Do you make resolutions to celebrate the New Year? I do, and I actually keep them. So I know that 2015 is going to be a stylish and amazing year.
2014 was the year of giving up Pefection. I struggled with this a bit, but it was a useful mantra to have as I navigated unpacking (or not unpacking) moving boxes, and facing the realities of juggling work and kids without a maid (strangely, not many people in Australia feel sorry for me on that one). The year played out according to theme in surprising ways; in the end I relinquished perfection and embraced freedom and change, even if I still find myself struggling to ‘Let it Go’ (yes, that Frozen theme song has resonated with me, which is lucky because it is Little A’s high-powered favourite).
As part of year of giving up Perfection, I embraced buying no more clothing for a year. You see when the removalists visited in January, I was positively shocked by the amount of clothing I had. As I went through my wardrobe it all tumbled out; pre-baby clothing, post-baby clothing, never worn clothing, formal outfits clothing, and then the things I wore over and over. Actually, this challenge was not hard at all to keep: as one kind friend noted, none of my Canberra work colleagues or friends had seen me for three and a half years and would not also have seen my clothes. And I had a lot of material to work with. My amazing sister also gifted me a lot.
And now I have declared that 2015 will be the year of Style. You might think this is a contradiction, but Style is different to Perfection. Perfection is what you do when you are harsh on yourself, when you don’t practice self-love and respect, and when you worry about getting unimportant details wrong rather than than the bigger picture. Style is more about your bearing, the way you hold yourself up and say to the world that you have standards. Like always dressing to the occasion, always carrying a clean handkerchief and being the sort of person who remembers to write thank-you cards after a dinner party.
My 2015 theme has been inspired by my friend and neighbour Sue, who is teaching me to sew. One evening she shared with me a binder of patterns from 1954: Lutterloh’s Golden Rule. Let me share with you some of the advice for women of that era:
How to dress from the morning to the evening
“Fine feathers make fine birds,” says the proverb, but is it only clothes rich and expensive that lend a woman smartness in appearance? Does it not matter that the dress is chosen rightly in reference to shape, colour and cut and that the woman knows how to determine with instinct for the various garments for the occasions during the day, thus displaying culture and personality. It is especially through simplicity and discretion of the attire that the elegant woman attracts attention, and not through exaggeration and showiness.
The introduction then goes on, with considerable detail, to direct the type of materials that a woman’s morning gown can be made of and how to wear it. The lady would then slip into a tailored suit, with hat and gloves, when venturing out for errands before slipping into a ‘tea gown’ (worn with a becoming little hat). It advises that the ever popular black enjoys great popularity especially in the ranks of the stouter ladies. Young ladies do well with dainty silk dresses in pastel for evening dances.
Perhaps this advice is not quite in keeping with modern life (I can’t imagine, for instance, wearing a pinafore to work so as not to get my clothes dirty). And I don’t want to replicate the 1950s housewife lifestyle: I enjoy my modern career and 21st century freedoms. But there is something charming about this advice about how to look good, coming from an age where most women sewed their own dresses. Over Christmas, my Dad told me how his mother (who was a widow with four children and a farm to run as well) used to sew all her own clothes and was always elegantly and immaculately dressed. My Dad said the whole family was the best dressed in their district.
So how do I plan to implement the Year of Style 2015 (aka #YearStyle15)?
- Reduce weight and feel great. A stylish woman is not a glutton: my grandmother used to say that a woman should always leave the table feeling half full. So I plan to continue my frugal weight-reduction plan, which has already yielded some results, with vigour.
- Sew and make my own clothes. I am half way through making a tea-dress with Sue. Over Christmas, my stepmother patiently showed me how to make a pair of pajamas for Big A — he was so excited to have something made by Mummy. I have also just started knitting a 1954 pattern for a children’s mock-cable jumper. I think Big A and Little A will look very smart in matching jumpers, and I will be able to slip into something more comfortable of an evening. Sometimes it is easier and cheaper to buy from an op shop or online: but making things yourself adds a certain flare of individuality. It also helps you appreciate the style and workmanship of off-the-rack items.
- Maintaining the utmost standards of integrity and honesty. I think I do this already, at least I strive to, but integral Style will also be my focus. Style is not just about how you look, but how you conduct yourself.
- Expressing appreciation. I was fortunate to conduct a Dale Carnegie Executive Leadership course in Taipei by John Hei (who has since retired, well almost). One of the exercises on the course was showing sincere appreciation for other people by writing them cards and giving it to them. It was a powerful lesson. I plan to do another Dale Carnegie course this year.
- Frugal style. There is a difference between frugality and being mean with your money. I plan to exemplify the virtues of hard work, industry, thrift and frugality that were more common in my grandmother’s era — it can be Stylish to be frugal. I have always been a frugalista, but this year my aim will be to reduce our food and grocery bill to $12 a day (currently $15 a day). $3 a day might sound like it is not worth bothering about, but it amounts to $21 a week, $84 a month and $1,095 a year — not accounting for the benefits of compound interest. We don’t do without good food; although we do reduce junk and packaged stuff. Who wants to joint me – #Frugal15
Wishing all my readers a Happy New Year of goals and dreams fulfilled.