Character

Whimsy is nothing new, but when I first saw this shirt in an Instagram post about a year ago I was drawn to it immediately (I was probably about 5 billion clicks deep, so that original inspiration is long gone).  It reminds me of work by Elsa Schiaparelli, which is really more inspired by surrealism than whimsy, but in an age where adult women squeee over hair dyed “like a unicorn!” I think we have to admit we’re only rising to the level of whimsy in this post.  Schiap is at another level. 

I couldn’t immediately track it down, although I did find another adorable option where the collar is two cats reaching out to one another with their paws…not available in my size.  I resigned myself to a life without a shirt with a whimsical central design. 

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In a moment of boredom about a month ago, I once again Googled some random selection of words and this time, the shirt popped up in the image search.  With fingers crossed against all manner of random internet viruses, I clicked through to the original site, something called Shein.  And then I was struck with a crisis of conscience.  As you know, blog readers, I try to focus on local designers and awesome thrifted finds.  I am well aware of the horrible environmental and human cost of fast fashion.  Yet this site was obviously all about that fast fashion life – this shirt was just US$21 (“on sale” from US$24). 

I’ve recently been reading a book called The Road to Character, which is essentially a series of chapters about great figures from human history who are known for having excellent character (that is a terrible summary, but it is an interesting book – although not without flaws).  I think good character is important, and like a variety of other things (including having grit and being kind) I try to work on improving my character – I think these things are a life-long practice.  In this book the author talks about the conflict between what you want to do, and what you know is right, and how, in our modern age, what’s “right for you” is slowly but inexorably replacing a broader understanding of what is “objectively right”.   I know that choosing not to participate in fast fashion at all is “objectively right”. 

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There are two broad approaches to improving your character:

  • be absolutely effing ruthless with yourself, never allow yourself to slip, and absolutely berate yourself for any mistakes; or
  • best efforts.  To know yourself, is to know you’re going to mess up.  You’re going to sometimes cut yourself a break, but you’re going to learn something from it.  Slowly, but surely, those breaks get further and further apart.  Eventually, you’re consistently better than you were.

(Yes, all of this is a preface to justify the bit where I bought the shirt from Shein).

What have I learned?  Well, first of all, Shein makes shirts that have really good sleeves for my short arms.  This is probably the first time in my adult life that my cuffs haven’t been just a little too long.  The fabric is “mystery”, since I can’t read the label, but it ironed nicely (and handled a really hot iron).  However.  Whenever I get a compliment on this shirt, I feel kind of embarrassed.  I still love the design, I’ll definitely wear it (if you’re going to buy it, you gotta wear it), and at least I know I wanted it for a good long time before I purchased it – but there’s still a little bit of glow missing. UGH, ME.  

May this shirt be a reminder next time I’m tempted to buy something cheap and of questionable provenance – the collar might be whimsical AF, but the feeling it gives me is not.

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Shirt: from Shein (I'm including this link because I am not here to make your moral choices for you).  Shoes from Topshop before it left our shores.  Skirt from IAM, the Andrea Moore diffusion line stocked at Farmers, online and at Andrea Moore retail stores.  There's only limited stock now (link here), but stay tuned in the next week or two for the CUTEST co-ord set from the current season.  

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