Sunday, May 19, 2013

Empowered Fashion

Well, my experiment lasted 6 months.

Beginning in December, and going until May, I did not purchase any new clothes. My plan was to do this for an entire year. I even pledged to give away much of my existing wardrobe, though that was primarily because I was tired of it and/or many items no longer fit. I had several reasons for this experiment, all noble and very liberal-conscientious-almost pretentious sounding.

But by May 1st, I'd quite had enough of opening my closet door with zero enthusiasm. So I went shopping.


In pink silk, fresh from the salon...
 Because I like clothes. Alot. And shoes. And jewelry. Does this make me a shallow, lemming-minded person who has no depth or real life purpose?


Back in fall, when I wrote a feature article on fashion for a local online magazine, ( a friend asked me how it felt to write about something so trivial as high fashion. I'm not sure why they asked me this; fashion is hardly trivial. It's an industry, a lifestyle, a huge part of how we define who we are. I have read fashion magazines since I was 12 years old. And though from time to time I like to explore my own ideas about style, blending thrift store jeans with department store shoes, a hand-me-down jacket with a DKNY blouse, vintage gemstone jewelry with brassy finds from the $1 jewelry shop, I've come to realize is this one, simple thing - when we look better, we feel better, no matter what our style.

New shoes, new hoodie, new hair - because kids like to look good, too!!
At 39, I've been through many phases of style, but now prefer a more sophisticated look. And why not? I'm a grown up, and I've waited a long time to dress like one. During my shopping hiatus, I took a critical  look at my wardrobe, and thought, for the most part...bleh.

Ugh...that's all I'm going to say.

I took a good long look at a few items and asked myself, "What were you thinking?" Then I got a big black bag and filled it up so much that Stacy and Clinton (of What Not to Wear fame) would have been proud. I think it's the typical mom thing - with the kid comes the desire to go for ease and convenience with clothes and in the end we realize our entire wardrobe is composed of beige, wrinkle-free garments with lots of elastic. In the far back, somewhere, are designer jeans and strapless dresses but who has time for that now? When I did want a little flair in my style, I went back mentally to my post-motherhood days, when I shopped over-priced vintage clothing stores on the streets of Ann Arbor and sewed sequined things onto the legs of my jeans. I don't know why. It just seemed to fit.

But that all changed during my 6-month shopping hiatus. I noticed fashion more once I wasn't purchasing it, and I realized that I had no real, authentic desire to dress like the 23-year-old art student whose most prized posession was a pair of perfectly faded 501 jeans with a sequined rose vine climbing up one side. And because I had given away most of my wardrobe, come spring, there was no other choice...I went shopping.

I love these shoes so much, I want to marry them...
And it was so glorious, I did it again.

And again.

My man friend laughed, saying he knew I couldn't do it, go a whole year without buying clothes, but he's a trendy Euro-chic guy who would not be caught dead in public wearing sloppy jeans and/or a baseball cap himself, so he can't throw stones at my love of clothes. (He even has a Nomination bracelet like the one he gave me, but without the dangling silver star, of course!) And wise soul that he is, he never saw the point I was trying to make in my no-shopping mission. It just took some time before I realized I didn't really see the point in what I was doing, either. He laughed when I explained how I had chosen to end the vow and buy some spring tops. It's both frustrating and warming to the soul when someone knows you better than you know yourself. And I also realize that a love of fashion does not negate any depth or originality in person's soul. I've learned that the best things about a person are the things you get to see when you take time to get to know them, and even the most enlightened person will make a quick judgement based on a person's style - or lack of it.  We all need work in this area. But I've decided if I'm gonna be judged, I'd rather it be because I'm overdressed for an event rather than looking like I got dressed in the 1990s for it.

So did I learn anything else from my 6 months off shopping?


I learned that the department stores miss you when you don't visit often. They send out the big guns, with amazing coupons and discounts and something-for-nothings for cardholders that make me wonder how they make any profit at all. But I'm not going to complain; I refurbished my wardrobe for near pennies by saving these coupons up. I learned some things seem more noble, but they really aren't a big deal to most of the world. I learned that feeling good and looking good are often inter-connected. I learned there is no shame in loving and desiring quality, pretty things. I learned that my entire attitude changes when I slip on my D & G sunglasses and purple (faux) snakeskin pumps. Does it change who I am inside? Of course not. But it does make me feel empowered when I know I look stunning, and that's a pretty damn good feeling.

And that, my loves, is the entire purpose of fashion.

Go get some.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Trouble With Gurus

There's an innate danger in getting too close to someone whose life and lifestyle you admire. And that is watching the illusions that you've built up around them completely dissolve when they suddenly become human.

This can be a blessing - you realize that they are human, like you, and prone to human actions and emotions, like you.

But it can also be unsettling to realize how willing we are at times to put those we admire onto pedestals, trusting thier wisdom, judgement, and intuition completely. At times, even over our own.

It's a danger, this. Because in the end, we are all human, prone to human actions and emotions, exceedingly imperfect...even the gurus we hold in such high regard.

This I realize as I watch the trajectory of a former-guru-cum-close-friend's life spin into a total 360 from what it was when we first met.

And the thing is, they seem deliriously content to keep letting it spin, because apparently, the wonderful life they'd presented for years, the wonderful life I witnessed and occasionally felt envious of, well....let's just say I've now learned was really, deep down, anything but wonderful.

They were far from satisfied...

But it's okay, because now they are really coming into themselves. Now everything is moving along as it should be. Now they can finally cast aside the mantle of who they were and delve head-first into who they were meant to be. If it hurts someone else, that's a shame, but other people just get hurt sometimes. In the end, we have to consider ourselves and our happiness and what is right for us, even if it seems catastrophically selfish to the outside world. Forget all that other stuff and listen to this new wisdom they have to share. Because it's the real deal. And they want to celebrate every step of it with all the people they love...except maybe the ones who aren't speaking to them anymore but whatever, they'll come around and if not, well, everyone is not meant to be in our lives forever and sometimes we just have to - forgive the cliche - let go. Perhaps they just can't accompany us into this journey to our higher selves. Bless them anyway.

Funny, watching these things as they unfold, wondering what happened, and how much of this person's current actions conceal the deeper reality that for much of the time I held them to such high knowing and regard, they really were not any wiser than me...and clearly, not happier.

It makes me a little sad to think I was thier friend, and yet could have missed something that's now so glaringly obvious, but to my credit, the persona was quite convincing.

And there's the trouble with gurus....

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Honey Pot Karma

The honey pot!
For the past year or so, I’ve had the goal to replace all of my dishware with handmade pottery pieces. I accomplish this slowly, a piece or two at a time, acquiring them everywhere from yard sales to pottery sales to being given a piece or two as gifts. But the pottery sales are my favorite, because I get to take my son along and pick out a piece together. At the student potters' sale at a local college, we perused items that were decorative, functional, and beautifully one-of-a-kind. But we settled on a honey pot, something I've wanted forever and was delighted to see  priced well within our budget.

On the way home, we discussed the importance of supporting the arts, from my own perspective as an artist. "If we want other people to support our creative efforts," I explained, "then we need to support the creative efforts of others, by attending shows or buying things from artists and artisans when we can." We were vending at an art festival the coming weekend, and as I explained to him, could hardly expect other people to support our work if we did not support the creative work of others.

Jewelry display, festival ready!
I’m a firm believer in karma; I’ve seen it at work in my own life and in the lives of others. If you aren’t familiar with the term, let’s just say it makes for some good common sense to believe that we tend to get back what we give. Karma also extends to the reasons we have for giving – is it a true wish to do good from the heart, or is it based on the idea people will think we’re an ass if we don’t do a particular thing for someone else? There is one truth to karma…the desire to do good must be sincere in order to attract good; there is no place in giving (as there is no place pretty much anywhere else) for the ego. And everything, from the way we treat friends to the way we spend money, has a sense of karma.

All set up and ready to sell! Free trees, diplaced by our garden tilling, at the bottom of display; proud to say we gave them ALL away!
My son is 8, and not so much into art-making these days, but he’s got no choice but to tag along with mom to the fairs and festivals where I vend. So when he asked, “Can I sell stuff at the festivals, too?” I thought, ‘Oh, yes!’ This will make it more fun and meaningful for him, and also, hopefully, teach him a thing or two about karma.

Eric with some of his festival paintings. We had so much fun!
My fervent desire on the rainy drive up Sunday was that people would support his work. He’d toiled over making several small paintings and collecting smooth river stones that we washed and turned into ‘blessing stones’ by writing inspirational words on them with a Sharpie. I wanted him to see the cycle of it all, how our giving support to the student potters by attending thier show and making a purchase would culminate in people visiting our booths at the festival and making purchases.

Festival goers did not disappoint. By the end of the day, my son had sold 3 paintings and over half of his blessing stones. I sold many of my greeting cards and made a trade with another vendor. It was a fun and prosperous day for both my son and myself, and on the way home, we talked about how well we had done.

A quiet knitting during downtime at the festival
“Did we earn back what we spent on the honey pot?” He asked, and I had to smile.

“Oh yes,” I replied. “We got that…and then some.”

Which is typically true…what we put out there, into the world, we get back, and then some, whether it’s kindness or dysfunction, love or jealousy, the idea of giving freely or holding tightly to money and possessions.

Sunny day fun in the garden...
In the garden, as in life, we reap what we sow. In some small way, this weekend, my son got to see this theory in action. For this lesson, I am so grateful.

Sow love.