing attention to blogs that are, er, noteworthy in some positive way... like, say, they're well-written or entertaining or possibly even useful. Something like that. I reckon this blog is worthy of note, don't you? What note, I'm not sure - perhaps C-major?

For today's post, brought to you by the number 18, because that's the current temperature in Celsius here on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, I'd like to talk to you about Art. And no I'm not talking about Mr Garfunkel (the famous songwriting and singing partner to Paul Simon). Or the Broadway show (which I saw on Broadway in 1998 with my friend Tara. The curtains opened and there was Alan Alda sitting on a coffee table on the stage. It was such a buzzy moment!). No, I'm talking about art of a different sort entirely.

Fashion Art. (there's a natural acronym that those two words present, isn't there? It's like Country Rap - we call it Crap, which is a real song). So, when I say art, what I mean is art in the world of fashion. I've pondered before (remember blog #38? (well, who doesn't?)) about where the fashions that we find in our stores come from. If The Devil Wears Prada can be relied upon as a credible source, then the catwalks of the world's major fashion shows have a lot to do with it. Which downright astounded me. How can something that starts as that (note picture above as Exhibit A) end up influencing what I wear to work if my job is being someone other than Lady GaGa? Or something I might wear out to the movies and dinner with my boyfriend, if I'm someone other than Lady GaGa? And even Lady GaGa may baulk at wearing what's depicted in the above photo -- she'd certainly get some interesting requests from people sitting behind her in the movie theatre, anyway.
This confused, confounded, perplexed and puzzled me so much. Just how was it possible to make the leap between catwalk creations of stupefying proportions, and what Ms Everyday uses to clothe herself?
Mr McQueen. I was reading a magazine in Cambridge, a cute little town on the north island of New Zealand, a few weeks ago on Alexander Lee McQueen. A 4-time British Designer of the Year, earlier this year Alexander Lee McQueen took his own life. The article chronicled his meteoric rise to the top of the fashion pile, starting when he was around 24. It recounted some of his more spectacular catwalk shows, which beggared belief - models dressed as mental institution inmates, double-amputee women as models. But my favourite was the story about a cat walk show where the finale was a model (I'm guessing she was human, although it was hard to tell as she was so thin and pale, she may have been man made) wearing a white strapless dress being spray painted with black paint by robots commandeered from the Audi car factory. It was said that McQueen was so moved by this spectacle that he wept.
What is the point of all this, the inner blue-blazer-wearing, feet-on-ground, sensible-practical-reliable, cost-appropriate-purchasing me, wondered? It was while I was reading this article, complete with photos of some of his creations (like the one above) that I had an epiphany. Which occurred in between alternating states of rising respect for the success McQueen achieved in an astoundingly competitive and cut-throat world and utter amazement that anyone could take his work seriously.
It's art. The catwalk creations of stupendous proportions, like the one pictured above by McQueen, aren't fashion. These creations are art, and they happen to be being displayed in the fashion world. And art has its own rules and conventions. It has its appreciators, and its detractors. Art isn't intended to be practical, at least not always. Art isn't intended to be taken literally, at least not always. Art is its own thing. And what Alexander Lee McQueen created was art.
Really? That's the best explanation I can come up with. It doesn't make sense to me any other way. Because what makes something worthy of being "art" has a lot to do with who's doing the talking; it's subjective. It's in the eye of the beholder. What is confusing crap to me is inspired inventiveness to someone else. So when I look at the catwalk creations of designers like McQueen and try to make a connection to "real world" fashions, I can't do it. The only way I can appreciate the output of people like McQueen is to view it as art. And that makes it OK that I don't understand it. Art isn't always supposed to be understood, right? And it sure isn't meant to be worn picking up the kids from school. Right?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What do clothes mean? Do clothes matter?

Hello and welcome to blog #43. We are deep in Autumn here in Australia and it is simply glorious! Days have just enough crispness in them to make layering necessary but are not too anything -- cool or warm, wet, dry, sunny, cloudy, windy, mountainous.

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
We've only scratched the surface of the examples of if clothing did not matter. Right? For those of us who have a choice in what we wear, clothing makes a difference. It matters. It says something on our behalf. Some of us reckon we know what our clothes are saying. Other people claim to not have thought about it. That's ok - whether you're conscious of it or not, whether you're paying attention to it or not, and whatever you're saying or not, our clothing has something to say, too. Right?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unpack me!

G'day from blog #42. We got home from New Zealand on Saturday. I reckoned that if there was a bridge from Auckland to Brisbane, it would have been quicker to drive. All that airporting just soaks up the hours, doesn't it? You practically need a packed lunch to get through security and customs alone.
By the time we got home, a mere 14 hours after leaving Auckland, I was a bit over it. Maybe that should be Over It, because it was a non-specific, indefinable feeling of general testiness. I could've given Oscar the Grouch a run for his money.

The unjoys of unpacking. I mentioned in blog #33 that the process of packing I quite enjoy (as does Ashton Kutcher, apparently). But unpacking? Not quite so enjoyable. Maybe it's the feeling that the holiday is undeniably over now. The impending "back to work"ness that comes with putting things away, even if its been a work trip. Whatever it is, unpacking does not draw one in quite as much as its opposite. Its moments like this that I wish I had a personal valet. (there are other moments when I feel this too. Like when my woolen jackety cardigany things need hand washing. Man, those things are heavy when they're wet!). But I noticed that on Saturday, something had changed.

This time it was different! Whilst it wasn't a barrel of laughs, unpacking from this trip wasn't quite so bad. Wasn't quite as much of a chore. And I worked out why that was. It's because there was only a few more things to unpack than I had packed one month ago. There were no new clothes or shoes or accessories to find new homes for! The new items that were brought home on this trip were:

  • 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

Not Quite New shopping

Welcome to blog #41. This blog is now officially older than me. It's also our last full day in New Zealand and the city is obviously grieving for our imminent departure as the skies have opened and the downpour hasn't stopped all day.

Today I'd like to talk about the different kind of "not quite new" shopping that you can do. This was prompted by yet another magazine article where three women who like to "op shop" were profiled. As I read the profile of each woman, it was clear that two of them were indeed true "op shoppers" whilst one of them was a vintage shopper. The magazine had jumbled the terms up together so it seemed like a good thing to unravel them.

Op Shopping. This kind of shopping is done in stores where the clothes have been donated and the only people who make any money out of it are the charities or churches who run it. The person donating the clothing doesn't make any money (just in case you missed that part). I found this super guide to op shopping online so if you can read more about it here if you like. The clothes you find in op shops tend to be a the lower end of the quality scale, are usually 'contemporary' (you generally wont find a genuine pair of 1930's ladies leather gloves for instance), and are priced at a low level, like $5 for a t-shirt or $10 for a pair of jeans. That kind of thing.

A number of the big charities (such as St Vincent de Paul, Lifeline or the Salvation Army) have a process for sorting out their donations, whereby everything donated is sent to one warehouse location, no matter where it was collected from or donated to. So I could drop something off at my local Sunshine Coast Lifeline store, and it will be transported to the big Lifeline warehouse in Brisbane. The clothing is then sorted into categories, and shipped out around the State or country. I chatted to a lady in the Lifeline Brisbane City store and she said that was how their store got to have a boutique feel to it. Their store got all the 'brand' items of better quality.

You can get good stuff at op shops, but it's a huge treasure hunt and you're just as likely to find poor quality gear that you yourself would get rid of as you will a designer piece at a tiny fraction of its new price.

Vintage. Vintage is period shopping where clothing of a particular era is for sale. For example, one store in the Haight Ashbury region of San Francisco has their vintage store organised by the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I don't know if the 1980s are yet considered old enough for a vintage category of their own yet. So, you could walk around this store and collect items from those decades, if that's your thing. This is not op shopping as the quality is generally very high (although sometimes its patchy, just like it would have been in during the era in which the clothing was new) and there is a real dedication to authenticity in vintage shopping. I found this online vintage shopping guide which was US-centric but kinda neat.

There are two people who make money out of vintage shopping - the store selling the clothing and the person donating it. The profits are usually split 60-40 or thereabouts with the store getting the greater share.

If you like era-dressing, then vintage shopping is a great option to build your wardrobe. Vintage clothing will not look like a current version of that style though -- so a genuine 1970s trench coat will have style differences to it that distinguish it from a 1970s-inspired current trench coat. There's always some new twist to era-inspired clothing that makes them different to the original... it may be the fabric that's different or the shape of the collar or the cut under the arm - whatever it is, vintage items clearly come from a different place in time. Vintage shopping will help you reproduce the looks from a particular era. Sticking with the 1970s (one of my all-time favourites and not just because I was born in it), vintage shopping will help you get the look Goldie Hawn had in Foul Play or Jane Fonda sported in The China Syndrome. Fashion icons of their time, right?

Vintage shopping is not op shopping and neither is it consignment shopping. It's its own thing.
Consignment shopping. Consignment shopping is the third category of "not quite new" shopping. Consignment stores are where you take in 'gently used' quality clothing that you leave with the store for them to sort and sell for you. Consignment stores usually have very clear and strictly adhered to rules on what items they will accept. These rules usually are about quality, brands they accept, newness (they usually wont take items that are too old, which would make them vintage), and the state the items are in. I blogged about pre-loved shopping in blog #21 and its one of my favourite kinds of shopping, although there are some pitfalls to it.

Two people make money out of consignment stores, the same as for vintage shopping. The consignment store will usually take the lions share of the items sold, and you'll take about 30 - 40% of what the item sold for. Consignment or pre-loved stores will also reject some items for their own reasons - they might not think they'll sell, or they don't fit with the direction of their store, or some other reason which is sure to offend you if you're the one bringing them in.

Consignment shopping is different to op shopping (quality) and vintage (newness) and both on price.

Wrap up. So, that's the wrap up on the three kinds of "not quite new" shopping. There are so many great options if you want to sprinkle your wardrobe with something that's new to you, but isn't new to the planet. And that's got to be good thing. Right?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just Looking!

G'day and thanks for joining us here at blog #40. I've just passed the 5 month mark and things are tracking well. As far as I can tell anyway!

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

Deco-dant style

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:
  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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

What's In and Why

G'day and welcome to blog #38. We're back in Auckland after a weekend trip to Gisborne. As part of my new stay-a-while, cafe-enjoying, people-watching mode, I've found myself reading more magazines than usual in the last few weeks. Cafes seem to stockpile them. What's caught my eye has been the fashion pieces that appear in almost every magazine except Mechanics Weekly. Many of these pieces have a focus on what's in - the current fashion trends. This intrigues me.

What's In (and how can we know for sure?). Here's three recent examples:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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


Well, we're up to blog #37 and it's great to have you with us! This week I had the extraordinary experience of being on New Zealand's premier early morning TV show. They've called it Breakfast - where do they come up with these names? (the show after it is called Good Morning - I mean, go figure).

How did this happen? Well, great question! It started with me having this idea land in my brain -- you're going to New Zealand anyway, why don't you make "the most" of the trip and see if you can get any media interest in the 12 Month Shopping Challenge? That was kinda how the thought formed. I've chatted a little bit to one media person in Australia who said the story was interesting... This is great feedback, btw, because as a consumer of the media, it's hard to know how they determine what's interesting. And what's not. It seemed conceivable that my year of no clothes shopping may be either.

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.

Pre-Interview. Couple days before I was due to go on, someone from the show did a pre-interview with me and that's when I told them about the home footage I had taken of my walk in robe. You know, the thing that used to be a bedroom, where all my clothes pay rent to live there. That sparked their attention, so I sent it through to them. Little did I know how much that footage would appear in the final 7 minutes that went on screen. And if I'd known, I don't know if I would've shared it with them. But then, I probably wouldn't have gotten the 7 minutes then. Speaking of the 7 minutes, Lord Jeffery Archer got 7 minutes the day before in an interview on the same show; all the other segments were about 3 or 4 minutes. I don't know why this amused me so much. Maybe it's because Lord Jeffrey is such a sophisticated and authoritative sounding man (the private school system (which they call the public school system, don't they?) in England will do that to a person - 12 year olds come out of their system sounding like that, don't they?). And my topic just seemed so .... light-weight... in comparison. Not that Lord Jeffrey spoke of anything particularly weighty. But you should've seen the shots of the view from his house (or house-sized apartment)! The Thames, glittering and fresh as it always is. Big Ben, donging away. Sheesh.
My scheduled day, Monday, was moved to the Wednesday. Something to do with the male presenter of Breakfast, Paul Henry, being the in the UK to cover some political thing. Elections, I think they said.

The Day Arrives. Wednesday May 5 arrived. As we all knew it would. Days are like that - predictable. They come. They go. So, after something of a fitful sleep, up at 5.30am, dressed and made up, into the corporate taxi, across the Sydney Harbour lookalike (but only smaller) bridge. Good thing Dan came with me, we had a lot of laughs and it kept me relaxed. There was some mix up with the corporate taxi and we had to pay the fare -- Dan reckoned that when I got on-air, it should be the first thing I mentioned. Funny!

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.

My 7 minutes. Pippa and Jack were very friendly, although I suspect that Jack's appreciation for this particular topic was at a lower ebb than Pippas. Gotta tell ya, my respect for TV presenters of those kinds of shows has gone up - the sheer volume of various topics they need to get across in one morning is staggering. And to be even vaguely conversant with each guest, let alone well informed, takes some skill and attention. So I tip my hat to them. Not that I imagine either of them will read this blog. Pippa made the interview so easy - very conversational. Like it was "just us". Yes, let's forget however many hundreds of thousands of people are watching. And the seven minutes zoomed by before I had a chance to say "designer consignment sale". Now, if Andy Warhol is right, does that mean I'm "half done"?

Check it out. You can check out the segment by visiting: http://www.myyearwithoutclothesshopping.com/. This is also where we have put up some info about the Membership Club we are starting.... Love to hear your thoughts on the segment.... not everyday a girl gets to have her innermost, er, things available for the world to see. Right?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Going In

Hello and welcome to blog #36. On the weekend, we were out and about in Auckland, gorgeous place that it is. Cafes, boutiques, groovy bars with attractive people sitting outside, sunshine, families, mostly well behaved children - this place has a lot to offer.

One of the things we did was visit the Devonport Craft Market. This was the girly weekend activity; the blokey activity was going to see the Warriors play the Raiders (this is Rugby League football for those of you tuning in from countries that do not have this particular breed of sport). The game was played at the "wait 10 minutes and the weather will change" Smart Stadium - sunnies on, sunnies off; umbrella down, umbrella up, gloves on, gloves off... and that was just the players!

Beautiful! Unique! Creative! Those markets, tell ya... they were filled with people who had created such innovative things for sale! One woman had created bowls and ashtrays out of 45 and 78 LPs (if you were born after 1978, you probably wont know what these are - these are what music used to be played on before tapes and CDs -- large black disks that melt very well to form bowls and ashtrays, as it turns out). She had created bags for these bowls and ashtrays out of their album covers. Another were chalkboards painted in primary colours and cut in animal shapes - I was very tempted by the blue cat. Another was a Swedish woman who had created the most beautiful hairclips and brooches out of feathers, kind of like mini fascinators. Rings made out of buttons, brooches made out of zippers turned into flowers, tea cups turned into bird feeders, beaded/elasticised bookmarks - it was a feast for the senses! Such creativity and such beautiful things.

Mine? Not mine? Yours? And you know what I noticed? I enjoyed looking, a few items even tempted me (my visa finger was itching in places, although the stalls only took cash, so maybe it was my cash finger itching). But I wasn't truly ruly deeply messily tested to buy anything. I was able to appreciate these beautiful unique things, without wanting to purchase them and take them home. The voice that accompanies that insistent chant of "I must have it!" is always either husky and slightly menacing (combined with a maniacal laugh - think of any villain in the Batman series) or else it's like the seagulls in the Pixar film Finding Nemo - and their chants of "mine! mine! mine!" Fortunately, those voices were silent on this craft shopping expedition. My medical team will be so relieved.

Streeeetch it baby. I took this as a good sign that I might be ready to enter a real store selling real things that are off my list to purchase... didn't think I would leap straight into a clothing store, but I did saunter into quite a few accessory stores. One had the above brooches made out of Scrabble tiles. I'm not sure that two of those "words" would be acceptable if a proper game were being played (guess which two I'm thinking of!), but yet another example of creating a beautiful piece of wearable art out of an everyday, if not incongruous, item.

Feel the burn? In our travels around the northlands here in Aotearoa, we've stopped in a few funky little burgs. Many of these have shoe and clothing boutiques in them... I've started to stop and look in the windows, or peer in through the open doors at their stock. More appreciating, less the need to consume. And you know what else? I've noticed that my aperture for appreciation is widening on this trip, to include not only the groovy stuff that downtown has, but the natural surroundings as well. Instead of walking through the town centre, let's walk down by the river and observe the ducks. They can be quite aggressive, you know.
Progress, you say? This feels like (more) progress for me, however insane it may seem to somebody else (I get to define the terms of my own sanity, at least in the small territory that is this blog!). This is part of my "clothing/shoe stores are not the enemy" mindset that I am cultivating. Because the enemy is not without, it is almost always within. As much as I'd love that not to be true, and not only because someone very moral and noble said it but because it's the name of a Star Trek episode, I know that it is true. Right?
In other news, Pippa from NZTV One's Breakfast show is interviewing me tomorrow morning just before 8am... the ticker tape at the bottom of the show this morning advertising tomorrows show said "a real shopaholic". I'm guessing that's referring to me. Right?