I’ve just completed a London shopping blitz. I needed to pull together three television friendly outfits on a budget. In hindsight, I should have offered a sacrifice of some kind to a couple of shops, maybe that would have helped. It’s a nasty old jungle out there and when an oasis is found, it must be cherished.
People used to pay me to shop with them. Call it what you will, but personal shopper is not my favorite. Stylist? No. My husband and I wrote a book about discovering your personal style, so I guess you could call me a former personal style finder. There’s a difference in all of these terms, but that’s another story. One thing for certain – it was much easier offering advice to a stranger than try to figure out what I needed.
I’d not been “out there” for a while. I don’t write in my pyjamas, but I hardly needed to follow fashion to sit at my desk. Whenever I left the cave I relied upon good quality clothes that have been loyal to me. They’ve remained pretty current and withstood the fluctuations in my weight. Television clothing is a different animal, different from any other “special occasion” clothing. You have to think about a lot of things, some of which remain a mystery for the time being, like how certain colors look in the light, or which patterns strobe.
First, I pulled out clothes from my closet and began trying on possible contenders. I constantly reminded myself that this is a pilot, not a broadcast, so I should go light on purchases and try to make what I have work. But then again, a pilot is an audition, or a job interview, so it still has to be right. No pressure there.
Lesson 1: Cheap is cheap.
I rarely get away with cheap clothing. Some people can if they have the right body shape, or if the occasion is casual and the way they come across is not important, or if the item is simple, say, a black turtleneck, even though it won’t last very long. This is disposable clothing. Still, I gave it a shot.
Question 1: Good god women - how do you do it? Oxford Street on a Saturday morning – this is the front line.
I braved an institutionally large store that sells cheap clothing, all of which hung off the racks like hunting spoil. I felt I’d somehow wandered onto a football pitch. Suicide sounded more cheerful. Walked in, walked out.
I bought stockings and a belt that day at John Lewis. Not exciting, but necessary. Had a grand time talking to a surprisingly helpful sales assistant about denier. Customer service in London? Ha! It happens when I least expect it, and I NEVER expect it. I moved on to another interesting conversation with a woman in the ladies room where we spoke between gags. This is 2010 JL. Please do something about your loos before people die in there.
I really wanted to be shopping in Shoreditch, or Hoxton, perhaps at one of those Steampunk shops, just to relieve the uninspiring boredom of the generic high street, but alas, I didn’t have the luxury of time…so…
On my way out of Debenhams (second and last visit) I was accosted by Perfume Man. What is this - Bloomingdale’s 1985? When I said ‘no thank you’ to his aggressive behavior I heard him make a comment to his colleagues who then burst into laughter. I stopped in my tracks and found the floor manager. I hope Perfume Man didn’t need that job.
A black and white rococo patterned skirt had my name all over it. Didn’t notice the crinoline until I got home because of the dimly lit dressing stall - stall, not room. I like it, but there’s a chance I may resemble a Christmas tree on TV. Must find baubles for neck. The skirt is also missing a poodle. Maybe I should consider this outfit for the evening shots and someone can light me up.
Ahh, Bond Street. Bless.
A bright red sequined t-shirt, very much on sale, at DKNY spoke to me. It was an intuitive buy that paid off, and I shall pair it with a skirt I bought in LA about three years ago. Eight ball in the right pocket. Great service, sizes for real human beings, sustenance, a lovely bathroom and I didn’t have to walk six miles. Now we’re shopping.
If Bill Cunningham of the New York Times says we must have a cardigan, then I am with cardigan. Although I can’t help but think that it was Mrs. Obama who originated this trend during the election and our darling Bill is commenting a bit late. Either way, I’ll wear it over a few scattered polka dots and call it an outfit.
Lesson 2: You may have to try on a lot of frogs.
I popped into Jigsaw – five times. What is WRONG with me? I changed lanes a dozen times trying to piece something together, and as I worked through not a little anxiety, I bought a blouse and returned it. Ultimately, there was something mean (my husband’s word) about the clothing. But in fairness to them, it just wasn’t right for telly.
Holy prêt-à-porter. It took a mountain of clothing and patches of six days to find three little ole items. Did I do something wrong? Lost my touch? Too picky? I don’t think so. Shopping is hard work. I found myself weeding though enough schmatas in enough retail space to equal all the Queen’s backyards.
Question 2: Why?
Fit. Fit. Fit. If I let him, my husband would walk around the shops with a tape measure. As it is, he waits until he gets home. But, he’s right. If you lined up every size medium t-shirt in a shop, each one would fit differently. I‘ve seen it a gazillion times. Ghastly, isn’t it?
Every top designer has a different idea of sizing. So does every manufacturer in China. I once thought that if I just had the boyish hips, long legs and arms of a lanky girl, that every item of clothing I could ever wish to wear would fit perfectly. It’s not true. When I worked with women with that very body shape, I quickly discovered that they’re not all perfect mannequins. Many complained about their long waists. Some disliked their short waists. A few thought their limbs were too long; others wanted desperately to be curvy. They perceived their issues of equal value to women who are short, overweight or otherwise hard to fit. Everyone has to work to obtain a great fit, granted, some harder than others. But fit it must.
Okay, I could continue, but frankly, I’m exhausted. I’d much rather hear what you have to say.