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.



Anonymous said...

Agreed. We could totally be friends. :)

Kara said...

"clothing is the best, easiest and most simple way we have to communicate who we are." YIKES! I more member of the I Give Up Club than anything else. This post certainly has inspired me to pay more attention to what I'm wearing!