Sunday, August 29, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
- accept consumer responsibility
- create a new economy
- adopt attitudes that encourage good stewardship and make icons of a new type of hero
- implement new rules for business and government
- honor our individual passions
So I don't want to go all heavyosity here on you. It being a Tuesday and everything. But I did read those words and think.... "hmmmm. that's kind of what My Year Without Clothes Shopping (MYWCS) is all about...". No, really! And I wasn't under the influence of any chemical substances at the time (although I may have overdosed on Lemongrass and Ginger tea - knockout combo).
So, how is MYWCS anything like the unhoodwinking strategy that a brain the size of Mr Perkins has come up with? Let's try this on for size:
- accept consumer responsibility. Well, that's a no brainer. Surely? I'm accepting responsibility for my own spending... and through this challenge, my own thinking about my own spending. But my spending about my thinking about my spending, well that's another matter. Seriously, that's a big check! Done! Dots connected on that one. Right?
- create a new economy. Well, clearly this is something that I can't control or even influence if you think of it in terms of the nation's or the world's economy. Even if you think of in terms of my suburb's economy, really. But I am creating a new economy within my own family unit. We're living simply -- "Have fun with frugality. You can!" - and spending less. Well, spending nothing on clothes, as you know. So, depending on how flexible your definition of "economy" is, this one gets a big check! Dots connected! mark, too. Right?
- adopt attitudes that encourage good stewardship and make icons out of a new type of hero. Well, two things here -- good stewardship and new types of heroes. I love the word "steward", and not just because I read a lot of Dick Francis in my 20s. If we see ourselves as the stewards of all we think we own, it changes our attitudes. Right? If I'm a good steward of all I think of as mine -- my house, my cat, my relationships, my clothes, those 65 shoes left in my wardrobe, my neighbourhood, my country -- then the way I take care of those things has got to improve. Yeah? And as for creating new types of heroes, I'm all for that. We've made heroes of people who don't deserve that status, and I'm thinking specifically of celebrities here. It's utter madness. Madness, I tell you! Ok, enough of that. But clearly, MYWCS strives to encourage good stewardship -- of all that I have now in my wardrobe, of my credit rating, and my overall sanity -- and to make icons out of a new type of hero. We may not know precisely who those heroes are just yet, but we know who they aren't. Paris Hilton and her BFFFFFFs for a start. So a big check! Dots connected there. Right?
- implement new rules for business and government. Ok, this is where the dots get a bit far apart. MYWCS is not looking to influence the government or even business, for that matter. Although, hmmmm, let me ponder that for 4.2 seconds longer. I wouldn't mind influencing the retail sector. This one is a bit of a stretch, but in principle, MYWCS lines up very closely with this one.
- honour our individual passions. Ah, well this is another no brainer, surely? MYWCS is all about honouring passions. This entire 12 month challenge is about a passion gone unchecked, that's now being honoured by not indulging it. If that convoluted logic is even possible to follow. I'm honouring my passion for clothes by enjoying and using more fully the ones that I have. I'm honouring my passion for shopping by recognising how much I enjoy it and also acknowledging the dark side of it. There's no Batman without Heath Ledger. So, I'm saying check! Dots connected! on this one, too. Right?
I Think Therefore ... You know, this is the first time I've taken the work of a "thinker" like John Perkins and applied it to this challenge. When I first started this challenge, I didn't think of it as having any kind of lofty purpose. And I'm not saying it now has one.
But I am aware that it's movement on the path of "better". Better thinking, better spending, better living. To live well with what you've got. Isn't that a live well lived?
The hood is off. There's no winking going on. Thank you Mr Perkins for Hoodwinked. In stores everywhere. Sure opened my eyes. Right?
Friday, August 20, 2010
- black t-shirt or tank top
- black jeans or pants
- black dress or skirt
- black jacket or blazer
- blue jeans or shorts
- white or semi-neutral t-shirt (and by semi-neutral I mean those perennially safe colours such as a blue or pale pink t-shirt)
There's a theme to those six items, isn't there? A definite consistency, I note, in those items. The presence of items in the colour range near or approximating "black" is possibly the most note-worthy thing (a bit like the collection of black items in the photo accompanying this piece, really). I wonder if that's because the ladies who started this challenge are New Yorkers? They like a lot of black there, in the Big Apple, don't they? A bit like Melbourne in that regard. Not a lot of duck-egg blue overcoats in Melbourne, I noted, when I was there over the last 10 days. Except for mine, of course.
Jazzed up. It should be added that "sixers" were allowed to bring in accessories to jazz up their outfits - belts, jewellery, tights, shoes, underwear -- these were excluded from the "six". And thank Manolo Blahnik for that, I say. You'd go rigid with boredom otherwise, wouldn't you?
Uniform? I asked some fabulous women lately about their shopping and 'working wardrobe' challenges. It was fascinating to hear what they had to say. Clothes are not just clothes - whether we love 'em or hate 'em, love or loathe shopping - clothing evokes emotions. Not sure that's true? I don't mind a bit of healthy skepticism, so that's ok. Get your mind around this one then:
One of the women who responded to my crafty questions said she found it tiring and frustrating to sort out her clothes for the day and was thinking of starting to wear a "uniform". You know, the same outfit every day. Like Wilma Flinstone or Betty Rubble from The Flinstones (no matter how many times you watch that show, Wilma's always wearing that white strapless number with the zigzag hem and those white beads in a choker necklace, isn't she?). Kinda like the "sixers" but even more austere - there'd be no choice at all in her daily wear.
Now who'd say something like that except someone who has a strong emotional response to clothing? Of course, she is more down the "loathe" end of the spectrum, granted. But she's far from neutral. She cares about clothes - it's just in the form of abhorrence than adoring.
More deviance please! That kind of undeviating consistency in daily outfit choice isn't for me. I don't want to wear a daily uniform, or feel the need to evacuate that part of my morning routine by removing all choice in what I wear on a daily basis. I love clothes and enjoy the variety, choice and diversity that a large wardrobe provides.
But I say - go uniform (or "sixer") if you want to. What's the worst that could happen? Well, according to the sixers who participated in the 31-day challenge, some people close to them (like husbands, and workmates who sat next to them every day) didn't even notice they were wearing the same gear, day after day.
Which says to me: dressing for the day should be about you -- expressing and informing some essential element of you-ness. Not about dressing for others. Now, I realise that the entire Real Housewives reality TV franchise would fall into a pit of oblivion if more women lived their lives on that principle. But I don't care about them. I care about you. So, wear six items for a month, wear 66 or 366. Just don't wear 666. It's bad luck. Right?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
- You have a plan, a strategy, an overarching r'aison d'etre for going shopping. There is no randomness to the shopping trip where you wander listlessly from rack to rack, with no clear thought about what it is you're looking for. For some of you, this element of Shopping Consciously alone will change how you shop.
- You have done some pre-playing in your wardrobe and know what you need. You've done a bit of a wardrobe chuck-out and have identified any legitimate gaps in what you have and what you need. This may have taken you a whole day or 10 minutes. However long it took, you didn't just leap into the car and point it in the direction of a shopping centre with no further thought. You got some "good intel" before going shopping. And you got it from your own wardrobe (and brain).
- Once purchased, the items on your shopping list will fit your lifestyle and will also play nicely with at least 3 other items, if not the entire closet. This way, you will not be bringing home any 'orphans' that don't go with anything else (or require additional items to be purchased to make them work -- see last post on Ange's jeans shopping debacle)
- During your shopping expedition, you keep a focused head about you. You know what you're there to buy, and you keep that Front And Centre. This is not to say that you don't enjoy all the lovely other things on display. You just don't want to be a sitting duck, vulnerable to every alluring table display and group of mannequins displaying gorgeous things that you don't need. Stop - admire - even try on. But keep focused on what you're there for.
- If you do find something gorgeous that's not part of your strategy (ie: not on the list) and you are Seriously Considering buying it, that's ok. Just make sure it ticks ALL of these boxes: Does the colour suit me? Does the style flatter my body shape? Does the item fit my lifestyle? Will I be able to wear it with at least 3 other things already in my wardrobe? Will it be relatively easy to care for (ie: no hand washing or dry-cleaning every time you wear it)? Does it fit well or can it be easily altered? Does my bum look big in this? (well, every woman asks herself that last question as a matter of course, don't they? Even if they're trying on shoes)
Shop less, but more. Really! I'd suggest that you are better of going shopping 2 - 4 times a year, consciously, than once every week or so, randomly. This way, you shop based on your "intel" (do a wardrobe review and chuck-out - then build your list of Must Haves -- not the seasonal must haves, mind. No. These are your must haves) -- not based on what the fashion merchandisers are flaunting right at this moment.
So go shopping less often, but for longer. You'll need a longer shopping trip because you've got specific and numerous things to purchase. You devote more time to the expedition, but you come home with only what you need.
This way, shopping fits into its proper place. It isn't a hobby or a contact sport. And in the end, this approach will save you time. Woooo - saved time! Isn't that what half the women's magazines (and a quarter of the men's) are saying we are all desperately short of? Well, here's a way to scrape some of it back!
When you shop this way, you enjoy shopping, but it doesn't become your life (your life is too important to devote to shopping).
Switch to the ON position. Shopping consciously implies that your brain is switched to the ON position. I say that with the greatest affection, you know. I have often been shopping with my brain switched to the NEUTRAL position. That "there but not there" state of vagueness where you are actually hyper-suggestible and therefore likely to come home with a few more bags and a few more pages on your credit card bill.
Please don't go shopping in that state. The only people that that's good for are unscrupulous retailers who are only interested in volume sales - not developing loyal customers who go home thrilled with their purchases.
If you are too tired, too overwraught, too stresesed, too whatever -- don't go shopping. The temporary pick-me-up it provides wont last anyway, and it'll be accompanied by some "below the line" feelings of guilt and "oh no, now I have to go return this thing anyway".
Only go shopping when you are feeling alert and energetic. Pay attention to what's going on around you, and what's going on inside you. Yes, let's get all woo-woo for a moment here. If something doesn't feel right, it probably won't work for you - so pay attention as much attention to your instincts as you do to the sales staff. Maybe more.
You know when your brain is switched to the ON position, and when it's not. Only go shopping when it's ON.
Investigate other options. Instead of always hitting the mall or large shopping centre, you might want to consider new but not new options (which I talked about here and here. And remember consignment shopping - it's the best!). Including this type of shopping, and those types of stores, into your shopping expeditions will add some colour and variety and fun. You'll likely find some unique treasures, and not just the mass produced stuff on sale in the big department and chain stores.
It's worth it. You're worth it. If you've been a serious shopper, someone who shopped regularly, and randomly, then developing some new habits around how you shop will take a bit of time. Shopping consciously is where you want to be, though, so stick with it until you can shop this way easily.
Shopping consciously will save you money and time and it'll also save your sanity in the long run. And we all need a little more of those, don't we. Right?
Friday, August 6, 2010
- jeans were to cover and slim her hip/thigh area. I'd guess that 4.7 women out of 5 are looking for this particular design feature, so it didn't seem unreasonable to imagine that would be a tick! no problem, madam, would you like that in dark, stone, or ripped?
- jeans were to lengthen and slim the leg. Few of us actually resemble in any physical way the models we see sporting the jeans we end up buying. Those models are all 7ft tall (everyone knows that, right?). So this also seemed like a design feature that was not altogether unexpected
- jeans were not to gape at the back. Few women would enter a jeans store and say "well, I don't care what colour or style they are. But they absolutely positively must gape at the back so that my underwear is visible from the cab of any passing 18-wheeler, ok?". Another check in the box of Reasonable Request
- jeans were to be dark denim. As you can now get jeans in colours from Prussian blue to sand-blasted to 'destroyed' denim and silver jeans. Dark denim seemed a fairly easy-to-find quality in a jean
- jeans were to have some shaping quality to them. This is one of the advances in fabric and garment construction that those of us with less than stick-like figures have benefited from. What you see on the outside may be a virtual magic trick made possible by the shaped panels inside the garment.
- jeans were to be in stretch fabric. Since we've all been wearing Lycra-infused garments since Brooke Shields first exhorted us to not let anything come between us and our CKs, this didn't seem unreasonable to request either
Ok, I'm sure you've got the picture. Ange was fairly specific in what she wanted. But also not an unreasonable set of design requirements. I have 3 pair of jeans (out of a total of 14 pair) that fit those exact specifications. Two of them are from Target, I might mention.
The sales person "assisting" Ange brought out a pair of jeans that closely resemble those in the photo accompanying this article. No exaggeration. Promise.
Apart from the dark denim bit (requirement #4), they possessed none of the design features Ange asked for.
"They look great!". What happened next is even more astonishing. Ange is standing there, looking like she's been poured into these jeans, and the sales person exclaims "oh, they look great on you!". At this point, Ange began to wonder if this young woman didn't have some kind of visual impairment. There was no possible way that the words "great" and "you" could be applied to the vision of Ange in those jeans.
When Ange protested that she didn't feel good, or didn't feel she looked good, the response was "oh, well you could wear a longer top, and a little ankle boot" (yes, the jeans were wrong from both ends - with muffin top and cankles appearing as if from thin air. Doing wonders for Ange's self esteem, into the bargain).
Ange responded that she didn't want to have to adjust her entire wardrobe to be able to make the jeans "work" (although she felt that nothing short of an amputation was likely to make that happen in a hurry).
Less confidence in sales staff. Ange walked out of the store jeans-less. She told me that the entire experience left her less confident in sales staff in general. "Even if I do need help, when I walk into a store and someone asks if they can help, I say no. Because I don't trust their advice". How sad is that?
And the answer is... behind door number 3 of course! The answers are obvious. Here's a few I made up just now:
- sales staff need to be knowledgeable. And not just about the product their store is selling, but about their customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to know a bit about the human body shapes that exist. And what looks good on the various human body shapes. And that's not even getting into colour or personality dressing. And here's a bonus free tip: skinny hipster jeans do not look good on real curvy women of any height (and I'm not talking 'Hollywood curvy' there).
- sales staff need to be focused on the customer, not on selling stock off the floor. This is sheer heresy to some retailers, I know. Ange said that when she was working in retail, they had the 7 Steps to a Sale, from "greet the customer" through to ringing up the sale. The focus was on selling the product, not on helping the customer. And YES, of course they should be the same thing. But how many times have you walked out of a store and wondered if they even saw you, let alone were focused on helping you? (If you can get staff under 21 off their hand-held electronic devices long enough to even notice that you've entered the store, you're doing well).
- sales staff need to have the judgement and communication skills to provide honest input to customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to be able to ascertain (in your best judgement) if the item is flattering to that person. Then you need to be able to express that viewpoint with diplomacy and courtesy. If everything "looks great on you!", then you know the sales person has no idea and their comments are on automatic loop.
- sales staff need to be able to offer options to customers. If you are selling clothing to real human beings, you need to not only be able to provide an opinion on how flattering the current garment is on them, but offer them options if it's not. This usually requires a brain switched to the ON position.
- sales staff need to do all this so that the customer walks out happy. And does not come back, unhappy and having complained to as many people as will listen, to return the item. A happy customer will not only tell lots of people about their experience, but they will become a loyal customer.
Now if you walked into a store and were assisted by a sales team member like that, wouldn't that be a treat? Wouldn't you be telling anyone who'd listen long enough all about it? Wouldn't you become a loyal customer? I sure would. Well, if I were still shopping, which I'm not right now. Naturally.
So, Ange is still looking for a pair of jeans. If only she were my size, she could have a pair of mine. Right?
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
- Sometimes I write about the fashion world or the marketing/merchandisers who lure us into purchasing new items that we may, or may not, need or even want.
- Sometimes I wrote about shoppers and shopping centres.
- Sometimes I write about various challenges or successes or I'm having on (or ways I'm coping with) the challenge.
- Sometimes I write about observations I've made about shopping from being out and about.
- Sometimes I write about TV shows (fiction and documentary) or movies and their relationship to this challenge.
- I've been fortunate enough to have some media attention and I write about that, too.
- Sometimes I write about the building blocks to creating a working wardrobe, like colour and mixing and matching. I'll be writing more about the other building blocks, too, soon (like conscious shopping and style & shape)
- Sometimes I write about ways to inject something new into your wardrobe, without buying new (or buying anything). Like here, here and here.
- Sometimes I write about what I've learned or I'll stop and do a review, just so we can collectively catch our breath.
- the challenge is simply too hard -- habits were too entrenched, temptation is too irresistible, sales were too pervasive. Willpower is not just the name of an Australian racing car driver, although it may be just as elusive.
- the challenge was too isolating -- despite there being a good few people who joined the challenge, maybe it felt too Robinson Crusoe to some folks. Not too many of us can remain stimulated and enthused when working in a vacuum. On something really hard.
- the challenge didn't offer enough support. It may have felt that the challenge was not just all-on-your-ownsome, but doing it without a net as well. Hard to keep on keeping on when it feels like there's no-one there to catch you if you fall. Or even notice.
- there weren't enough distractions or new ideas. Bribery and distraction work for toddlers in supermarkets, and they work for adults, too. You can't just take something away and not replace it with something. Well, not if you want it to work. You've got to fill up the now-empty space with something else. Preferably something good.
- the focus was on "doing without". This feeds into the human fear of scarcity -- never having, or being, enough. Which is not a life-enriching or spirit-lifting aura to surround yourself with.
Now, who knows if these things affected any of those 50% of good GAAD people who didn't make it. Maybe halfway through the challenge, they all got jobs at Calvin Klein and got massive staff discounts. We may never know, and thank Jimmy Choo for a bit of mystery, I say.
So, does this mean that 12 month challenges are too hard to stick with? No, no, no, and no! They can work... (well, they do - 50% of the good GAAD people stuck with it, right? And let's not forget me - it's working for me, too). Here are the things that need to be in place to make it work.
1. support. You gotta know that there's a helping hand, a bit of tough love, and possibly a large polo mallet (gently and infrequently applied) that will be activated to help keep you going. And someone will notice if you fall of the wagon.
2. inspiration. You gotta know that there'll be new ideas, distraction and large amounts of cavity-inducing chocolate available to get you thinking and feeling differently about your wardrobe, your shopping habits, and yourself.
3. guidance. You gotta know that someone who's qualified, experienced and has a more than adequate grasp of the English language is going to offer you some juice on how to do things differently. And by that, I mean better.
The 12 month program we've got going has all that in spades. I told you a bit about the experts we're attracting to the program in the last blog. When you join the 12 month My Year Without Clothes Shopping program, I'll
- make it as easy as it's possible to be
- make it fun and fulfilling
- make it inspiring and practical
- be with you the entire time
- remind you that if I can do it, you can, too
That's the deal. Check it out. Decide for yourself. Click the big orange button. We'll still be friends, no matter what you decide. Right?