Sunday, May 19, 2013

Shaking Things Up

Change is scary. Diving in head first, even scarier. Dipping your feet in slowly before retreating for a reprieve? Hmm, a little easier. Six weeks ago, three weeks after returning home, six months after ditching my makeup in Mexico, eleven months since the wearing of high heels – or anything other than sneakers and jandals - and five months since the compiling of any sort of “outfit”, I got dressed up in the name of fashion. Or, as I preferred to think of it, the name of friendship, curiosity and creativity. One sunny Friday, with more than a little trepidation, I dug out my old accessories, gingerly applied mascara, put on a – slight – heel and proceeded to "model" some gorgeous new threads for my dear friend Jenna-Lee’s online store, the fabulously fun and funky Jonty Apparel.

And, slight self-consciousness aside, once I relaxed, it was a whole lotta fun. Time trippin’ back to our fashion and art school days where photo shoots were for play and dressing OTT was the norm. I am not a model. But I do love playing with clothes and putting together outfits, and I especially love doing this with Jenna-Lee – in fact some of the best times in our relationship have involved the positioning of a camera lens between us. Jen doesn’t follow trends, she creates them. Taking things she loves – which may or may not reference the Seventies and Eighties – she produces amazing clothes and images which portray happiness, laughter and all inclusive beauty. Today, I want to thank her for reminding me how much fun fashion can be. That I shouldn’t take myself so seriously. And that it’s ok to love clothes and still care about the really important things in life.

You see, ever since the return from my overseas adventure I’d been avoiding my closet; eyeing it with distrust; feeling disconnected from the world inside. In a move my old self could hardly believe, I had continued to dress from the same small bag of clothes that had travelled with me throughout the last year. No matter how old, ripped or shabby they were, they were comfortable, they were easy, they were me. They reminded me of the lessons I’d learned, the journey I was lucky enough to have experienced and the simplicity and lack of attachment I had grown to love. I honestly could not see myself returning to the platform heels, palazzo pants and mini dresses that hung inside my closet, the treasured possessions that I had so carefully dry cleaned and lovingly placed on wooden hangers before I left.

It was the complete opposite to my last gypsy hiatus, when I spent the entire year bemoaning my lack of wardrobe space while longing for the jackets, hats, furs and heels of home. Upon return to civilisation I’d waved good bye to my travellin’ rags and leapt headfirst into a ‘grown up’ wardrobe to suit my new grown up life; my first real job; my return to the big city. Only now do I see how my need to look good became a little too needy. How I fell under the spell of fitting in. How much I wanted to be cool, look glamorous, become somebody. How I succumbed to the all too present pressure that to succeed in the fickle fashion world, one had to dress to impress.

Just a few months apart from fancy frocks and full length mirrors though, and this attachment began to die a slow and surprising death. Surprising myself more than anyone else, I cared less and less as the weeks flew by and the real world faded farther away. Wearing the same baggy pants, five dollar trucker cap and old t-shirts every day. Giving away pieces I never thought I’d part with as the heavy pack grew tiresome. Forgetting how it felt to care. Slowly forgetting fashion, my first love. 

The night before our Jonty photo shoot, Jenna-Lee and I spent hours laughing over old photo albums. Remembering when each outfit encompassed a different theme and each day inspired a new work of art – however questionable the outcome - reignited a lingering spark, leaving me to wonder whether denying my creativity its obvious outlet was really the best idea. Yes, there are a million more important things in life, and my trip had slapped me in the face with that knowledge. But would dressing like a drop out change anything? Couldn’t I allow myself to indulge my daily dress-up pleasure without sacrificing my integrity? I sensed it would take more energy to suppress my creativity than to allow it to flourish.

And so I allow myself to ease back in, slowly supplementing my travel wardrobe with my cheap and cheerful Jonty tops and – just sometimes - my old (most comfy) heels. Still though, the travelling t-shirts remain firm favourites, and I continue to eye certain pieces in my closet with suspicion – many items likely destined for the nearest op shop. My challenge now is learning to dress for me, not some expectation of who I should be. Keeping it realistic, and not investing more time and energy than I get out. Allowing myself to dress for success one day, and keep it simple and sloth-like the next. Having fun with clothes without giving up my dreams for change. After all I used to proclaim fashion to be my art form, a passion which helped inspire me to wake up each morning. And if that passion can extend to the rest of my life and dreams, then that's the most worthwhile cause I can imagine.

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