Monday, October 15, 2012

I stick to black to avoid today’s fashion nonsense

I’m starting to sound like my grandmother when she used to bitch about the clothing “those young people are wearing”. There’s only one problem with the picture. “Those young people” are wearing the clothing my ouma wore in 1985. I kid you not. What is wrong with me? All I want is a nice (plain) black skirt or plainish lacy dress. Stuff I can wear to work or when I go out. Fabric that won’t allow the bloodstains to show.

Okay, only joking about that last sentence.

Over the years the kindergoth that I was during the mid 1990s has become relatively tame. She wears her purple army boots with long satin skirts and Type O Negative T-shirts to work and to the occasional live gig. She likes hoodies. Plainish ones. To be honest, I’m not fashion conscious. I have an ancient pair of guys’ New Rocks which I wear when I help on film sets. Most of my clothing items are hand-me-downs from friends who either degothed themselves or picked up too much weight.

I suppose I should think myself lucky. I’m skinnier now than I was when I lived with ma and pa. In fact, I fear I shall weigh 65kg till the day I die. But that’s okay. I can deal with that. It means I still wear clothing from my college days (at least the items that are not full of holes). With a wardrobe largely consisting of garments in sombre tones of black on black, with occasional highlights of pink, green or purple, I’m one of those sad folks who can throw just about anything on and not have to worry about co-ordinating.
I exist in a happy little bubble of drabness. Except I realised the other day that I needed a few items of clothing and would have to enter a store. Only now I wish I had never set foot across the threshold of The Big Retail Outlet We Won’t Name.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw the customer who had somehow combined neon orange jeans with a shocking magenta minidress, a luminous yellow snood thing and screaming-green bolero jacket. It was like passing a car crash. I couldn’t help but stare. And I’m not making this description up. Another customer caught sight of my stricken expression and matched it with hers before we traded wry smiles and went our separate ways.

Huge signs in bold red proclaimed a sale on the third floor. I shrugged mentally. It couldn’t hurt to look, could it? I was wrong. I lasted all of five minutes, my eyes burning and my stomach roiling. How can fashion buyers get it so wrong? Baggy purple floral prints that look like a cross between a granny dress and a nightgown. Leopard-print jeans. Who in their right mind wears tight gold leopard-print jeans? Someone who cruises street corners in the red light district?

The women’s section wasn’t much better. I’m almost certain the buyers raided my late grandmother’s cupboard. I thought horizontal navy, white and green stripes were pretty grim during the eighties. Thirty years later, I haven’t changed my mind. Let’s not talk about the dashes of luminous orange and yellow that grabbed me by the eyeballs. In the nineties we, who survived poodle perms, neon alice bands, shoulder pads and leg warmers swore, “Never again”. We swore this for a reason. Evidently anyone born after 1994 hasn’t learnt why.

I was fortunate to escape the “fashion” retailer, and vowed to go find that dinky little second-hand and vintage clothing store on Loop Street. I’m not certain, but I think that lovely outlet has become a Somali corner café, just like every other corner store in the centre of Cape Town. Ah well. Maybe I could dash into two Slightly Smaller Retail Outlets We Won’t Name before my lunch hour was over. Suffice to say, I’ve concluded that there’s no hope for humanity this summer.

Puffy jackets. Leopard print. Gold sequins. More neon shades. Vomitous combinations of contrasting colours. I know retro’s cool but what about the rest of us who just want “normal” clothes? Actually, I don’t even think I know what normal is any more. I’ve recently started crocheting in the vain hope of creating clothing I actually would wear.

So, now you know why I still wear black, and I’m always happy to be gloriously out of fashion. At least all my clothing matches and I don’t look like my fashion was selected by a colour-blind monkey who’s imbibed vast quantities of illegal hallucinogenic substances. And, guess what? I’ll still wear black next year. And I’ll be laughing at all of you with your cot death baby blue off-the-shoulder knee-length sweaters with the silver polka dots over hernia-pink tights and wedges that make you look like you’re constantly about to fall over. You dig?

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This editorial column appeared in the Sunday Independent Life supplement on October 14.

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