Monday, 30 October 2017

Thoughts about affluenza

One of our friends who reads here sent me a link to this article about ‘affluenza’ — consumerism, materialism, addiction to shopping — and the imperative responsibility of getting free of that to protect the health and integrity of the Earth. Good article.

I’m not sure I’ve finished separating out my thoughts about it into something ordered and coherent — but here are some in process.

IDENTITY & PERSONAS
For me, purchases of items I haven’t kept often related to acquiring kit to become someone I was not — buying a persona. I have become wary of purchasing anything that is ‘like’ something else. I look for the word ‘like’ in my motivations, and draw back if it’s there. 

So, for example, for a season I wanted to dress ‘like’ the Amish (and other Plain dressing people) because I loved their simplicity, wisdom and closeness to the Earth. I am not Amish and never will be. It was costume, not authentic, I made myself odd, and I sensibly got rid of the things. Same with the robe-‘like’ garments that attire my longings for the worlds of Zen and Earthsea.

I have a strange relationship with my mother, and from time to time, under her critical eye, have bought clothes ‘like’ hers. They don’t suit me, don’t feel right, I don’t keep them. My physique, colouring and personality are different from hers. She always looks lovely, but generalising from that specific doesn’t work.

Sometimes, seized by fear of economic collapse and prepper-mania, I have bought bushcraft items ‘like’ Ray Mears and other intrepid types  — just in case. Pocket knives, fire-flints, Kelly kettles and extreme-water-filtering bottles are, I have determined, fairly redundant in a Victorian semi-detached house with a small garden. I mean, it’s true you never know, but . . . hey.

And sometimes I’ve wanted to dress ‘like’ a smart, chic, urban lady, in high heels and suits. Hahaha. That never lasted long. 

I’ve realised that a key to cutting consumerism is understanding who I really am, in my real circumstances, and making peace with that, not trying to be ‘like anyone else or dressing to fit in. I hope if I ever meet an Amish woman or a Zen monk or a film star or a genuine wizard from fairyland, that person will be able to accept me as I am in an encounter of mutual enjoyment and respect.

COMMUNITY, FUN & INTEREST
Another motivation for shopping, in my life is, oddly, that my income is small. ‘Spend money on experiences not objects, the minimalists advise you — but if you are a low-energy older woman, that can have its challenges. Experiences are — in my experience — expensive. I would love to make a retreat on a regular basis, but that costs a lot. I would love to go to concerts, interesting films, dance performances — but, again the high quality ones are very expensive. I would love to eat out more, but the cost is considerable. Well; lunch at Asda is cheap, if you don’t have a drink. I’d love to travel but that’s way beyond my purse, even in England. 

I have found belonging to groups is expensive too. Even church. The raffles, the pasta bakes, the constant requests for donations, the auctions and extra collections, the fundraising drives and bazaars, the lunches and outings and away-days and special events . . .

By comparison, shopping is cheap and cheerful. A £2 second-hand top on eBay, for example. Searching for something I like is fun, getting a bargain feels triumphant, anticipating the parcel arriving in the post is enjoyable (just like the article on Affluenza said). I don’t go High Street shopping; for that, there’s the cost of getting to the shops (train, bus, or petrol and parking fees) even before any purchases are made. And the price of something bought new in a shop is . . . shocking. And then I get hungry and want lunch.

Looking back over my life, one time stands out when I spent almost no money at all — when, aged 18, I lived for a while with some monks and an ever-changing group of volunteers in a place offering country holidays for inner-city children in Devon. We had no car and no shops, but we had each other, a small-holding, a cow to milk, a tractor to drive, a household and Post Office to run, fire to sit by, a goat to care for and a veggie garden. Our place included 2 cottages, the village store and Post Office (I lived in a caravan in its cabbage patch round the back), a derelict chapel where we stored jumble sale stuff, and a farm. The interest and variety made consumerist activities completely unnecessary. Many people shop when they are bored and lonely. Me too. It offers something to think about.

MISTAKES & CHANGES
Another cause of shopping is continual disruption. Illness, bereavement, job loss/change, house moves, and divorce, whether one's own or other people's, all can create situations where you have to either get rid of stuff or acquire it — sometimes both. Sometimes I’ve had to squidge down into circumstances where there just wasn’t room to store a coat, or boots as well as shoes, where I couldn’t keep that chair I loved, or any books. Other times, things eased up and I had space for a little bookshelf, had a wardrobe, had a room of my own. Then something changed again and I had to give them up. Sitting light to possessions, being willing to get rid of stuff, enables flexibility. The journalist who wrote the article, encouraging us to keep our things, to repair things, assumed a level of stability not all of us have enjoyed, I think.

And then there are the mistakes. I have spent several hundred pounds trying to get my sleeping arrangements right — trying this, trying that — because my room is really a box room, wide enough to accommodate a bed but not wide enough to take the angle as you lower it to the floor (divan), not wide enough to get your hand in to screw the head and footboard onto the side rails (wooden bed). I’ve slept on the floor a few years, then craved the sense of normality a bed gives me (and the view of next door’s tree through the window). Look — this is my room now.



And with inhabitants.





At every step of the way, I kept costs right down, looking for the lowest and the least, and where possible the second-hand and the free. Except for my very expensive MacBook and iPhone, which my husband so generously paid for.

I believe in God’s grace and provision, and I believe in the grace/gift economy. I like giving things away not selling them, I like working for free and helping for free, swapping and sharing. I don't regard my money as wasted if I give away something on Freegle/Freecycle, or if a charity shop can sell it to raise funds for the hospice or animal rescue or homeless shelter. I'm happy for my ill-advised purchases to redeem themselves by that cause. I like frugality, and in a world where some people daily face bitter struggle and even have to sell the children they cannot feed, I understand and appreciate just how very, very much I have. A room of one's own, and the luxury of being able to make mistakes; is that not riches? I like freedom and quietness, peace and being at home. I live happily on a very small income. But sometimes, let me be honest, I do enjoy shopping for second-hand bits on eBay and second-hand or Kindle books on Amazon, or such small things (a mirror, a clock, a comb, a pair of earrings) as I think might improve daily life. And the thing is, though I have all I need and all I want now, who knows what the next reversal will be? Someone may need my room, I may lose my home, life might all change again. And in the changes I might need to dispose of some possessions and acquire other things — even some that I had and got rid of before.



*       *       *


This article, rather vast in its scope, also intelligently and thoroughly addresses the problems of affluenza.. 


32 comments:

Anne Booth said...

I really love this post. Thank you. Thank you for sharing the different approaches you have had to buying and why, and the reflections on admiration of others' lifestyles and acquiring a persona. There's a lot to think about here, and I find it very comforting that you share your different experiences. For me, feeling isolated as a carer meant that I bought a LOT of 2nd hand books online. It was cheaper to buy one than catch the bus into the library in town, and I was so stressed caring that I would forget dates to give back library books and get fines, so again it was easier to order , and have the pleasure of the delivery, and a chat to the lovely postman who would deliver it. I think it may be time to parcel many of those books up now and send them on to a charity shop, but I am not going to rush into it in a self -flagellating way, which I have been tempted to do before - I am going to think a little more about their significance and use, and thank God for them, and the wonderful help and comfort they were to me during 9 very difficult years. I may keep some, for future comfort, and if I do, I will try to do that in a spirit of gratitude and self care rather than acquisitiveness.

Pen Wilcock said...

What you say here highlights yet another aspect — obtaining links with the outside world. Yes, we know our delivery people well, and enjoy their visits. They know we always have someone home, and our porch has become something of a drop-off depot for busier neighbours. x

rebecca said...

I can SO relate! Especially to the "low-energy older woman" part! Kind of makes me think of a Henri Nouwen quote I saw on Twitter this morning: "Much sadness & gladness in my life flows directly from my comparing, & most of this comparing is useless & a terrible waste of time & energy."

Really glad you posted today. I always look forward to reading what's on your mind.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

xx

Elin Hagberg said...

When it comes to clothes I cannot wear the same thing year after year as many minimalists recommend, it is very rare I use an item of clothing that is not a winter coat or something like that for more than five years and usually 2-3 is more reasonable for me. I then give it to a charity shop or to a friend or so it gets a second chance. It is still longer than most people use clothes, at least those into fashion. I have several friends that can buy an item for a single occasion and have no plan at all to ever wear it again. I have never done that on purpose but it has happened from time to time.

I have also tried plain but a more modern one but it didn't end up sticking. I still want a simple and no fuss wardrobe but I realize it will never be plain. I love strong colors and certain almost over the top garments. I am thinking of buying a shirt decorated with swans and flowers right now. For some that would be so over the top they would not find an occasion to wear it but to me it would be something I would wear quite a lot. A white shirt that others would wear several times a week would not be used that often by me instead. I am too quirky to do plain. I stopped headcovering when I was pregnant with Ingvar and had done that for 6-7 years before that almost every day. I am pretty sure this is a phase though, I am already starting to long for that again. I just need to give myself some room to figure out a couple more things first.

I like minimalism in theory but I still also see that this is not my route. Elements can be used but it could never be a full time thing for me.

Lynda said...

Cute room mates :) xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, Lynda! Yes - the big crochet blanket on my bed was made for me by members of my family — a joint effort! Also one of my family made me the knitted shawl keeping Miguel warm. x

Hello Elin — I think that's exactly what I mean about finding what's right for the real you instead of borrowed personas; it's more frugal, so more simple, in the end. I'm interested in the point you make about not wanting to keep clothes for a long time. For women especially, physical change is a contributing factor to this, Our bodies change so much, as we develop in our teens, if we have children, then at the menopause, and again as we come into old age. Just as we think we've found our style, our bodies change, and it can be confusing to work out what looks right now. In Plain communities, or with traditional ethnic dress (e.g. saris or salwar kameez) it's easier because all women are always wearing the same; trickier with modern Western dress. One of the big changes for me has been that as a young woman I always chose loose clothes with lots of fabric — long gathered skirts, big loose tops, sandals, long flowing hair. At the age I am now, the effect is definitely not so good! These days I look better in neat, close-fitting (not tight though, please!) clothes, simple shapes, short hair. I've noticed this is true of most older women.

When you drive a car, you know when you're in the right gear because the engine runs quietly. Same with a human being. You know when you're in the right gear because you settle down and become quiet inside; just a simple "me".

Bean said...

I seem to be at a point in my life were I spend very little money on things for myself, as I feel at this time I don't really have a need for much, that is a blessing. However, with four adult children, their partners, and our 9 grandchildren, there is always a birthday, or holiday, requiring a cash outlay. Sometimes family members have had brief struggles with unemployment, I am glad that we are able to step in and buy a few weeks of groceries for them, or fill up a gas tank, or pay a phone bill. We are by no stretch of the imagination wealthy, we live week to week, but we are comfortable and our main activity is spending a lot of time with our kids/grandkids, that is priceless.
As we get older we realize that "things" go out of style, fall apart, and sometimes we wonder what on earth we were thinking when we purchased some kind of household décor item, or clothing. I really look to my motivation, sometimes I simply want to purchase something because it reminds me of a different time, or brings me feelings of comfort and familiarity.

Peace,

Bean

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Bean — lovely to hear from you. How are you doing? Yes, I recognise those priorities! We decided a few years ago that since none of us have the money to buy worthwhile birthday gifts and all of us have enough useless clutter already, it was time to stop buying prezzies. We do still give the children and my very elderly mother something, just for the joy; but the adults we help as required and skip the birthday/Christmas thing. I must admit it always feels a bit sad, but it's practical, and it means instead of buying a dozen people gifts they neither need nor want, I can contribute where there's a real lack. x

Gerry Snape said...

I love this post. I can identify with so much of the thinking..but it has also taken me a lifetime to get to this understanding of who I am...and I'm not there yet...I love the two occupants of your bed..two little kittens made an appearance in the field late summer and when they are ready to come to me from the animal sanctuary...I will no doubt have little visitors on the bed...the "cat" woman said, "Do you know that it's a twenty year committment?"...so that's me sorted until I'm 94. Love reading your blog Pen. x

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah — those kittens will keep you young! Cats make a happy home. x

Anonymous said...

Pen, you wrote to Elin, "Just as we think we've found our style, our bodies change, and it can be confusing to work out what looks right now.". Yes! That is exactly what I have found and am again at 66 years of age in that same place. I am, along with you, thinking that "I look better in neat, close-fitting (not tight though, please!) clothes, simple shapes,". Now to find some that are a good colors for my very light complexion and my very long hair that is becoming more platinum (Ha!) colored by the day! (My hair is very long because I think/hope it works best for me to wear it up sort of neat and tidy than to have it short.) All I really want is to look calmly and quietly presentable in modest and approachable comfortable clothing. Goodness that turned out to be more of a tall order than I expected. : )

Our kitty named Tommy is a twin to your Miguel. It's sweet to see both kitties enjoying your room. Cats are such a wonderful joy to share life with.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Sometimes it is hard to really see oneself and your thoughts have helped me in many ways to do that. It helps me to know what the next step might be and how to start out to get there. That is a gift!

Lily

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello Lily! "Calmly and quietly presentable in modest and approachable comfortable clothing." — Yes yes! Have you ever looked at the David Nieper catalogue (you can see it online, you don't need a paper one) or Carr & Westley? The ladies in this pages are exactly that. Mind you, the prices of those firms are beyond my purse, but I still like looking at them. I buy my clothes second-hand on eBay mostly.
Some people find 'having their colours done' by a colour consultancy person is a real help to avoiding mistakes and getting together a wardrobe where everything goes with everything else. A friend of mind took the course and kindly gave me a free session as a practice run. Interesting results. I came out as a 'jewel autumn' — strong spice colours and peacock blues suit me wonderfully — the only problem is those colours don't suit my personality; I prefer quiet, cool colours that don't stand out. So trial and error with the benefit of my friend's advice added in gave helped me.
Another inspiration for me was Jennifer Scott's delightful book 'Lessons from Madame Chic' — and she gives a TED talk on the same subject here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3CLRL32Mcw — it's really good.

Tommy is an excellent name for a cat. Miguel's brother is called Edwin (mostly known as Ted). x

Sandy said...

Such a great post! I really identify with your words and see myself in them. One specific example came to my mind as I was reading (and made me laugh at myself!) and I wanted to share: I am a 37 year old mom of two. My oldest daughter is in 1st grade. She started school last year and my quiet, stay at home world suddenly got much busier. I volunteer at her school sometimes and see many moms. The style here in the states these days is to wear tall, riding boots over jeans or leggings. Now, I am no fashionista. I prefer loose, comfortable clothing. Jeans with solid color tops or t-shirts with funny sayings. I have a few "nicer" tops for church on Sundays, and I almost always wear athletic/tennis shoes. I hate uncomfortable shoes!! Twice in the last three years I have bought different pairs of these tall boots, several leggings or "skinny" type jeans in an attempt to be a fashionable mom/woman. I only ever wore them a few times and finally donated them. And when I did wear them, I always felt like a fraud, like I was wearing a costume for Halloween! Plus skinny jeans/pants do not look good on me. I have gained about 25 extra pounds since having my second child and my body has changed so much since my "skinnier" days anyways. I really just want to be myself, wear what is comfortable and modest. Then just let all those other personas and "shoulds" go. (I should look chic, I should look like other moms, I should be sophisticated, I should wear dresses....etc. I hate the "shoulds"!!) Thanks so much for your thoughts on this topic. : )

Pen Wilcock said...

Heheh — oh, yes, shoes! I have one flat pair of leather ankle boots (Gabor), one completely flat, soft flexible pair of men's leather shoes (Office's 'Ask the Missus'), 3 pairs of presentable Vivobarefoots and one pair of nearly dead Vivobarefoots. My feet are massive (UK 10, EU 44, US 12W), and I have hyper mobility issues — so my feet are soft, flat and bendy, blister easily and completely incapable of breaking in a pair of shoes (the shoes break the feet in instead). But I take inspiration from the advice to young ladies that you should always go on a first date in a pair of shoes you can run in. x

Sandy said...

I love that advice! I must remember to tell that to my daughters when they are old enough to date.... or maybe they will be nuns? : )
Feet are complicated, huh? My feet are fairly small (US size 8) but I have very short toes (they look weird in sandals!!) and very high arches. Plus, I cannot wear shoes that will rub on the back of my heels - I get blisters instantly. I almost always wear socks. I have one pair of croc type sandals for the summers and another nicer, yet comfortable pair of sandals for dressier type events in warmer weather, one of pair of comfortable western boots (I live in south Texas, and these are both practical and comfortable and go UNDER my loose, comfortable (not skinny) jeans, haha!) Other than that, it's athletic shoes for me. I have figured out brands that work and thanks to Amazon, can find what I need without bothering trying shoes on at stores.

I bet you do have a tough time finding shoes! I have to confess, I did not know that Office's Ask the Missus was a type of shoe from a company, I thought maybe it was a reference to a certain type of shoe that a character on the TV show The Office wore!! I googled it and realized what you were talking about, haha!!! : )

Oh, and I love your cozy little room. I have read your blog for years and always enjoy seeing how you transition your living spaces. I am a chronic re-arranger of rooms and have been since I was a kid. I always rearranged my bedroom as a child, trying to find just the right set-up.

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, yes — lying in bed last thing at night and first thing in the morning I review our house, our lives . . . rearranging, looking for the best configurations and solutions. My greatest triumph in this respect was our Boiler Room. On the ground floor is Hebe and Alice's studio, which is behind the kitchen and also has a bathroom off it. In the house of normal people it would be the utility room or laundry room or mud room. Not here. It used to have the boiler (furnace) in it. In the room above that, Hebe sleeps; in that room, in a cupboard, the hot water cylinder (tank) used to be — a massive one because we have solar tubes on the roof to heat our water. Above Hebe's room, in the attic, was the inverter for the solar array on the roof. The attic was dark and dusty, only joists to walk on, no lights. We were meant to check the inverter was working okay every now and then, but that was not realistic and I didn't understand it anyway. Then (in one of my falling asleep review moments) I conceived the idea of moving ALL our water stuff up into the attic — the boiler, the cylinder, the whole lot — so the inverter could be checked annually when the boiler service happened. At considerable expense we got the attic boarded, insulated and lit, and moved everything up there. It gave us a store room, and a well-it place for all the utilities stuff, easy to see and to service. It gave Hebe back her room free from the dominance of a massive gurgling water tank, and it meant the studio, should we ever need to do this, could now be used as a separate bedroom with bathroom ensuite (though wed have to think where to relocate the studio if we did this).
Yes, re-arranging rooms has been a life-long pastime. When I was a child, I used to lie in bed imagining if everything was upside down and the ceiling was the floor . . . xx

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought I was the only one who furnished the ceiling!
Also, I used to look in any mirrors in our rooms to see a 'different' room. :)
This post and the following comments describe me to a tee. I'm 58 and all my life I've been looking for my own style when it comes to clothing and home decor. Over the last couple of weeks (yes! That's quite a coincidence!) I've realised that I need to let go of the time-consuming and mind-consuming struggle.
My clothing: I've never had an innate sense of style and I've sadly wasted a lot of money making mistakes. I'm still struggling with this.
My home: so often I've been swayed by different homes magazines. One day I like the beauty of minimalism, the next day I like the bohemian look.
(I now know I confused minimalism with tidiness. I like tidy.)
Now I realise that my uncoordinated sense of 'style' is 'me' and I'm embracing the very thing I've been fighting for years!
Now I've come to this enlightening decision, I find I'm on 'trend'. My secret vice is Country Living magazine. And this month I saw a picture of a cosy, homely sitting room where one of the armchairs was covered with a crocheted blanket like yours. It reminded me of the warm, welcoming, home of my grandmother.
I know you've mentioned wabi-sabi before, and I recently read an article about how this will be the trend for 2018. Well, this trend is going to suit me for the rest of my life. However, I don't intend to rush out and buy items to get this look - the article was advertising brand new items to purchase to attain this look! Can you believe it?!
I've so enjoyed reading this today. Thank you everyone.
Kay

Pen Wilcock said...

God bless your wabi-sabi home!

Mother Abyss said...

Ah, but what she omits from the snap is the André-Charles Boulle chandelier... ;)

Fiona said...

Thank you for this fascinating post, Pen; I found your thoughts on the subject so interesting and thought-provoking. The identity thing had never occurred to me before, or at least not in so many words, but you're so right. It's liberating to be freed from the notion of owning things which aren't fully "us", and to focus on the things which feed our individual (and collective, if living in community) identities rather than wasting money and space on costumes and masks. For me, the act of hanging on to things is also rooted partly in the fact that I am the daughter of a hoarder - none of my generation live in the family home any more, and most of the available space (particularly rooms which aren't visible to casual and intermittent guests) is filling up daily with stuff, even more so than when we were all living at home, cheek-by-jowl with my mother's accumulations. It makes her anxious to think that any of us might get rid of anything "important" (the definition of which is subjective), so my own decluttering (and I do hold on to things for reasons of sentiment and humour, although I'm trying to rid my own family home of impedimenta which genuinely isn't needed or wanted, and might in some cases be useful to another person) needs to be done under the radar, but then there are associations of guilt because of how I've been brought up. So it's a complex area for me, but I appreciate your perspective very much, and am learning that every decision to accumulate, retain or do without altogether leads to a variety of consequences, some of which are more positive overall than others. The mindset of simplicity is such a valuable one. Thank you xxx

Rapunzel said...

Wabi Sabi will be The Trend for 2018?
Hahahahaha!
They're going to try to find ways to sell us what we've already been doing for years???

ok then. ; )

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello Fiona — oh yes — the interface between personal belongings and personal relationships is, in fact a minefield. Good luck!

Mother Abyss — you speak truer than you know. I am not the only person living in this house, and the tastes of some of its inhabitants run to glamour. Downstairs we have not one but two large chandeliers with Viennese Swarovski crystals of the sparkliest kind! And one of us has in her bedroom a chandelier that would not disgrace the palace at Versailles.

Rapunzel — I think your day has come.

:0)

Rapunzel said...

UPside down? Ceiling as floor?
My nearest cousin and I had a favorite childhood game we played at our pretty childless aunt's house. (She was highly tolerant of children's adventuresome natures.)
We would take turns holding her fancy hand mirror in front of us at chest level (as if carrying a plate of food) and gaze down into it at the reflection of the ceiling. Then we would try to navigate our way around her house. The brain gets delightfully confused with the double input of looking at the ceiling whilst your feet are feeling the floor. We could never break ourselves of trying to step up and over in each doorway. Great fun.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ha! What an excellent game!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pen, for suggesting I look at David Nieper and Carr & Westley. I enjoyed seeing what they are offering, especially David Nieper. Lovely. But I live in the U. S. on the west coast in Washington State so can't really order any of them. Never the less it was fun to look at them and get some good ideas.

My color season is late summer/early winter. Out of the summer palette I can't really wear the very pale pinks, lavenders or blues but do better with the medium shades. And from the winter palette I don't do well with black as a neutral to wear next to my face but a rich, warmer navy blue is better. Deep jewel tones of burgundy, green, teal work pretty well and I feel best in them. So the challenge is to find these colors in garments that works!

Thank you again for your help. I feel encouraged.
Lily

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Lily — yes, even though I'm in England I don't actually buy from those sites (too pricey y far) but I do enjoy looking at the pictures. Pinterest can be a good place too. I think I might make a board of my present preferred style. You too? This article on the 4 universal colours is interesting ( in my case, yes to the Indian teal and the eggplant, but I look vile in true red and pale pink) — https://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/wardrobe-basics/4-universally-flattering-clothing-colors

Anekha said...

Hi Pen,
I have loved your posts on discovering your own style, you have allowed me to appreciate clothing not as a vanity but as a journey of identity, spiritual expression and self-discovery. I have been on my own journey trying to figure out how to dress myself and feel comfortable.The more I keep on this journey,I too towed with plain dress and head scarves and came to similar conclusions about standing out more in plain dress than is intended, the more I keep on the more depth I discover in what we wear and what it means about us as individual and as society. There is a lot in what we wear. I see patriarchy and sexism, consumerism, sexualisation, immodesty, tribe and culture, who we are and who we aspire to be. I am 35 and still seeking to find clothes I really feel like me in. For most of my life I think, I have been dressing "like", but not dressing like me. I don't think it was intentional, but as a child and adolescent, I generally lived in uniforms. My school uniform and the 'uniform' of the clothing my parents chose for me. This didn't stop when I left home. As a poor student I wore hand-me downs from my family and friends cast offs. I had this eclectic bohemian hodgepodge of clothes that didn't fit well. I looked fine, but as I got older I felt increasingly uncomfortable. I realised I just wanted to dress myself, not look like others image of me.
But in looking for my style I have been mostly seeking to look 'like' a style. Morigirl, plain dress, steampunk, minimal. I've given up looking for a style that suits me and now just pick what fits, what's the best quality I can find, and what I like and feel good in. Sometimes something I chose doesn't work.
I really like what you said about dressing "like" Its something I will refer back to when choosing my clothes. Am I dressing "like" or do I just like it?

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, Anekha. The more I think about this, the more its complexities unfold. In order to get it right, perhaps one should get together a check list. Something like this:
1) HOW DO I SPEND MY TIME?
Is my work indoors at a desk or outdoors in the garden/farm? Is there a work dress code to which I must adhere? Do I spend a lot of time with children and babies with their numerous messy accidents? Dog-walking? Cooking (sputtering fat, flour spills etc). Do I do the house painting and put the trash out and get the firewood in?
What kinds of clothing are practical as a result, for the different activities arising from my responsibilities?

2) WHAT COLOURS SUIT ME?
Both in my colouring and in my personality

3) WHAT DO I FEEL ABOUT TEXTURE?
Some people cannot bear scratchy clothes! Some hate the feel of synthetics. Some love the sheen of velvet and satin, others like the matt surfaces of cotton, linen and wool.

4) WHAT SHAPES ARE RIGHT FOR ME?
Some enjoy form-fitting garments, others find them constraining, preferring stretchy fabrics or loose, flowing garments. What suits my figure, as it is now?

5) HAVE I STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT SHOES?
Some love colourful shoes and enjoy particular shapes and fashions, others prioritise comfort and the freedom to walk, run and climb.

6) HOW ABOUT THE ETHICAL DIMENSION?
Do I delight in artisan-made garments whose provenance I know? Is Fair Trade a consideration? Am I buying second-hand to reduce the manufacturing burden on the Earth? Am I troubled by mass-production and sweatshops?

7) WHAT ABOUT CULTURAL INFLUENCES?
Is modesty, for example, important to me? Or would I feel out of place and dowdy if I do not look which when all my friends do? How do I feel about looking different from social groups to which I belong?

8) IS THERE A STYLE I AM ALWAYS DRAWN TO — ALWAYS COME BACK TO?
Can I describe it? Why does it attract me? Is there more than one kind of style that attracts me? What are my reasons? Is there something unfulfilled in my life to which clothing seems to give expression?

Something like that . . . Food for thought, anyway. x

Pen Wilcock said...

Two other categories also come to mind.

9) WHAT CATCHES MY EYE?
When I'm out and about, is there a consistency of style connecting the people that evoke in me a reaction of, "Oh — *she* looks nice!"

10) HAVE I A PHYSICAL FEATURE I HAVE TO WORK ROUND?
In my case it's my feet. The kind of shoes I have to wear would look impossible with some styles of clothes, reducing the range of styles for me to choose from.

Anekha said...

I think through so many of those sorts of things when I choose clothes. For me the clincher is always
CAN I BREASTFEED IN THIS?
IS IT MACHINE WASHABLE?
The answer is usually no! It's just not the fashion at the moment. And the stores are full of nasty quality polyester. High and low end stores. There are no really high end stores in my town. I don't live in the city.
And it's a timely process that means I put back and return many clothes. But I am becoming more committed to doing that and not settling.
The feature I need to work around is my incredibly short torso. My hips sit above the bottom of my ribs, so its hard to fit clothes well. My waistline is literally below my bust. If the clothes don't have the right shape and cut I just look really strangely proportioned and feel foolish.
I am trying not to dress like but in what I like, but I haven't found clothes for someone who looks and feels like me. Clothes are an expression of tribe and identity. I suppose it just shows I don't feel like I belong anywhere and I don't know who I am.... It's probably why I seem to be taking what I wear so seriously.
Happy day though. I bought a dress on the internet. I thought was just pretty. I didn't spend ages deliberating all of the above just took a risk. It arrived in the post and while the 2 other items will need to be returned the dress is nice. The dress fits,I can JUST breastfeed in it. It's nice soft cotton fabric with a little chiffon flounce, so its pretty but not too dressy. It also, suits my figure and I look nice in it. It's a pretty soft pink. YAY!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hooray for that dress! Good find — well done! x