Sunday, 24 November 2013


When I was a little girl I was somewhat quirky, and I was never afraid to speak my mind.


OK, nothing's changed.

But the point is, I did notice things, I did form opinions on things, independent of what anyone else told me, and if asked my opinion, you got it. Except, I was taught to be polite.

I was well brought up. I was taught to be grateful for anything I was given, to look happy with what I received, to smile, to say thank you.

I was also taught to tell the truth.

This is a terrible conundrum for a child. Tact is a difficult thing at the best of times, we all put our foot in it at times, but when you are 7 years old it is really, really complicated, and sometimes............well, I just gave up.

My aunt, who wasn't an aunt, but an honorary aunt (the best kind, IMHO) thought she knew me really well. She knew I was a tomboy. She knew not to buy me dresses. She knew I preferred trousers, and things I could get dirty and climb trees in. Bless her. She tried so hard. She bought me a pair of hardwearing trousers, and they came with a little speech about how much she knew I hated dresses, etc etc. She looked so pleased with herself as she handed them over, and I was thinking I was getting jeans or corduroy, which I lived in.

As I opened the package I felt like I had a stone in my stomach. I didn't even want to look up, for fear that I might look less than pleased. I was a lot less than pleased. I was horrified. They were hideous. I wouldn't even have lined my rabbit cage with them. I wrestled between being honest and being grateful, for what felt like 100 years, but was actually just long enough for her to notice. A really, really loud hesitation. I pretended to be grateful, she pretended to believe me, but we both knew.....

Anyway, we both got over it.

Let's jump forward about 10 years. I had just left school and I went into my first job. The people I worked with were very nice, but one of them became a firm friend, despite being 10 years older than me. She was huge fun, clever, warm, and very, very fashion conscious. Particular too. Every morning she'd roll sellotape backwards round her hand and pat herself all over to remove animal hair/fluff/whatever. I dunno. I never saw any. I was probably covered in cat fur and oblivious. Her shoes were always shiny, her hair was always perfect, but she never came off as vain or anything, just elegant. She didn't take herself seriously, she was just well-groomed. I was good to go if I didn't have food down my shirt.

One day she came in in a new skirt and did a twirl. "What do you think?"

I guess my face was a picture, because I was looking at exactly the same fabric as those god-awful trousers.

Torn again between honesty and politeness, I decided I was a big girl now, we were good pals, and I could approach this in a rather clever way. I very proudly told her "Well, it's a nice skirt except that fabric isn't a favourite of mine."

I swear to you her mouth fell open so far I could see her tonsils.



"EVERYBODY loves Houndstooth! It's a classic!"

And in my head all I could hear was "It's fucking ugly." But I managed to keep it inside.

She never let me forget that. She wasn't offended, she was shocked. How could anyone, even that little punk Melanie, not like Houndstooth? It was some sort of fashion crime to not appreciate it.

I discovered then that some things are sort of sacred. Your taste (or lack of it) doesn't count. It has a prestige, and if you aren't on that particular bandwagon then clearly you have no taste.

I still hate Houndstooth. I think I was supposed to at least grow into it. A maturity thing. Well, it didn't happen.

It wasn't alone. The famous Burberry design, which was originally rather upper class, and more recently became popular among the lowest classes, still somehow has that same status. I hate it.

Then there's polka dots. Yeuk.

Black and white checkerboard. Bleargh.

And now we have a whole new era of really nasty designs.

This sort of thing, very popular, totally hideous:

Or this sort of thing:

Or this:

Anyway, enough of that, I've recently eaten.

I go shopping and I can't find anything appealing. Even buying a bag is hard. They have fucking writing all over them.

Or not quite writing, but may as well be:

I want you to understand, that I'm not just saying this doesn't appeal to me, I want to express this accurately. If I didn't know better, I'd think this was a joke. It is so incredibly ugly, I would rather use a Wal-Mart grocery bag.

I am fully aware I'm in a minority, because I'm seeing ugliness everywhere I go just lately. If it's not the hideous patterns, it's revolting colours, or styles.


Yesterday Rhiannon and I did a craft show. We do not live in a high-trend area, not by any standards, so what I was seeing isn't "the latest look" and was probably quite tame, but I don't get out much, and so it was people watching paradise. We do actually have photos, thanks to Brennan who got bored and amused himself by taking hundreds of photos. But I think it would be quite wrong to show you the people I'm going to critique.

1. Ordinary looking woman. Brown short sleeved sweater, very boring actually, but teamed with a skirt that was 2/3 plain, and then had random patches of fabric attached round the bottom included pink fur, a piece of old knitwork, and a piece of denim that wasn't even square. I couldn't take my eyes off that skirt. I've seen nicer garments on crazy people who live in dumpsters.

2. Very tall woman, which accentuated everything. Very BEAUTIFUL woman, which added to my confusion. She wore a long tunic, quite plain, under which she wore two skirts of different lengths, some trousers with the widest legs I've ever seen in my life, and leather clogs. I've heard of the layered look, but I'm sure that's not what it means.

It wasn't just the clothes. I saw a buyer leaving with an old window frame, painted pale pink and with a bit of deep pink lace would round it in places, covered in chicken wire, and with about half a dozen multicoloured (and all different) bows attached to the wire. One was made from feathers. I couldn't invent that for a joke, I couldn't. My imagination isn't that deranged, and I'm not taking LSD for the sake of art. No.

Somebody pointed out to me today that fashion is art.

So is this:

The infamous bricks in the Tate gallery in London, have come to symbolize art for art's sake. The gallery spent a small fortune on this, and the media had a field day.

Details here for those unfamiliar with the story:

It's all very well saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but doesn't there come a point where it's less about esthetics and more about...well, what is it? Is this an Emperor's New Clothes scenario, or something even worse?

Maybe I'm just a dreadful cynic but I can't help thinking that people's tastes can be groomed. That if I spilled some paint down my jeans, and tried to sell them for $1,000,000 as a piece of art, I'd be laughed at. But if they featured on a popular movie, that would just be the opening bid.

I believe a lot of what people say they like, or even sincerely believe that they like, is more to do with how they associate it. It looks fresh, it looks expensive, it looks classy, or whatever. What they've been told, in fact. Marketing. Marketing is just brainwashing.

But people like being trendy. Whatever. I like what I like too. I still find it hard to believe anyone likes this:

No, I just don't believe it. Never mind the combination. Never mind the shape of the pants, how the hell can you like the design of that fabric?

I have a friend who is a saint. No, I mean it. When I was very rude about something she made yesterday, she understood, bless her. Except she didn't. It was only after the discussion among those who loved it that it all made sense (or didn't). People were discussing the length, the shape, the style, the colours, etc etc. No, that wasn't it. None of that. I'll come back to that, but it was interesting, again, being the odd one out. Not "getting" the trend.

Of course, I could just shut up and cash in on trends, which is exactly what people do, and I don't blame them one bit. When I sell jewellery I try to stay abreast of trends in taste...which is why I'm stuck with loads of oxblood beads after I believed the fashion pundits last year. They lied. My customers prefer purple.

And I think the same thing is happening to fashion as is happening to food. Food has trends. And right now it's all in the same vein.

See, the designers (of food and clothing) have completely run out of ideas. There is so much variety already, so many options, and so many trends running concurrently. What's the "in" skirt length? Anything. Anything goes right now. There has never been so much choice.

So chefs and designers are putting things together that don't go together. This was my issue yesterday with my friend's technically competant (and well-received) efforts. It was a combination of a geometric patterned hooded knitted sweater (something I would have to be close to death from freezing to wear in the first place) combined with sheer fabrics in stripes. In my head, these things do not go together, but what the hell do I know?

Taken to the it already has been. There are no longer any limits. Neither in fashion, nor food.

"Darling you look FABULOUS in that burlap and pink gingham with fur trim, here, sit down and I'll fetch you a slice of raisin mackerel quiche, and a glass of bacon wine. Sit down on the tartan and paisley sofa, and I'll pull the green alligator skin curtains. I'm not happy with them. I think we need a swag over the top. I know, how about Houndstooth?"


  1. IS there such a thing as being tactfully honest? Sounds like it would be as much of an oxymoron as jumbo shrimp. It isn't easy to balance the conundrum. ;) ~ Blessings! :)

  2. Sometimes it's possible to choose your words in such a way, but it's not easy. Really, the only sure fire way not to be offensive is say nothing, and even that isn't always going to work.

  3. My daughter did not like of the patterns that you showed because they are trendy. I hate to say this and I will deny it if you tell her, but I'm the same way, actually.

    1. So, are you saying that disliking something because it is trendy is just as bad as liking something because it is trendy?