togs: my (somewhat) complicated relationship with fashion

When it comes to clothing, I'm conflicted.

On one hand, I've never considered myself a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination.  I don't buy fashion magazines of any kind, ever, and I'm confounded by the idea of "seasons," or "trends" being "in" or "out."  I truly dislike the way the fashion industry fixates on impossibly thin girls to the exclusion of everyone else for both the design and displaying of their creations, and am completely turned off by the idea of wearing brands or labels in a conspicuous manner.  On these points, I am defiant.

And yet.

I love the idea of style as a form of self-expression.  I love it.  I love watching people play with colour and clothing structure.  I am fascinated by folks who experiment with fabrics and texture.  I love the artistry used to construct a beautiful garment.  And I am intrigued by the reasoning and philosophy that can guide design or style.

Early last year, I attended a workshop led by a brilliant young art photographer.  Her work is weird and beautiful, and relies heavily on Photoshop:  the final results of her images feature men who are suspended in mid-air, or women whose hair morphs into flowers; that sort of thing.  She describes her work as "dark," and "mysterious," and "whimsical," and was very clear that she hopes that people who view her work experience it in the same way.  As she guided us through her shooting and Photoshopping techniques, she shared one of her marketing secrets:  she is so committed to her work that whenever she is at an event where she might possibly meet potential clients, she carefully chooses her clothing so that her look also conveys a sense of mystery and whimsy.  (Indeed, that day, she looked like a nymph who'd just appeared out of an enchanted forest.)  It's her way of staying true to what she values and holds important about her work.

It was a first time that I'd ever considered the idea that you could convey what you value through your wardrobe.

Similarly, earlier this year, I was reading the words of a friend of mine, Attillah Springer, who is a journalist from my homeland.  Attillah is fiercely Trinidadian and Afro-Caribbean, and in this particular blog post, she shares her thoughts about style while having her hair professionally wrapped in Nigeria, using traditional Nigerian cloth ties.  "Style is both personal and political," she said, words that made me stop and ponder them for a moment.  

Again, this idea that what you wear can be used to convey what you're about.  I love this

That said, even given my fascination with style philosophy, my own personal style is largely dictated by ... well, nothing, really.  I often tell people that my general look is "Urban Pajamas":  if it's comfortable enough to sleep in, but appropriate enough to be seen in public, I wear it.  I mean, I don't look like the hot mess that last sentence implies -- I do have some pride, after all --  but I admit to  wearing an inordinate amount of black (it's just such a practical colour), and I've never considered the message that my clothes might convey, other than "washed."  To be honest, since I began working from home 6 years ago, I find that over time I make far less of an effort in how I dress:  there's not much of an incentive to do otherwise, since my audience during the day is usually just Rufus.

But I think I want to change this.

Given my  mantra of "looking for the light," and being convinced there's beauty in different (not to mention that I'm pretty proud of my Caribbean-ness, myself), I think I'd like to explore what that means in what I wear and how I look.  I'm not sure how this will actually play out yet, except that I suspect it means fewer black garments;  in that vein, I'm going to set myself a goal that any clothing purchases I make over the next year have to be any colour but black. (If you know me in real life, you know this is a huge challenge for me -- seriously, I wear black a lot.)  I've even started a Pinterest board to help curate a bit of inspiration. (I don't even recognize myself anymore.)  And while I'm hardly about to turn Chookooloonks into a fashion blog (I wouldn't presume to do that to you), in the spirit of returning to using this site as a sketchpad, I'll probably share some of what I'm wearing here more often.  Because much like how I've used the site over the years to share my photography, I find that if I know I'm going to be public about it, I'm more likely to try harder.

So with a bit of effort, perhaps this will be the last time I'll appear on this blog wearing mostly black.  We'll see how it goes.


Song:  You can leave your hat on, as performed by Tom Jones