I had a fit of the clean-ups last week and decided to toss out all the old clothes that were not giving me any joy or beauty any more – like the Japanese lady who advocates simplifying life. It was less of a wrench than I thought – once I started to be critical about the stuff it was easy to send a lot of it away.
I was surprised at myself because I am not the snappiest dresser and a lot of the clothes still fit pretty well. But you do recognise that even if you change clothes twice a day you still have ten times the number of garments that you need and 1/10th of the space needed to store them.
So it was into boxes and out to the Goodwill bins at the local shopping centre. Once it was in the bin, it was out of sight and mind. Now, I missed a shelf of old jumpers, and caught up with it today – and sacrificed a couple that I can no longer pull over my head. I called past the bins…but found that all five of them were stuffed to the gills with bags of other people’s discards. Hardly any room at all.
Has there been a television show on decluttering recently? Is it a cultural tradition to ditch clothes at the start of summer? Are we a suburb full of fashion trendies?
Whatever – my next ambition is not to rush to the shopping centre and get more clothes – I want to see if I can wear out and abandon the ones that survived the first cull. Every undergarment discarded is another piece of laundry that need not be done. I doubt the Goodwill wants my old undies, but surely there is a roof somewhere in the suburb upon which they can be flung in the dark.
Every so often you see a sign by the side of the road here in Perth: ” Spit Roast – Call xxx…for your next function “. I have always assumed that a spit roast was some form of jolly medieval feasting fare – with jesters dancing about and knights and maidens calling out ” Forsooth” and suchlike. A harmless amusement.
Imagine my horror when I discovered that it was a real thing that caterers do to provide food for weddings and corporate affairs – and that they expect you to eat whatever has been revolving for the last four hours and like it. The sight of the trailer that they use as a cooking facility has stayed with me for a long time. I think it was designed by Stephen King…
I do not say that they are poisoners…unless they serve fish in French sauce. In which case they are poissoniers. But that is merely playing eeny , meeny, miney, mot… The food is not dangerous in the same way that unexploded mines or live electrical cables are. It can be eaten. And therein lies the problem.
It cannot be eaten neatly. No matter whether they serve it up on a bun or on a paper plate, you can be sure that great deal of it will slide down the front of your clothing. The separate ingredients are both chewy and crumbly and tend to leap out at you whenever you attempt a bite. You may have worn your best suit or party frock for the occasion, but henceforth it will never be No.1 rig again – the gravy will assure that.
I am also sure that the spring lamb that is supplied through spit roasts has often seen many springs, and the beef has been herded on many trails before reaching the party stage. You may not have your No.1 rig on, but you’d better have your No.1 teeth in.
In the words of H.L. Mencken: ” Spit roast? I prefer gravy…”
Are you condemned to live your life in greys and blacks? Well, move out of Melbourne…
But seriously – your palette of colour when dressing for your real look can be everything from the grim Collins Street banker’s uniform all the way to the calypso bongo drummer tiki shirt and white slacks – and as long as the thing resonates with your psyche, all is well.
Modern fabrics and tailoring can provide the entire gamut and as long as you do not fall foul of the worst excesses of the fashion runway, you can be happy. As your real look is something you control, you are allowed to make it what you will.
I cannot wear the brightest of the fashion clothing comfortably – it has been bought for me occasionally but in many cases I have carefully routed those garments to the Goodwill without ever donning them, and with no regrets. Equally, I deplore the dead black of the Melbourne winter uniform as tending to make the wearers more miserable in bad weather than they need be.
I have hit upon a brown/green palette for myself and have pursued this for years. I do maintain a couple of grey pinstripes or checks of varying luminosity for formal occasions but these often give way to a deep brown stripe that my father bought in 1960 – it is a comfortable garment if you combine the obviously retro look with suitable shirt, shoes, and hat. I am of an age that can wear this.
Equally, I can wear plaid shirts and straight jeans in brown and green for daily wear and get the benefit of comfort and quiet appearance. I can add braces and not feel out of place. A cap or hat is entirely appropriate – even to a straw hat in summer.
And a man of my age can wear a sweater -sleeved or sleeveless as the occasion might be – with dignity. The only thing one must do is be ruthless and discard or repair sweaters so that they do not look holed or baggy. If you are Einstein you can get away with it but the rest of us have to look better, not smarter.
Okay, Inspector – you have the suspects in hand and they are laid out on the bed.
The old dress – the old jacket – the old pair of pants – the old shoes. Worn many times – reached for in preference to others. Shaped like you. These are the duds that you put on when you are unthinking – your mind is comforted by something about them.
They need not be horrible and wrinkled and 50 years out of date – and equally they might be ( so might you, but that’s existentialism for you…). They may be drab or colourful. They may be matched or disparate. But there is a clue in each one as to what your real look is.
The underwear – if you get the same brand each time and only discard the old stuff when the holes in the cloth do not cover the holes in you…ahem…then you do so for a deep psychological purpose, as well as to keep from snagging on your zipper. You wear the pattern because that is what you want to be. As it is generally unseen, except by those who want to look, you can wear what you fancy. Pass onto the shirt or blouse.
Shirt or blouse covers your upper torso and lets your arms, neck, and bosom move about. If you find you always wear short sleeves because you like to have free arms, you’ll possibly like to wear shorts as well – or at least trousers or slacks that let you move freely. If you have all your comfy shirts as long sleeve formals you may like the more formal skirt or trousers to go with it. What you do with your bosom is generally your own affair, as long as you don’t do it on the train or bus.
Skirt or dress or trousers? If you’ve maintained your weight at a constant – neither up nor down – you’ll have been rewarded by a favourite covering for the nether regions. Chances are it works with the upper garment as well – and may also go with the next covering – the jacket or coat. You will have unconsciously coordinated yourself for years without realising it.
And the top wear – you say most about yourself with this but the truth is no-one listens. Unless you have the good fortune to be RuPaul or a carnival barker, you will probably be stuck with a drab jacket but there is always the chance that you have bought a lime green one while drunk. Screw up your courage and wear it.
As to colours…read tomorrow
I don’t mean the look that the latest fashion site, catalog, or store promo would like you to have. I don’t mean the look that your school, regiment, or company require you to wear. I don’t mean the clothing that you can afford or the ensemble that you can’t afford.
I mean the real look that is really you. That’s a tough one to nail down – I know people who have been hammering as fast as they can all their lives and it’s still comin’ up at the edges…
And in case you were worried about the closet reference as a sex and gender thing…this is not about that at all. Come out or go in there as much as you like – just don’t slam the closet door off the hinges. This is about what you wear.
Today’s question is simple; do you have a real look – yet?
Go to your wardrobe or closet with a rolled up magazine and turn on the light. Shoo away the cat. Then haul back and hit the clothes a good hard whack with the rolled magazine. Are you enveloped in a cloud of moths and dust? Are you swatting and coughing? If you are, there is a good chance that you do not have your real look.
You have a collection of odds and ends that you have not had the courage to toss out. You have not worn them and they have sat neglected – for a very good reason. They are not you. They may have been worn by you some time ago but they were not sufficiently real to fix themselves in your psyche.
If you do find clothes that are not covered by dust and are worn into familiar shapes that resemble you – like the husk of a butterfly after it has moulted – you are on the trail of the real look. These are clothes that you wear to death, and you wear them because they are comfortable. Comfortable for your body and for your mind. They are clues to the real look you are seeking.
Tomorrow we follow the clues.
The big retail shop – Coleworths, Flyers, Getar, Big Letter, etc. exist in every major Australian city – indeed they have branches in multiple locations downtown and at shopping centres. In addition to white goods, manchester, and bargain bins full of toilet brushes, they sell clothing. A lot of it.
Many people stock their wardrobes exclusively from these stores, and can live comfortably by doing so. The goods they buy are generally reasonably well-made, reasonably well-fitting, and reasonably priced. But there is one disadvantage for the shopper: they will look like 250,000 other Australians each season. If they are frugal shoppers they will look like this more cheaply, but one season out of synch.
I can sympathise with this – I am equally well dressed, but in many cases the season is Winter, 1962.
The buyers for the big stores wield tremendous economic power in the clothing business, as they have very big purses indeed. And they are canny – they are always trying to achieve the perfect purchase…the garment that sells out completely on the last day of the season, leaving room on the shelves for the next attraction. But with this skill comes responsibility. They are going to make the country look the way they buy for at least the next year.
Sometimes they get it right, and we all look decent. Sometimes they get it wrong and we all look like prats. And sometimes they get it disastrously wrong and we look like grubby, smelly prats. If you doubt me, I mention two words: nylon shirts.
I do not mind the clothing from the big stores, inasmuch as I buy anything. Their underwear does not chafe and their sweatshirts are good for at least a year. But I always pray that the designers and buyers will have done their job whilst sober. We have had far too many years when every garment has a logo printed on it somewhere and cannot be worn decently outside of a football stadium or tractor pull.
No man should ever enter a lingerie shop for any purpose. There is nothing he can do there that will produce a good result – even if he buys the perfect set of lace nothings for his light of love. Because his light will not appreciate them.
The thing that the man wants to see is not the thing that the light wants to wear. Indeed, if the man were to canvas the light for an honest answer – and get it – he would be shopping in the flannelette aisle of Big W. It is a sad thing to have one’s dreams shattered, but even sadder to have it done with a fire axe.
” But what of Victoria’s Secret? ” I hear you ask. Victoria doesn’t have secret. She’s a tart and that’s all there is to it. The lingerie is a work-related expense, and a pretty poor value-for-money one at that. Compare the lifespan of the average lace step-in to that of a pair of Yakka overalls and see which one helps out with your bottom line. Fortunate indeed the working girl who can cater to her trade in denim and nylon straps. Though it does get a bit itchy around the edges.
Of course there is the question of size. You can get it right and you can get it wrong, but if you get it wrong by buying too large a garment, you ain’t gonna get it.
I was a child when there was Army and Navy Surplus that meant something. My father bought a bomber engine at an RCAF surplus auction in Airdrie, Alberta and ran it in our basement. He also bought lightweight drafting equipment from the RCAF that used to be on the navigator’s flight table. I aways wanted him to bring home the Fraser-Nash gun turret that was on sale as well, but my mother was a spoil-sport…
I mention this as a preface to gently prime you for a fact of life; there is no army and navy surplus any more. The bomber engine was left over from WW2. The army and navy now need all the stuff they have and are frequently engaged in horse trading amongst themselves to gather enough of it together in one place to operate on. They don’t have any spares to sell.
What is sold in the surplus stores is cheap imports from Pakistan, India, and worse places. If it can be made of bad cotton or brass – if it can be made crudely but with a certain brutal flair – if it can be sold as an aid to camping, or fishing, or genocide – the stores will get a sea container of it in and sell it. Whichever category it fits into and whatever it is, you can find one common thread – it will be overpriced.
Don’t avoid the surplus stores because of this. Go into them, by all means. Education is always expensive and shopping there is no exception. Set yourself a price limit that is painful but not horrifying, and go spend to that number. Who knows – you may need the fake ammunition box or the Pakistani exploding alcohol stove – or the Confederate flag or the 70 cm folding knife – for some legitimate purpose.
Just don’t ask for Fraser-Nash turrets…
I do shop at the big and tall shop, even though I am not. However, other family members are, and the fact that you have to go to a special retail outlet to clothe them says something about the general clothing retailers. It says that they are basically stupid.
When customers have to go 5 miles out of the city to a specialist store to get the sizes they need, they are doing it because the major retailers will not supply them. In turn, when the customers go out there, they take their money with them and spend quite considerable amounts of it . Considerable amounts that do not go into the big store’s till.
Helloooo…Anyone there from the accountancy department? Anyone…?
Big tall people and big fat people do not fit into the tiny sizes that the major retailers order from the sweatshops of Southeast Asia. Yet they still want fashionable and decent clothing…which they can get from the big and tall shops. The wise management of the B&T have contracted with their sweatshops to make things on a bigger pattern – and charge more for it. If a major player store has more money to negotiate with than the little retailers they could do exactly the same thing but better and faster. But they don’t.
While they have been selling the populace the lie that everyone is either size 8 or else they don’t deserve to live, the buying public has been exceeding this number and saving their money. All they have to do is make bigger clothing and that money comes to them. Bugger fashion parades and the starved model. Build an empire on the need and wants of the actual customers – like Trump’s wall, they’ll help pay for it!
If ever there was a tale of good taste manipulated, good sense circumvented, and good business pursued, it is told in the blue jeans business. Also add hype, mindless conformity, and slave labour to that last sentence.
I’ve seen blue jeans become jeans and progress from farm worker wear to kid wear to teen wear to mainstream trendy wear in my lifetime. I regret that I will not live long enough to watch the garment travel back down to the start of the circle and largely disappear from sight.
I do not decry the basic thing – but I have become mightily sick of the sales gimmickry that has accompanied each stage of the progression. It was like watching fake-wood plastic veneers take over every surface of every product in the 1960’s and 70’s. I long to see the denim become as rare as the walnut*.
Mind you, I do appreciate a good joke and more so when I can get it and the persons upon whom it is perpetrated remain ignorant. The ripped jeans sold from a shop – in some cases ripped beyond garment to rag – are one facet of this. The dull colour is another. The excessive studding a third. The list goes on, and you can be sure that if some garment worker has made a drunken bet that they can make an uglier design and sell it to the vapid, they will collect their money.
Note the garment that was given to me – a denim photographer’s jacket. Actually a very good idea, but unwearable in any dimension save the Alt-70’s.
* I actually owned an air-powered dental unit made in Oregon in the 1970’s that was faced with stick-on wood veneer and aluminium knobs. In my defence, it was all I could afford…