You will recall that in 2017 I went on a week long drive around the North Island, having a sort of break from work (I only had to check in to work on one day of the week, which was an improvement on previous holidays that year). This little pootle around in my car (which we call Toot) led me to the “experience” that is Sylvia Park. Shopping malls both disgust and delight me, being the snob that I now am as a fancy professional in my 30s. They’re a weird experience if you’ve spent most of your shopping time over the past 17 years walking along Lambton Quay, battling rain or wind or too much sun in your pursuit of a pair of shoes that you can wear to work. I think of malls like the KFC of shopping – you know they’re not really good, but they’re convenient and quick. As an occasional treat, they’re okay, as a major part of your fashion diet, they will make you unhappy.
I went for one reason: I’d lost my camera remote, and without it I was looking at a week of using the burst function on my camera to take blog photos which is a fate worse than the mall. I figured I’d boost to the electronics store quick-smart, buy a remote, and be on my way. Welp. First of all, I had to walk further from my car to the electronics store than I would walk to get from my house to my office (or at least it felt further. There was a lot of visual stimulation and no way to track the passage of time). Then at that store, I waited patiently for 10 minutes to talk to the “camera expert”, who used that amazing expertise to tell me I could order a remote online and have it delivered in 2-5 business days.
In short, I was IN NO MOOD when I left the electronics store. I had spent way more time in weird twilight land than I had planned, and I didn’t even have an artificially-flavoured beverage to show for it. When I saw Zara, I was ready for the soothing experience of harshly judging fast fashion, and so I moseyed in to “see what they had to offer – it’s practically blog research”. Zara is a prime example of everything that is my mall experience. It’s lauded on the fashion bit of the internet, you practically can’t move on YouTube for the Zara haul videos, and yet every time I go in there, there’s one thing I really like and 99,000 things that make my face hurt. I’ve been burned so many times by my dream of finding inspiration in Zara. If this was a relationship with a man, I’d have gotten drunk with my best friend and deleted his number by now.
At least this time I was somewhat emotionally prepared for disappointment/in the mood to critique rather than to shop. My (low) expectations were being met, and I was snickering at some kind of weird tracksuit dress thing, when I saw a sliver of red out of the corner of my eye. Now, red is the worst colour to buy new. The dye is incredibly toxic, and my Dad gave me and my brother a pep talk about the garment dying industry in China that made me feel real guilt and sadness that included a specific shout out to the shit show that is the rivers running red with dye.
HOWEVER, this pep talk came too late to prevent me from buying this red gingham skirt. I love red. I don’t love gingham, but I don’t hate it. The skirt has Many Ruffles and Many Buttons and I’d had to deal with Auckland traffic and an annoying person, and I still didn’t have a camera remote. I can’t even really say I decided to buy the skirt – it was basically an out of body experience that ended with me trudging the 7,000 miles back to my car, now holding a very small Zara bag. If you’re troubled by this, let’s be grateful it was a Zara I strolled into, and not a pet store. I’d probably be the proud owner of an iguana right now.
Gingham is, generally, a cheap fabric, which when it’s not enjoying one of its ten-yearly surges in popularity is pretty much used for three things in my part of the world: making toiles, making wild west costumes, and making Dorothy outfits for high school productions of The Wizard of Oz. Interestingly, it has rich cultural and traditional meaning in other cultures, but in the decidedly middle New Zealand world I’ve inhabited for all of my life, it pretty much only puts me in mind of picnics, rick-rack and fake ten gallon hats, and then an exceptionally feminine aesthetic.
While I love a good picnic, I also have a very real aversion to wearing things that a child might wear. This is born of years of being short and having actual ringlets; basically, I fear looking like an overgrown six year old. I do not have the charming personality to pull off something kawaii and sweetly girlish. Perversely, I think it’s the insane mash up of both red gingham and maximum ruffles that made this skirt more “me”. I think it’s too over the top to be sweet, and with that decidedly awkward length I think we’d be hard pressed to say it’s traditionally flattering. It is super duper levels of fun though – I wore this to my work Christmas party with a white tshirt that had “Ciao” across the front in red embroidery, and my pink parakeet earrings, and I give myself an A+ for that get up.
Here I’ve taken the fun down a notch with the best thing I’ve ever bought – a well-fitting plain white shirt that doesn’t gape and isn’t see-through. Mine's from R.M. Williams. Sometimes you need to buy something plain and a bit boring so that you have something to wear with all your red gingham frills. Just make sure you don't buy the one with their little steer head logo embroidered onto it!
Of course, sometimes you buy shiny silver shoes which you think you will only have occasional opportunities to wear, and then you absolutely thrash them because it turns out silver shoes are actually a wardrobe basic. I’m seriously concerned that these shoes are going to get beaten up faster than intended (they are very difficult to look after, due to the metallic finish), but I’ve found a few alternatives in preparation for that moment: here, here and here.