Friday, July 22, 2011

My fashion evolution.

Hello! My name’s Roxanne and I am the fashion intern at Cleo magazine. I’m a Cape Townian living in Joburg and loving it, I’ll be writing about clothing, style and a most probably bit of John Travolta. 

Princess Diana’s ivory, silk taffeta and antique-lace gown with the near 8m train cascading down the aisle; Belle’s yellow princess dress in that unforgettable ballroom scene from Beauty and the Beast, and Marilyn’s white halter dress billowing seductively over a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch. These iconic moments, paired with their fabulous outfits, have made most girls want to marry a prince, a beast, or perhaps look promiscuous on the streets of downtown Jozi.

These moments got me thinking about the remarkable outfits that have shaped my own life. My first day of preschool, donning a DIY fringe and a gap in my excited smile where my milk teeth were; the dress I wore to my matric dance, paired with too much make-up and heels I had yet to master – they weren’t couture or de rigueur, but nonetheless, unforgettable.

In my life, it wasn’t only the outfits I wore, but the ensembles of my grandmothers and my mother.

My late granny Barbara was a comfort dresser. I recall fondly a trip to the bank in her car that always smelt of the cloves she kept in the ashtray. She wore a bottle-green tracksuit – one of those ‘sporty’ kinds. I think she had one in every colour Woolies had on offer. For a reason unknown to man, or clearly me at the time, this tracksuit later made its way into my closet. I wore it to church with my Power takkies, not Island Style sneakers like the cool kids had, but takkies. I cringe at the horror of this memory, but I smile when I think of how ‘cool and hip’ I felt.

My other grandma was an ‘outfit dresser’. You know those ladies who buy clothing in outfits? She would get her outfits specially made. In one of my favourite black-and-white photographs of her at her engagement party, she’s wearing a matching skirt and jacket suit, apparently in peppermint green. I remember being younger and wanting to wear lady suits. I wanted to look fancy. As my grandma married and had children (at the ripe old age of 19, as one did) she retained her immaculate dressing; although, looking through the photo albums, I think she went through a brief sabbatical around the time she and my granddad wore matching T-shirts with their names on them, and then had their three kids wear them too.

I don’t know why, but later in life (while I was still wearing my sporty tracksuits and takkies) my grandma threw out most of her outfits, along with an extensive hat collection and a fabulous white polyester jumpsuit. The only piece I managed to salvage is a bright blue party dress with smocked sleeves, which I adore, but have to be very careful to keep away from smoke – because where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and no more 100% polyester heirloom.

As kids, my big sister Jenna and I had a magical dress-up box. High heels, velvet hats and big clip-on earrings were always first choice. Most of our dress-up clothes were my mother’s once upon a time.

Being girlie girls who loved the finer things in life, as well as the dirtier, the heels were scuffed, hats stained and beads used as spaghetti while playing ‘cook cook’ in the birds’ bath. The few things she did manage to save were discovered by Jenna and I during our teen phase, which went hand in hand with DIY bad fashion. I cut my mom’s gorgeous maxi skirts into uncomfortable minis, and attempted to sew one half of a blouse onto another – only to realise half way through the project that it was a terrible idea.

I still have a lot of my mother’s scarves, which I wore throughout college around my neck and now around my hair. The first dress she ever made is hanging in my cupboard, a checked pinafore I love. My younger sister Adrienne is now wearing Mom’s school dresses to parties. There’s a beautiful white silk suit in the spare room cupboard at home, which none of us will touch; partly because we don’t want to be mistaken for the long-lost member of Duran Duran, but mostly because we haven’t reached that level of sophistication in our dressing. One day ...

I owe my career in fashion to the ladies in my life who showed what not to wear, and how to wear what you should be wearing. To them, and to my fascination with a career that seemed too pretty to be hard work. (I’m slowly learning that it is hard work making things pretty, and looking pretty doing it.) I aim to keep most of my clothes for my own brats one day, so that they can be the Carrie Bradshaw of the next generation. After all, I got it from my Mamma.

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