Understanding fashion

For a fashion luddite like myself, the title of this blog in itself seems quite far-fetched. However, when you start at a place of zero understanding and not even a basic appreciation, the only way to go is up.

It occurred to me this week – for the first time can you believe – that when designers create clothing, they have a look or treatment in mind. They don’t design in isolation but they have an image and a style that they produce pieces to be a part of; their art is created in context.

When I treat my clothes as individual items, I miss out on so much of what they can offer. I will never achieve the looks or master the style that I see in my mind’s eye if don’t give more consideration to how they work with the rest of an outfit. Yes there is a level of personal creativity to mix and match within my wardrobe, but beyond that, a little forethought is required.

When I complained for the umpteenth time on a shopping trip with my sister this week, that all the tops in shops are really short right now, she pointed out to me that that was because most trousers are high waisted right now – that’s what’s in fashion – and so these tops are the perfect compliment.

I hadn’t even realised that my own style had changed. I thought I was basically wearing the same types and colours of clothes that I wore from the moment I was allowed to choose for myself. Again, my far trendier sister pointed out that my fashion has indeed changed over time and some clothes that I would consider buying now, I would have described as a rug or a shapeless sack just a few years ago. I even bought something with an animal print on it; whether it will fit or suit me or not is beside the point – I bought it!

I’m not claiming to have any understanding of the fashion industry, or much more of an opinion beyond the fact that trends seem to be cyclical and often fleeting, seasons return and what was ‘in’ at a certain point in time will likely come back around in a couple of decades.

But I do now have the beginnings of an appreciation of the possibilities for the clothing I choose to put on my body, the thought, skill and vision behind their creation and the hint of motivation to pull together some outfits that bring me genuine joy. Who knows, I may even be able to achieve that elusive Autumnal style I have been pursuing for so long…

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Binge watching and soul food

I have written before about the addictiveness of box sets. They steal time and deprive us of beauty. They have their place but in an age where you rarely have to wait until the following week for the next episode, they fuel our instant culture and draw us away from creativity.

When I’m watching something on television, I almost always allow my brain to switch off and whatever is happening on screen to take over. Movies provide an escape but they also open my eyes to new ideas and help me appreciate narrative, light and language. After all, some of the best quotes have come from movies and they are ‘the best quotes’ because they stir something within us.

Box sets on the other hand are usually too short to offer profound soundbites, nor are they intended to make us think or question. They have no fixed ending (unless you’re nearing the end of the final series…) and so can eat away at our time with no marked completion.

Alternative methods of relaxation, such as reading and writing, are far more refreshing to me. They don’t overly tax my brain (unless the reading material is particularly academic) but turns of phrase and clever descriptions help me to figure out life and motivate me to pursue beauty and creativity wherever I look. They remind me that we were born to be creative so whether that’s a book, a painting or a movie, when they’re done well, they’re a significantly more satisfying way of letting time wash over me.

So in an attempt to rediscover beauty and creativity and to inspire those neurons in my brain to spark and dance, I’m giving up binge watching for Lent. That doesn’t mean I can’t watch one (two max) episodes of a box set, but it means that one hour is the limit at any one time and that I won’t allow myself to watch the seconds of an evening tick by until bedtime comes around and my heart is as heavy as my eyes. Instead, I’ll search for a balance between switching off and feeding my soul. We’ll see where that leads me in 40 days…

Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living

Dolly Parton really knew what she was singing about. We tumble out of bed, stumble to the kitchen, pour ourselves a cup of ambition and yawning, stretching, try to come to life. There’s a better life and we think about it, don’t we? It’s a rich man’s game, no matter what they call it and we spend our lives putting money in his wallet.

So why do we do it? For money? Yes we need money to provide shelter and basic needs but do we live to make money and in doing so, miss out on actually living?

Work life balance is an elusive concept. Working hard is something we are built to do. We were designed to get satisfaction from an honest day’s labour. But what that has transformed into is settling for what makes us money, no matter what the cost.

If our work satisfies us and uses our skills, making the most of who we are, then it also gives glory to God. If our creative outlet is content sat at a desk from 9 til 5, then that’s great but for those who need more, it’s worth taking a moment (or two, or five) to figure out what we could do that would truly satisfy us in our work. Even the concept of work can be expanded far beyond anything involving an office. Our work can be with the people around us, with our families or pursuing the growth of particular gifts that we have that hold great scope to impact others. The potential benefits of finding a balance that compliments where we’re at in life and also satisfies us will always outweigh any sacrifice required in the process.

Escapism and the importance of creativity

Creativity is critical to contentment. It makes sense when you think about it. This world is a thing of beauty, designed by the ultimate Creator. It is inspiring by its very nature.*

The joy of creativity is that it offers us an escape from the rubbish of this world by transporting us temporarily to another reality. Really good creativity returns us to our lives with either renewed resolve or at least a clearer perspective. A good book, film, piece of music or art all have the power to reach a part of us that is untouchable by the rest of the world.

I find my escapism in movies – it’s why I’m so interested in film production and why, when I was younger (and still today), I used to sit in the cinema and wait until all the credits had rolled before leaving; I wanted to see the names of the people who had created this story that had pulled me in and made me ponder life.

My husband’s creative outlet is writing and he’s outrageously good at it. When I read his words, I am transported to Cairo, to France, to a time when life was different; not necessarily better or worse, just different. As well as entering into another world, there are phrases hidden throughout his work that capture elements of life beautifully. Through artistic prose, he explains what usually cannot be articulated.

This realisation of the importance of creativity has been quite ground-breaking for me. As Elspeth Thompson writes in The Wonderful Weekend Book: “We neglect our creativity at our peril.” Whatever our medium, we are all creative – be it in an acknowledged art form or simply in the way we find solutions to problems and use our initiative. If we suffocate this instinct in ourselves, it can have quite grave consequences. I’d go as far as to say that neglecting our creativity can be one of many triggers of illnesses such as depression. When we’re forced to conform to a rhythm of 9-5, sat at a desk in an office, many of us are moulding ourselves into something we were not born to be.

It’s no wonder then, that when my previous jobs have narrowed the scope for me to use my creativity, I have very quickly grown bored, stifled and moved on. When I’m not allowed to use my brain, to find a way to practice my creativity, my inner calm becomes agitated and I look for ways to rediscover that balance.

I’m thankful that my husband realised all of this long ago and has been pursuing ways to use his creativity. He has rejected the contemporary lifestyle of 9-5 in favour of living a life that far closer resembles one that is lived to its fullest. He is embracing his God-given gifts and creative instinct and he has made himself and our marriage more joyous in the process.

*pun completely intended

Inspiration versus Envy

At what point does something that is intended to inspire, morph to provoke envy?

I really quite like Pinterest. I wouldn’t say I love it and I certainly don’t hate it so I’m somewhere in the middle. I go through phases of spending hours on the site and then won’t look again for months. Partly that’s because I find it difficult to pick out the posts that inspire me and spark my style or creativity; partly that’s because I am very conscious that too much time spent on it and I begin to wish I had more money to carry out some ideas or I start to become envious of those who seem to have limitless time to create beauty.

There is definitely a line when my heart crosses over from excitement to try out new ideas, to descending into an obsession on the material or a sense of disappointment that I don’t have what I see (or the time to create it).

Pinterest can quickly clutter my mind with too many ideas and it fills up the space I would usually use to process those ideas. A few concepts at a time that I can make my own and put into action works much better for me.

I want to be inspired. I don’t want to spark a discontentment with what I have or what I can achieve so I’ll start small. A few little projects at a time and I’ll see where I get to.