When SSM Strikes!

Seasonal sartorial malaise

I have a confession to make. I have been struck by SSM. As a consequence of that, my style quotient has been pretty low recently. You may think, ‘Oh, sure, whatever’, but allow me to explain.

I have been sleeping in a black merino wool singlet, a pair of my father’s thermal long johns, & a pair of socks. This is not so bad — I mean, it’s not super-sexy, but hey — & I would leave it at that. …Except for the fact that I have been throwing a hoodie over the top, & a long black skirt over the bottom, & figuring that this makes it an outfit!

No, Gala, no! This does not make it an outfit! Especially when you add black Ugg boots into the mix, which are what presently adorn my tootsies! (Don’t worry, I haven’t left the house in them. Yet!) It’s a terrible situation, really. I’m allowing myself some small amount of leeway because (as previously mentioned) I’m living out of one ill-packed suitcase. But I should definitely be making more of an effort.

Yes, SSM has definitely got me in its deathly, vice-like grip. So, what is SSM? It stands for Seasonal Sartorial Malaise, & it’s a hideous beast!

Initially I thought this was something that really only applied to getting dressed in winter. It’s so cold that at some point, all you really care about is staying warm, & damn the consequences! But it happens in summer, too. By the time I left New York at the end of July, all I wore was my black slip & a pair of boots, sometimes with a sequinned bikini top underneath for modesty’s sake, but most often not. (I was popular at my local pizza place, though.)

Sure, at the start of the season, we’re all excited. We finally have the chance to wear our new boots/swimsuit/coat/shorts, & by jingo, we do! But halfway through the season, the thrill seems to wear off somewhat. We fall into a kind of seasonal uniform, we stop making the effort & everything gets a bit dull. We begin to hanker for warm or cold weather, fantasise about a blanket of snow or a pristine tropical beach, & life starts to drag.

The good news is that you can easily break out of SSM — the first step is to admit that SSM has you in its sights!

Say it with me, now!

“Hi, my name’s _______, & I am drowning in a sea of SSM!”

Now, the solution. I prescribe as many of the following as you see fit — immediately, if not sooner!

Find a reason to get dressed up
If all you’re doing is going to work, then coming home & watching movies in front of the fire/air conditioner until you pass out, you don’t have a lot of encouragement to get sassy. Your life may not be one big carnival of thrills, & the only thing written in your calendar might be “buy cat food”, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you don’t want it to!

What kind of thing would make you want to dress up? A night at the opera? A first date? A dinner with a bunch of your favourite people? Once you’ve established what kind of thing would enthuse you enough to make the effort, get to work on making it happen! Contact your friends, organise a meal. Book tickets to the opera online & mark it down in your diary. Start talking to that cute person & ask them out on a date! (If there are no cute people to be had in your immediate vicinity, get on OkCupid! Stat!) Google for weird, free, fun or avant garde events in your city, & start going to them!

Fling the doors of your wardrobe right open. Crank up the music. Grab things, try them on, hop around on one foot, hold dresses up against yourself & devise an outfit, the likes of which have never been seen before! Experiment with your wardrobe. Have fun with it! Try things that you don’t think will work. See what happens!

There’s nothing better than a fabulous night (or day) out — with a fabulous outfit to match — to make you feel amazing again. It’s just that sometimes we get locked into our daily routine, & forget that really, we can do anything we please! Grab that fact & make it your own. Surprise & delight yourself!

Clean out your wardrobe
Okay, I know this is a daunting task for many of us. It gives us The Fear. How will we ever possibly manage to claw our way through years of bargain hunting, pants which are distinctly the wrong size & old bridesmaids dresses? The answer is simple: indulge in a little Wardrobe Taming. Beat that bad boy into submission!

No one can really put together a show-stopping outfit when the first thing they see when they look in their closet is a shrunken t-shirt with a stain on the front, a pair of ripped pyjama pants & a coat from 6 seasons ago. Do yourself a favour, & strip your wardrobe down to its bare bones! As scary a concept as it is, it’s true that you actually look better when you have fewer things to choose from — this is a lesson I learned when I was living in New York. Keep the good quality items which fit you, & get rid of the rest!

I did this when I went back to Melbourne a month ago. All my earthly belongings now fit into six suitcases! Yes, it’s slightly terrifying — but I have been left with only the things I really love. It all fits, it’s all in good condition & it all suits me. I’m delighted (& I can’t wait to receive it)!

Oh, you. What are you waiting for? Stop reading! Go & tackle that closet of doom!

Get some inspiration
It’s difficult to feel inspired to create a sartorial masterpiece when you have no visual fodder to spur you on. This is something I’ve been dealing with in Wellington — I have none of my usual pictures around to look at, which makes it hard for me. (Visual stimulus is very important for me!) The good news, though, is that there are about a billion different places you can find inspiration from. Flickr is one of my favourite resources, & if you’re looking for fashion-specific stimulation, the infamous Wardrobe Remix, started by Tricia Royal (who is now with daughter — congratulations, cutie!), is an invaluable place to get new ideas.

Big magazine shops are magnificent, too. Foreign fashion magazines, design bibles & Teen Vogue all have their own charm & are fantastic for sparking your synapses. Buy a huge stack, cringe as you hand over your credit card, then go home & tear them up to make an inspiration board. Get messy with glue, a pair of scissors & a big roll of tape! Then hang it near your closet & feel free to add & subtract from it as you see fit — let it evolve as your taste does!

Build on the latest looks
I am not a huge advocate of trend-following, as you probably know. As a general rule, I think it is boring & the domain of amateurs. But sometimes looking at the trends & latest styles can give you a fresh new vision, which is totally priceless. If the fashion magazines are predicting forest green, expand on it — mix it with safari gear & animal print. If they say purple is “it”, make your own version of Willy Wonka’s velvet suit, & carry a lollipop as an accessory. Don’t ever follow it to the letter — be creative, excitable, a bon vivant. Use their predictions as a jumping-off point for new, bold, fabulously weird things.

Go shopping
There is no better way to break the shackles of SSM than with an amazing new piece in your wardrobe! How can you possibly feel bored or stale when you have a pair of duck-egg blue cowboy boots, a houndstooth cape or an enormous powdered wig begging to be worn?

One thing I would suggest is that you shop in places off the beaten path. You might have your usual haunts, & that’s okay, but walking into a new store & trying on something completely radical can change your entire sartorial direction! The purchase of an amazing cranberry sweater from Yohji Yamamoto or a pair of incredible boots can give all your old items a whole new lease on life. You don’t have to spend a billion dollars — be discerning, get a few great pieces & watch as they shake up all your dressing conventions!

Hold a clothing swap
Invite your friends over & trade clothes! It doesn’t have to be just clothing, either — it’s great fun to swap jewellery, bags, belts & barely-worn footwear. You could even make invitations, if you wanted to get really into it. You should be sure to specify that only good quality clean clothing will be accepted to swap.

I have been to some clothing swaps which were a bunch of people who didn’t know one another, & honestly, it doesn’t bring out the best in people. They bring along stained sweaters because they know no one will know who brought it, & then expect to make off with a Chanel handbag. It’s not pretty. The good thing about inviting your friends over is that the pool is so small that there is no social loafing!

Play good music, open a bottle of champagne & have a dress-up party. Then go home with your new things & enjoy!

Has you succumbed to SSM before? What pulled you out of it, & brought you back to sartorial life? Share your tips & tricks!