I was born into a generation where the purchase of a new dress or pair of shoes was still considered something of an indulgence, a treat, an extravagance made necessary because of an upcoming special occasion (wedding or suchlike). Thrift, and make-do-and-mend had been ingrained into my grandmother’s and mother’s generations by years of war, then continued rationing. Even when this finally came to an end, choice was limited, the normal state of the world, I believed. It took some time for the consumer society we, in the affluent Western world, are so well acquainted with, to make itself felt.
If money is plentiful then becoming a shopaholic is easy, in fact it’s easy even if money isn’t plentiful — debt being one of the big problems of our societies. The marketplace has grown, wooing buyers with what are promoted as must-have items, widening exponentially by online shopping.
So with unbelievable choice why can I never find what I’m looking for? Somewhere, hidden in a filing cabinet in the depths of my brain is a folder for every item I am ever likely to buy. In it are contained the specifications, the style, the colour, the shape, the size — all the details necessary for a choice. So when I open a shop door, or load a retailer’s website I already know what I am looking for. The appropriate folder has been plucked from the drawer.
Although I have more or less decided what I’m after, with all the choice now available I should easily be able to find my ideal item. Sadly, that’s not how it works. Invariably the style I have set my heart on is not to be found, anywhere. The colour was around a few years ago but is not in vogue now, and instead I am offered brown, and brown, and chocolate, coffee, taupe, chestnut, beige…you get my drift. For a colour-loving woman like me brown makes me want to bury myself.
Where are all the reds and vibrant blues?
I flick through pages and pages on sites upon sites belonging to well-known and unknown retailers, having already exhausted the offering of local shops. Don’t think I’m so difficult to please that I see nothing I like. On the contrary, I could have filled several cabin trunks with purchases – could I have afforded the prices. That’s something else the folder specifies. Price is fundamental, as is value for money. And perhaps I’m being overly dismissive but I wonder what the real difference is between items at £30 and a not dissimilar item at £3,000.
Quality, I hear everyone shout. Well, yes. But I suspect there comes a point where quality and workmanship only account for so much of the price, with the rest being down to the label, the imitation stamped gold plaque on the front that boldly declares the owner has the money, the taste, and perhaps the gullibility, to purchase the item. Or does that merely indicate a lack of vision in my appropriate brain folder?
Laying price aside, why can I never find the article I want? Here’s me, a mature woman who still likes to look good. In previous generations there seemed to be a dress code age line for women. On one side you were expected to ‘make the most of yourself’ by dressing well and taking care of your appearance. The line was set around the age of 45, and once you crossed that on the other side was the matronly, the staid, the my-best-years-are past clothes. It used to be easy care materials, pastel shades and shapeless styles to hide the rounding figure. Those who dared flout the convention and chose to dress fashionably were accused of being ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. Thankfully that way of thinking has largely been left behind, and we are free to wear what appeals — providing we can find it of course.
Though not ahead of the trend, I’d like to believe I’m reasonable fashionable, yet my inability to track down what I want makes me think I might have fallen way behind, or perhaps lost it altogether, my taste marooned like a rags garbed castaway on the desert island of fashion.
The new First Minister of the Scottish Parliament is a woman in her early forties who has set the heather on fire since recently taking over. She undertook a tour of venues in the country to meet the public, culminating in a packed 12,000 venue in Glasgow. A woman after my own heart, she likes red so wore an almost red dress (fucshia), with a natty vaguely tartan, Victorian style jacket with mini bustle in matching and contrasting colours. Very chic.
She had already caused a stir amongst journalists by wearing a pair of tartan heels (picture and details at http://www.thescottishshopdirect.co.uk/ladies-tartan-high-heels-royal-stewart.ir. The corporate drab, the female equivalent of male garb, has been softened to one of femininity, elegance and attractiveness. Yes, women can be bosses and look great too. Dress designers in Scotland must be rubbing their hands in glee and anticipation of a field day, vying to provide clothes to the First Minister.
And in her tartan heels she struck another blow for equality when her first cabinet was announced with a 50/50 gender split between men and women. The glass ceiling shattered by a tartan stiletto. Good on her. And if she can wear the kind of clothes that appeal to her then perhaps my brain file isn’t so far wrong after all. I need to take a leaf from her book (albeit at a more down-to-earth price) and just go with what appeals irrespective of what is deemed high fashion.