DAY 82: WORLD…

DAY 82: WORLD…

I had a really insightful and thought provoking experience in a clothing store today that I wanted to share and talk about.

\In my lunch hour I popped into our department store for a quick browse, and passed through World, as I always do, to swoon over their to-die-for fragrance selection. However I found that all of the perfumes had been cleared out and the entire store was having a clearance sale, to allow them to move to their new stand-alone premises in a few months. As a result everything was drastically on sale – like down to $20, $50, and $100. Amazing bargains.

I have only ever bought one garment from World because of 1) Price – nothing is usually less than $400 and 2) Sizing – it all runs a bit small and stops at a Large, which is about a 14. Loose fitting things are sometimes okay, but anything tailored isn’t going to work on me. And the whole thing intimidated me so much that I usually don’t even bother trying anything on, as a result.

However, today, my eyes fell upon a dress that I’d seen a few months previously – the colour was what grabbed me. A most vivid, royal blue, dress. Not only was the colour amazing, but it was in velvet – my favorite of all fabrics.It was down from $500 to just $50. Which is an incredible deal.

The style is cut as a very tight, form fitting, wiggle dress – Joan from Mad Men would happily wear it. Which is a style I do wear when I’m in the mood – but being World I had immediately dismissed it as something that won’t fit so I never closely looked at it last time.

However this time I picked it up, they had it in a Large, and I noticed that, despite the velvet exterior, the dress was actually made from literal wetsuit material – thick knit stretchy scuba. Interesting and unusual – but this actually gave some hope that it would stretch and mold over my curves.

Not feeling the most confident about myself today I hesitated on deciding whether I’d try it on. I didn’t feel in the mood to be disappointed and made to feel shitty and insecure if it looked awful on, or worse wouldn’t even get over my shoulders.

But I was curious, because it was so unusual and I wanted to see how that fabric looked on. So I took a big breath and embarked on the changing room with no hope or expectations. The assistant warned me that it is a struggle to get on, which helped, and made me persevere and not get disheartened as I fought to get it over my bust. And, well, it took a lot of wiggling and holding of breath, but to my surprise, I got into it! I wish to note that this is purely due to cut and fabric and not because I’ve lost weight or anything like that.

It was very tight, but then it’s meant to be, and did wonders for my posture! However I  felt very insecure in its tightness – as I was not wearing the right underwear, my tummy felt very prominent. And although the assistant told me it looked great, I didn’t really believe her.

All I could see when I looked in the mirror were the bulges and lumps in my mid-section. But then I also saw that  it showed off my features – my boobs and small waist – wonderfully and that I was feeling like this because I’m just not used to seeing myself in this shape of dress.

I knew that with the right hair, heels, underwear and accessories (and a couple of gins) I’d feel 10x more confident and strut into the room like I owned it. I still wasn’t sure though.

Usually this is a sign for me to walk away. But the colour and fabric kept drawing me in.

Then I realized that my main considerations on whether I bought this garment had dramatically changed from how I would have thought five years ago.If I’d have been in this exact position five years ago I’d have thought like this:

1. It’s an absolute bargain, just buy it because it’s very cheap and this is a great deal, even if it’s not right you’d be stupid to miss out on this price

2. Buy it for when you’re 5kg lighter. Then you’ll be able to wear it with confidence. It’s not quite right now, but soon it will be. Just buy it now for the future.

Instead, today, my thoughts  went like this:

1. It’s an incredible bargain. But if I’m not going to wear it then it’s a waste of $50, so it’s not about price

2. I have to be comfortable and happy to wear it as I am right here, today. No thinner, not when you’ve dropped a size, or started the diet,  but just as you are right now

I paused, and I considered, and in the end I decided that I do accept myself as I am in this dress. That I would wear it this weekend. That yes, I have a tummy, and hips, and it’s very revealing of my shape, but just as many people will be looking at my good points, as the bad, which I am naturally pre-disposed to fixate on.

And so I bought it.

And I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since because it felt really significant and important because it was a way of thinking I’d never really experienced before, as I’ve been in something of a fashion comfort zone for the past few years, and have until now avoided this dilemma by avoiding this kind of shape.

It was a moment where you suddenly realise how much you’ve grown, changed and become at peace with yourself…all without really realizing. It was fascinating to see how I’d done such a 180 in how I viewed  things.

And it felt really empowering, great, and liberating. I now have this amazing dress that I know I can wear right away, not “in a few months”, or when I wake up as the perfect version of myself (NB: this date is NEVER).

That I accept myself just as I am.
x

DAY 80: VINTAGE UNICORNS…

DAY 80: VINTAGE UNICORNS…

Is there anything better than a vintage garment that you feel was made for you?

You scan the rail and your eyes lock on it’s bright colour and pattern. It’s lust at first sight. You’ve been doing this long enough to know what you like and you can spot it within a 0.2 second scan. You skim your hand over and feel the quality and weight of the fabric. Not cheap, not polyester, not itchy or likely to make you sweat buckets. You pick it up and pull it out. No unexpected surprises in the form of ugly faux zippers, or cut outs. You eye it up and down, the width of the arms, the breadth of the shoulders, and you reckon, you just reckon it might fit. Maybe. Fingers crossed. So you take yourself away into the changing room. Slip off your current jacket. And slide your new crush off it’s hanger. You take a big breath and hope for the best. This is the moment of truth. Fingers, wrist, arm, elbow, all though the first sleeve. That’s a start. Keep sliding up past your fleshy upper arm, which so often is an issue on old garments – but before you even think about it too much, it’s up and on. Second sleeve. You panic as you feel a slight tightness and restriction across the shoulders. But you give the lapels a little outwards tug, releasing a wee bunch up and ta-dah. You’re sorted. It fits like a glove. Check your angles in the mirror. Do a little turn. As David says, Fashion, turn to the left! Fashion, turn to the right! As you do this you do a quick scan through the rest of your wardrobe – what will this go with, will it go with anything at all? Skirts and hats, necklaces and dresses flash before your eyes. You hit six matches and you stop. You’re safe. It’s a match. It’s better than that. It’s the vintage unicorn. Perfect in every way, to the point that you swear it was made for you in a past life and fate has now realigned the two of you. Swipe of a card. And now you are as one. Fashion soulmates.

x

DAY 73: ZURI DRESS…

DAY 73: ZURI DRESS…

My biggest gripe with the sustainable fashion movement, apart from how expensive the pieces are, is how bloody dull and boring they are.

I know that the idea is to make your piece versatile and multi-purpose so it can take you from boardroom to playground to coffee to some forced date night that your marriage counsellor suggested you try and is decidedly average and depressing…or I don’t know, whatever it is that partnered up working mothers are meant to get from their wardrobe I really have no idea (honestly just take a change of clothes it takes two minutes to change in the work toilets at 5pm).

But who says that versatile can’t be bold or patterned or colourful? Why do designers think that busy, socially conscious folk, want to look like boring grey rubbish bags?

So I was utterly ecstatic when I came across a New York Times article about the Zuri dress.

The Zuri dress is that mythical fashion unicorn – a sustainable, socially conscious, locally made, multi-use, versatile garment that comes in amazingly bright and fabulous colour and patterns, and, gasp, it has pockets – deep pockets!

And by patterns and colours I really mean PATTERNS AND COLOURS! Bright vivid yellows, reds and greens, with in-your-face, bold, graphic prints in patterns and animals. The designs are associated with African culture and reflect this amazing heritage, and it’s a culture that the rest of the world really should learn many lessons from. As someone who lives for colour and pattern, this is the kind of product I’ve yearned for my whole life.

The thing I love most about the brand is that they only make one dress. One dress that has been designed to look good on all body shapes and sizes, heights, and personal styles. It makes shopping on the site really easy as the only think you have to decide is what pattern you want!

The dress itself is a buttoned shirt dress, with 3/4 sleeves, a collarless v neck, and sits at knee length. It’s made from fabulous Dutch waxed cotton that is such good quality and so vibrant it’d make you weep. It’s designed to be travelled in, washes easily and is lightweight enough to keep you cool in the hottest climate, yet protected from the sun. It's made from amazing African waxed cotton that is slightly stiff, and a glorious crisp, yet comfortable texture. It's wrinkle resistant and very durable.

It can be worn buttoned up and loose as a tunic dress. Or belted like a cute shirt dress. Wear it unbuttoned as a jacket. Or folded and tied around your waist for a skirt. The sizing runs quite free and it’s loose nature means that it will fit well into plus size, as well as maternity.

So the style is versatile. But what about the colours and print? Well yes, it’s so versatile. In fact this morning I was so torn as to how to accessorise and dress it up that I lost fifteen minutes. Statement earrings, belts, bold necklaces all interchange with ease thanks to the colour accents in the patterns…or just go for a simple fuss free approach and let the dress do the speaking. The beauty of this style and range of patterns it can either be the foundation or the statement. It works for people like me who come from the Iris Apfel school of style of just piling on every accessory you can find…or for minimal dressers who like to wear just one streamlined piece.

Sadly by the time I read the original article the dress was sold out on the Zuri site, and was for a few months, but I waited and for once I was patient and it paid off – the pattern I wanted came back available and it was only a week wait before it was in stock ready for shipment.

And well, it was worth it. I travelled in it. It saw me through 35 degree heat and 80% humidity, but kept me looking stylish and I spent a day at an art gallery feeling very…well, Art gallery like. The staff kept ooh-ing over it, which I knew was a good sign.

And today I’m here, back at home, in 8 degrees, but with tights and boots, it works just as perfectly and is fabulous for work – so smart, chic and I look oh so polished and pulled together despite only throwing on one garment and chucking on a belt and accessories. That’s the point of a good dress and why I will always be a dress wearer – maximum impact and effect with minimal thought and effort. Dresses are the fashionista’s hack.

So Zuri, thank you, you cracked it – you finally convinced me that sustainable fashion can be interesting and desirable. This dress certainly won’t be my last of yours, as your other patterns call.

x

DAY 28: FRINGE…

DAY 28: FRINGE…

I’ve always had a fringe in some way, shape, or form.

Even in the earliest photos of me as a toddler, it was present – usually very wonky, and intense, from my mother’s attempts to cut it herself, using a large pair of household scissors that seemed to get used for everything. 

Behind it I feel safe, protected, secure and at ease. Read into that what you will. 

I get annoyed when I see beauty articles proclaiming that ‘Bangs are Back!’. Who has the time and energy to make a style that’s so intensive to maintain, that then takes a year to grow out, a fleeting trend? Like all fashion, personal style has to come from within, not from what some beauty editor has been told to sell. Either you’re a fringe person or you’re not. It’s as simple as that (also, don’t read those magazines, they rot the spirit and soul).

Sometimes I wear my fringe straight and blunt, curled under slightly, a few centimetres above my eyebrows, for when i want a retro, pin-up, look. 

Sometimes it’s long, with a side parting, swept across my face, with a bit of a rebellious flick.

But most of the time it’s casually resting  somewhere below my eyebrows, making me feel like a singer from a sixties folk group.

There’s always the period when I’ve let it grow longer, wearing it to the side, in which I enjoy seeing the structure and adult-sophistication of my fringe-free face. Occasionally, in the most fleeting of moments, I consider growing it out. But then it gets to a length where it needs full removal from my eyes and as soon as I do that, suddenly, I’m just not me anymore.

There was only one time when I didn’t have any kind of fringe. It was during a period in my mid- 20’s where I on a nasty crash-diet-rampage-of-self-hatred. As part of this ‘new-me’ transformation I decided that my fringe must also be shed, and so it got grown out. The rest of my hair was lightened to a ridiculously light blonde that required so much maintenance that half of my life, and income, were given to the salon. I also applied self-tanner and ran kilometres every day. It sucked.

I thought that if I became someone else, a specific person might love me more. But in the end it was all just too far from myself to be sustainable, and as soon as the weight started to return, so did the fringe. I look at those old photos and wince at who I was trying to be. I just want to give her a big hug and a burrito. The only thing that needed changing in my life was him. But I guess we have to go on these journeys to become who we are, and hopefully get it all out of the way by the time we leave our 20’s. Your true-self always finds a way back. And for this realisation, now, finally, I’m thankful. 

So my fringe is here to stay – always has been and always will be – tightly entwined with my identity. We’re like sisters. Like a sister I’ve learnt to live with, and maintain, her on the good days as well as as the bad. 

I’ve long given up on going to the hairdressers for a trim. No matter how many times I stress how I like it, and say the words BELOW THE EYEBROWS, it never turns out how want. That’s not the stylists fault, it’s mine – I’m just too set in my ways. 

Instead, when I feel good and ready, I stare in my bathroom mirror, and with half a dozen, crisp and decisive snips of the scissors, I reinvent myself on my own terms. I emerge feeling reborn and invigorated. Like I’ve a new chapter ahead of me, and the immediate past has been shed along with those 4cm of trimmings. That anything is possible in this new look.

It’s a ritualistic nine week cycle – from a full retro Bettie Paige, into the bohemian Parisian chic of Francoise Hardy, to the smart talking, side-sweeping, Amy Winehouse. 

My fringe lets me play a different character every few weeks – it lets me ask each morning  ‘who do I want to be today?’. I blame the indecisive, flighty, Gemini in me for that.

My fringe – my oldest and closest companion – I adore you. Never let me banish you again.

x                                

DAY 21: $50…

DAY 21: $50…

Early yesterday evening, after meeting friends for a couple of gins at a favourite bar in Cathedral Square (it was World Gin Day after all,  it would’ve been rude not to), I took myself over to a small table, located outside, to write my post for the day. Getting out-and-about to write, always carrying my iPad with me, is something I’m currently trying to build into my creative habits. 

It was one of those stunningly clear and crisp Winter afternoons – the sun piercing bright, glowing orange, as it set behind the skeleton-like trees and our beautiful, broken, Cathedral.

It was a unusual rear view, and angle, of this landmark that I’d never really stopped and observed before. Its European Medieval influence was very suddenly, very obvious. This along with the surrounding greyness, the little round table, with cane chairs and a candle, and my glass of Aperol, fleetingly fooled me into thinking I was in Paris. I could have been there, sitting outside a Bistro, watching life go by on the Boulevard by Saint Chapelle. It was a stunning setting, and in that instant, I fell in love with this city even more than I already do. 


As I sat there writing, letting the words flow more and more freely with every sip, and observing my surroundings, a gentleman approached me from across the terrace. He explained that he was undertaking a 100 Portraits photo series, as part of an upcoming marketing campaign for a camera brand. He liked my style and could he please take my photo as part of the project?

I won’t deny that my outfit was pretty strong – in honour of World Gin Day I’d purposefully themed myself as a bottle on Tanqueray (yes, this how my mind works) – an emerald green 1950’s polka-dot dress, pill box hat that reminded me of a bottle cap, bright red lips, a full petticoat, and my beloved Tatty Devine enamel gin bottle brooch – pride of place, on my velvet blazer. 

My confidence in my outfit, coupled with the fact I’d previously done my own photography project – which involved approaching strangers – meant I said yes with ease. I knew the anxiety associated with the cold-approach of subjects, so was happy to make life a little easier for him.

I stood against the beautiful sunset and my surroundings and posed for five minutes, answered a few questions, signed a release, and then it was done. Easy, and fun! 

What I was not expecting was to be given $50 for my participation. What a most unexpected bonus!

Now, I am a firm believer that if an small financial bonus, or reward, comes your way in life, you should use it on something that’s an utter treat –  if you are in the privileged position to do so. This philosophy is the reason I will never be rich, but I console myself with the fact that at least I’ll have surrounded and adorned myself in a lot of joy-giving, beautiful things.

So this morning I took myself down to my local record shop and spent my $50 on Aldous Harding’s new album, Party.  

This decision was an easy one. I knew that this was the one and only album that I wanted. I’ve been streaming it a lot over the past month, especially the single ‘Imagining My Man’. The haunting beauty of her voice is exactly my style, reflecting my current mood and mindset. It’s the perfect album to nestle into over winter. 

I try to be very conscientious and deliberate in my vinyl purchases – every record needs to be significant to me. It can be a classic, beloved, album from my past. It can relate to a specific time, person, memory, or place. Or it can be a new release that represents who I am, and what I love, in this moment. It’s the only way I can limit my browsing and purchasing scope and ensure that my collection remains concise and meaningful. It’s just too vast a world, and feels overwhelming, otherwise. In the age of digital streaming, there’s no need to own a physical copy of every album you ever liked. I reserve my physical collection for pieces that have story and heart. 

So for this to be my purchase – to own it, in it’s rich, luscious entirety – feels very right, and symbolic. A true gift. And I feel very grateful for it. 

And that’s my little story. The point, the reason why I wanted to tell it, is that if it weren’t for the 100 Days Project – the decision to write daily and the habits it’s forming, to the point that I’m now writing when I’m out and about – I never would have had my photo taken for another persons project, and this beautiful album, that speaks so strongly to me, and I’m playing right now as I write, would not be mine. 

It’s because of this project. 

I like to believe that what energy you put out comes back to you, so I’m heartened to think that yesterday’s incident was the first example of the Project giving back to me.

I hope that your creative output and efforts come back to you in a wonderful way, too. 

Keep going. It’s worth it. 

x

DAY 7: SUSTAINABLE FASHION…

DAY 7: SUSTAINABLE FASHION…

There’s so much talk, and emotional guilt tripping, about sustainable, ethical clothing.


Yeah I know. We all know that sustainable is good. We all find ourselves, in times of feeling overwhelmed by our possessions, and guilt over our decaying planet, romanticise that idea of the minimal capsule wardrobe. One consisting of locally sourced, carbon neutral cottons and silks that have been spun by the happiest, well-paid, 52 weeks parental leave, an hour for lunch, and massages each Friday, silk worms. A pair of boots to last us sixteen winters. One coat that our great-grandchildren will inherit.

But then an hour later you pop onto ASOS and see that exaggerated fluted sleeves are in season and you could just cheekily nab that cute gingham top for $40. It’s only $40 after all, and it’s free shipping. Free shipping! If you order it now, it’ll arrive in time for work drinks on Friday night. Maggie from Accounts said the hot new guy, Andy, you know, hot-Andy, might be there, and you have a feeling that if he is in the same room as you, in gingham fluted sleeves, he’s definitely going to see you as the mother of his unborn children…or at least a pash whilst you wait for the Uber. Whatever comes first.

I, by no means, will ever preach or judge for these cheap, fast, impulse buys. For most it’s not a choice, it’s just how it is. A necessity. And besides, trawling sale coats on ASOS, at 11pm on a Tuesday night, from the comfort of my bed, is one of my greatest pleasures in life. 

Still, I am aware of the importance of, when possible, having considered, quality, locally made pieces too.

However what’s frustrating me is that sustainable now seems to go hand-in-hand with expensive. Sustainable suddenly feels elitist, for the privileged, and out of reach. Which is about the most ridiculous and infuriating thing ever. 

What used to mean thrifted, inherited, or self-made, now means arrives via plane, then, courier, wrapped in tissue paper, and costing upwards of $250. That’s not accessible. That’s not for everyone. That’s not the bloody point! 

Quality, new, fashion has a premium price, of course. The design, time, craftsmanship, skill, labour – paid at decent wage. Absolutely, so it should. For garments that require great skill and time to design and make, it’s worth every dollar. I will never argue that.

(However their refusal to go beyond a size 14-16…now that’s something I will argue…that’s for another day.)

What I do object to is $350 for a plain, as simple as possible, cotton tunic. It’s a sack dress. There’s no fasteners, zips, detail, trimmings or pockets. It’s completely void of shape or tailoring. And usually, not even a sniff of colour, pattern or personality. 

Do you know what else $350 could get you?

Sewing Machine $200

One term of community sewing classes $65

Scissors, thread, pins, tape measure $30

2.5 metres of cotton poplin or drill $35

A nice bottle of Pinot Gris $20

I know that being able to sew for yourself is a privilege that not everyone has. It takes time to learn and practise, access to equipment, as well as needing time to actually do the sewing. But surely if we’re really, seriously, talking about sustainable fashion then it should begin at home, with sewing, up cycling and recycling? Gifting our community with the equipment and skills required to be able to craft the basics for ourselves and our family, how amazing would that be? 

Better than what happens now, which basically involves viral Facebook videos being forced onto us, showing overseas sweatshops, making people feel like shit for buying the affordable ‘fast-fashion’, whilst the ethical stuff remains diabolically out of reach. Of course no-one wants their clothing to be responsible for suffering and poverty. But what other choice are local designers giving us?

I’m no master sewer, but when I was twenty I took that single term of community classes and learnt how to sew a simple skirt and a top. I wasn’t amazing, but I picked up the basics. I now sew infrequently and without any form of finesse, patience, or dedication. But I can do enough to throw something very basic together for myself. If I accessorise the hell out of it, and not let anyone look too closely, the wonky hems, botched zips, and puckering are never spotted. 

That tunic dress I’d been eyeing for $350? Instead I put my skills to use: 

I picked up a vintage, floral, sheet from the Salvation Army for $2. Cut two oversized T’s from it. Stitched them together. Hems. Edges. Two pockets. Within two hours had my very own tunic dress.

Totally unique, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.

You know that old proverb about “give a man a fish” / “teach a man to fish”? 

Let’s give that man a second-hand Bernina.

x

Day 2: Arms…

Day 2: Arms…

The gold and silver bibles, belonging to my Mother, have been smuggled into my teenage room like contraband. Here I hold the guidebooks for my impending adulthood; success, love, wealth, beauty and the kind of sex that you’d imagine Fox Mulder having:

Trinny and Susannah’s What Not to Wear Volume 1 and 2. 


Fifteen year old me sensed that if I studied these two books hard enough, I will be my Most Fabulous Grown Up Self. The kind that they cannot teach in school.

Amongst their countless rules for clothing, style, and personal image, one was drilled home harder, and more frequently, than any other; Bingo wings. 

You see, poor old Susannah has flabby upper arms. Flappy, saggy, sad, old pelican wings. She must cover them up, at all costs, and so must you. Squeeze that rancid, cheap, sausagemeat into a nice cotton and Lycra blend. These misshapen things that you call arms? They have no place in society. How vulgar. How repulsive. No one on earth needs to see those.

Look at Susannah, here, in her fuchsia wrap cardigan demonstrating ‘casual workwear’. Here she is in a green shrug, so tasteful, ready for a cocktail party. Oh Susannah, you look so normal, in your Marks and Spencer 3/4 sleeve taupe linen blazer. Fatty arms be gone!

Now there’s a modern, independent, woman who is destined for a lifetime of six figure salaries, steamy love affairs, glamorous travel and will never, ever, find herself feeling sad, stupid, or lonely.

Fifteen years, and 1,362 Glassons cardigans, later I hear rumours of a man who has quite the thing for chubby upper arms.

Surely such a creature, as mythical and rare as a Unicorn, cannot be real. Trinny and Susannah wouldn’t lie to me. Because if this were true, then why the hell have I been suffering through all of these summers, parties, dancing, and music festivals, with my elbows to my shoulders, sweatily swaddled in cheap synthetic fabrics?

By the time I meet the Unicorn he immediatley devours my naked upper arm flesh so hungrily, so rampantly, so intensely, so absolutely, utterly, wonderfully, that he leaves behind a bruise, large and deep, like a puddle of spilled merlot. It takes a fortnight to disappear.

I examine and photograph his mark each day – a smug and sordid memento of, not only the power of my body, but also that I’d proved those nasty bitches wrong. 

Sorry Trinny and Susannah, but it seems that chubby arms will get you everywhere.

x