The basics of shopping

When refugees from the city come to visit us, they talk about the sweetness of the air, the brightness of the stars, the hugeness of the night sky. All the stuff we used to talk about before we moved here and got dragged into the humdrum of discussing the lack of restaurants, the scarcity of independent films and the general hilarity of people asking us if we find living ‘in town’ a bit noisy.

It’s refreshing, then, to revisit the Big Smoke and then come home and rediscover the sweetness, the brightness and the hugeness for ourselves.

On Friday, I packed my work bag (minus a pair of size 3 undies and a squashed muesli bar) and headed off to the city for some meetings. There are several thousand reasons why I enjoy doing this, but I’ll start with three:

1) Three hours on a train with a book,

2) A whole day and night where I don’t hear ‘Mum’ every five minutes (though I do miss this by around breakfast the following morning…only to unmiss it as soon as it starts again),

3) The opportunity to remember that I am a grown-up person as well as a mother.

Then, of course, there’s the shopping. Fibrotown has a good selection of shops if you like fishing tackle, sportsgear, chain-store basics, food, banks and beer. Fashion is represented, but it’s not a priority.

Usually, this suits me fine, as my wardrobe tends to reflect a similar attitude. But having been here over a year, I now understand why there is so much ‘escape spending’ (as the local Chamber of Commerce calls it). It comes down to a basic desire not to be seen in the same stuff as everyone else.

A cool change in the air necessitated some shopping. I realised that my winter ‘Mum uniform’ – consisting of five long-sleeved t-shirts and some cargo pants – was looking tatty. An update was required.

So I found myself – post-meetings – in Pitt Street Mall. Surrounded by jackhammers, scaffolding, endless pairs of ballet flats and a strong feeling I’d wandered back into the 80s of my youth as I looked at slouchy boots, leggings, tunics, layering, shirts that slid off one shoulder as soon as I tried them on, and a general lack of anything that resembled my Mum Uniform.

I was confused. I bought three long-sleeved t-shirts (grey, black, brown) and two short-sleeved ones (green, blue). In brands not available in Fibrotown (to ensure exclusivity). Then I got on the train and escaped to a friend’s house to drink wine. Much more fun.

Over a glass of sauv blanc, I lamented that I’d worked on magazines long enough to know that everyone needed good ‘basics’ in their wardrobe…but that I’d never seemed to have evolved beyond them. Basics are meant to be the foundation of the wardrobe, not its sum total.

I then admitted that I’d once seen an article in Madison mag about how to dress in your 40s (lots of basics) and pointed it out with delight to my sister…who’d shot back, voice dripping with sarcasm, “So you’ve been dressing like a 40 year old your whole life? Thank God you finally got there.”

At first, I was taken aback. Then relieved.

I always knew I’d come into fashion one day.