'Trends' Category

Week Ten: When in Paris…

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The Wolf is whisking me off to Paris on holiday, it’s the first time anything like this has happened to me and I’m very excited.  It’s also my first holiday in seven years.  He booked it a couple of weeks ago.  I packed on Friday, before travelling to Guildford for the weekend, knowing I’d have to be organised if I wanted to feel like me, and feel good in Paris, in my one-week’s wardrobe.  It was different from packing a capsule wardrobe, as I had to make sure I didn’t wear anything twice, in keeping with the rules of the ‘Why So Many Clothes’ experiment.  It was made more difficult by our approaching week ten – days sixty-four to seventy of not wearing the same clothes I’d worn since beginning this project.  When we arrive, I will unpack everything into different outfits, on hangers, but then decide what to wear each morning depending on mood and what mysterious adventures might spring upon us that day.

Going Green

01.08.11

Flushed, giddy and a bit smelly after a night on Eurolines, that photo’s actually the last minutes of wear of Monday’s outfit.  I’ve just seen the view from our apartment for the week – do you see the Eiffel Tower quite near to my right ear?  The apartment is perfect, rented out by a family every August, otherwise their beautiful, spacious home, with views that we see so far encompass from Pere Lachaise to Notre Dame to Sacre Couer, up on the hill.  I tried to wear something comfy but, well, different on the journey, which started in Guildford, then took us to Waterloo, home, Victoria, and Paris.  Hence, the green ensemble.  I love the green skirt and am definitely keeping it, partly because it grows and shrinks with me, but also because it’s something I bought for 10p at a jumble sale then never found the guts to wear while I was in my mid-twenties, fearing ridicule.  Being able to wear it confirms that I’m more sure of myself as I near thirty. More importantly, I really like it: it’s been thoughtfully made, it feels like something another human has put into the world because they thought it would add something, rather than be trendily temporary and have empty value.

The green vest is something I bought new on the high street, however, shortly before trying to give up. An old housemate won an argument about the number of wearable items in vintage and charity shops making ridiculous the need for newly, mass-manufactured clothes.  I couldn’t see past his logic and grumpily accepted defeat and stopped buying new things that weren’t made locally or on a small scale, or second hand clothes.  If I could afford couture, his argument would allow me to buy that too, although he’d probably be annoyed at that! The vest has lasted well, and is another item I bought when much smaller that still fits, so will change with me.

Planting Seeds

Tuesday’s official picture is in the park Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy walk through in the film Before Sunset.  This was one of my choices for what to do in Paris, and I’d love to recommend it.  If you plan to descend at the end for the Canal St Martin / La Bastille, you’ll follow their route and can try sliding down the banisters at the end.  It’s called the Parc de Plantiere.  Here I am, standing on a beautiful bridge across the Paris streets, planted with flowers and plants, with walkers, joggers, babies, couples… standing with my bottom above Paris in a sheer dress with short, black satin underlining with no tights or leggings! I feel like I’m making peace in my body’s relationship with Endometriosis.  Interestingly, the usual quirky, clashing things I would normally put with a more chic dress aren’t here today – I’m confident that I’ll be present enough without them.  Or perhaps it’s just the effect of Paris.

02.08.11

All Good Things Come to a Trend

03.08.11

Loved the cream, see-through crochet dress from the moment it emerged in a Bristol charity shop. It smashed through any embarrassment I had about being out of fashion.  I got a lot of double takes at my chest from women, trying to work out if I was wearing anything underneath, but that trompe d’oeil, is, I suppose, part of what I’m doing by wearing the dress with a skin-tone, knee-length lining; it sounds daft, but sometimes the relationship between how I feel and subsequently put together an outfit and its consequence – being outside with other people and creating an interaction with them – don’t always come together and I get surprised by feeling exposed in the clothes I’ve consciously chosen to wear.

There was a bit of me that worried it might be too hippie for Pere Lachaise (next to our apartment) and an evening by the Seine but those were the most unfounded quibbles I could have had: all of Paris seemed to be relaxing in deckchairs on the banks of the Seine, and in the cemetery, it was hard to know which decade we were in.  On the coach to Paris, I read that see-through crochet will be coming into fashion this Autumn/Winter. I hate it when this happens, because that means my things I’ve had for years will, by Spring, look like last season’s trend.

Not Moulin Rouge

Argh! Accidentally ended up in Pigalle and felt like we were in a Heironymous Bosch painting.  This was the first wear of the dress.  I almost wore it ages ago, to meet the Wolf’s entire maternal family for the first time (including his parents and brother), to a party where the invite stated ‘red carpet’ as dress code. I thought this meant fancy dress, and was going to reference Moulin Rouge with a red feather headdress, black lace shrug, the dress and heels, until one friend explained it just meant formal, in a playful way, and another said, ‘Sara, give them a chance.’

04.08.11

Now that I’ve seen the Moulin Rouge  – the famous venue flanked by a burger joint and theme pub, and surrounded by strip bars and sex shops, paraded by tourists with their young families – I’d never dress to positively reference it and its neighbourhood’s commodification of sexuality and bodies.  Walking down the central pavement in Pigalle, I had to put on a blazer to cover myself up as I wanted to disappear.

Climbing the hill to Abbesses, I relaxed and shed the disguise, enjoying my clothes again.  The neck and hem of the dress are modest enough, and it felt slinky yet thick – a dress to feel beautiful and at ease in, to be me at my happiest in, which is what I am this holiday.  I adore the shawl, embroidered and appliquéd with long, soft tassles – but remembered it’s actually my mum’s, and on loan, and I should have given it back about two years ago.

Ah, the shoes.  Their first wear after five years in the wardrobe.  Pretty, very pretty, but I got pins and needles in my toes just sitting eating dinner at Le Relais Gascon, the favourite restaurant in Paris of friends of the Wolf (very tasty and I couldn’t decide between tagliatelle and garlic potatoes as my side so the restaurant gave me both, so friendly, and yum). Sad, but, Not Keep.

Proper Tourist Day

Ah, the Missoni top.  I’ve always wanted a Missoni top and couldn’t believe my luck when I saw one hanging in a new charity shop in West Cork, a few months ago.  I was just buying some more china for my china collection, a shepherd and shepherdess clock and vase, as well as a ‘teach yourself’ French book to revive the brain cells that used to study French and a tea towel with lady birds on.

‘How much is that stripy jumper?’ I asked.

‘Two Euro,’ said your man.

The Jigsaw slip dress underneath is a hand-me-down from mum (like the pink shirt I had on during scorchio midday sun) and it makes a good base. Both keepers.  Shoes? Very, very, very wet.

05.08.11       05.08.11(2)

When in Paris…

Hmm, that thing about not buying in the high street and not affording couture? Parisian design house Sonia Rykiel’s knitwear range for H&M was too much for me to resist.  My friend ZH woke me up on a Saturday offering to buy me the dress before they all sold out, if I paid her back.  I rang my mum to talk through my qualms and she said she’d gift me it so I wouldn’t get guilty.  My principles are clearly loose and fast, if existent at all.

But this dress is something else.  Who would think of putting those colours together? The criss-cross over the collarbone?

06.08.11

The photo’s in the Parc du Chaumont, the most surreal, beautiful place.  We were recommended it as a place Parisians go, and it’s great, one of my favourite places – if you want to walk towering cliffs, temples, suspension bridges, caves and under waterfalls, in a disused quarry in a capital city, while local people walk their dogs, picnic, play with their children, walk hand in hand.

Pure Elegance

The bridesmaid skirt I’m wearing Sunday is another treasure. It had tags on valuing it at $180, and I got it for a few pounds in an Upper Street charity shop.  The two white tops are pretty, but the blouse is too frou-frou on me, and the vest too tight on my chest.  While I like them both, Not Keep.

07.08.11(1)

Wolf and I rose early(ish) to get to the Bastille Market. We found the famous spatchcock lady, who marinates her chickens for three days before cooking and selling them fresh on the market.  She was extraordinarily friendly – nearly everyone in Paris has been open and kind, it’s been a very peaceful time, but she was an exception.  We took our chicken to the Seine and sat on the Paris Plage, tearing tasty strips off.  I made a ‘table’ on my satin skirt from the carrier bag, les mouchoirs (love that word) and the chicken packet. It worked.  Keep.

In the evening, I changed into another of my favourite things.  It’s a bit of a shock, and a relief, that on day seventy of this experiment – I’ve been wearing everything in the wardrobe only once as promised, and made it to seventy days and counting – I still have some beautiful things to wear.  The denim-coloured, silk top with pretty wrist buttons, unstained skirt and I went with the Wolf for our last restaurant supper in Paris, down the road from the much-loved apartment.

Paris, je t’aime.  But have I worn all my sane and beautiful clothes? While packing for Paris, I started to get the fear about what will be in my wardrobe when I return back to London.

07.08.11(2)

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Week Eight of Why So Many Clothes? Hiding Becomes Revealing

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Leggings and Tights

There is evidence of a time before leggings and tights. Photos of me wearing this black, cotton Lacoste tennis dress in a friend’s restaurant, by a beach in Thailand. My friend is Thai, I’m with several Thai friends from Bangkok.  For beachwear, this dress was acceptably modest in Thai culture.  Yet, I can’t bring myself to wear it without tights or leggings in the UK: seemingly incapable of wearing a skirt above the knee without tights or leggings.  While I’d like to think this was an independent decision, a matter of personal style and a resistance to dominant ideas about leg-lengthening lines and, more importantly, female shapes, I’m aware there’s some kind of body issue that’s the hindrance.  I need to wean myself back onto showing the skin on my legs, because it’s not modesty that’s stopping me, it’s a deep, inhibiting embarrassment, and I’m hiding from what is causing it.

18.07.11

On a more positive note, one of the reasons why so many clothes might be the kind of personal trends that are little fascinations with the same shape, texture, colour, pattern.  In particular…

Foumphiness

I do seem to love a foumphy skirt.  By foumphy, I mean one that goes out and in and is a bit flouncy and has its own curves.  A good example is a tiered skirt, like I’m wearing Tuesday.

19.07.11

Although Tuesday’s photo ended up being taken in white tights, they went on in the evening because it grew cold.  I spent the day in bare legs in a knee-grazing skirt, foumphy enough to show occasional swathes of skin.  This skirt has holes punched in the lace of the layers, so you can see little circles of sunlight on the skin underneath, if you catch it at the right angle.  Wearing it felt quite nice, with occasional but intense flashes of self-consciousness, in case too much skin could be seen; the bits I didn’t want to show, particularly the backs of my thighs.

The stripy top seemed to not-go nicely with the black and white tier near the bottom of the skirt.  Unfortunately, the pink pumps have started to disagree with my little toes, otherwise this would have been a really comfortable outfit.  I like the way the stripes sit on the round of my tummy.

Wednesday’s purple skirt is another example of the foumphy skirt (Upper Street charity shop, as was yesterday’s).  Fitted on the waist, hips and bottom, it has tucks at random intervals down the length and all around.  I used to feel really unsure about it, but today I feel so utterly myself that I have the confidence and sense of being to wear it.  I feel earthy and sunlit and want colours to go with that.  I feel a release.  Also, got the stains out of the pink jumper, and that release means it’s ok to wear and keep.

20.07.11

The final example of foumphy is the red and white skirt (Irish Charity Shop) I’m wearing on Thursday.  I feel like I’ve rooted in my dressing up chest, can see how wrong it is but it triggers some Red Riding Hood dream, maybe some little girl’s idea of how grown women dress. I feel comical in it, cheerful and winking although a bit nutty.  I seem to be back in tights.

21.07.11

How to Make Friends and Lose Lovers

The red Gap tee is better known as the Chilli Top.  Plain and misshapen with wear and years, but it holds the old memory of meeting my great friend BP dressed as a chilli, with red cords and my long-gone red mountain bike, Roberto.  Roberto was lost to bricks and oblivion, in Bristol, when he got stolen as BP and I sat and ate pasta and drank wine with two middle-aged Italian brothers in their too-lightly patronised café.  Roberto may have gone forever, but BP decided we would be friends for life, partly – or maybe mainly – because she liked that I was dressed as a red pepper.

How Many Shoes to Take on a First Date?

The pink shoes were bought for ZH’s wedding, on a day I ended up on a date with five pairs of shoes about my person.  Each pair was pale pink. I had started the day with three pairs – flip flops, heels and plimsolls – because it was summer and I was worried about how my bare feet and their thin, sensitive skin would react.  I bought two more pairs of pale pink shoes on the way to meet the man in question, as I needed two options for the wedding (one pair was given up on as they just didn’t work, a little bit like the pair of us).  These shoes are not as comfy as they look. They’re toe suckers, too big and the heel’s worn down.  You must clench your big toe to keep them on, the little ones getting uncomfortably suckered, while the odd-shaped wooden heel aggravates the base of your foot.  Not Keep.  A bigger foot would be happier, after the cobblers.

Trend 2: Liberty

22.07.11

Liberty prints.  Today’s blue shirt (Upper Street charity shop) is an old Liberty one, while Tuesday’s skirt was a Topshop (charity shop) imitation, I’d say.  The red linen dress is another ‘like now’, that was a hand me down from mum I wasn’t sure about.  Although it’s dated, writing this blog has made me feel a lot less inhibited about what I like, and a lot freer of the trends that are imposed, free enough to start finding patterns that emerge in personal fascinations and tastes.  The dress got a lot of compliments.  The shawl is from Thailand, and was a gift from my work there.  I’ve been too scared to wear it in case of loss or damage, which seems like a waste, but I have lost some beautiful shawls to stains, trains and mysteries over the years.

Argghhhh!

23.07.11

Yes, I did it, it had to come sometime and I can only blame myself for having it in my wardrobe: the psychedelic moo moo.  Walking around a residential, East London area on a Saturday, I didn’t get any hassle. Groups of children playing in the street were almost respectful (was that it?): one group told a boy to stop knocking on a miniature door in the wall of a church because of the lady (and Wolf) passing, and because it is a church.  Shopkeepers were very friendly.  I got one totally befuddled and confounded look, but otherwise, the idea I grew up with that you can wear what you want in London and we don’t mind seems to be true.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else I’ve lived and forgetting I was wearing this.  I did, and just, for the main, thought people were being nice,  friendly and smiley today.  If I find out I’m pregnant with octuplets, this will still fit, so perhaps I should keep it just in case.

Another Attempt at Something Abandoned

24.07.11

Ya ha. Today, Sunday, I’m growing old disgracefully.  At nearly 30, I’m wearing the things I never dared to as a teen: because of body and social issues.  I mean the things I didn’t wear at thirteen, when I should have been rocking mini-kilts (local jumble sale), like the girls with long, tanned, hairless legs in the neighbourhood of my French Exchange partner in Lyon.  I’m wearing them with leggings, yes.  The problem now is, I can’t get over not de-hairing every inch of my thighs – I rarely feel like I’ve got rid of all of them – before baring them to the world, as ten years of Endometriosis has left me with thicker, darker, more visible hairs than I can bear.  This is where my embarrassment comes from, and it’s attached to a painful, difficult condition that a large number of women experience.  One in four women in the UK are expected to have Endometriosis.  This means many other women are also coming to terms with a body that doesn’t look like what we’re shown it should.  More importantly, it feels very sore and tiring, and, moreover, personally frightening, because of the connection with sub fertility.

There is always hope.  Hopefully there will be more to say.

To today.  Last time I saw KR, I attempted a different mini-kilt, which ended up in Not Keep.  Today’s has safety pins, ergo room for the lovely fajitas KR and FL are cooking.  Moam moam.  This outfit feels fun, like dressing up, rather than trendy or conventionally attractive.

Clothes With a Life of Their Own

The vest is a semi-organic thing: bought as part of a three-for-£10 offer from a Japanese boutique on Commercial Street, when I got it back to my old office I saw it had been pre-stained under the armpits. Unworn, just treated to look that way.  I looked up Japan fashion at the time and found some similar things.  I cut off the armpits and turned it into a vest, one of my favourites.  Unfortunately / fortunately, recently I accidentally picked up one of my red gingham shoes with my armful of whites and the vest came out pink, after being washed with the shoe.  I like the bubblegum pinkness, today.

The shoes used to be a size 6.  I’m an 8.  I wore them first on a date with the same guy who experienced the five pairs of pale pink shoes. I had to get these shoes stretched, by a shop selling handmade shoes, so they’d fit.  On the date, I just used a lot of plasters.

 

PS Next week’s post will be up slightly later in the week than usual, on Wednesday 10th August.  See you then.

 

by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Week Seven of Why So Many Clothes : Because Clothes Tell the Wearer Stories

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Fairytales With Endings We Change

At twenty-two, I’d been working in a clothes shop, put on full make up every morning, and bought into trends for their own sake.  By this, I mean I bought into the idea that wearing clothes marked in magazines as ‘Bohemian’ (this was 2004) and ‘Gypsy’ actually transported me into these imaginary lives. The much-parodied fashion talk about buying into dreams was a waking reality for me.

This Monday, I’m wearing my satin, aqua blue vest, with mesh trim, bought in Warehouse in 2003 at full price (about £15), layered under the white shirt.  I rushed out to buy it after seeing it in a glossy, in a section marked ‘Mermaids’, showing all sorts of watery, oceanic textures and colours.  I wore it first to a house party, with a statement, beaded necklace in more sea colours, fitted blue jeans, and stilettos.  Another wavy-haired brunette was wearing the same, Warehouse vest, in more of a sea-green, with a different, beaded, statement necklace, tight jeans, and heels.  We took a photo together: two mermaids.

Of course, this didn’t consign me to a life with my too-human legs bound forever in tight denim, my feet stabbed at each step, much unlike the sad, original Little Mermaid – although I didn’t ensnare any handsome young men either, at that party.  The vest lives on in different guises, most recently, today, as part of a quite pantomimey ensemble.

11.07.11

Clothes With Little Lives

I’ve written a few times about realising, through this blog and looking more closely at my wardrobe, that quite a few of my clothes are worn out.  Looking at this white, tuxedo shirt, I can see it’s past its best: rusty drops on the shoulder where I’ve brushed past lily stamens, coffee and very faded red wine on the front, if you look – and I don’t iron (once, my wonderful friend and ex-housemate KR ironed it for me, and I went unrecognised, honestly, at work the next day).  Love this shirt, though. Keeping.

The shorts are a favourite, although they don’t have any specific sentimental value.  I just like them.

I’d miss each of these items. I realise: I keep some, if not many, clothes because of how they look to me, and not how they look on me – as if they have lives of their own and I want to keep them in mine because they tell some sort of story to me as I wear them, rather than their always meaning something to my own life story or simply looking good.  It reminds me of looking at a picture book recently that I’d loved as a child: Angelo, by Quentin Blake.  I’d spent hours reading it, then adult me looked again and realised there were no words, and wondered where everything I remembered had gone.  I’m still at the dreaming stage with clothes.

I wonder if I should worry about this?

Adult Clothes

12.07.11

There is a large degree of adult fantasy, too.  The stripy top under Tuesday’s dress has a deep V on the chest and back, and I bought it as a reference to Brigitte Bardot.  It sits very high on the waist and looks very sixties French movie chic with high-waisted drainpipes or pencil skirts.  Today, though, I’m working practical chic, with the black dress.  Fifty cents from another Irish charity shop, and too comfy and easy (good sensible length, nice smooth, tactile fabric, sensible neckline) to Not Keep.  The strappy red sandals slip off different parts of the foot, but I want to keep them.  ZH pops up in my head, saying, as she did while we shopped on King’s Road a few years ago, that adult sandals are always a good investment.  Keep all. Except the embroidered coat – I love it, but it’s just too tight on my arms. It’s taken me four years to admit that.

Duvet Days

Wednesday is a genuine duvet day.  Really not feeling well.  Thursday I still feel unwell, but need to go out for a couple of hours to keep a promise to help a friend, before curling up in bed again.  The long-sleeved maxi feels like the closest thing to a duvet.  This dress is pure story.  I bought it in tribute to a friend’s poem for a poetry theatre event, Peter Ebsworth’s ‘The Very Brief Rise and Fall of Andy the Amoeba and his Contribution to Popular Music in the Late 1960s’ (about an amoeba who inspired the Cellular Song) and it became my Incredible String Band dress.  I wore it to my mum’s 60th birthday shortly after, because of her love of the song and band, and my wish for her, as the song says: May the long time sun shine on you and all love surround you and the pure light within you guide you all the way home.  Like a duvet, like clothes, the dress is enveloping, comforting and full of dreams and stories.

14.07.11

Weathering a Storm

15.07.11

On Friday, I need to wear all grey and practical clothes to shift things about for a performance of The Tempest, with puppets.  The grey dress makes me feel strong and shaped, although it shows my tummy.  Back in Week Two, I gave a green dress to a craft group to become a puppet. Today, that puppet is coming to life, as Caliban.  Seeing the dress in its new role, in a beautiful performance, triggered a poem, which is on a new page in its first drafty form.

16.07.11

On Saturday, the Wolf and I travel to Manchester to see Bjork’s Biophilia  (yes yes, now equal to Bob Dylan for best gig ever) with the Wolf’s lovely parents.  I seem to be in storm colours, still, appropriate because it doesn’t stop raining.  I do love rain.  At the concert, people’s buttons and zips catch on the extraordinarily loose-knit jumper.  They are all very friendly about it, and one man asks if it’s a net for catching people, new friends.  Perhaps it is.  Fisherwoman is more effective than mermaid.

One man also says he would wear jumpsuits if he was a girl, as they look so comfy.  Quite right.  I knew catsuits and holey jumpers were useful.

The Dream is Over

Bjork is wearing a short, gold, leatherette dress, with a foumphy multi-coloured top and a wavy, orange wig.  She looks stunning and glorious.  Her dress reminds me of a gold bandeau dress, very similar to hers, I didn’t buy in a Glasgow charity shop.  Longing.  Did I mention Bjork is amazing?  I want to go home and dress like her.

Sunday’s dress is, like the white shirt, way past its best but still too loved to Not Keep.  Ink stains on the bottom, mottled with light bleach, and once offered the compliment: ‘I like your dress, it reminds me of my kitchen curtains.’  The velvet leggings, however, are a failed fantasy.  I’ll keep them only to keep me warm in winter, under high boots and long skirts.

17.07.11

Here’s the link the old green dress poem http://saranesbitt.co.uk/poems/

 

by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons