Serendipity doo dah

In Shopping on January 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm


I have always adored those Vogue articles (mainly in British and US editions) where very rich women talk with great seriousness about how they ‘plan’ their wardrobes for each season and which ‘pieces’ they will be buying for the next one.

I enjoy them on several levels. One is pure amusement. How seriously they take it all. I love clothes, mad about them – that should be obvious to everyone by now – but I find really caring about ‘fashion’ hilarious.

On another level I find those articles very comforting. I love it when anyone else is organised and sorted out about things, even if they are a skinny numbskull married to a mammon-worshipping hedge funder. Somehow it makes me feel like the tide of chaos I constantly fear is about to engulf me can be held at bay a little longer.

Even though Iolanthe’s close relationship with the manageress of the Lanvin boutique has absolutely no impact on my life, knowing that this bond of trust will ensure she gets the sleeveless jacket and 80s fluoro which are so speaking to her this season.

It’s the same comfort so many of us find in stationery shops, hardware stores and haberdashers. Just having a sense of the potential of being organised can help us to endure the random ratshittery of real life.

But while I’m in awe of people who can marshal their seasonal wardrobes according to an organised plan, with regard to my own garb, I find serendipity my best ally. Some of my all-time favourite things have come into my life entirely by fluke.

And I don’t just mean I happened to be walking past the junk shop that had in it my fake leopardskin car coat (the nylons it’s made from lived full lives and were humanely killed…), although that was the most marvellous bit of luck.

But it wasn’t true chance, because I’ll always stop for leopardskin. Along with navy cardigans, dark denim and black dresses, that’s a given, my default shopping settings. The magic of shopping serendipity is when chance makes you stop to consider an item you never would have glanced at in a shop, let along gone looking for.

Some of my best bits have been random hand ons from friends, like the amazing black velvet 1930s dressing gown – a great evening look – I unearthed in a bag of tat my BFF gave me to look through before she took it to a charity shop. She said she’d never worn it. It’s one of my most-treasured things. Could have been tailored for me.

Other serendipitous finds were reader offers in magazines I’ve worked on. I’d never have looked at them in a shop, but when the samples came in to the office I tried them on for larks. We all did.

I still have and wear a dark brown suede leather shirt we had as an offer when I was editor of British ELLE twenty flipping years ago. It has never dated. Likewise a shiny black PVC trench coat from the same fossil era.

Back in those days I was also at liberty to keep the very personal gifts – i.e. shameless product placement bribes – sent to me by the major designers. Oh the handbags they gave me… I still use them all. A sensational alpaca swing coat given to me by Milan label Genny in 1989 is still my choice for a black-tie cover up on cold nights.

Those luxurious magazine editor days are long gone, but I still find chance a more reliable personal shopper than planning.

One of the first laws of shopping I ever learned was that the best way to come home empty handed is to set out with a specific item in mind. If you do find it, they won’t have your size. Worse, you will buy a nearly nice compromise which you will always hate for not being what you really wanted.

When I forget this and get sucked into studying magazine shopping sections and tearing out pages with top items, they’re always sold out before I can even get on line (like Clark’s high-heeled desert boots back in September). Or I get to the shop before the thing’s come in and can’t sustain the interest to go back for another try two weeks later.

So my advice is to bin your lists, tear up the pages torn from fashion magazines, and open yourself up to shopping serendipity.

  1. Blogs ARE better than good weekends because you can use awesome words like ratshittery without fear of retribution!

  2. Excellent advice! I do love British Vogue, I think it is the best of all the Vogues.

  3. “Random ratshittery”. Love it! Made me think about my default shopping settings: Jeans, black dresses (have now banned myself from buying these), ballet flats.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jules clancy. jules clancy said: love the word serendipity! RT @MaggieA: Latest Style Notes blog post: shopping serendipity. […]

  5. My friend has shopping serendipity. If it’s raining she walks into a cheap shop and finds a surprisingly stylish item. Unfortunately I rarely have it.

  6. I need the perfect white tank top. I have bought 7 so far but all end up making me look like a chicken sausage. It is my holy grail of shopping items. Why is it so hard??

    Mrs Woog xo

  7. Wait a minute… you own a 1930s black velvet dressing gown? Oh my god. That’s the holy grail, right there!

    Can I please share this with you, it’s not the best post you’ll read, but have to share what this 14 year old girl said about how she plans her outfits:

    • Enjoyed your piece. I wasn’t like that at 14 – but I was at 19! Well, not quite, but obsessed. And I’m afraid I think open toe boots totally rock. (But not at my age…) x

  8. Maggie I’m starting to come around to open-toe boots. I have had the same style of black boot for about ten years – after having them re-heeled, I just go and buy the same style. So am in a hopeless boot style rut.

    Suspect open toe boots and lace-up boots are the answer.

    • Very hard to find something NEW with a SHOE which isn’t just dumbass and to me, this is one of the rare ones. The last was Louboutin’s covered platform, where the leather/satin is smooth across toe and platform down to sole. Before that there was always a seam. An innovation. Open toe would also greatly lenghthen boot wearing season in Aus – not sure where you are based.

  9. Agree, some of the best things in my wardrbobe are second hand finds I wouldn’t have sought out otherwise – an emerald green capelet (too fabulous for words, always gets compliments!) and vintage satin mules with pom poms!

  10. Strictly for the boudouir of course!

    • Oh how fab! I do love a maribou pom pom. I had some very similar in shocking pink which I bought in the 1970s. Think I still have them actually, will post pic if I find them. x

  11. Every word resonates. But I think Trust in God but keep your powder dry applies here; Both approaches are required 🙂 Does anyone remember Vogue Oz Real Life Guides? So brilliant, whole issues of this conversation. C. 1981-1983.

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