Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Glad Rags

It will surprise anyone who sees me on a regular basis that I actually love clothes. I don't love them on me, necessarily, what with being the type of girl who looks best in a dirndl, hefting 9 or 10 full beer steins in each meaty paw while encouraging you to finish your damn 'wurst, but I do love clothes, fashion, costume, whathaveyou and always have. I've been buying Vogue since I was 12, my favourite library books in grade school were a couple of History of Fashion type encyclopaedias and I was never really as interested in playing with my Barbies as I was in their extensive couture wardrobes, cunningly sewn every Christmas by my mother -- tiny evening dresses, suits, a black velvet cocktail dress with purple trim and a very au courant disco outfit of white satin pants and a coordinating top that consisted of little else than long gold fringe. Mum even crocheted knickers for Barbie out of superfine white yarn!

But, as I've noted before, I'm a curvy girl in a low-rise jean world, with legs like tree trunks and a generous caboose. With fashion over the past few years largely designed for people who are built more in the straight up and down mode, I'd kind of lost interest in clothing in general, preferring the far less judgmental world of accessories, specifically handbags, which always fit. A month or so ago, as I sat in my cubicle at work and realized I'd worn yoga pants to the office, and thus actively adopted the official uniform of the I Give Up Club, I realized that it was time to climb back on the fashion train and start paying some attention to what I was wearing or I was going to end up on that People-of-Walmart website or similar.

At Christmas my favourite co-worker gave me a copy of Scott Schuman's book, The Sartorialist, and suddenly it got me thinking about style all over again. Although almost everyone depicted in Schuman's book and on his website are longlegged and lanky creatures and therefore wholly unlike me, this doesn't actually matter as the book reminded me that style really has little to do with whatever is actually in the stores. Much like Malcolm Gladwell's description of cool, true style is that elusive x-factor that's simply unique to the stylish person. It's the way they put stuff together (and, if you look at The Sartorialist, how they tie a scarf) that makes the difference, much more so than the actual items worn. But beyond the elusive concept of style, the other thing that's so wonderful about this little book is the reminder that clothing is the best, easiest and most simple way we have to communicate who we are (at that particular moment) to the world.

Anyway, all of this has got me thinking of the various bits and pieces of clothing I have loved over the years. Suddenly, in the same way that scent can richly and immediately invoke the strongest memories of an event or meal, remembering the outfits I donned at various times in my life helps me remember who I was and, in a way, how I got here. From my childhood lederhosen and batiked t-shirts (what? it was the 70s!), to the black pinstriped pencil skirt my mother sewed sans pattern, draping it on my teenaged hips like my very own Madame Gres, to the Doc Marten Mary Jane shoes I wore to death in my 20s and the voluminous orange and green silk ball gown I wore to get married, all of these costumes are helpful reminders of the various incarnations of Kara that have existed over the years.

Of course, I have no idea who I'll be in the future so I can't predict what sorts of outfits I'll be wearing (please GOD let the futuristic white satin jumpsuits so prevalent in the sci-fi tv series world never come to fruition), but I do know that I plan to pay just a little more attention to what I wear, what I'm telling the world about myself. Metaphorically speaking, I may not be shining my shoes for Seymour's Fat Lady, but I will be accessorizing for Schuman's Sartorialist camera.


Monday, March 1, 2010


Greetings from Chilly Florida!

This weekend was spent Driving Miss Patty (my beloved mother-in-law)to her fun vacation rental in Florida, so I'm writing this from a house that has a lanaii. And a resident aligator. I'm not kidding. There's an aligator out there, a real, live lizard, not far from where I'm sitting. I am simultaneously thrilled and freaked by this and if you readers are red-blooded Northerners, then you are too. Admit it. And when I tell you that manatee and dolphin sightings are also a possibility, then if you don't admit that's a teensy bit pants-wettingly exciting, you need to stop reading this right now.

Manatees! In the backyard! Come on!

Florida. Wow. This place is so weird, but I kinda love it already. I never did the Florida thing as a kid (mine is the kind of family where you road tripped to Cape Cod. In March.) and the only other time I've been down here was for two press junkety type trips to Disney and we all know that Disney is a planet unto itself and not exactly representative of the actual Sunshine State. Of course, so far all I've seen is Rte 301 and the I75, the Walmart where we stocked up on pool noodles and the Winn Dixie where we stocked up on snack cakes (just kidding, we didn't buy any snack cakes, though the variety of donettes and snack cakes was positively psychedelic), and of course, this fabulous house. That has a pool. That's kind of indoors.

I'm never leaving.

Or, if I do, it will be very hard not to turn around and drive down here all over again. I have loved every minute of the whole trip. So much so, that I'm trying to figure out how to do this professionally (long haul trucking? Can anyone tell me how I go about becoming Large Marge?), how to get paid for driving through North America, particularly the United States. We started this trip in snow and ice, and by day two had left that all behind -- do you know how funky it is to kick-start Spring by just leaving Winter behind you on I77? Then, on Sunday, I began my day by driving through a mountain, people! Not over, not around, but through a mountain. And I liked the experience so much, a few miles down the road I drove through another mountain. And then down a mountain, enjoying all the while a view that must have stretched a hundred miles or more. Just spectacular.

And did you know that the friendliest people on earth live in Georgia? I defy anyone to stop at the Welcome Centre on Rte 301 just after crossing the South Carolina border and not be welcomed to the very zenith of welcomedness. Those people are friendly! And welcoming! They had pins with the Georgia peach and a Canadian flag on them. Seriously! Why? I don't know, but they did and it made me love them all the more. Plus, they gave us free coca cola products to refresh us for our journey. Admittedly, I'm a total pushover for fountain pop of any sort, but when it's a waxed paper cup of icy cold cherry coke proferred with a genuine "how y'all doin?", my heart melts a little. Best Welcome Center ever!

I want to do this whole trip again. And if you come with me, you have to be as nice to me as my lovely mother in law, which means you have to let me drive your car (mine's a lemon, we're taking yours) and you have to sit beside me, reading out interesting historical facts about the towns we're driving through. From now on, this may be the only way I'll travel.