Saturday, 22 October 2011

Panic at the....H&M?

My local H&Ms have been doing a deal lately where you get a £5 gift card with your purchases, which is then valid the following week. I buy a lot of my plain tees and socks from H&M so I thought it would be worth buying a long sleeve tee or something in order to take advantage of a future £5 off.

This was a bad plan.

There are two H&Ms near me: one in the city centre, and one in a local town. I live roughly equidistant between the two. I prefer the smaller one, since it has a better stock of basics, but I usually have more opportunity to visit the city centre branch while waiting for the train to work (chock full of polyester, antler prints and lurex hotpants though it is). So I nipped in to the large store in order to buy something boring and vaguely useful and acquire my voucher.

I'm very bad at shopping with a time limit (if I miss my train, I do not get paid, and this is bad for my shopping habits). This is especially the case at H&M, where the standard is so variable. Price is also an unusually bad indicator of quality in that store - I've had beautiful organic cotton tops for £7.99, and pieces of total crap for £20. And everything looks the bloody same! When I search their website for jersey tops, for example, I get over 100 hits, at similar prices. Trying to sort through the store for a diamond in the rough therefore seems like the physical equivalent of googling.

So, obviously, I walked out with the first stripey thing I saw. It turns out it makes me itch. Mistake #1.

This set the scene for Mistake #2, in which I go back the following week. I wanted a stripey top that did not make me itch. I had 20 minutes before the store closed and I had to run for my 8.10pm train. And this was the last day the voucher was valid, so that 20 minutes was it. I was hunting through the store, feeling up everything in sight (too thin! Too see through! Too itchy!), starting to feel like a particularly substandard version of Jack Bauer from 24. Trying to find a top isn't exactly saving the bloody world, is it? I finally found something I didn't loathe, took it to the tills, queued until the next ice age, and at last reached the front. While standing there I idly checked the tag and realised it was a US 10, not a UK 10.

At this point I gave up and went home. I had a brief glow of satisfaction where I reflected on the fact that I had resisted the temptation to buy something, anything, for the sake of getting my £5 worth of free.

On the train home I remembered that I needed socks.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Things I like more than clothes #1: RPGs

A saying I really like is, 'something is worth what you are willing to give up to obtain it'. I try to keep this in mind when deliberating over things to add to the wardrobe - is it really worth giving up on the possibility that I might find something similar, and better, in the future? Is it worth more to me than the other purchases I might make with the money? But, of course, this notion of trading off more for less valuable, present for future joy, applies to many more interesting and important things in life than simply 'do I buy these jeans?'. I am hoping to make some kind of series about these choices and the other aspects of my life that come into the mix (life beyond the wardrobe?), but frankly, there aren't that many things I like more than clothes, so it might be quite a limited series.

I was inspired to write this particular post by two things.The first is that, despite wailing the other day that I have NO MONEY and therefore can't get any of the things I want (mostly sweaters. I am cold.) I still managed to mysteriously find some reddies down the back of the sofa to put a deposit down on Skyrim, which comes out next month. (Also sushi, but I like to think that food doesn't count, even if it's Wagamamas food).

The second is that after installing IOS5 on my iphone, the first thing I did is change my text tone to the 'level up!' noise from Final Fantasy XII. (My ringtone is now the Chocobo riding sound. Yes, I am that big a gimp).

I would totally dress like this all the time if I could

My favourites aside from FFXII are Dragon Age (although I didn't much like the second one) and the aforementioned Elder Scrolls franchises. I am a bit of a nerd about RPG universes. I've probably racked 1,000 hours on Oblivion and 400 or so on FFXII. Dragon Age is probably about 4-500 across all the playthroughs, especially if you count the second one, although I've also read the books and comics. I am quite selective about my RPG devotion though (needfully, given that I need to find time to write a PhD and sleep occasionally) and probably only pick up one or two a year. I don't tend to play that many other games aside from RPGs, either. (Although I love the Project Zero/Fatal Frame series).

I do wonder though if the stylistic aspect comes into my love for them, though.  I tend to get really caught up in the costuming and architecture of RPG universes and to that end tend to prefer fantasy over sci fi universes (I've never quite got into Mass Effect). Fran from FFXII and Morrigan from DA are probably my favourite characters, and I suspect that probably has something to do with their overall sass and preference for ridiculous gravity defying clothing. If I could find time in my daily life to go out in very few clothes and kick the asses of some mythical beasts, I obviously would.

Alas, life is not like that. Fortunately Skyrim comes out in reading week, so I fully intend to put the auto office on for les √©tudiants, turn my phone off, and ignore everyone for a week or so. The last time an RPG took over my life, when Dragon Age came out, I made the mistake of letting slip to a student how nerdy I was about it. The following week I got really ill (word to the wise: PAY ATTENTION to the date code on pat√©!) and had to postpone a seminar. When I got back, one of the kids asked me if I had actually been sick, or was just playing Dragon Age. According to my Skyrim out of office, therefore, I am going somewhere exotic, with no internet.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Bottom Line

As you might imagine, I can idle away hours sighing over bloggers' beautiful wardrobes and lusting after their style, their choices, the way they put things together. Envying their knack, perhaps. However, 9 times out of 10 the closet envy is entirely hypothetical because their shape is entirely different to mine. (This is not always the case - Carrie at wishwishwish for example is a fantastic advocate for the curvy and stylish, and I adore her blog - but I digress).

It is a constant source of annoyance to me that the kind of edgy, androgynous style I adore on others and would naturally gravitate towards looks awful on me. Have you tried pairing a beautifully cut, sheer, Helmut Lang-esque mannish shirt and big boobs? I have, and the result wasn't overly gratifying. I have stood in changing rooms more times than I can count, festooned with clothes that bag in unexpected places, cling where they shouldn't, and make me look like a kicking cat in a sack, and concluded that my figure spoils everything. Or, everything with a modern cut.

Now, if the internet is to be believed, this is a common complaint. I have more than a passing interest in vintage (particularly 40s-70s...the 80s and 90s are not decades that I am ready to look over with rose-tinted spectacles yet) and an awful lot of the forums dedicated to vintage and rockabilly dressing tend to be filled with ladies who gravitated towards those styles of dress because they suit their body shape and because they fit. Some of the best-fitting clothes I own were made in the 1950s and 1960s. Whilst I am very glad that this is the case, I have a selfish annoyance that most clothing I can find on the high street doesn't conform to my body anywhere near as well.

Why? Well, according to this 2004 survey, as reported by the BBC (from whom the below image is from), mean body shape has changed quite a bit since 1951.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The List: Winter 2011 edition

I try to keep some kind of up-to-date list of the sorts of things I want to avoid overbuying and being tempted, magpie-like, by things that are entirely inappropriate. (Usually featuring lace, mesh, and 6 inch heels). Equally, I am trying to spread my purchases into the future, so rather than buying everything I need for winter *this* winter, it's helpful to remind myself that there will be winters in the future where I will also probably want warm boots. Ahem.

With that in mind, here is the sketchy list:

1. Wool skirt

I have a real mish-mash of skirts. There's quite a lot of cheapies from Topshop that seemed like a good idea at the time, but upon getting them home I discovered that the worsted wool/poly fabrics attract cat hair like nobody's business. So I'd quite like a wool skirt, in a neutral colour, that doesn't make me look like a low-budget Yeti.

Aside from the fact that the fabric has to be nice, I'm surprisingly unfussed about other features. I like skirts of all lengths. I probably wear minis more than anything else, but pencil skirts flatter my shape best. I've been coveting a Burberry kilt for ages, but because I am deeply fussy about colour and details it will probably be another age before I actually get one. (Read: hunt one acceptable to me down on eBay at a bargain price).

My favourite is this one from the amazing Sophistikitten, but she's not taking orders at the moment. Repeat after me: You do not need everything right now. You do not need everything right now. I'm pretty sure this skirt would be worth the wait.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Doug Wardrobe

I don't know if you've ever seen the children's programme Doug. It used to be on in the UK early on Saturday mornings, and I was one of those children who would be up at the crack of dawn on a weekend, with the TV on, because my parents slept in. (I have no idea where that person went. Trying to rouse me before 10 on a Saturday now is like trying to wake a sleeping lion).

Anyway, one of the in-jokes in Doug was that he only ever wore the same clothes (a green tank top, khaki cut-offs, and a white t-shirt) and whenever he (or one of his buddies) opened their wardrobe, it was filled with myriad identikit versions of these items. This image must have tickled me and others of my generation, because I had a running joke with a friend of mine from school that our English teacher had a 'Doug Wardrobe': many dark navy linen suits and rumpled pale blue shirts, all the same.

At the time we thought it was slightly pitiable (and of course, I was entirely in a position to be doling out stylistic judgment, what with my pink hair and massive grunge jumpers) but in retrospect I am now actively trying to cultivate something similar. Funny how things change. I'm not sure if it's a symptom of getting more boring, or simply knowing what you like.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Want more. Need Less.

...A blog about style, and capitalism. Those two natural bedfellows.

Why? Well, predominantly it's an act of selfishness. In my day job I work in a University, writing up (honestly, supervisor) a PhD thesis on economic governance. Money, and the politics of money, is my thing. In my first year of University, when the others on my course were discussing the Labour party, Plato, and the Middle East Peace crisis; I was getting stuck into Marx's Paris Manuscripts and ranting about the fiscal rules of the Eurozone. Needless to say this made me very popular.

When not ranting about the Eurozone, I am usually to be found immersed in the world of couture. Slavishly devouring the new Dior collection. Dribbling over editorials in Vogue. Wondering whether I can possibly find an occasion to justify commissioning a new corset. (The answer is usually 'no', by the way). And it struck me, when reading the style blogs I most enjoy, that in fact these two things are far more connected than most people are willing to admit. Fashion costs.

So, this is an opportunity for me to talk about the two things I like most in the world: shoes, and economics*. I am currently in a process of wardrobe, house, and life upheaval, and have been trying to reorganize my mountains of stuff into slightly smaller, co-ordinated mountains. I find living in a state of disorganisation quite mentally taxing, so this is mostly an effort to tidy my mind. But I hope that it will result in me having a better wardrobe, into the bargain.

Nonetheless, trying to streamline my wardrobe does go against all my natural instincts to go into H&M and hammer my credit card until it squeaks. And whilst I remind myself that a) I have limited space, b) I do not go to any balls and c) I am not a museum curator, it can be hard to resist the crazier purchases. Being a bit skint helps.

Hence: I want more, and need less.

*Also cats, photography, and biscuits, but I will try and keep myself loosely on topic.