Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Update IV)

April 23, 2010

Yesterday's blazer experiment

How do you engage with the world? Our clothing plays a major role in communicating the nature of our engagement with both society and ourselves. Generally, those who dress ‘fashionably’ have the most to gain from being perceived as ‘plugged in’ to their culture (ie: Vogue interns), while ‘style’ is more an expression of a person’s confident engagement with self (Vogue’s Grace Coddington). It’s no coincidence that the most successful people (according to our culture’s standards) exhibit a combination of both (ie: Michelle Obama).

Yesterday’s outfit was a preliminary experiment in engagement. Which is to say, I wore a blazer around downtown Calgary. Sure, I still had on my jeans and Nike baseball cap, but by replacing my hoodie with a fitted brown velvet blazer, the look was entirely transformed. Not only did I immediately become more conscious of my posture in the structured jacket, but there was also a marked increase in public attention (from both men and women). I felt suddenly more conspicuous, and at the same time, somehow more involved with my streetmates. It was as if they wanted to recognize me as one of their business-class clan, which, of course, would open the door to my being judged by their standards. It was an odd feeling, and I’m not sure yet if I’m open to living it daily. I’ve always relished my role as an observer, especially being a writer, but there’s a power in setting yourself up as an equal – a power that must be explored…

Need to catch up on this Saving Cymbria blog serial?


‘Kinky’ morning bus rides

April 22, 2010

Scene One: He was sitting a few rows ahead of me, legs splayed, owning his corner of the bus seat with the unchallenged authority of a business suit among jeans. The man fairly oozed masculine pride. His newspaper was spread as wide as his knees on the packed rush-hour bus. He turned the page, and I watched him try to shake a kink out of the main article. But in such a tight space, he only worsened the puckering.

Then it happened… Right in front of everyone, the man abandoned all pride (masculine or otherwise), ducked down his head, and poked out the kink with the tip of his nose. What can I say? My day was made~

Scene Two: The jam-packed bus pulled away from the curb. I grabbed hold of the only support within reach, a dangling, flimsy rubber hand-loop. As the blocks lurched by, I did my best to stay vertical. Putting the ol’ brain to work, I improved my stability by twisting/tangling my wrist up into the strap to limit slack, thereby reducing the egregious strains on my musculature. In theory, quite logical. In practice? Nothing like starting the day off hanging like some half-frozen pig carcass in an overloaded butcher’s trailer, swaying gently back and forth…

All well and good till you have to untangle yourself. “Excuse me,” I called out at my stop. The crowd pushed back to let me pass. Or rather, they pushed back to clear a stage for me to completely mortify myself! It took a full five agonizing seconds for me to extricate my arm. Go ahead, count five Mississippis. It’s a loooooong time. And you can bet it’s an infinity to any poor girl caught in an inadvertent S&M scene before breakfast! What can I say? Their day was made~

Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Part Five)

April 20, 2010

How would you define your personal style? Stop what you’re doing and take a peek in your closet… 

My wardrobe... "Self Imposed Utilitarianism"


“Self Imposed Utilitarianism,” was how I described my current style status to a ‘Funky Eclectic’ friend recently. “Why?” she asked, with obvious concern. I mooned on about the after-effects of high school uniforms and about never understanding why Goths and Emos are always so eager for public abuse. 

Truly, I’ve never been able to muster much sympathy for people who expect humanity to throw eons of intrinsic human nature to the wind just because little Gregory wants to ‘express’ himself. If you look different – you get treated different… not rocket science here people. Why fight a basic survival principle? Of course, running screaming from it hasn’t gotten me very far either. 

I’ve always lived my rebellion on the inside, keeping its gestation safe from outside assault. Before my adult uniform of jeans plus solid-colored top, my plaid kilt and white oxford shirt kept the fashion pressure to a minimum in high school and let me blend into a wide variety of peer groups without ever having to label myself. In an interesting aside: my marks shot up a full 10% when I switched from skirt to navy dress pants in grade twelve. It remains a mystery whether this was because my teachers assumed that I was suddenly, spontaneously, more credible, or simply because I happen to be someone who learns better with warm knees. We’ll never know…  

I did, however, let loose for school dances in wild fringed party dresses of my own (not so Catholic school girl) design. I’m still shocked the chaperones never kicked me out! Ah yes, no one ever suspects the band geek in gold lamé… but really, as everyone knows, we’ve got the glass slipper market cornered! And so, pour moi, up to now, fashion has always been about the occasion, about picking the day/night’s character and maxing it out. But what about day to day? Now that I’ve comfortably defined my own character, I’m certainly not about to condemn her to a lifetime of Self Imposed Utilitarianism – the horror! 

Need to catch up on this Saving Cymbria blog serial? 

Note: I made this sketch as a handy, albeit excessively nerdy, shopping aid – Stay tuned.

What happens when CROCS are released into the wild?

April 1, 2010

Adaptive by nature, CROCS are the chameleons of the footwear world. Once released into the wild, they quickly molt free of their urban fluorescents and adopt a more naturalistic palate, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their new surroundings.

Alert and on the lookout for unsuspecting fashion victims, a naturalized CROC lies in wait. Luckily, my Saucony’s scared this little fellow away before any toes (or dignity!) were lost.

Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Update III)

April 1, 2010

My introduction to Crest Whitestrips was brutal. My gums burned. I was slurping and slucking all over the place. Talking was impossible… need I go on? It was intolerable. But then something strange happened. After two weeks of twice a day misery, the process became manageable – even routine. You know, I can’t help wondering what other intolerables I’ve allowed into my life… but maybe that’s a dangerous question. With nothing to overcome, how would we ever move forward?

Need to catch up on this Saving Cymbria blog serial?