Month: August 2010

Let me blow your mind.

You might have heard about the Mediterranean here and there and in my field I’ve learned that it is hands down the best for longevity, a good figure, and a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.  All these words (except perhaps ‘good figure’) are pretty meaningless when you’re young, but as the years creep by, and the weight creeps up in spite of protestations of ‘but I eat really healthy!’, then perhaps it’s time for a change.

The Australian diet has some fatal flaws in it, perhaps the greatest of which is dessert after dinner every night, closely followed by red meat nearly every day.  And amounts!  Those same people who protest that they eat really healthy yet still gain weight like there is a magical reason for it, are still eating too much.  And will still doth protest that they’re not.  And how much is too much anyway?  And how much is enough?

Enough is far, far smaller than we’ve been conditioned to think.  In fact we’ve been programmed so beautifully by commercial advertising that centres food around a reward, or a ‘you deserve it’ mentality, that by giving ourselves less, we feel cheated, like we’re missing out, it hurts our sense of self-worth.  This is the greatest lie of all, because by reducing the amount you eat and ditching the block of chocolate, you do yourself the best favour of all.  A long life, a good figure, and no heart disease or diabetes.  That sense of missing out, at the unfairness of it all when you don’t get to eat what you want when you want, is nothing more than brilliant marketing.  And it’s not helped by friends who can’t handle the changes you make making them feel guilty who will push harder for you to change back so you don’t feel bad about yourself – but I digress, I was in the business of blowing your mind and got sidetracked.

Here is where I blow your mind:

This is the Mediterranean food pyramid.  As you can see there are some fundamental differences to the Australian one which dictates that all butter and sugar is bad bad bad but go nuts on the red meat.

The Mediterraneans eat more sweets than meat.  Chicken and fish should be far greater dietary staples, pork doesn’t get a mention, and carbs, my god, carbs, are the mainstay of their diet.  And when I say carbs, I mean complex ones.  Sourdough is a much lower GI than that scary stuff you get in a supermarket.  Australians probably don’t even know what half the grains available are even called and yet they’re a staple here.

The biggest surprise to me personally was that Italians and Greeks eat fruit for dessert.  Come to think of it, so do Thai’s (blended with ice).  There is no puddings, cakes, or pies, they’d be hard pressed to tell you what that low-fat so-called ‘healthy’ muffin is, there is just fruit.  Cakes and sweets are for special occasions, family gatherings, the odd snack.  It is not a daily food.

What you eat is for life and that is why weight loss diets don’t work (Weight Watchers being the exception and that’s because the mainstay of their approach is portion control and support groups) – as soon as you stop, back it comes.  And for some reason, ‘diet’ in this country has come to be equated with flavourless basics like steamed chicken breast with nothing on it and dry flavourless supermarket wholegrain bread.  Pull out any decent Italian or Greek cookbook, lose the boring diet food, and start living – for longer.

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Things I purchased earlier.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been studying like my life depended on it.  On Thursday I get to be torn apart by a panel of professors.  In four weeks I have finals.  My university calls them barriers.  As students, we call them ‘little hurdles’ because barrier sounds awful.  They don’t feel like little hurdles.

When you’re at your placement from 7am-4pm every day, come home, and have to study, then on the weekend, spend both days studying (there may be some exaggeration, some nights I slack off and convince myself I’m studying by eating a 400g bag of party mix), you have to, as a good friend once put it, colour the edges.

I still haven’t framed this piece, but it’s a nice way to commence the onslaught of study season.

The problem with materialism, is that it’s effects don’t last very long.  The problem with being a student, is that you can’t afford to spend your money on lasting things like painting classes or nice holidays.

So as a frustrated painter (I can’t paint, but one day I will learn), so I bought this print.  If the original was available I would have bought it.

Then I bought these charming snack plates with a view to display them somewhere, but when they arrived, realised they are adorable in their own right as snack plates so have been eating snacks off them ever since.

One day I was really struggling with my motivation, questioning my existence and gnashing my teeth so I busted out and spent $100 on this painting (not a print) by the same painter as before.  Don’t judge – we all have our vices.

Then I had a minor success in a practice version of being torn apart by professors and bought these to celebrate.  They’re by someone called Laurel Burch – I have no idea who she is but somehow she knew I needed a pair of earrings that went with my leopard print circle skirt, black leotard, and red nail polish (pics will come eventually).

And finally I got paid one day last week, and bought another print in celebration.  I find it adequately sums up my feelings right now.  Caught in the apocalypse, releasing a small bird of hope.  I like that art is all in how you interpret it – visually this is very much where I’m at right now.

Et voila!  The second two paintings are in frames scoured from my local St Vinnies.  The last is on it’s way and I can’t wait.  One more day to go, my fingers and toes are crossed I’m ready to progress.

On why you shouldn’t spend $1000 on a skirt.

It’s been awhile I know.  I’m coming up on final exams which means hours and hours spent at my desk on top of the hours and hours spent at placement.  I’ve not had the headspace for things outside of my field.  I should be studying now, but it’s all a blur.

During my procrastination I sat down with a Strand Arcade (mall in Sydney) catalogue and came across a pink A-line Lisa Ho skirt in the order of around $1000.  I nearly choked.

Here is a photo of it not fitting the model properly and fancied up with a belt:

I know a lot would be asking, what’s the big deal?  It’s a designer skirt, what’s your point?

Skirts are one of the first things novice fashion designers learn to draft in fashion school.  Specifically, plain a-line skirts.  They are the easiest thing in the world to draft and make.  I’ve done it.  And my field is the opposite to fashion school.  It took me half a day and I was going slowly.  Unless that skirt is made out of fabric worth hundreds of dollars per metre (which it’s not), you wouldn’t get close to it being worth that kind of money.

So what kind of value do you get from the skirt?  The answer is none.  It’s a flat colour a-line skirt that you could make yourself or have someone make for you for under $100, using the same fabric, and since you chose the dressmaker yourself, probably with construction skills superior to the factory worker who did the Lisa Ho one.  And it would fit you perfectly.

What about the designer?  Isn’t that part of their creative vision? The answer is no.  They’re also a business.  For every complicated, more expensive to create garment, there has to be a fast cheap garment that they can charge a shitload for and make ridiculous amounts on because someone will buy it.  It doesn’t even matter if it doesn’t sell and they have to reduce it to $400 because then someone will still buy it, think they got an amazing bargain, and the seller is still laughing all the way to the bank.

So who buys this stuff?  We all do.  There was a thread recently on the Vogue forum where a discussion ensued about the way we see our own bodies in light of all this media about dressing to ‘disguise’ the socially unacceptable (apparently) parts of our body.  The OP who started the thread (in all innocence, I feel for her), said she didn’t want to have to think about this stuff, she just wanted to share ideas on dressing for ones shape.  Fair enough.

Bear in mind though, that designers rely on women not wanting to think about it.  They want you to see the label, to see the idea they’re creating in their advertising, for you to link the idea with the purchase, and then the idea with yourself when you make that purchase.  And once the sale is made they don’t care one bit about the massive remorse or the fact that you just maxxed out your credit card buying an idea because you’re unhappy with the current idea of you.  When the current idea of you is just fine, you’ve just got a shitload of media telling you that you’re not.  But that’s another post.

All right, you say, so what sort of garments should you spend the big bucks on, if you’re feeling so inclined?  Here’s my list

  1. Shirts that fit you really well.  These are hard to make, hard to fit, and hard to buy.  Spend the money.
  2. Draped dresses.  Draping takes work and is timeless – avoid the fitted tube dress at all costs, they’re probably the third thing the first year fashion students learn to make.
  3. Good, thick coats that also fit you well – they will last forever.
  4. Anything with an uncommon detail that you haven’t seen elsewhere.  Chances are some real work has gone into it.

Avoid spending big bucks on:

  1. Stretchy jersey stuff.  Unless it’s silk jersey (but good luck finding that).  Wool jersey gets a bit more leniency from me but given that we’re one of the largest wool-producing nations in the world, we shouldn’t be paying too much for it (even though we are).
  2. Simple skirts.  Go to Witchery and spend a quarter of the price on the same skirt!  It really is the same skirt!
  3. Shitty see-through silk.  There’s grades of everything and I’ve seen silk of worse quality than nylon.  If you’re surprised when you look at the fabric tag, put it back down.

But most of all, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to question why things are the way they are.  Ask yourself why the super-cool model with messy hair and faux-disaffected look on her face appeals to you so much.  Or why you would pay $1000 for something that is essentially worthless.  Would you pay $1000 for a 1 cent share?  Of course not, you’d pay it for a $1000 share.   Remember the old saying “a fool and his money are easily parted“.  Spend your money on the things that are constructed with talent and work and care, not on the things that only want to take your money and give you little in return.