As I was ironing a few evenings ago I started to analyse my future clothing requirements staring with those in the basket. Whilst at risk of generalising, it is not unreasonable to say that women do tend to have more clothes than men and perhaps more than they need, I know I do. However, if my entire wardrobe is going to have to fit into one suitcase/backpack I will have to undertake a huge rationalisation. I have determined that I will need to maintain separate summer and winter wardrobes. My excuse is that we are likely to experience significant extremes of temperature therefore there will not be many items suitable for both. Despite layering, winter clothes do tend to be thicker and bulky, even down to footwear i.e. snow boots versus flip-flops.
The gear I take with me for either season (spring and autumn are going to have to fend for themselves) will need to be versatile, adaptable and durable. It will also need to fulfil the vital function of protection against the elements including burning ultra-violet rays, this may become the most important factor for a fair skinned lassie (who also feels the cold – when not having a tropical moment!). In our temperate climate we can afford to neglect this functionality in favour of appearance and fashion. I don’t think anyone who knows me would consider that fashion influences my dress sense to any significant degree but it does, even if I am one or two seasons behind at best!
There appears to be an alternative dress code for people leading less conventional lives and I don’t just mean un-ironed. I may be wrong but there does seem to be a much more substantial utilitarian feature to their apparel. It is portrayed as a different uniform, identifying their lifestyle and possibly even reflect a belief system. Our clothes can define us and are an outward expression of to which group we want to belong, how we want people to perceive us. First impressions have the most longevity. This aspect will be in evidence initially in the Alps; the best dressed skiers are usually found on the nursery slopes but, skiing, out of necessity, has its own uniform – warm and waterproof! As we move from one type of existence to another our wardrobe and subsequently suitcase/backpack will probably diminish, although from a purely practical point it will have to be supplemented intermittently but hopefully by local purchases, even at an end of season sale!
Do we follow fashion in western cultures or does fashion lead us by the nose on a buying binge of unnecessary garments because the leg width/waistline/collar/colour palette/fastening have changed this season? Thus ensuring that those who are concerned about their wardrobe need a complete re-fit annually to ensure that they are not deemed to be behind the times, filling the coiffeurs of the businesses at the expense of our insecurities. This steering is subtle but difficult to resist in a superficially judgemental society where ‘slebs’ can be criticised across numerous media publications for minor infringements of the perfect appearance. If they can get it wrong with their resources, both financial and advisory, what chance is there for the rest of us?
The cut, style and colours of a season cannot suit all the myriad of body shapes, natural tones and pocket of everyone, so a large proportion of people are not going to look too good at any one time, particularly if we are any heavier than a catwalk model. We should be able to wear whatever we like without the risk of social pigeon-holing or judgement and so cock-a-snoop at the fashion industry. We are intelligent, beautiful people, we should be able to wear a sack and still feel to be the same person. I should be able to wear the beautiful Laura Ashley dress I bought in 1981 which was far too expensive for my meagre student grant but I loved it so much I still have it, even if it hasn’t seen the light of day for 25years. Actually the only reason I don’t wear it now that I have the confidence to ignore any disparaging looks is because I can’t fit into it, but that’s not the point.
Shouldn’t we define our clothes? Shouldn’t our garments reflect who we are, be it a bold statement or otherwise? We should wear the colours that we like or compliment us. Perhaps we could be aware of the styles which flatter our own particular body shape, disguising the aspects over which we worry most, not to pander to the style gurus so much as to enable us to feel confident in our presentation by hiding something on which it may impact. It is naïve to assume that we can suddenly drop this stratagem overnight but I hope that within 12 months I will have the conviction to wear exactly what I want. If I’m going out I’ll be in a beautiful, colourful, elaborate garment which makes me feel wonderful because of its individuality and hopefully even be able to bask in the memory of the event and location surrounding its purchase.
You’ll know that if I’m wearing some greyish, non-colour that I may not be happy or perhaps a little unsure of where I fit in and so want to meld into the background until I’ve found my feet. We are attending a night out in Manchester next month to meet up with all the other 2014-5 seasonnaires, that really will be a wardrobe challenge and a half. I haven’t been ‘out out’ for years and we are very aware of our chronological seniority so I have no idea what I should wear let alone own anything remotely appropriate. Hopefully this could be the last time I ever feel like this. If I’m wearing something non-descript next time you see me it could even be that I’m perfectly happy and no longer use clothes to express my individuality.