Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Material New Year

By semi-accident I took on a massive freelance writing project - over twenty interviews and articles in about two and a half weeks, on top of my existing daily workload - and it made sure I spent my Christmas and New Year working frantically. I did find the time to visit the (disappointing) hagfish exhibit at the Underwater World - I am an aficionado of disgusting deep-sea creatures, the hagfish is my totem animal - and have a very nice dinner at Thanying, the royal Thai restaurant at Amara Sanctuary. I love the fact that it's so quiet and empty, you feel compelled to whisper over your food. Any tears caused by the fiery tom yam soup must be allowed to roll down your cheeks silently, or the waiter might frown at you.

It's good, however, that I'm working so hard. I view it as penance for having spent such a horrendous amount on Christmas shopping (primarily for myself). I love designer goods, but I'll never be able to pay full price... so when the sales come, I react like a shark scenting blood.

Unlike most Singaporean women who drop a thousand dollars on assorted coin purses and card holders and wallets and medium-sized handbags, I prefer clothing. I look out specifically for things like tailoring and material - I don't like wearing man-made fabrics unless absolutely necessary. As for labels, the ones I truly love are usually out of reach (even at sale price) so I hunt for less well-known ones: I recently purchased pieces from Martin Grant, Jill Stuart and Amanda Wakeley. But my favourites are usually linked to some childhood idea of cool: a minimalist grey Helmut Lang dress, a cream and gold disco extravaganza by Sass & Bide that I have yet to wear.

Sometimes I justify buying clothes by imagining a future when my daughter (should I have one) will be overwhelmingly grateful for the vintage Marni, the adorably retro Lela Rose. The same way I was for my mother's oversized Loewe tote and 80s' Aquascutum cardigan. But I think what I really want from that imaginary future scenario is the sense that all of this was not in vain. My relentless pursuit of 'good taste', the careful curatorship of my small wardrobe. All those hours spent searching for images of the same garment before taking the plunge. The time spent on the train, in the shower, before bed, contemplating the right shoes and accessories. We women devote so much of our lives to the performance of dress, and for what? (Certainly not just for the benefit of men.) When we dress, we are telling you something about ourselves - this is who I am, this is what I care about - and at the same time, we are also asking a silent, hidden question: do you see me?


blauereiter said...

You must be the first and only girl I'll ever know to have a more than cursory interest in the hagfish, haha. I'm no expert but I've seen them on occasion watching Sir David Attenborough's documentaries.

Hope your hard work over Christmas was worth it - enjoy the CNY. :]

May-Lynn said...

I love them - there's something very cool about a worm-like fish that shoots slime at predatory sharks and then goes back to munching whale carcasses. I also like the pelagic tank at Underwater World. Closest I'll ever get to being face to face with a dinosaur :)

Thanks - hope you have a good CNY as well!