I have long used fashion as therapy, as a cure for what ails me. By fashion therapy, I don’t mean shopping and buying new clothes, although I have been known to resort to retail therapy. No, I mean dreaming of clothes, not necessarily buying them.
Clothes dreaming has helped me through many a difficult life situation. When I languished for weeks in ratty pyjamas the summer I had shingles, I dreamed of what I’d wear when I was able to tolerate wearing real clothes again. Back in the eighties when my life changed course drastically after I quit my job, put all my furniture in storage, and returned to New Brunswick for a year, I’d lie in bed at my parent’s house wondering if I had made a huge mistake. And I’d think of my much loved suede skirt suit hanging in the closet. And I’d be reassured that I was still myself, just on a new course. I know that sounds horribly shallow. But there we have it. Clothes have always been a useful therapy for me.
When I was an insecure teenager, a well fitting pair of jeans was a sort of armour. Just like that suede suit when I was an insecure twenty-something. And in later years, when I was not so insecure, dreaming up outfits took my mind off my pain, both physical and emotional.
This past week, I’ve been dreaming of fall fashion. Big time. Partly because fall is approaching, and I’m excited to wear my sweaters and jackets. And partly because being at home in New Brunswick was a bit fraught. Mum turned 95 when I was home. She enjoyed her cake, and the visits from friends and family, but otherwise, this has not been a good time for her. Not good for my sister who is her full-time carer. Or for those lovely ladies who arrive twice a day to help out. Or for me. Family dynamics are always complex, I know, for all of us. So I won’t belabour the point. Just know that flying home to Ottawa on Thursday was both joyful and guilt-inducing at the same time. Poor Hubby.
But I didn’t want this post to be about the pain. Just about the antidote. Fashion as therapy for what ails me.
Fashion as therapy can take several forms. It may involve looking at fashion photos and videos, using magazines and, in the past few years, online fashion shows as sources of inspiration. It may involve dreamily anticipating the seasonal changeover of my closet.
For years the seasonal changeover was a well-oiled process: I listed what I owned and would wear again, did my trend research, planned how I wanted to wear what I already owned, and made a list of what I needed or wanted to update my closet. In the past, this was followed by a visit to my friend Liz at Holt Renfrew where she was the personal shopper. How cathartic to spend the afternoon with Liz and my list. Worrying thoughts of the impending school year, book budgets, lesson plans, and timetables would be banished by fall fashion immersion therapy.
These days, I spend my fall fashion immersion day in my own closet. I still list what I have and will wear. But my list of what I need or want is very short, and at times non-existent. Especially after I embraced slow fashion. Nowadays it’s all about how to morph what I have into what I want to wear, and how I want to look. I’m particularly excited to plan fall outfits this year using my newly identified “three style words.”
This past week, I mentally took inventory of my fall closet as I walked the trail in New Brunswick. At the airport in Fredericton I listened to the latest Tibi Style Class video with Amy Smilovic. I don’t have the same style as Amy or her co-workers, but I love to listen to the fashion chat, and imagine how to use their style tips in ways that would work for me.
For the last day or so, I’ve been revelling in fall fashion shows on YouTube while I’m on my exercise bike. Especially the Chanel Fall and Winter 2022-2023. Many of the big high-profile fashion shows leave me cold. And I’ve never been much of a Chanel fan. But this one captured my imagination in a big way.
The Chanel website describes this collection as “a luminous tribute to the landscape of the River Tweed so dear to Gabrielle Chanel.” And goes on to say that “Virginie Viard pays homage to tweed, an eternal code of the House of CHANEL.”
I swear, I watched this show three times in a row. And I loved everything about Virginie Viard’s vision for Fall-Winter 2022. I’m not about to run out and buy some Chanel tweed. Nor even to wear the tweed I own in exactly the same way as the models in this show. But I must say, I loved watching this. I smiled throughout.
I think it’s the irony I love most.
The romantic background music could have been the soundtrack for a 1930’s ultra glamorous show, the kind where a vendeuse describes each gown as a rail-thin model wafts among the prospective buyers. Have you watched that old TV series House of Elliott? Well, like that. But in this case the music accompanies a parade of girls mostly in tweed skirts and jackets, thick socks, and short wellies. Romantic music and wellies… so ironic. The oversize blazers and coats, sweaters over turtlenecks, and bulky bomber jackets make me think of drafty highland country houses. Upper class but not wealthy. Like the Mitfords. Low-heeled pumps and pointy-toed flats, hair held back with barrettes. Nothing is overdone, except maybe the layers of necklaces, and even those seem tossed on. As they are supposed to seem. These are clothes that say, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Chanel designer, Virginie Viard, below, looks as if she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She looks so, well, approachable, and easy. As if she is comfortable in her own skin. Like Amy Smilovic and Phoebe Philo, Virginie Viard seems to embody how I want fashion to be. Fun, but not ridiculous. Creative without being over the top. Wearable. Real.
These women designers look the way I want to look. Not literally. I don’t want to dress exactly like they do. But I want to look like I don’t take myself too seriously. Which I don’t. I want to feel comfortable. But modern. Current without looking as if I’ve tried too hard. Perhaps a bit looser than in the past, maybe even a bit thrown together. Like Amy says, creative but pragmatic. Take the model in the turtleneck, tweed jacket, and sparkly pants, above. She looks as if she dressed for warmth as much as style. Maybe she’s hosting a dinner party at her country house, so she wants to glam up a bit. But the family pile is colder than blazes, hence the turtleneck and jacket.
If I owned sparkly pants, I’d want to wear them just like that.
But of course I have no need of sparkly pants. Neither am I likely to wear woollen socks and rubber boots with my skirts. Nor to pin my hair back with a barette. It’s the overall vibe of this show that has appealed to me. And which has me thinking of how I want to wear what I already have in my closet.
Have a look at the video yourself, if you’re interested.
So yeah, I’ve been dreaming of tweed this week. And using fashion as therapy for what ails me. Like a nice cup of tea and a gentle read, dreaming of clothes usually sets me straight.
And, of course, now I am well and truly excited for fall to arrive.
How about you my friends? Does fashion as therapy appeal to you? Or when you’re stressed or worried or fearful does a cup of tea and a good book work its magic? Or maybe, like me, you have many therapies?