Wellies: The Wilderness Years

Post-Wilderness welliesIt’s official. My blogging licence will soon be revoked: I forgot to take a picture of the relevant outfit for this post. Sorry about that. In my defence I was at a festival (Wilderness – early bird tickets for 2015 now available!) and having far too much fun dancing at a mock wedding disco (Whitney! Cher! Take That!) to think about recording my clothes for posterity and your entertainment. To be honest, it was your standard issue festival fare – cut off jeans, stripey top, crazy sunglasses and the inevitable wellies. Please accept a picture of the wellington aftermath in lieu (note that they had been cleaned by time of taking).

The festival itself almost appeared to be sponsored by Hunter, so numerous were its rubber sub-knee logos. Having owned a pair in the past, I think Kate Moss and her 2006 Glasto endorsement have a lot to answer for. They gave me horrendous shin splints after walking a few feet, such is their rigidity, so dancing in them must be like trying to bust some moves wearing calipers. My trusty Primark versions (less than ten of your English pounds) offered far superior manoeuvrability for throwing YMCA shapes and slow dancing to Eternal Flame. Result.

There was a dark horse contender for the Hunter crown though – Dunlop. Yes, purveyor of 1980s squash shoes actually do a nice line in cheapy boots which are squidgy enough to dance like a loon in. The Bloke bought his at 9.53pm the previous evening on a last gasp mission to Westfield (do men ever shop any other way?) and was in good company as many other Wildernessites – boys and girls alike – had clearly also been to Deichmann (can I still laugh at that name at 38?) to get theirs for a solid tenner. I’m not sure it’s possible to fight a class war from an RV in the Oxfordshire countryside surrounded by lawyers, children called Hermione and overpriced food trucks, but I like to think we were in some way sticking it to the Hunter man. Maybe. And we didn’t have hurty legs, which is obviously the most important thing.

Black and white and normal all over

Black and white "normcore" outfitWhilst I was out of the country it seems a new way of dressing was invented. By which I mean that someone at a hot desk in Soho (London or NYC) decided that dressing like a normal person without multitudinous accessories and clashing prints should be called “normcore”. Plain grey sweater? Black Birkenstocks? Label-bare white t-shirt? All normcore apparently.

This ridiculous and mindlessly trivial development/sartorial revolution, depending on your POV happened whilst my back was turned. Sure, I was in the US where this probably all began (let’s blame them, it’s fun), but in my defence I was mainly in Nevada where the “norm” is Lee jeans, checked shirt and a gun, so I’m letting myself off for missing it. So now I’m playing catch up and the thing is probably already over. That’s fashion for you.

Given that I still don’t really understand normcore (surely it can’t be as simple as dressing like a normal person, since fashion’s definition of normal would likely be viewed by the man on the street as bonkers?) my attempt is quite possibly wide of the mark. But on the basis this outfit is monochrome with all black accoutrements, and features normal things like legs, I reckon it qualifies. Obviously my white Birkies would have normied it up further but to me they just looked wrong. Maybe I’m not cut out to be normal. But then, I already knew that.

It’s Tricky

Warehouse midi skirt and Run DMC teeLife in this fair capital is fraught with difficulty – the elusive work life balance issue, finding a place to live larger than a shoebox for less than twice your monthly income, and, of course, navigating skirts which fall mid calf. The frump risk is high, as (if said skirt is voluminous) is the risk of Monroe-style butt bearing in the event of a gust of wind (photographic evidence nearly supplied – my near miss on a Central Line platform later was thankfully not subject to permanent record, or not that I’m aware of).

But when they’re right, they’re pretty damn fabulous. I fell in love with this pale denim Warehouse beaut on sight (then had to traipse to 3 different stores to get the right size, learning in the process something I already knew but the well meaning shop assistant did not: you can’t return something bought from a stand alone store to a concession. Grrr). Anyway, it’s super versatile, flattering in the right places and looks fab with a bit of Run DMC (composers of the title track, for those a little hazy on their 80s old skool hip hop). Not so tricky after all.

All in the mind

Dorothy Perkins floral jumpsuit

Dorothy Perkins floral jumpsuit

Do you have a fantasy wardrobe? I don’t mean a list of items from Dior/Whistles/H&M (depending on your price point) that you’d grab in a post lottery win trolley dash. No, I’m talking about items which you staunchly believe are in your closet, but which actually aren’t? I realised whilst trying to accessorise this floral jumpsuit that I definitely do. I would have sworn that my bag box (yep, a whole chest full of clutches, cross bodies and just plain massive shoulder bags) contained an electric blue asymmetric zip number from Accessorize. Sworn. Vehemently. But said chest only contained the orangey red version. Convinced I had bought the blue hue too, I relocated the entire contents of the bag box onto my bed to no avail. I must have hallucinated handing over the cash; suffered a phantom transaction. Which was darned inconvenient as I tried to get ass-out-of-door for my friend’s birthday party on Sunday with minimal (read: no) time to spare.

This phenomenon works in reverse too. I’m sure the little boat print TopShop tee lurking in the back of my drawer will work wonders with the new denim skirt I just snaffled, but said tee is now adorning someone else’s torso, having been despatched to the charity shop some years previously. Rats.

So, the lovely lily-print jumpsuit had to make do with slightly dull all black accessories. It deserved better – aside from a few tense moments when toilet urgency was substantial and the zip was reluctant, it gave storming service and no doubt will again. If only I can find those cobalt courts….

The Emperor’s new pants

Jazzy wide legged pantsImagine my excitement when my lovely – and very pregnant – friend offered to put us on the guest list for a special view of… nothing. Well, nothing in the Serpentine Gallery, so at least it would be a nicely white-washed nothing with a well stocked book shop and pretty trees in the background. And maybe a free orange juice and some pretzels.

However, this wasn’t nothing in the sense we mortals might know it (eg, “there’s nothing in the fridge, I’ll have to eat noodles and ketchup”; or “there’s nothing on TV, we’ll have to binge-watch House of Cards till our eyeballs fall out”. No, this was art nothing. Which is kind of like something, but with added pretension and better outfits.

Certainly the ladies and gents milling around outside the gallery when we arrived were dressed more for a fashion party than an art “thing”, but seemingly the two are merging towards indistinguishability. Lots of Whistles, neon, very directional shoes and even funkier jewellery (on ladies, there were still the odd pair of red trousers on men, but mainly sharp suits). It was a street style dream, even if that street was Rotten Row rather than Shoreditch High St.

Any road, as you’ve probably guessed if you’ve checked the culture pages or glanced at Twitter in the last few weeks, the “nothing” in question was quite something: Marina Abramovic’s 512 Hours performance/living installation/happening in which she interacts with the gallery guests – usually one at a time in hushed tones – and leads them by the hand to the far corners of the space whilst the rest of the punters look on slightly awkwardly, unsure whether to talk above a whisper, whether to follow her from room to room, and mostly whether to air punch or run for the hills if the artist looks like she’s heading their way. I’m sure there was more going on than this, but precisely what was only really palpable if you happened to be picked to be an interaction subject/victim (depending on your POV).

Sadly, I had no close encounters of the Serbian kind, but I witnessed a few only a few paces (and lots of backs of heads) away. I imagine her MOMA performance where she sat across a desk from visitors was more affecting, allowing more genuine intimacy for more visitors, rather than the strange semi-silent Pied Piper effect here in London, but I’m still considering a return before it ends in August.

On the plus side, I got to wear some jazzy pants which were extremely comfy (a requirement which is sadly working its way ever higher up my priorities list as my mortal clock ticks) flat sandals (ditto) and the ubiquitous biker jacket. On viewing the picture plonked to the left, I realised said pants weren’t perhaps as flattering as I’d initially thought and that heels might have alleviated the unfortunate flatten-and-widen effect they bestow, but it was too late for this particular outing. Still, at least there was sunshine. And free orange juice.

Fashion karma

Karmic Ray Ban glassesDo you believe in fashion karma? Unlike its mainstream first cousin ordinary karma, it does not concern itself in cosmically redressing moral and spiritual wrongs in order to bring the universe into perfect balance. No, no, this genus is far more important than that. It’s the sartorial Gods wreaking revenge upon us mere mortals for a judgmental thought about another’s outfit (admit it, it happens every day/hour/tube journey), every snort of derision at an outlandish designer creation in a glossy mag, every time you’ve pilfered a friend’s outfit and returned it with a stubborn grease stain (as a Daz advert might say). You get the picture.

I recently found myself deafened by the chuckles of said fashion deities due, bizarrely, to my annual check up with the optician. Those of you who have read this blog before (I understand there are still about 3 of you out there) will know that I have on numerous occasions worn clear glass specs just because I think they look cool. I had, at least, the decency to admit that I acted under pure vanity and not opthalmological orders. But still, it was a bit what we northerners might call, poncey. However, the ravages of time have seemingly squished the business end of my left eye into a “rugby ball shape” (not a good thing apparently). Yes, I now need to wear glasses for their proper purpose i.e. not walking over dogs or small children in the street or driving into lakes.

So here I am, £150 lighter of pocket and ruing my decision to ever dick about with the delicate balance of the fashosphere. I think I’ll give the Cos tunic-which-looks-like-a-straight-jacket and  Kurt Geiger orthopaedic pool slides a miss too.

Wardrobe displacement therapy

Sheryl Crow tribute outfitSo my last post sheepishly revealed that my interesting to dull outfit ratio has plummeted since arriving in the US. Which got me thinking. Whilst I love an unusual clothes combo in the UK, why am I thrown off my game by travel? Why do I feel the need to play it safe when on the road?

My first thought was that this was a throwback to the idea that one must always be comfortable when travelling. A notion which led my mother to dress us in variously hued velour tracksuits for cross-Channel ferry journeys as children (in the pre-Juicy Couture era I might add). But then I realised, damn it, that I cannot blame my poor mother. For did not I, at the age of 33, walk around St Petersburg in a fleece and Craghoppers trousers, because the Trans Siberian tour company suggested those noxious items on their packing list? I, I am ashamed to admit, am a sartorial travel wuss. I appear to believe that leisurewear will save me getting lost in the backstreets of Beijing, that cargo pants can prevent pickpockets in Ulan Bataar (though the sheer number of pockets on those things must give me a fighting chance, no?).

As ever, awareness and acceptance is the first stage in recovery from this particular affliction, followed by a little aversion therapy. So, within the confines of the slightly dull items I brought across the other side of the world for three months (12 whole season-spanning weeks of the same goddam clothes!) I’m trying to go all London on my own ass. So to speak. To that end, check out the faux fur/faux Victorian/actual denim combo à gauche. It’s not quite where I like to imagine I’d be were I still hanging out in the She Bu environs, absorbing the Central London fashmotsphere (which I’m sure is a thing), but it’s a step up from (yawn) jeans and (coma) tees. Given my Californian surroundings, I looked to mid 90s era Sheryl Crow for some nostalgic inspiration. I can’t rock it like Shezza (check out this vid of her from 1996 singing If It Makes You Happy, what a babe!) but – and feel free to write me off as totally superficial – I feel a bit more like myself. And that makes me happy.

Mum/mom jeans moment

Mom jeans and green teeTesting testing 1-2, 1-2… Is anyone out there? I know, it’s been quite some time since I put finger to mouse and downloaded some random thoughts about clothes-type things. But I’m back! My silence hasn’t purely been due to apathy or a lack of musings – I have them aplenty, though they’re not always worth sharing (like how when cucumber is 96% water, can it make me sick? Answer me that!). Mainly I’ve just been wearing the same outfit on repeat and didn’t wish to bother your inboxes with “look, another t shirt and jeans combo”. No, I decided to wait for, well, a slightly different t shirt and jeans combo. Revolutionary, n’est pas?

Well, in their own little way, they are. Not only did both said garments come from a thrift store (when in the US of A one must speak as the Romans did, I think) costing less than $10 combined, they represent a whole new shape trajectory. The “pants” (hours of puerile fun to be had with that particular transatlantic divide) are definitely a shift from “boyfriend” to “mom” (for the uninitiated, a shape denoting peg legs and a high waist, last seen cheering on small baseball people in the 1980s and baking Betty Crocker brownies). I half fear I’m betraying my nation by adopting the American nomenclature, though for once I act not out of affectation, but because that’s what the Brits seem to call them too. It seems to counjure up the appropriate imagery more efficiently somehow. The t shirt, which is very definitely GREEN, has next to no shaping or figure skimming properties. Call it a reaction to those scary skinny men’s low v neck tops peddled by All Saints and their ilk to the chaps of Essex, but I’ve gone baggy (sometimes in the Madchester sense too), except when exercising or operating heavy machinery, when wearing excess fabric could be a serious health hazard. Obviously.

So whilst I still occasionally, like a true teen of the 90s, wonder what the hell that thing attacking my waist is, before realising it’s my waist band, I’m definitely falling for this new silhouette. Especially when it costs less than a corn dog and root beer. No, I don’t know either, but apparently they pass for food and drink round here.

Folky dokey

H&M floral dress and polo neckPolo necks* and I have a complicated relationship. I own several and in the chillier months (3/4 of the year in this country) they are my friends. Close and very cosy friends. In my former life as a responsible member of society, I popped them under my suits on many an occasion and enjoyed the cuddly/corporate juxtaposition. But when I try to wear them as an under layer (by which I mean sporting another complete garment, not just a jacket, on top of said sweater) I easily veer into nails-down-the-blackboard territory. And I’m never entirely sure when that tipping point will come. A smocky cherry print H & M top purchased many years ago passes the cringe test, but the autumnal floral patterned dress (also H & M) à gauche was definitely veering into the land of nervous discomfort. Just a bit too folk singer/hearty kids TV presenter/70’s holiday in Cornwall for my taste. I guess I sealed my own fate by adding the mega-beads. Not even the bear coat and Chanel-style bag could shift the balance back in my IMG_1577favour. The only thing which banished the chalkboard chills – given that I’d already left the house by the time they set in – was a scarf. Next time I will have greater respect for the power of the polo and its capricious ways.

*Also known as turtlenecks in the US of A. I’d normally grasp this opportunity to point out the pointlessness of the Yanks having invented a new name for something we had already provided with an entirely adequate title, but their word is clearly much better on this occasion. Damn it. Darn it. Whatever.

More Paddington than Pooh

Vintage teddy bear coatAs my recent TopShop escapades have proven, my clothes age is still hovering around mid to late teens. I know it’s horribly undignified and all that, but I still can’t do “womany“. So it is with some shame but little surprise that I report not only having entered a vintage store in Camden the other day (target demographic: 15 to 17 year olds and tourists) but also having purchased something. Let’s leave aside the fact that I’m meant to be downscaling my possessions and wardrobe in anticipation of moving across that there Pond, and dwell on the fact that the last time I made a purchase in such a shop I was a student and the offending item had army badges on it. There has been some trajectory in the last 15 years – I’ve gone from military memorabilia to (I am reliably informed by independent sources) a couture faux fur coat with gorgeous hand made buttons but, still.

My primary excuse for clogging up my wardrobe further and looking a little like Gentle Ben in the wrong light, is that parka boredom had already set in less than a week after arrival back into the arms of the great British winter. I love the polar bear Woolrich but, man, wearing it every day is tedious. So I’ve gone grizzly. Or teddy, depending on your point of view. It’s not what you’d call weather proof. In fact it actually needs sponging down after a rain storm since it categorically refuses to repel water in any way. But I like to think that it’s the J Lo of the coat world – why dry yourself out when an assistant will do it for you whilst you sit around looking moody and expensive? I fear that attitude will become rather tiresome if the arc-building weather continues but, for now, I’m indulging it gladly. Partly because I can basically wear sweatpants underneath and still look slightly glam (in a Margot from The Royal Tenenbaums kind of way). And I have. More than once.

Somewhat dully, the photo sees me teaming it with skinnies, a Breton top and Chelsea boots (yawn). But look at the coat…..