Monday, March 31, 2014

Yay for Yay! (and some thoughts on fashion and style)

Dear Clothes in my Closet: Thanks for pulling me through this experience! 

Today is the last day of my six-month fast from buying clothes.


Not buying clothes for half a year* was challenging, but it was doable. I missed retail therapy, but I survived without it—here I remain, craving a trip to the mall, yet completely unscathed! Having the luxury of starting off with a closet full of clothes to choose from, even without being able to add to it for six months, is much more than what so many people have, so this six-month fast from buying clothes can really be summed up as a “first world inconvenience.”

I’ve also realized that while having a sizable clothing budget and a lot of time to spend shopping would be a dream come true—oh it would be so very awesome—it’s actually quite rewarding, in its own way, to piece together a functional and interesting closet of collections by being more cost-conscious. (This is where my Dutch heritage mingles with the passion-for-fashion platelets in my blood.)

Here are some examples of how the cost-conscious collecting mindset developed through this fast:
Before the fast started, I made a list of items that I needed (and wanted, let’s be honest) to “get me through six months,” and I had a lot of fun finding things during the fall seasonal promotions and through searching online—I really thrive on the hunt. My sister hosted a clothing swap about a month into the fast, and so I acquired a few things that way, and I also scored several really great items from a friend who cleaned out her closet—so all in all, I managed to add to my wardrobe (and was also inspired to subtract items that I wasn’t making good use of) without spending too much money before this whole thing started, and I even continued to add to my wardrobe while into the fast without actually buying anything (which was legit, right?).

I have also found myself really anticipating doing some thrift shopping again—just as much as I’m anticipating doing any on-line, in-mall or a-la-boutique shopping. I love to hunt through racks of pre-owned stuff, checking labels and material make-up, envisioning outfits, and then paying a fraction of the original price. Seriously, some of the pieces of clothing that have brought me the greatest number of compliments over the years, the nicest quality and the staying power season after season, were thrifted. I absolutely love bringing home those interesting treasures, and I have missed hunting them down! Honestly, thrift stores are an inspiring alternative where you can find things that are different from the usual fare, have been broken in to achieve the highest comfort level, can be of very high quality, and make a Dutch heart happily and excitedly pump Dutch blood through Dutch veins at the price (especially when compared to the value—the “Dutch inquiry,” as a friend dubbed it). You just need some time and patience, and you need to know how to identify a well-made item (like knowing your brands).

All in all, fashion doesn’t always come at a high price. Yes, the best quality items are obviously more expensive, and they should be because you are paying for high-quality craftsmanship and materials (and those big names, which are generally big because of their quality), and I definitely think that wardrobe basics should be regarded as investments, and I definitely agree with “quality over quantity,” but I’ve also learned that you can have a lot of fun compiling an interesting wardrobe that reflects your personal flair by swapping clothes with friends or shopping at secondhand stores, and you can modify existing pieces and switch up things you already have to freshen up your look.

Anyway, through all of this, my thoughts and observations have continually been faithful in leading me to the same truth: The essence of a great outfit is in the confidence of the wearer. Confidence is so incredibly magnetic. When you wear something you love, something that makes you feel like “you,” something that compliments you—that satisfaction and confidence is like an attractive light that warms you up and transcends the trends. Whatever the piece of clothing, however much you paid for it, wherever you bought it, whatever kind of a treasure hunt you went through to find it, however old it is—while these facts may be interesting—none of it essentially determines the awesomeness of an outfit.

I have just recently come to love that essence of fashion—that opportunity to wear something you think is just great and the tingly feeling of blissful satisfaction you feel when it slips on like a second skin, expressing something about you, making a statement, telling a story. Whatever it is, the confidence that emulates from “that jacket” or “those heels” or “that dress” or “those jeans and a t-shirt” is the intangible quality that any piece of clothing can bring you, whether it cost you $500, $100 or nothing—whether you bought it yesterday or over six months ago—it’s the way you combine the pieces, the way the clothes reflect you, and how it all makes you feel, that form the foundation of style.

*Let me come clean here and get this one teeny thing off my conscience: I had one slip-up a couple weeks ago. I bought a pair of pants and a t shirt. The t shirt came free with the pants. I haven't worn the pants or the t shirt yet.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Nice to Meet You!

Have you ever met someone who, immediately after the introductions, has said to you, “I’ve heard so much about you”? Even when said with the most legitimate, innocent intentions, there’s a slight edge of creepiness there, right? Maybe it just feels kind of weird or uncomfortable or awkward for someone to know more about you than you know about him or her, especially if you’ve never met before. 

I wonder if maybe that uncomfortable feeling arises from an imbalance. Person A knows all about Person B, but none of the information was directly from Person B, and Person B knows essentially nothing about Person A. What you know of each other is unequal.

After watching the Oscars last night, I wondered what it would be like to meet someone famous. (OK; confession: I have wondered about this a lot—especially meeting all of the musicians out there whom I admire.) This would be the ultimate “I’ve heard so much about you!” situation—a non-famous person meeting a really famous person. Fans of celebrities and even people who aren’t big fans, just follow media, would know quite a lot about these people quite easily. Many of us have probably come to the point where we recognize their voices, have seen them close up on the big screen so much that we can’t help but know all the minute details of their faces, and have watched interviews and read articles about them so that we know what they like, what they do in their spare time, what they wear, where they go, what they are passionate about. (And this is not considered creepy, since it’s basically common knowledge: it’s information released to the general public).

I further wondered what it would be like to be the famous person being met by a non-famous person. Regardless of how the conversation went, there would always be this underlying imbalance in the sense that the famous person knows nothing about the non-famous person, while the non-famous person has been over a period of time, privy to many details about the famous person. What would that be like? What would that imbalance feel like? If I were the famous person, would I feel like I should ask several questions about the person I know nothing about to help level the scales off?

I realize that this sort of dynamic comes with the territory of being famous. But it has to be kind of strange, right? Could a conversation between non-famous Person A and famous Person B ever be completely “normal”—i.e. comparable to a conversation between two non-famous people? I kind of hope it would (although by my own experience, I know that I can get a teeny bit star-struck in these types of situations).

What about two famous people who meet each other in person for the first time? I wonder what that would be like. I mean, those two people conceivably know a lot about each other, especially if they are fans of each other/each other's work, but to still just be meeting for the first time after knowing a lot (albeit, the media’s filtered output of the information) about each other—what would that feel like? Would they skip a lot of the typical introductory questions that non-famous people ask other non-famous people (asking about family/who they’re dating, what do they do, whereabouts do they live, pastimes, etc.)? I guess they probably would, right? Would it be weird to skip to other stuff? Would it be weird to not talk about certain topics under the assumption they already know all of those introductory details?

You could even take this a step further and figure that even if two people who meet for the first time and know relatively nothing about each other, we can very easily, within moments, build a preconception about that person, which could affect the way we talk with that person, almost as if those preconceptions are a way that we trick ourselves into thinking that we know that person, when in fact we do not.

Anyway, it’s interesting to think about the little nuances that flavor the conversations we have with the people we meet, flavours that differ based on how much each person actually knows about the person they are meeting, and how those nuances can affect the underlying tone of a conversation.