Spring is here, the sun is shining, and it looks as though, finally, the threat of Covid -19 is slowly fading away to a more tolerable level.
There is joy at the thought of being able to live more freely and more spontaneously than we have in the past two years. Some of us have had at least two vaxxes, maybe even a booster and heaven knows we can use more protection but, we will proceed with perhaps some caution (like still wearing masks) to enjoy living in the present again.
And how better to start to show that joy than in what we wear. Even without the pandemic, spring has always been the harbinger of fashion. The long, often sunless, winter has always given way to a longing for colour and it goes without saying that the new spring fashions traditionally abound in glorious hues. This year, some designers have even come up with neon bright oranges and yellows. But, as we know, although not for everyone, they may certainly be used to great effect in accessories.
But, first, are you ready to elevate your wardrobe? These past two years, I have come to my senses. Frustrated at not being able to shop at will when the malls closed, I often inspected my closet. And, in doing so, I realized I can be in fashion without spending the savings I had made from not shopping!. Oh, joy!
I now am able to do this because, after years of buying on impulse, I finally matured and started shopping mindfully. I realized that there are basics that are the foundation of any woman’s wardrobe. I ask myself: 1) Do I really need this? 2) Does it fit properly - yes, try it on.3) Is it well made, what is it made of? I still windowshop - it is always fun to see what stores and boutiques consider fashionable. I also make it a point to go to high-end stores to see more expensive articles. What makes them better quality? If I see something that I would like to keep for many seasons, I will try to find the same look at a less expensive but just as fashionable store.
A timeless, classic look is a good place to start: a simple cut, neutral colours and natural fabrics like cotton, silk, wool and linen, crafted in an elegant, minimalist style. An outfit like this can be worn in different ways using the right accessories. Natural materials feel comfortable on the skin and, if taken care of, will last for a very long time. Longevity is very important. Today, we are thinking green, we are more aware of sustainability and are developing an aversion to waste. Who would have thought that there would be a desirable market for used clothing and accessories - consignment high-end boutiques where you can buy designer clothing, handbags, shoes, among other things, “gently used” or better still, “pre-loved” for several hundred dollars (maybe even a couple of thousand dollars) less than what they originally sold for. (I have gone into a couple of these stores and, being only a curious passerby and not a serious buyer, did not question the authenticity of the articles.)
But there is no need to go to a second-hand store. There are other ways that do not involve buying or selling. When my children were still in grade school, I opened our front door one morning to see a box of children’s clothes on the porch. They were from our next-door neighbor, gratis et amore. Her teenage children had outgrown them, and the clothes were quite like new. It was such a thoughtful gesture of sharing that I have done the same.
Hand-me-downs do not carry the same stigma that they used to. In our family, pre-owned by another member could give it some cachet. When my daughter visits, she always goes through my closet and asks if she can have a skirt, a handbag, something anyway (that I love, of course) and I right away say, “Nooooo!” And her father - my husband- says, “Give it to her!’ And, of course, I do. I also am sometimes a recipient (also from two generous daughters-in-law ), although I often say, “But isn’t this too young for me?? “ And the reply, thank god, is “No”. The icing on the cake came last summer. While visiting our daughter in Stockholm last summer, our eldest granddaughter, who just turned 14, came to me with a pair of sandals and said, Lola, ‘Try these on? They don’t fit me anymore’. Sure enough, they fit me (and I can’t wait to wear them this summer). Back home a few days later on Zoom, she did a pirouette and said, “Look, Lola, this is now my favorite shirt. Can I have it?”It was a black pullover I had left behind. Needless to say, I was only too happy, and flattered, that she liked it - it fit her and she wanted it!!
Speaking of black,it is my go-to colour. It is very versatile, it can be dressed up or down, it can be casual or dressy, and can be worn with other hues. I find that it saves me time deciding what to wear and how to wear it. Of course, not everyone likes black but there are other neutrals, like ecru or blue or gray, that can be worn with other colour combinations and accessories that give it a new look. The important thing is that you like it and that it suits you.
While googling fashion and design, I re-discovered a Filipino couturier with such a minimalist aesthetic. For those of you who remember Joeffer Caoc, he is still in the fashion scene. A three-time recipient of the Canadian Designer of the Year Award in the early 2000s, he had collaborated in business ventures with luminaries such as Belinda Stronach and LidaBaday before striking out on his own in 2005. His classic creations, known for their meticulous tailoring balanced with unconventional features, are manufactured right here in Canada.
Joeffer, however, does not sell directly to individual customers. His lines are carried by a wholesaler and sold to exclusive boutiques in the United States. He is hiding in plain sight and, hopefully, he will once again share his discerning taste and make his women’s wear more available locally. Only one store in Toronto carries his clothes, Hangar 9, at First Canadian Place. Perhaps the price tags on these clothes – from around $300 to $1000 - are not within many buyers’ pocketbooks. But they can be well worth it.
Classic styling, natural fabric and timeless appeal will take you through many seasons. When I wear an item that I once had considered expensive, I divide the cost by the number of years that I’ve owned it and think, ’Hey, I am saving myself a lot of money”. When I think that my children or grandchildren would want to at least borrow it – or that I can donate it eventually to a charitable organization – I feel a little proud that I am saving the earth by not constantly contributing to landfills.
If you can, buy the best you can afford. But, for fun, welcome the warmer weather and sunny days with a colourful accessory, an orange tee perhaps, or a lime-green clutch that won’t break the bank. And enjoy this short-lived spring.