The Major Shop – Retail Clothing Part Nine

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.

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The Jeans Shop – Retail Clothing Part Five

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…

Cultural Inappropriation

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Or ” How to be politically correct so that everyone sees you doing it…”

The question of cultural appropriation is a hot topic right now amongst people who have not got any other topics in the oven. In some cases the intellectual Aga is turned up to gas mark 9 and smoke is billowing out of the doors. The odd thing is that the people cooking up the controversy are not turning off the fuel supply, smothering the flames, or opening up the social window to let the smell out. In fact I think they are loving it…

I have probably not encountered enough of these arguments to say that I have seen all the parties involved – I avoid a lot of television and motion pictures because of a religious belief that watching them will make me feel sad. But I do see ideas as they pass in review on the internet and I suspect that the complainants in this case are people who want to complain. And that if they were not complaining about someone wearing an Indian…oops, sorry, Red Indian…oops, sorry…North American Indian…oops, sorry…North American aboriginal…oops, sorry…First nation…

O0ps be damned. I can’t keep up with the Newspeak. A feather war-bonnet. A Hissaboo hat.

Well, if anyone other than Sitting Bull is seen to wear one, there is an almighty kerfuffle that cultural appropriation is taking place. I was going to say that the complainers will complain like the haters will hate, and the basis upon which they grizzle is highly skewed. None of them make a fuss when the cultures that are being appropriated appropriate culture from the cultures that are supposedly appropriating. Or in other words there is no culturally sensitive tit for emotionally supportive tat.

Mind you, there seems to be a great deal of tat for tat. The magnificent, noble, and put upon natives – whether they are Sioux or Suomi – are going off to Big W and Walmart and buying the worst of the ugly no-fashion garments invented by cosmopolitan culture and wearing that. And should be as roundly condemned for their lack of taste as the urban customers.  If they would like us to step out of the buckskins and beads we can, but they should also be encouraged to doff the hoodies and Ed Roth tee shirts.

There may also be an underlying feeling amongst people in some ethnic groups that they are ever so much better culturally than other ethnic groups and no melding can take place. They then squawk if they are not allowed to meld elsewhere as they see fit. They cite democracy in one direction but practise hypocrisy in another.

I personally believe we should wear what we like, like what we wear, and look upon others with tolerance. With the exception of 92% of cheap tee shirts sold at hot rod shows, Nazi regalia, and things that tourists wear, nearly everything else is fine. If a garment fits badly it is a greater punishment to those inside it than those outside it, and the distress can be terminated at the end of the day with a pair of scissors or a lawn mower. No clothing or colour or fabric is exclusive or inimical to any one group of people. If the cap fits…and it is cold and you are getting bald…wear it.

I know a number of other people who look even better than I do who think the same. They dress well and they draw their idea of style from many places and many peoples. And they do great honour to those places and peoples.

Heading image: Jane The Model in a dress from Rajasthan. The parasols are from there as well. She owns twenty of them and is looking for buyers. If you ever had an ambition to be Mary Poppins, contact me and I’ll email you her number.

Retro-Trending Fashionista Guru Icon Mentor International Superstar Ambassador

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I have all the qualifications. A closet and a wardrobe full of old clothes.

The closet contains Secrets that would horrify Victoria. Like underwear that started off white but has become very colourful over time. And garments that have lost their elasticity faster than I lost mine. Pairs of socks that would get you arrested in rural Mississippi. Tee shirts that are holier than thou…

DSCF0027The wardrobe has row upon row of fashion statements – statements such as ” No.”, “NO!!”, and “Get that thing away from me.”. There are garments still in use that were purchased so long ago that the factories where they were made have been pulled down. In some cases the cities where they were made have been left in ruins and in one case the entire country disappeared. Looking at the clothing makes me think it had something to do with the disaster.

We’ve all looked at fashion purchases that we’ve made and thought; ” What was I thinking?” in my case I just add a little punctuation and it comes out better; ” What? Was I Thinking?”. Every sight of these garments is a painful one – I see myself in the store and I see me inspecting myself in the shop mirror. Then I see me handing over money to the shop assistant and them doubling up over the counter laughing. Shop assistants in clothing stores have a peculiarly penetrating laugh.

And then I see myself cleaning, ironing, and storing this stuff for the last 40 years. And here is still is. Unworn, unwrinkled, and unwearable, and I just can’t bring myself to sacrifice all that horrible investment by throwing it out.

I know I have tried. God knows I have tried. I have put it in green garbage bags and lugged it to the Salvation Army and Goodwill bins after dark and shoved it in. And you kVictoria’s Secret, underwear, socksnow what happens?

A Salvation Army lassie turns up at my door and shoves it all back in. I am lucky if she doesn’t hit upside the head with her tambourine as she leaves.

The Sweater-less Sleeve – Or The Joys Of Old Clothing

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If you are a person who is a devoted follower of fashion or a fan of de-cluttering the wardrobe…you might want to go look at pictures of kittens on Facebook for the next fifteen minutes. I want to talk to the rest of the audience.

I particularly want to address myself to the chap in the middle in the brown trousers and the polo short. Well done, Sir. You are my kind of guy.

Every news stand in the town has magazines promoting fashion-men’s and women’s. The production of these publications is stunning – some of the most imaginative photography ever in every page, and a range of advertisements that quite frankly overwhelms the senses. As it has been designed to do. I am just grateful that I do not have much sense in the first place as is saves a lot of time in the end – I overwhelm quickly and then can get on with the dishes.

The chief opponent of these magazines is my mirror. It reflects a person who is getting older and uglier by the day, and suggests that there is very little that could be done by draping the outside of the wreck with fancy cloth – the basic structure is pretty average. I don’t want to make this sound like a self-pity session or a fishing expedition for complements – I am quite content to look the way I do and hope I continue in the same fashion for many years. And as I do not need to be sold to the highest bidder I do not need to be buffed up like a silver chamber-pot.

How fortunate for me that I have retained pretty much the same figure for 45 years – maybe a little shorter than before but more or less the same circumference. This means that I can wear my old clothes. I am also lucky in that I have a lot of them.

I wear them whenever I can. I am forced by convention and business to wear black trousers and a work shirt in our shop. As soon as I get home they come off and I get to delve into the 1960’s,70’s,ad 80’s to replace them. Who cares if the Madras shirt and khakis trousers are old – they are clean and soft and not worn out yet. Likewise the Levi’s and the tee shirts, and the truck tyre sandals have gone for at least 4 years. If there is a formal call to pay, there is a foot at least of ironed shirts to wear – none of them younger than 5 years old and some of them nearer 25. I have my own suits and they make me look like a suit, but I can still fit into the 1960’s brown pinstripe my Dad owned – and I like the looks of it.

Benefits for me are memories as well as comfort. If I sit around the house wearing the 1964 Quesnel High School jumper I am warmed by the recollection of a great year as well as the actual fabric. Likewise the Siwash sweater and the sleeve-less jumpers. I still have some socks that my Mother knitted and I don’t just  use them for keepsakes – I wear them. It is a tribute to her skill that long after she is gone they are functional.

Other benefits include the saving in money over constant new purchase – money can be put into books rather than fashion. And the world saves a little if you do not constantly discard and replace – save energy and material.

Do I embarrass the family? Perhaps, but I would have done that with my opinions anyway. Do I scandalise the neighbours? They hardly know me, and if they scandalise with cotton twill trousers they are pretty odd people. Do I look like a scarecrow? Well, we get plenty of crows hopping over the roof of the house and they seem to appreciate me.

Excuse me while I go throw my neckties in the rubbish bin…

Oh, and for the people anxious to point out to me that brown and green are unfashionable and not “power dressing colours”…well I have long discovered that I do not have any power to wield and therefore can please myself with colour. If I could find a yellow check suit in the shops I might well be tempted to buy that.

Thank’s for reading and be sure to try the fried smelts rolled in corn meal.