Friday, March 22, 2013

Not quite right, or "what does one wear to Eveleigh Markets on a Saturday?"

Most Saturday mornings I head to Eveleigh Markets to buy fresh flowers and locally grown fruit and vegetables for the week. I also breakfast on the samples (yes, I'm one of those people and I am not ashamed) and eye off the deliciousness I've never yet let myself buy (for lack of spare cash not for dietary reasons, I might add. If anyone wants to start a 'labné balls fund for Rosie' please do feel free.)

Anyway, my first inclination is always to dress simply- like country-girl simple. Fresh washed hair, white cotton dress and sandals. That way I can weave my fresh flowers in a circlet on my head and make believe for those forty produce-packed minutes that I am a girl in manner of Marie Antoinette frolicking in Petit Trianon. 

And yet- and quite justifiably so- I know I will feel conspicuous among the designer dogs and serious-eyed shoppers with their hand-drawn trolleys. And so I lean towards my most casual stuff- my bassike dealbreakers and striped t-shirt, which is my "off-duty" uniform if we appropriate model fashionspeak and apply it to a curvy, five foot seven-on-a-good-day researcher with "grad student hair" (as I was recently told by a friend.) But then I feel underdressed and so inevitably reach for something that's kind of ok but also just a bit off the mark. Like this:

Here I am, at a loss of how to position myself for the photograph (as always. Could this be considered my signature pose?), wearing a black silk dress from Topshop, a white bassike t-shirt, Marni earrings and a pair of Jil Sander pennyloafers. Accessorised by a hair elastic on each wrist because a. symmetry and b. useful. Apologies to the anonymous gent reading at my waist.

You see why it was called 'grad student hair'? Always just a bit dishevelled. But the point of this image is not to show you my halo of flyaways but to point out the earrings! I acquired them recently from the Belinda sale- something exciting like 60% off and I let myself go there in celebration of my cracking start to the academic year. Maybe I shouldn't reward myself with clothes to celebrate personal achievements but then, who am I kidding? If I didn't, I would have nothing to blog about except the new playlist I made on Grooveshark to write my first chapter to. (Each chapter gets a new one, which you can file in 'useless facts you never knew you wanted to know about my working methods'.) Anyway, the point is (and I do have one, promise) is that the earrings are clip-ons and made of plastic, rhinestones and neoprene so they are pretty much the best ever. Cue big toothy grin.

So all-in-all it's a bit of a weird outfit- Nineties dress and t-shirt combo in the favoured palette of that decade, monochrome. But then I messed it up with the attention-grabbing earrings and shoes but failed to follow through by not even styling my hair or wearing make-up. Much as I like the individual elements of the outfit as garments in and of themselves, as an ensemble they're all speaking different messages. 

In terms of whether I thought I was wearing an amazing outfit- not really, no. An outfit worthy of sharing with you? Maybe not even. But I've been writing lately about how we perform ourselves in particular ways on online contexts, unsurprisingly specifically on style blogs, and I suppose this is part of my performance of myself to you. Sometimes the way I dress is a bit off, like I'm almost there but not quite, and even the fact that I'm wearing amazing earrings or a dress I was thrilled to find (having hankered after a similar Ann Demeulemeester one that did absolutely nothing for me) doesn't overwrite the feeling. At other times, it feels like the clothes I wear are singing over my skin- even when it shouldn't really work but you feel like it just does and somehow that makes you feel like the coolest girl in the room. 

The good thing is that most other people don't really care if your clothes are singing or not- they're doing their own thing and are happy for you to do yours. Running as a throughline underneath all of this, though, is the question of whether or not such experiences could be conceived of as 'self-expressive', bounding off the idea that this is an inherent aspect of dress? 

I think that there is definitely a communication that flows from garment to self,  not just in terms of the relation of fabric to skin but also in the way that the clothes make you feel. The image you have of yourself as you wear them, the image you imagine flowing outwards from your person as a communication to those who encounter you. Taking this outfit as an example, did it express anything about myself? About my taste? Kind of- it shows you what things I like, but not how I would choose to style them if i really thought about it. The clothes semiotically communicate either way, sparking connotations and remembrances or curiosity in people who pay attention to clothes- or they might just indicate me as a young woman conforming to the social demand that we be dressed when we are in public. 

I don't yet know where I'm heading with this, but I know that I want to complexify the relationship between us and the clothes that we wear- and why- and what wearing those clothes do to our moods, our feelings of self, our feelings of being comfortably equipped for the situations we dress for. I don't know if this has a place in my thesis but I can't help but circle over the concept of dress as self-expressive and feel dissatisfied. It's on the right track but not quite there- kind of like my outfit that morning. 

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