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.
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…
If you are over 50, your tee shirt shop is called Target or Big W. Your colour is white or black and your size is immaterial – just get it big. No-one is looking and no-one cares. You can wear the thing inside your flannel shirt in the winter and be comfortable.
If you are younger, your tee shirt is a statement and where you buy it is important. The people who sell it to you want you to be happy – happy to advertise their shop or politics to others and happy to take your $ 50 for it. Go-on – make yourself poor and spread a little happiness.
You’ll find a surprisingly large number of stores willing to enter into this game – they’ll be up, down, and side-market venues and the staff will look happier than you do. No wonder – other people have been in before you and emptied their wallets and purses into the till and the staff know this.
If you wish to reflect on the fact that the only people who used to wear tee shirt were the old bastards up the top of the page…and that the shirt was a form of underwear…you may wonder how it came to be the defining garment of whatever generation you now occupy. This happened because they were originally cheap cotton things and people bought them for a purpose. Then the makers discovered that you could screen print Che Guevara on them and sell them to chardonnay socialists for $ 50. And away it, and you, went. In your case without your $ 50.
Our city has a fairly new set of clothing stores located on industrial land adjacent to the domestic and international airport. Heck, it might be Commonwealth airport land that has been sold off or leased to the new occupiers.
In any case, they are a set of shops that bill themselves as direct outlets for fashion goods – clothing shoes, accessories, and probably a lot more. Their opening day was apparently grand – in the sense that the crowds going to visit blocked the highways around the airports and prevented people from getting to their planes on time. This also happened when a big Ukrainian cargo airplane came to visit Perth a couple of years ago. We’re sometimes starved for amusement of a weekend…
I am not one to decry initiative and hard work – nor to put a brake on trade. And I recognise that new clothing is a good thing. But looking into my clothes closet and set of drawers that hold more cloth than I could ever wear, were I to live to 100, tells me that shopping for more would be folly. And I wonder how many people are in the same boat? Not just old coots like me…young coots as well. How many new shirts is enough?
If you are a profligate, the answer is ” too many “. If you are not given to washing and mending what you do own, you are going to be the natural prey of the retailer. Likewise if you have a mind that can be swayed and swooshed by every new fashion that the makers would like to be paid for…well, your wallet is open to their fingers.
And it doesn’t matter whether the clothes you buy are at a discount factory outlet or the twee-est boutique in town. You will still pay as much as you can for as long as you can whenever they apply the electrodes or air their advertisements.
I surprise myself occasionally with my practical determination. Yesterday I weeded my underwear drawer. I feel proud.
Modesty forbids me showing you what I found. Oh, there was nothing salacious, darn it, but I had not realised to just what a state my nether garments had descended until I noted that they were starting to head for my knees while I was still wearing them. It is a daunting feeling on a railway platform if you are the sort of person who has been taught by Mother not to dig round inside your trousers in public.
Now logic tells you that once the elastic goes in your jocks that they cannot actually get to your ankles – unless you are a Scot in a kilt and in that case you may not have the problem in the first place… But trouser wearers, while saved from the ultimate horror, still feel as if they are making a public spectacle nevertheless. The waddling gait is the worst.
Logic again tells us to test the elastic of the garment each day before it is put on ( and here I am assuming that the wise man has more than one pair in the cupboard. If you only have enough for one week, the weekly wash will see you either sitting in bed until it is done and dried or going warily regimental. Not a prospect of comfort with woolen trousers or uncertain zips.
Better to keep two week’s supply and best to keep three – in case of inclement weather with no washing possible. I have counted my supply – together with fresh packs received as presents at Christmas and Father’s Day, I have 30 pairs. I could nearly clothe a centipede…
But back to the weeding. You draw the underwear through the fingers from side to side. If there is no elasticity, it must be discarded. If the bulk of the cloth has become so thin as to enable you to read a newspaper through the bum – it must go. Anything with a green stain is out, and you can spend time later pondering where you got the stain from. I need not discuss tooth marks…
And put aside any thought of further using garment for household purposes. You do not want it as a dishcloth or polishing rag, considering what it has been polishing all these years.
Years? I found that the discards had been purchased in 2014. I like to get value.
I used to belong to a number of clubs that dealt with living history. I took it seriously and played as hard as I could…dressed up in medieval clothing, renaissance clothing, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th century clothing. I had a very good time doing so and would recommend it to all.
But I never had a better time than last Saturday in any of those clothes.
Last Saturday was exceedingly cold and wet here in Perth. People in Siberia and Alaska might laugh at our discomfort here in Western Australia at temperatures that seem normal to them, but be that as it may, we were cold and wet and sad. I was until I remembered the Siwash sweater in my closet.
It had been made by my mother for my father some 40 or 50 years ago. In Canada, of course, and carefully preserved when we moved to Australia. Of little use when the temperature is 38º+…
But when Saturday started to be horrible, it proved to be the best thing I own. And it is a tie to my own history and the history of my family – not some imaginary costume bought from a sutler or sewn from an Osprey illustration. A real garment in a real situation.
I am going to dive back down into the family heirlooms and see what other real history is there that might be resurrected to help with life now. If I still use it, it is not dead.