I walked into NZ Fashion Week feeling like a fraud. I didn’t even have interesting shoes on. Aside from red lips there was nothing haute couture about me. More haute boring. Having forgotten all about my tickets to Eugénie, I’d dressed that day in shabby office, which is a little known category I’ve been cultivating since 1997.
Surrounded by bulbous earrings, cloaks, white suits, purple suits, pink hats, frilly dresses, fierce frocks, green shades, big shades, gold boots, bold boots, studded necklaces, riot shirts, layers of leather, layers of labels, shocking stilettos and fucking interesting jacket (which is another little talked about category that’s very versatile) I wanted to crawl into a corner.
So I did.
Pulling out my laptop, I pretended to be an important blogger but I couldn’t think of anything to write.
Fashion bloggers are just as vital as traditional journalists at fashion weeks now but to be a one you need, at least, to be dressed the part.
My fashion sense, once described by my dear friend Mel, is quirky. Quirky is something you want attributed to your off-beat wit. You don’t want quirky assigned to cooking (which sadly it is), home decorating (yep I get that also) and certainly not your clothes.
Even though I may dress like I don’t care, I do care, so much. Some mornings I care so much I go through six outfits and declare I have nothing to wear when faced with an over-stuffed wardrobe. And I especially care when surrounded by other people who seem to have got it right.
Like most people at New Zealand Fashion Week.
There was a young blonde in a full-length tight brown woollen dress that sounds like something from WWII but it was stunning. Another woman with golden hair was in head to toe blue and black, something my mother taught me was fashion suicide, but she was pulling it off. A silver-haired woman had such high suede boots on she walked like a giraffe. The guys were either in tight fitting suits with extra long shoes or full band baddass in stovepipe black jeans and leather.
The scene around me was full of mostly women avant-garding each other. Very rarely is fashion a true expression of yourself, but a blended anxiety ridden decision of whether an outfit will be right for others’ approval. Have I pulled this off?
Why do we care about this?
There were a thousand more interesting things I could have been thinking about, like my friend Kate who is going through chemo, but instead I sat there hiding because I hadn’t dressed fashionably enough. My shabby office was not getting any kind of approval.
Then the most fascinating outfit in the whole place walked by. A young person with long dark tresses, a hat, brooding eye make-up and short beard, dressed in a feminine midriff blouse and high-waisted flares. Xe oozed a mash up of self-consciousness and daring anyone to stare. Yes I’ve got a beard and blouse. So what?
I watched xim look nervously around for friends. There are probably a few places in New Zealand that would be hard for xim to walk into but I was glad there was fashion week for xim to push the boat out. Xe wasn’t seeking approval; xe was being himself and xe was goddam beautiful. Xe made me realise that if xe can feel comfortable expressing ximself then why couldn’t I be comfortable being me in my shabby office get up?
If style is a way to reflect who you are without having to speak then I’m curious. That’s my style. Screw quirky. I’m inquisitive. I’m interested. I like people far more than I follow fashion.
I put my laptop away and dived into the crowd.
The girl in the WWII dress and I laughed about the wall covered in apples. So fruity. (And I told her that’s how my clothes are often described). “So nice to meet you,” she said, grabbing my hand and shaking it.
Then the golden-haired woman in the blue and black outfit smiled at me. She turned out to be the designer, Liz Wilson’s mother and yes, she had fretted about what to wear. Even the designer’s mother cares.
I took photos of people and asked them about their shoes. One girl had borrowed boots from her flatmate and the laces kept coming undone, and she worried she might fall over. I told her half the room looked like they might fall over and she walked away smiling.
Another flame-haired woman had just had her haircut and she worried it was too short. Fingering the anus of my top knot, I told her it looked fierce.
I wanted to talk to the guy with the blouse and beard but I didn’t get a chance. If I had I would have told him he looked terrific. That’s all anyone wants to hear.
Do I look OK?
Am I OK?
And suddenly, after connecting with people, real people, I didn’t care about my shabby office.
As I walked into the show I felt interested. Because that’s who I am.
And perhaps that’s the secret to fashion.
PS. Even though I am not a fashion blogger, if I was going to say anything about Liz Wilson’s show I would say she’s incredibly talented and one to watch. She designs for the spirited woman, which is kind of like quirky but way cooler.