Thursday, 29 November 2007
Working in a prison I am told the only way to succeed in crime is to do it big, do it on your own and tell no-one. But thanks to this blog my crime of buying clothes has failed on all counts.
The "sin" was a £8.00 pair of flat, black pumps from Tesco. And take 20% off that for their current sale offer. I was egged on by my 10-year-old daughter on our daily after-school top-up shop.
My defence? I needed flat, black pumps. Nothing else would do. I had just thrown out my last pair as the holes in the bottom were letting in water.
But and it's a big but, do shoes really count as clothes?
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
Do you have comfort clothes? The kind that lift your spirit and warm your soul. Not just in the way they look or feel but the memories they hold.
I have a few. And once this experiment is over I plan to buy more.
I have had a very difficult and emotionally painful few weeks and at my lowest yesterday I picked myself up with a dress.
In recent times I may have just gone out and shopped. Bought something that didn't suit me or would remind me of the sad time I was trying to erase.
But this time I dried the tears and opened my wardrobe.
It was cold outside and summer clothes aren't exactly the right thing just now. But who cares?
I picked my favourite buy of 2007, a red dress from Joe Brown's. I have worn this dress to death. I love its defiant bright red stand against misery and the hippie style helps me forget my cares.
The dress was on the Joe Brown's Summer catalogue. I bought it in March and was waiting for the first warm day of the year to wear it. On a glorious unseasonably warm Saturday morning I wore it to watch my two youngest children play football. It made me feel excited about the summer to come. I wore it on a two day trip to Rome, standing in St Peter's Square listening to the Pope, soaking up the history of the Coliseum and the Spanish Steps.
And I wore it on the first and last day of our lovely family summer holiday to the South of France.
But to winter it up I grabbed my current comfort jeans from Next, a pair of Nike trainers and with a cardigan to wrap out I took the dog out for a long walk. And I felt better than I had for a long time.
It reminds me of a lovely song by Mary Chapin Carpenter (lyrics below).
This shirt is old and faded
All the color's washed away
I've had it now for more damn years
Than I can count anyway
I wear it beneath my jacket
With the collar turned up high
So old I should replace it
But I'm not about to try
This shirt's got silver buttons
And a place upon the sleeve
Where I used to set my heart up
Right there anyone could see
This shirt is the one I wore to every boring high school dance
Where the boys ignored the girls
And we all pretended to like the band
This shirt was a pillow for my head
On a train through Italy
This shirt was a blanket beneath the love
We made in Argeles
This shirt was lost for three whole days
In a town near Buffalo
'Till I found the locker key
In a downtown Trailways bus depot
This shirt was the one I lent you
And when you gave it back
There was a rip inside the sleeve
Where you rolled your cigarettes
It was the place I put my heart
Now look at where you put a tear
I forgave your thoughtlessness
But not the boy who put it there
This shirt was the place your cat
Decided to give birth to five
And we stayed up all night watching
And we wept when the last one died
This shirt is just an old faded piece of cotton
Shining like the memories
Inside those silver buttons
This shirt is a grand old relic
With a grand old history
I wear it now for Sunday chores
Cleaning house and raking leaves
I wear it beneath my jacket
With the collar turned up high
So old I should replace it
But I'm not about to try
[ More Carpenter Mary Chapin Lyrics ]
Now I know why I have hardly worn those black patent shoes. They look great but within half an hour my toe was killing me. And I can see why cheap cashmere is exactly that.
But it is all a learning process and I am hoping this blog will help me finally get to grips with my wardrobe.
On a positive front the workshop went well and one of the new businesses I worked with was a Bespoke Shoe Company . A woman who is capable of making shoes that fit and look great. I hope I will have enough cash saved to make a good pair of shoes one of my new purchases next year.
Today's wardobe challenge got me thinking about what our clothes really say about us. Two days a week I work as a writer in residence at a male prison. I work closely with small groups of prisoners and what you wear is definitely an issue.
Although female prison staff do have a uniform many still customise the look. A woman working in a male prison defintely throws up a challenge. Obviously you don't want to attract the wrong type of attention but like it or not what you wear does say a lot about you. There are civilian female staff who deliberately dress down to avoid attention and hardly bother. And the message I feel that says is "I am not bothered".
Yet in an environment where there are a lot of rules and regulations and little control over events (both for staff and prisoners) what you wear does allow you to make a non verbal statement.
As I said, the way I dress for prison is an issue. I want to look smart, professional, creative, approachable, individual and stand out for the right reasons. In a nutshell I want to look as though I have made an effort. Many of the prisoners I work with do make an effort with their appearances. With a very limited wardrobe there are those who make an effort to look smart, clean and tidy. It becomes a reflection on who they are and how they want to be treated.
And then there are the practical considerations. The prison where I work is very cold and the corridors are very long.
Today I decide on a pair of black trousers (Next), black silk camsisole (Tesco) with lace edging and royal blue sweater(Dorothy Perkind) . I choose a pair of square toed mid heel shoes from Next Sale circa 2004 which gives me the extra two inches of height I desperately need at 5ft, are comfortable for walking and certainly NOT F**k Me shoes!
I am starting to get excited by this challenge. Usually I wake up in the morning trying hard not to think about what I will wear which is usually determined by what is clean, how much time I have got and a passing nod to the weather, the occasion. Style comes way down the list.
Today I am leading a PR Workshop for eight women who have just started their own businesses. It is cold, wet and windy. I will be leading the workshop at a new venue and will be on my feet only part of the time. After that it will home, mealtime and racing the children around their various activities.
I settle on a pair of medium high black patent round toed shoes (bought in a sale in 2006 from Wallis and worn once), black and grey speckled wide leg trousers (my final purchase before I started this, from M&Co), a black stretchy vest with square neck from Zara (2004) and a bright fuchsia pink cashmere cardigan (Primark 2007). All topped off with a long dusky pink coat from Boden (bought Sept 2007).
I also dig out a black and white necklace, black belt and silver bracelet. Accessories and maintenance are starting to play a bigger part. Yesterday afternoon I took my navy blue Whistles boots (a bargasm! £40 down from £180 last December sales) to the cobblers to b e resoled and reheeled. I opted for the lifetime guarantee which means I can get replacements free. Forever!
And last night I spent an hour in front of the television (I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here) detangling my jewellery and was amazed at what I found.
Will this enforced creativity have any affect on my confidence and performance today or will I be as mixed up as my wardrobe? I will keep you posted.
This blog started life as www.nonewclothesforayear.blogspot.com on Nov 12th. But I forgot the password.
It starts again with these files recovered!
So here we go.
After a false start back in January 2007 when I made a half hearted pledge to stop shopping for new clothes for a year I have decided to give it another go.
At 41 years old with four children, a dog, a job and what remains of a social life my wardrobe needs to be adaptable/flexible/magical.
Alas, I have made the mistake of assuming the magical aspect will work with each new purchase I make.
Sadly, into my fifth decade and I realise it aint going to happen.
Instead I decide that I will dress smarter. The first step is to save some cash before buying investing in a brave new wardrobe.
I have decided that for one year I will make no more new clothing purchases. The only exception will be hosiery or underwear but only on a replacement basis.
No more sneaky additions to the supermarket shop or sidling off to the
I am going cold turkey.
This weekend I sorted my wardobe and a little magic has already started. After storing some dodgy items in a suitcase, chucking out some deadbeats and lovingly folding the items I bought after a two week dose of (half a stone shedding) flu last winter into a pile on the top shelf of my wardrobe I stepped back.
The shoe rack was cleared, the wardrobe dusbusted and I was left with 15 categories of clothes (shoes, boots, jeans, trousers, casual tops, knitwear, shirts, going out tops, skirts, dresses, bags, scarves, jackets, suits and coats).
And I have anally applied a number to each item. I want to know what type of clothes I wear the most so I can invest better in November 2008.
Back to the magic. Firstly, usually when I sort my wardrobe I become depressed with the clothes that don't fit. After they were swiftly spirited away I decided to try on each of my 21 dresses. And apart from two that I struggled to pull up the zip I found two that actually look much better for the extra pounds I have acquired this year. One is a knee length lace scoop neck shift dress from Next which I bought in 1988 for my future husband's first Works Christmas Do and the second was a midnight blue and black velvet calf length dress (still with the label on) which I bought at the sales last year after it had been slashed by £50 to £19.
As Christmas approaches I am starting to feel a little more excited and loving my curvier figure a little more.
Secondly, as I dress this morning on the first day of my challenge I start to dress differently.
As a dog-walking working part of the time at home mum I want to look stylish yet feel warm and comfortable. Shoes are essential for this. Today instead of working from the middle (jeans or trousers) up I start at the bottom. I select a flat pair of soft brown leather boots (Clarks £65 circa 2006) and then move on to a knee length black velvet needlecord skirt with a green and yellow print (TK Maxx 2004) followed by a black skinny rib polo neck jumper (New Look 2004). For walking the dog I add a mustard Gilet (Primark £5 2007).
And reader, it works.
My outfit ticks all the boxes and I don't feel depressed at the thought of 365 shoppingfree days to go!