/karen/

Fashioning (me)

Wednesday, 06 April, 2011

I've been aware for a while that I never finished my blog series on fashion (read parts 1 and 2). I have all these notes for part 3 but never got the time to put it all together. Unfortunately for you, I don't intend to do so now.

But I did want to write something about the way I dress myself. I didn't want this to be a prescriptive post; certainly how you ought to dress yourself is a matter of personal taste and style. I just thought it might be worth noting down somewhere—if only for the sake of comparison. I'm not a fashionista and don't claim to have the best taste in clothes (I can dress very daggily). But one thing that's struck me in the writing of these posts is the immense amount of freedom we have in what we wear. We are to dress modestly to cover our nakedness and not lead others into sin; we are to love others in the way we dress; and we are not to idolise fashion so that it takes the place of God; but aside from all that, there is enormous freedom in what we can wear. Furthermore, our society permits the wearing of a tremendous number and variety of garments; any given person in western society today must own more clothes than people at any other point in history. That's pretty amazing when you think about it. So I thought I would outline how I use my freedom when it comes to fashion—for interest's sake more than anything else.

Another thing: I've returned to thinking about clothes lately because Astrid is starting to move up into the next size and I've had to think about what I need to get her. Most helpfully one of the parents on Facebook pointed out that for the crawling stage, they really need onesies/rompers because two-piece outfits and dresses tend to ride up. (I'm sure it will be different again when she starts walking.) So I've been trying to get some of those as well as a few warm things like cardigans, coats and jackets as winter approaches. But it's been frustrating because children's clothing is so very limited (well, unless you're willing to pay a lot of money for things). Most girls' stuff comes in pink (and when you have a little girl, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the pink. I wonder if you get overwhelmed by blue if you have a little boy …) Astrid wears pink quite well, but she looks much better in red. I'm surprised there isn't more children's clothing in red as red is a really good colour for both girls and boys. Yet I've found it hard to find things in red—and even green. You really have to be looking. The other popular colour (well, tone) for kidswear is white, which I think is ridiculous because dirt/food/vomit etc. shows up so well on it.

Having known absolutely nothing about children's fashion, it's surprised me somewhat to discover that the same levels of couture (if I can put it that way) exist as in adult fashion. There's your cheap and fairly good stuff that you can get at places like K-Mart and Target (and when they grow out of stuff every 3-6 months, why would you bother getting anything more expensive?) There is the slightly pricier range from common outlets like Pumpkin Patch, Cotton On Kids and Osh Kosh B'gosh (and they reward parents for becoming members by giving discounts and occasional sales, so you feel like you're getting quality for a bit cheaper—but not as cheap as Target and K-Mart, who also have their occasional 30 per cent off all children's clothing sales). And then there is designer childrenswear—the kind that is often featured on Babyology: Sophie's Lane, Gaia Organic Cotton, Seed, even. I personally would not pay $90 for a children's jumper, but I'm sure there are parents out there who would. (I would make one instead, but then I know how and would make the time to do so, whereas other parents probably don't have the time or ability.) Interestingly you get more choice with colours in the more expensive ranges of children's fashion.

You also get less of the ugly prints and patterns. Okay, ugliness is a matter of taste. But even so, there are some real shockers out there that I wouldn't wish on any member of society, let alone its smallest members. (I think, why on earth do the factories even bother producing such eyesores? But again, it's subjective …) Strangely enough, it is really really hard to find coloured plain stuff. You'd think it would be easy to buy a plain pink/blue/red/white romper, but no; they all have pictures and prints and patterns and so on. So far, the only place I have discovered that does it is Ducks 'n' Drakes, and they are a little more on the expensive side. (Very nice clothes though. The only reason why I got some is because they had this terrific discount promotion through Mum's Grapevine.)

Anyway, enough about children's clothes. Back to talking about dressing adults—well, dressing me. I should talk about what I used to do first—which is:

What I do now is slightly different because of breastfeeding: I have to wear things that make that easier—i.e. breastfeeding tops, or things with tops and bottoms (singlet top + skirt; T-shirt + pants). (Most dresses don't work.) The other consideration is matching what I wear to the colour of the nursing bra as I only have two—one black and one beige. Finally, breastfeeding gives you bigger boobs, which means that most of the things I used to wear end up looking a little strange—for example, this circular shrug that I made with some cheap acrylic yarn:

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It doesn't look quite right. I think it's a combination of having breastfeeding boobs, plus the pattern is a little top-heavy. In contrast, the Oblique cardigan I knitted seems to work a lot better in terms of shape:

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Mind you, the above was taken in my first trimester so perhaps it's not a fair comparison.

Okay, I've rattled on a fair bit but I'm nearly finished. Back to the subject of children's clothing: one of the most annoying things about coordinating outfits for Astrid is getting stuff to match. I try to apply the above principles when dressing her but am thwarted by colours that don't match (unless you go down the pink pink pink path), patterns and prints that clash and (the most annoying bit!) accessories that definitely don't match and clash. Regarding underthings, sometimes I try to match her clothes with the colour of her (cloth) nappy (e.g. when she is wearing a dress), but usually I don't bother. At the moment, she's wearing onesies/rompers—usually ones with no legs or, if it's got legs, no feet (because she's got big feet and the onesies with feet tend to have feet that are too small). It's getting a little chillier now that it's autumn, so the onesies I've got for her are usually long-sleeved. The weather also means that she needs socks, but of course, most of the socks I've got for her are in stupid colours (pink pink pink! Or purple), or they're patterned. (I wish they made black socks for babies. I think most people are against dressing babies in black, though. I remember one of my lecturers saying that kids should be happy and so shouldn't wear black, but I'm a pragmatist and I love black. One day before she's too old, I should knit her this.) The other problem is shoes. She doesn't wear any now because she's not walking, but when she is, all the shoes I have for her (given to us by others) do not match anything in her current wardrobe (*sigh!*) Furthermore, now that her hair is getting longer, we've had to start pinning it out of the way (especially during mealtimes as she tends to get food all through it). The best clips that I have are bright red, which clashes terribly with all the pink. But does that mean I should go buy more …? (Oh man, I just disappeared down the MadeIt wormhole for a bit, looking at hair clips!)

The last thing I want to talk about in this post is the types of clothes we keep in our wardrobes and whether we need so many. I was challenged by the Fashioning Now exhibition—particularly Gene Sherman who only keeps a fixed number of pieces in her wardrobe, and when she buys something new, she retires something old. (There's an interesting interview with her that I must read in more detail later.) Sure, you need different clothes for different kinds of weather, and to a certain extent, clothes for different occasions (work vs. relaxing vs. sleepwear vs. formal events). But beyond that, you don't really need a lot. I find that I don't wear most of my wardrobe, and that some of my clothes are just there because I've held onto it for sentimental reasons, or because it's something I really like but can't wear that often (the more goth-y pieces of my wardrobe are like that—for example, the dress coat I bought from Tree of Life, which only matches one or two other things in my wardrobe [*sigh*], and this:

Lace overcoat

which I bought for $10 during a trip to the Dandenongs). It's like I have my “working” wardrobe and my special occasions wardrobe. But perhaps it might be better to adopt a more collaborative consumption way of looking at the latter—for example, dress hire (see Can I borrow that? and Dressed Up), or borrowing from friends (this is a little harder because you need to have the same size and body type). For the former, there are overlaps: sometimes I can't really tell the difference between, say, a T-shirt that you sleep in and a T-shirt that you'd wear out.

With Astrid, I haven't bothered yet to get her separate pyjamas because I don't think she needs them at the moment, and really, what's the difference between onesies/rompers and pyjamas? I might when it gets colder and she needs something a bit extra to keep her toasty at night. But for now, I keep thinking, “She's a baby. Does she really need that?”

(That said, I still have fantasies of one day wearing this—though I have no idea what I'd wear it to. I am not sure I could pull off the strapless look though.)

I'm also starting to think that we don't need to launder as much as we do. Don't get me wrong: if it's clearly dirty and/or it smells, put it in for a wash. But if it's okay, you can probably wear it a few times before it needs cleaning.

Okay, looks like I've rambled on long enough. So over to you: how do you dress yourself? What sort of colour and design principles do you use? What sort of things would you like to wear but have no occasion to?

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