Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fashions fade, style is eternal.

I've been feeling all inspired today, for a variety of reasons. Both Caroline and Lauren have written really interesting blogs about the relationship between high fashion as art, and how people actually wear clothes, and it got me thinking about following suit.

A few years ago, I was a real glossy magazine addict. I bought Heat every week and got really territorial if anyone dared to open my copy before I got to it! I bought fashion magazines frequently as well (although I usually steered clear of Vogue, because everything in it was too frighteningly expensive!) I stopped buying Heat for a variety of reasons, but I still bought other fashion magazines because lots of them featured high street items, which were things I could consider buying.

I have all but stopped buying fashion magazines and if I do, it is usually with the intention of reading the features or because I want the free gift. I have come to find the fashion content of these magazines entirely objectionable.

This is not to say that I find fashion objectionable. I don't. I love buying pretty and unusual clothes, and I love the process of adorning myself and expressing myself through what I wear. It's just that there is nothing for me in these magazines.

For one thing, I am repelled by the way 'aspirational' fashion is presented to us. I understand that the magazines are businesses and depend on high fashion advertising to make their businesses viable. However, I don't need a £895 coat. This is by no means a 'must-have' item. I resent this wording, and the value judgment that is attached to it.

Another thing that bothers me are the fashion spreads themselves. I do understand the concept of fashion as art, but often the spreads are ridiculous. They're dreadfully repetitive as well. How many of them feature some leggy girl with a long pony-tail jumping? JUMPING. Go and check, there are loads! Like you would do a lot of jumping in peep-toe high-heel hiking boots (or a lot of hiking, for that matter.) I'm not overly literally minded, but I fail to see how photos like that are about the clothes. They seem to me to be much more about the shapes that the bodies in the clothes can make.

It just isn’t for me. I'm fine with that, as well. In fact, I'm pretty happy that looking at these impossibly tall slim young things in magazines (jumping) doesn't make me think "That's it! That's what I want!" because it would make me miserable, as I'm 5 feet 2, mousy, a civil servant and what these magazines would euphemistically term 'curvy' (i.e. a size 10)

With all of that said, I am interested in clothes. Like Caroline and Lauren, I enjoy reading blogs about fashion and style. I stumbled on Caroline's blog by reading one of my favourite fashion blogs, Forever Amber's blog The Fashion Police. I get inspiration from these ladies who, like me, have a budget and a job to weigh against their shoe and dress addictions. Caroline and Lauren's recent blogs, and conversations I have had with other friends, have made me consider what my relationship is with fashion, the clothes I wear, and my personal style.

If you have been reading my blog or you know me personally, you will know that I have an especial weakness for dresses by Fever Designs. I have a wardrobe full of their dresses and I also own four Fever coats (which is less excessive than it sounds, I promise!) It's not a question of brand loyalty or exclusivity, either. Their dresses are well-made, reasonably priced and really good fun to wear. Those criteria aren't limited to the Fever creations hanging in my wardrobe. All of my best-loved and most-worn dresses are the ones I enjoy wearing because they are an unusual shape, or a vibrant print, or are just plain elegant. This is what I enjoy about my clothes – everything that I own says something about my tastes and feelings, and I like that.

Something else I really enjoy is seeing how different people make clothes come alive. M and I frequently pillage each other's wardrobes and we have a number of dresses in common. We can wear the same dress size, more or less, but have very different shapes. I love seeing how M wears something I own, or a dress we both have. I love how the same dress can reflect different things in both of us. I also get a thrill out of dressing M up like a dolly, I have to admit! One or two of my friends dislike it if someone close to them buys something that they have. I have fallen foul of this rule more than once because it isn’t an attitude I'm willing to agree with, for a number of reasons. One of them is sheer bloody-mindedness, I won't be told how to spend my money. The main reason is that if I find something I like, I'm usually so excited about it that I want to share it with my friends, so I also like to take inspiration from them. I love my Ruby Belle Monkey pinafore so, when I found it in Caroline's size in the Fever shop for £10, I was delighted. I'm happy that she will get the enjoyment of wearing it, and I'm interested to see how she will wear it and how she will look in it. I just hope she doesn't have the dispiriting experience of having to scrub someone else's red wine stain out of it!

Ultimately, I think it's a real shame that the high-fashion glossies aren’t spending more time looking at what real people are actually wearing. It would be much more positive, and I think it would encourage us to look past body shape to personality and feeling. Maybe I am too idealistic about it, but I don't miss reading fashion magazines.

The Fever shop on Eastcastle Street - one of my favourite places to spend my money!