Tag Archives: fashion

The Curious Inconsistency in Clothing

an antique cash registerA few years ago, a group of friends and I went factory outlet shopping to a picturesque location a couple of hours away.

During this trip, I bought two 3-packs of a popular brand of underwear, in the same brand, style and size as I was actually wearing at the time. What could possibly go wrong?

When I returned home a couple of days later, I ran them through the wash.

Even though I didn’t do anything differently than I did with the underwear purchased previously, when I tried on my new skivvies, I had to look at the packaging again to make sure I didn’t accidentally buy boy’s size medium. My legs were choking from the lack of circulation… And my waistline… well…

It is true that as I got older, my weight did see slight fluctuations, but definitely not enough to graduate to the next size up in undergarments.

I also admit that it only takes one salty meal to have me retaining water like a sponge. But then again, not to the point of going beyond the allowable stretchiness of a poly-cotton blend.

Unless I could suddenly lose something like 40% of my body weight, there was no way I could make use of these new undies.

My emotions ran from sadness to irritation (and not just from the underwear that was chafing as I breathed). Continue reading

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When Food is Flying

Back in my working days, I used to think of myself as the king of batch cooking. On any given weekend, I would roll up my sleeves and slice, dice, chop, fry, bake, roast or braise any number of food items in preparation for the work week ahead.

I would place the completed meals into small microwave-safe containers, label them and then freeze them. It often felt like cooking for a platoon, preparing two or three recipes at the same time and ending up with 12 to 15 prepared meals, but it worked for me. As a result, during the work week, I barely had to think about lunches and dinners. To me, it was a pretty efficient system for cooking for one.

During those marathon sessions of cooking, I picked up the habit of cleaning the kitchen as I went along to avoid a mountain of dishes and a bad case of “kitchen claustrophobia”. Just the same, when food prep day was done, I could do one final kitchen clean up and then toss whatever I was wearing into the laundry hamper.

The reality is that despite my meticulousness when cooking and cleaning up, I often ended up wearing some of my ingredients. Call me an enthusiastic chef!

After moving to the country with my partner, I quickly adapted to cooking for two, as we took turns in meal preparation. Continue reading

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Farewell My Long Johns

Scene of a winter wonderlandHave you ever noticed how there are some things that are so important at certain stages of our lives yet much less important in others?

This observation came to me when I unpacked a box marked “winter clothes” and discovered a veritable treasure trove of long underwear.

Given the number and variety of styles and fabrics contained in that box, you’d think I was stocking up for the next ice age or potentially planning to design a wardrobe of superhero costumes.

In the ensuing walk down memory lane, I recalled how “long johns”, as we referred to them, were an essential article of clothing in childhood.

Back in school, on winter days when Ottawa lived up to its title as one of the coldest capitals in the world, they offered an extra layer of protection under my clothing during recess.

On winter weekends, whether my family was outside, skating on the Rideau Canal or enjoying the fresh powder on the nearby ski slopes, long johns under my snow pants were an essential for keeping extra warm. Continue reading

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Post-Lockdown: What to Wear?

When I was recently out running socially distanced, masked, heavily hand sanitized errands, I was delighted when a store clerk asked, “Well aren’t we dressed up for shopping. Special occasion?”

I wasn’t fishing for a compliment, but thanks to Covid-19 and so many months of only going out for essential errands, I hadn’t received a compliment on an outfit in ages. What a thrill!

But in a senior’s moment, I had to take a look down to remind myself of what I was wearing. Everything was as I remembered it: a plain black t-shirt, plain black jeans, a jean jacket and a favourite pair of Chelsea boots.

I admit that I did give it about 15 seconds of thought when I chose the pieces, but it wasn’t so much in an effort to make a fashion statement as it was more of a strategic move to prevent the accidental mixing of a dark navy blue t-shirt with black jeans. One never knows when the fashion police might be lurking.

I replied jokingly (but deep down, quite seriously), “After being in lockdown for so long, it’s just such a thrill to be wearing clothes again instead of sweats. Going out for any reason is a special occasion!” Continue reading

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The Final Cut: From Clippers to Shaver

It was on the eve of my 54th birthday, facing the next instalment in my every-two-weeks haircut when I asked myself, “Why not? If I don’t like it, it will grow back.”

I explored electric razors with the plan to shave my scalp for the first time. But when I say “first time”, the reality is that the transition to this point has been more than a decade in the making.

When I accepted that my hair was slowly slipping away due to male pattern baldness, rather than finding creative ways of covering up my slowly increasing Friar Tuck look, I started the slow transition of shorter haircuts.

My last attempt at long hair that ended up looking like Peppermint Patty was trimmed to a neat professional look. For a while after that, I took a bit of a detour into a faux-hawk look, which I consider my last actual “hair style”.

But when more scalp was peeking through the back of my head, to me, it was time. In every subsequent scissor cut, I went a little shorter every time. After that, it was the clipper cut countdown, starting with a “number four” with much trepidation.

The nervousness quickly disappeared through my immense enjoyment of the freedom from hair products and blow dryers, and in the reclaiming of time in the morning. The fact that a visit to the barber was now an efficient and record-breaking 7 minutes in duration was a pleasure in itself. Continue reading

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When Did Taking Turns Go Out of Style?

“Could I help the next person in line?” the cashier yelled as she opened her checkout line.

I was the next person in line.

But before I had time to take my three small items off the conveyor belt, the two people behind me had scurried over to the new checkout line like rats running with a slice of pizza in a New York subway.

I had no opportunity to take my rightful place in the line of the new checkout.

Still, I stood there horrified. Compounded by the aggressiveness and determination with which the two people behind me jumped over, I wasn’t sure if I was witnessing a scene at a grocery store or a National Geographic special featuring lions closing in on their prey.

Back when I was a kid, that offence would have been worthy of a time-out and one or two weeks’ allowance. As well, it would have been compounded with a guilt trip started by a long glare with disappointed eyes and a suspiciously calm, “Didn’t I raise you better than that?”

I’ll never forget those times… wonderful childhood memories!

But also, important life lessons.

Yet, on a daily basis, the underlying “Me first, and screw everybody else” self-entitled attitude bewilders me. I see it on the roads, I see it in malls, I see it on vacation… I see it pretty much everywhere. Continue reading

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My Top 10 Favourite Halloween Costumes

Over the years, I haven’t been one to shy away from dressing up for Halloween (… or any other day of the year, when the occasion called for it). I have always found it to be a lot of fun to step out of character for a day and take on another persona for the pure fun it.

Over the course of a half-century, I have had plenty of opportunities to try on different costumes. What surprises me is that the ones that seem to be the most memorable were not necessarily the store-bought ones, but the ones that involved an injection of creativity to complete the look.

Here are a few of my favourites:

10. Bugs Bunny

The most memorable store-bought costume had to be my favourite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny. Because I wasn’t in growth spurts around that time, I am pretty sure I wore it for (at least) two consecutive Halloweens.

It was pretty simple really, a grey polyester jumpsuit with a white chest and belly that I could hop in and out of in seconds, and a plastic mask with a little elastic in the back that needed a little reinforcing for the second year.

Add a carrot, fresh from our garden, with the stems still on and I was as happy as a clam. It really was a simple pleasure.

9. Groucho Marx

Inspired from an episode of “All in the Family” where Mike and Gloria were dressed up as Groucho and Harpo Marx, Mom helped me make a home-made Groucho Marx outfit. For the costume, she raided my parents’ closet for a white shirt, jacket and pants that would appear baggy on me, and then drew on a moustache and bushy eyebrows. Combined with plastic glasses and a plastic cigar from my toy box, and a repertoire of horrible jokes, it was an easy yet effective home-made costume that was a lot of fun. Continue reading

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Jeans and the Generation Gap

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my love-hate relationship with my iron in a tribute to my Dad and his crisp office shirts.

In that same train of thought, when growing up in the 1970’s, while in school in the 1980’s, and when launching my career in the 1990’s, the expectation was to have clean, neat and crisp clothes anytime I set foot outside the house, because “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Even if we look back at pictures from that era and question the wisdom of some of our fashion choices, neat and tidy clothing were a common denominator.

My parents’ suit-and-tie generation set the bar pretty high, even for a child. Clothes were meant to be worn gently, and maintained carefully to keep looking new as long as possible. The rotation generally went like this: every September, we got me new school clothes and the previous year’s school clothes (if I hadn’t outgrown them yet) became the “play clothes”, for wearing as soon as I got home from school. When a new batch of school clothes came in, a batch of gently-used play clothes would go to charity.

Along the way, a little nick in clothing meant taking out the needle and thread and try to make an invisible repair to restore it to its original beauty. And if invisible mending wasn’t successful, it went into the donation box.

That’s just the way I was brainwashed… I mean, brought up. It wasn’t just my parents’ generation that instilled this way of thinking, but it was my grandparents’ generation too who declared open war on wrinkles and holes long before I was born. And just think of the staff on Downtown Abbey and how many items they’ve darned and mended through their six seasons.

About 10 years ago, I let myself get talked into buying a distressed pair of brand name jeans with a few strategically-placed pulled threads. I can’t tell you what a struggle it was each time to convince myself to wear them and that I supposedly looked like a cool, edgy, fashion-forward 40 year old. I may have looked it, but I certainly didn’t feel it. Continue reading

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Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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My Writer’s Uniform

For as long as I can remember, spring and fall were usually times to head back to the malls and hunt for a few new items of clothing to refresh the wardrobe.

I would assume that the timing has its origins back to childhood when fall meant “back to school” and spring meant replacing the t-shirts and shorts I outgrew from the previous season. Even though I haven’t set foot in a classroom in years and “outgrowing” holds a different meaning today, the traditions of shopping for spring and fall fashion stuck with me.

But the paradigm of seasonal shopping is starting to shift. With retirement just a few years away, my clothing needs are changing.

I would like to think that until now, for my work life and my social life, I had cultivated a look that struck the right balance between the office dress code, what allowed me to feel comfortable and confident and what pleased me personally.

I developed a uniform of separates I truly loved, that fit me the way I wanted. Through carefully selected long sleeved shirts, sweaters, blazers, dress pants, cotton pants, jeans, shoes, and socks of all colours, it was very easy to mix and match the pieces to achieve a multitude of looks, appropriate for the weather, the occasion, and how I felt on a given day.

I also had on hand the obligatory suits for interviews, weddings and funerals.

Similarly, I knew exactly which pieces traveled better than others, which took the guesswork out of packing for a trip. Continue reading

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