Shopping bagged!

This past Friday I spent a delightful afternoon shopping with Jes and Natalie Joy.  Fun times with fun women made all the better when Jes explained that she is transitioning into a career as a professional style/shopping consultant and was hoping that Nat and I would volunteer as test clients.  Having the advice of a style professional has been a fantasy of mine ever since What Not To Wear hit the North American airwaves.  I eagerly agreed to submit to Jes’ expertise

Getting dressed is not rocket science.  My three-year-old can do it.  Styling, on the other hand, requires some skill.  I’m an outfit gal. I like for my clothes to fit in a specific way. I try to combine items of clothing into pleasing ensembles. Once I have the clothes, I can usually put them together all right.  When it comes to acquiring clothes…I’m a bit of a loose canon.  My standard approach to shopping is time consuming.  Basically, I take half the store’s inventory into a change room, try everything on and whittle the choices dow to 3 or 4 pieces that I really love.

Shopping with Jes was far more efficient.  She easily identified  items she thought would work well for me.  Seeing a flaccid garment on a hanger and being able to envision it accurately on a body requires good understanding of form, shape and colour. Natalie Joy and I have different body types and very different skin tones and Jes was equally successful with both of us.  Jes was thoughtful when it came to textile, taking into consideration movement, breathability, laundering – all important factors for working parents like Nat and I.

We each of us came away with a cohesive set of clothes.  The ten or so pieces I bought can be combined to create dozens of outfits.  It’s a standard rule of economical shopping, but one I’ve always had trouble executing.

I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to write a script that centers around clothing.   I’ve no sense of the form I might use to tell this story.  Nor do I know exactly what I want to say.   Like my closet, there’s a LOT of material.  Clothing, style and fashion are sometimes dismissed as vapid or inconsequential. I love getting dolled up, playing in my closet and sussing out new duds.  But my love affair with clothes is challenging sometimes.  I get self-conscious about my sartorial lust. As a feminist identified woman, I sometimes fall victim to the misconception that traditionally feminine pursuits are a betrayal of my personal politics. I can usually talk myself down from that ledge,  however; I do have more legitimate shame/ guilt about being a privileged, consumerist clothes horse.  The Post-Fab Princess, writes a fabulously-smart fashion-focused [ETA: now defunct] blog. She says it thusly:

I have an utterly unwholesome obsession with fashion – AND OMG J. CREW – frequently at odds with my anti-consumerist sympathies. What’s a fabulous feminist to do?

I derive tremendous pleasure from dressing myself.  When I choose an outfit, it’s like working through an equation; taking into account variables such as my mood, the weather, the demands of my day and the contents of my wardrobe to arrive at an ideal ensemble.  Dressing is my self-care.   It’s a way I’ve found of being kind to my spirit and nice to my body, which doesn’t always come naturally for me.

My love of clothes and shopping comes from my father.  Growing up, I noticed that he took great care in cultivating his wardrobe, buying the finest pieces he could afford.  He was also a bit of a label junkie, seduced by cachet of Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren.  We often went shopping together on Saturday mornings in downtown Toronto. He would buy me spiffy little kid duds and treat himself to a  new pair of shoes or one of his signature trilby hats.

My mother rarely shopped for herself.  Hers was a make-do wardrobe, as she doggedly tended to my needs, those of my father and our home.   She didn’t make time to do much for herself.  She made due with the clothes year in and year out.  She didn’t like what she wore. I know that because she would mention it, letting out a frustrated sigh at not having bought new clothes in years.

As an adult, I really sympathize with my mother.  She truly believed that it was her duty to give everything she had to our family.  But at the time, her self-sacrifice made me sad and it made my angry.  I understood but lacked the adult’s vocabulary to tell my mom that I neither wanted nor needed her to care for me to the exclusion of caring for herself.

When I grew up and after my parents split, my mother slowly but surely started investing in herself, inwardly and outwardly.   Now she wears clothes that reflect her personality.  It was a delight to discover that she is also a bit of a fashionista.  And it turns our clothing aesthetics are quite similar.   We share the same love of vivid colour and bold pattern.  Though she is far, far better at accessorizing than I am.  She has so many fun shoes.   She wears chunky, textured necklaces and metal bracelets.  When those bracelets clang together to me the sound is my mother, as much as her voice.

Clothes aren’t important to everyone and that’s okay. I believe that who a person is is more important than what they wear.  But I express who I through the clothes I wear. Dressing my body brings me joy and that joy affects my heart and soul.  Just as I’m intrigued by art, music and other sensory experiences, I’m drawn to the costumes people put on.  A man sitting on the street on a hot summer’s day has a story behind his worn winter coat.  The woman at the party in the look-at-me red dress is intriguing to me.  The person sitting next to me rocking a crisp man’s shirt and frilly pink skirt chose that outfit for reason. What could it be?  There is so much I love and think and wonder about clothes.

So…what are you wearing?


Orignally posted June 7th, 2010


  1. deekayelgee says:

    I am also at odds with my love of clothing. I spent my youth buying clothes that did not have a recognizable brand name. Adopting the strange, weird and wonderful into my wardrobe. I showed my zany-ness by dressing in loud prints, and fun hats, and painted shoes. My pants were out of this world, and I wish I could go back and congratulate my youg self on her bravery. She took on the world and refused to wear “what was cool”, and took all the snickers in stride saying “even if you’re laughing at me, at least you’re laughing”, the cool kids inability to flap her and her choice of clothes eventually had them acknowledging that my sixteen year old self had gotten the better of them, and they stopped making fun of me, and began expecting crazy combinations, and were disappointed when I came in a t-shirt and jeans. I miss those days of fashion fun, and look forward to a time when I can go thrift shopping and create a new funky identity on the outside to match my inside.

  2. Amanda says:

    Oh, I hear you. And I often feel like a hypocrite for working (part time) in retail, because I feel I’m complicitly supporting rampant consumerism and I don’t want to do that!
    This year, I’m trying to really pare down my wardrobe and concentrate on investment pieces, with the odd fun, cheap/ thrift thing thrown in.
    What I really need is a jewelry consultant – wonder if Jess does that? :) I own practically none and I am terrible at knowing what suits me and what’s cool vs. classic. I don’t see myself ever wearing a lot at a time, but I think it’s what I need to feel more pulled together on a daily basis.