Adrienne Jerram

Adrienne Jerram

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The year of no more: Eight pieces of clothing challenge

From when I was a teenager I've fantasised about being the kind of person who wore minimal selection of clothes and always looked super sophisticated. I've always wanted to travel with carry on, to take a six month trip with only three changes of outfit, to have space in my wardrobe and to pair down the choices I have to make when I get up in the morning

Now I have my chance tomorrow, I'm going on a fashion fast and will only be wearing eight pieces of clothes for six weeks.

I'm challenging myself so I can see how much I can do with only a few clothes, and to raise awareness of the Labour behind the Label cause (a campaign that works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry). There are only a few rules to the challenge:

1. Included in the challenge is all items of 'outerwear' clothing

2. Not included in the challenge are pyjamas, workout clothes, underwear, shoes and accessories.

Obviously I've had some time to chose what I was going to wear. I had to take a lot of things into consideration, including comfort, coordination (every piece had to go with every other) durability, drying time and style. This is what I came up with

1. Thomas/Hulston Blouse. I love the colour of this blouse, and it's long so will also substitute as a dress. It's a risk because it's light in colour and I am inept with a knife and fork. It may also be difficult to keep looking fresh … but I love it.

2. Thomas/Hulston Calf skin skirt. Neutral and gorgeous and hard wearing and fits so well. Not to tight around the middle and finishes in a nice place above my knees.

3. Lulu and Rose loose white tank. An old favourite with a little sparkle. it makes my shoulders look good, which in turn makes me feel good, and who doesn't want that.

4. Rag and Bone tank.  Again  … shoulders comfort. Love Rag and Bone.

5. Fleur Wood Pants … so very cool and comfy. I have a lot of Fleur Wood in my wardrobe. It would have been a crime not to include one of these pieces. I'm just a little shorter than the model so they come down to my ankles.

6. Gorman Skinny jeans. I wasn't going to include jeans in my pick, and then I realised that was crazy. These are fun and make my ass look good. They work with my vans, sandals, nikes and with heels. 

7. Forever 21 Shorts - What can I say about these shorts. I've had them for two and a half years. They were bought for my 21 year old daughter not me, they are black and gold glitter boucle, they are technically hot pants. I should hate them but I love them. I wear them out to parties and dinner parties and the cinema in summer and winter. They look as good teamed with a tank as the do a black polar neck and black tights.  They are fun. I might now be able to wear them to work, but they are by far my favourite (and one of the cheapest) things in my wardrobe. I always feel amazing when I wear them. 

8. Black Rag and Bone blazer.  It's gorgeous, classic and fits brilliantly. I'm sure I will wear it everyday. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The year of no more … except

ikea Pencil
February 1 and I still haven't bought any clothes. Nothing. Not a stitch. Not even in the sales. Not even those things I'm allowing myself to buy (underwear, sports shoes). Not even when I'm sad. And not even when I'm happy.

But yesterday I did buy:

2 Lycksele Lovas
4 Stockholms
2 Sissela
A range of Somnig
A couple of Bandblad
2 Tilkort
A Komplement

And right now,  I'm sitting, writing at my brand new Micke.

I've been to Ikea and while it seems like I bought a lot,  given that ikea stocks over 12 000 products, and that our local , the Tempe store, is the largest Ikea in the southern hemisphere, I think I did quite well.

The whole Ikea layout is designed to suck you in.

From a leaving your kids at the door, to cruising past the cleverly designed mini-rooms with maximum use of space. The one-way flow that takes you past the things you never even knew you needed, the free pencils, the cheaply priced items near the check out, the over sized bags. It's a very cunning plan to ensure that you don't get through without buying everything you came for plus a Klak, Dagstorp and a Knutstorp.

Nothing about the actual purchase speaks to pain that starts when you get out of the store. It's then that you notice that the wheels on your trolley don't point in the right direction to get you safely down the little ramp to the carpark, that your car will fit you, or your stuff but not both and that what looked stylish and simple in the shop is actually made up of 52 small pieces, an alan key and some dowel.

I'd driven to Ikea directly from a auction house that sold mid-century (meaning 50s, 60s and 70s) furniture where, despite being taken with a 1970s desk with a map of the world on the top, a darling 1960s small sofa and a couple of arm chairs, I bought nothing.

Ikea encourages spending by mitigating risk (I can always take it back), immediately gratifying you (I can take it right home), optimising convenience (It will fit right in my car), minimising choice by grouping like products together (don't go to the desk section, go to the small, thin, desk section), and of course by making it all so cheap.

I'm in two minds about Ikea. Their designs are really clever and exceedingly accessible, they don't use suppliers who use child labor. They don't use plastic bags, but they do use 1% of the world's timber supplies. They also have some kind of complex and clever charity-based corporate structure which means they pay very little tax. So, while your little furniture supplier down the road is handing 30% of their profits over to fund our schools and hospitals, Ikea is paying between 1 and 2%.

My real issue, though, is how quickly the purchase that you just 'had to have' becomes junk, and how it's junk you can't take to a second hand store because it doesn't last well and buying a new one is just so cheap.

Which makes me wonder what will be in our second hand shops in the future? because, while that map of the world desk has lasted 45 years, my white, sparkling, just-the-right-size-for-the-space Micke will probably be at the tip in ten.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The honeymoon is over ...

There's this time when you're on a diet when everything is new and shiny and you think 'this is easy, I'm going to do it forever' ... and then week three kicks in.

After a horror week three involving: the house move from hell (7 hours to move 5 minutes down the road);  the kind health news that, even though it's not deadly, says you're getting old; getting stuck in some bureaucratic nightmare involving the ultimate evil trio of banks, lawyers and government departments and costs money that mounts up by the day; my coach saying I need to give up coffee and my husband almost dying - I really need to shop.

I need to shop like a reformed smoker needs something to do with their hands, like and alcoholic needs their scotch. My blood boils for it. My hands shake. My breath is short. 

Why? Because for just 5 minutes, while I shop, try on and imagine the possibilities everything else will go away. 

Then only thing right now that stands between me and a good shop? My mantra.

Ps: I have never applied this mantra in an abdominal crunch crisis of confidence before, but obviously someone has. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The year of no more: The clothes I remember

I didn't have a lot of clothes when I was growing up but I had enough. Enough so that I could share a wardrobe with my brother or sister. Enough so that  my mother could pack the holiday clothes of all three children into one suitcase. I grew up in the days before tween fashion, before mock children's lingerie, before cotton on kids, Gumboots, Pumpkin Patch and Gymboree. Our choices were limited and we shopped twice a year (summer and winter).

The first dress I remember was a lemon A-lined and capped -sleeve party dress. It must have been made by a neighbour because my mother didn't sew and it had a matching yellow triangle head scarf and I seem to recall that it came with a matching yellow coat hanger. I wore it, with knee length white socks with a frill, to church and to birthday parties.

The next dress I remember, a paisley purple halter neck dress, was a present for my eighth birthday and is responsible for my long-held belief that I look better in a halter neck than anything else. I wore them with  pair of brown "JC' sandals.

I'm going to skip over the 80's (my teenage years) except to say that Princess Diana and Duran Duran had a lot to answer for (think ruffled shirts and maroon suede pointed ankle boots).

I was engaged for the first time in 1990 and wore a second hand, olive green, silk and lace frock from the 50s teamed with a pair of black, greasy, buckled doc martins. I was married in black velvet.

When I was pregnant I was big on overalls. Long and denim for the winter, short and cotton for the seemingly unending summer.

For my second wedding (organised in Hawaii in just 24 hours) I wore a short halter neck number which (purple paisley aside) was largely reminiscent of my 8th birthday dress. My daughter, still perhaps under my influence, also wore a halter neck.

My first triathlon suit came, too late for my first triathlon, in the post and, given it was lycra, seemed to be cut to flatter. It was my first ever internet clothes purchase and an overwhelming success.

All these pieces were more than clothes to me, they were symbols of what I was, what I could be and what was to come.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 - The year of no more

I have enough.

As I sit writing this I am preparing to move house and my 'stuff' is all around me. In boxes and in bags, so many of them, it's almost sickening.

I know I have enough.

I have enough furniture, I have enough pots and pans and, most certainly, I have enough clothes.

An avid clothes shopper, I have decided that 2015 is 'the year of no more'. In 2015 I will buy no more new clothes. I will no longer walk mindlessly through malls of 'cookie cutter' designer shops looking for the outfit that will make the ultimate me. I will no longer sooth the emotional aches and pains that come with living by buying fast fashion.

As some people have become addicted to fast food I have become addicted to fast fashion, just buying that one last perfect piece, vowing that I don't need anymore and journeying out the next week only to find the new one last perfect piece.

As some people binge on food, I have binged on fashion, using shopping to lift my mood, only to feel guilt and remorse, meaning I need to go shopping to feel better again.

On December 31 I bought my last piece of clothing for 12 months.

So, these are my rules for 2015.

  1. I will buy no new clothes for 12 months
  2. I will not transfer  my clothes shopping addiction to buying other 'stuff'
  3. I will blog weekly 
  4. New underwear and running shoes are allowed (when absolutely necessary and not within the first month).
  5. In February I will join the six items of clothes challenge. Wearing only six items of clothes for a six week period. 
  6. Every time I don't buy something I will write it down. If I still want it next January, I will buy it.
  7.  I will use my blog to tell people about fast fashion, which may turn out to be as bad for our health, bank accounts and environment as fast food.
  8. I will feel free to add or modify rules as I learn from the year.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The race

Race report Huskisson long course triathlon 2014

It was the race that almost didn't happen.

3pm Friday and I was sitting next to a hospital bed in emergency waiting for my husband to come back from a scan. I'd been told they would be 20 minutes and I'd already waited an hour. I was beginning to panic.

Swimming 2km, Cycling 83km and running 20km was a long way from the top of my mind and quite a long way from my cares.

At 10am that morning, just as we were preparing to leave for Huskisson, my husband had collapsed with pain and I'd driven him to emergency. We had no idea what it was, the nurses had no idea what it was and the doctors, while they had some theories, weren't that much more helpful.

Eventually, my husband came back from his scan, which still showed nothing. He'd already been in emergency for a good six hours, and given that no one could decide what he had (except to all agree death or incapacitation were no where near imminant), he was packed off home with a weeks supply of Endone and instructions to come back in if the pain got worse.

We were home, but I still didn't think we'd make that triathlon. Part of me was relieved. Even though I'd trained hard and done everything I could to prepare, I wasn't convinced that a long course triathlon was something I could actually complete. My longest run in training was 17 km and in my last triathlon I'd struggled with the 10km run and ended up with a disappointing time.

By nine the next morning my husband was feeling better, an insisted that we head down to Huskisson. I drove, while my love lay back in the passenger seat, doped up on Endone and Neurophen.  We got there just in time to register and rack my bike, ready for the 5am transition open, and 6.50am start the next day. It was then I began to get nervous. My goal was to finish the race and I knew I'd do it in around seven hours, but then, that night I read the race manual again. Anyone who finished in over seven hours would receive a DNF (did not finish). There was no way I wanted to complete the whole thing and still have it recorded as a DNF.

Ten minutes before race time and I wasn't just nervous, I was terrified. Why was I doing this? Why did I think I could do this? My wetsuit had turned all boa constrictor and was strangling me. I belived that Id make it somehow, but thought there was no way I'd be able to do it in under seven.

As soon as the gun went off I became calm. Unlike the sea, which, had grown quite a swell. I thought back to my race plan. Head down for the first 100 metres. Breath every 5 strokes. Find the feet of someone you want to follow and stick to them. It worked. The sea was rough and I swallowed plenty of salt water on the way, but as long as I followed those feet I felt fine.

Forty five minutes later I was out of the water, thanking the woman I'd tailed on the swim as I passed her on the stairs, feeling a little sick from taking in too much of the choppy, salty, seawater.

I was a long time (5 minutes) in that first transition. I took a long swig of water to try and dilute some of the seawater in my stomach but it did nothing for my queasiness. My wetsuit seemed to take forever to peel off and my shoes wouldn't slide on. But, once I was on the bike, again I felt calm.

On the first loop of the bike leg I realised that I couldn't do this at my fastest pace. The course, described as 'undulating', was extremely hilly and tiring on the legs. There were three loops and each loop would take me over an hour. I was still feeling queasy but knew I was going to need to take on nutrition to keep myself going through the cycle and onto the run. I started sipping my energy drink and nibbling on some energy bars. Half way through the second lap I vomited, but I kept going, forcing myself to keep drinking and eating. I kept my mind focussed on the end. breaking the ride down to manageable stages.

Half way through the bike I resigned myself to finishing under seven hours. 'At least,' I told myself. 'I'll know I finished it.'

Almost three and a half hours after I started I hurled myself off my bike and into transition my mind was clear about whatI had to do - just finish the thing - don't worry about the time.

I was fast through my second transition, slipping my  runners on easily. Right away I realised I felt good. My legs felt fresh, like I was just starting an ordinary run. Three kilometers into the run I still felt great and I knew that my goal to run the entire first 10km was easily with reach- if I could keep going after that I might make it across the line after the cut off.

I put my contingency plan (run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute) behind me. When I passed the 10km mark my watch stopped working. With no watch I could only estimate how close I was to that goal. I made sure I took water with coke or an energy drink at every nutrition station to keep me moving. At 14 km it began to hurt. By 16 km my legs felt less than solid under me.  All I could do was keep moving, keep running, I knew I was close to my goal but didn't know how close, I kept imagining myself missing out on my goal by 30 seconds and knew I could not stop running.

I crossed the line in 6 hours and 42 minutes, eighteen minutes faster than my stretch goal time. I ran the entire 20km. The first 10km was close to my fastest ever ten kilometres and 8 minutes faster than the 10km run in my last triathlon (which was half the distance).

I was stoked. I'd trained hard but it was worth it. I remember a friend telling me two years ago that she'd run that race and I thought I'd never be able to do something like that. But then, there, I did it, and much faster than I thought I ever would.

My thanks go to my coach Matthew Thomas at triaction for some amazing coaching and my husband Alistair Cowie for training alongside me, and cheering me on even though he wasn't well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Miracle transformation

Have you ever watched any of those transformations shows on TV. You know, where someone's life is changed over an hour episode.  You know that you're only seeing a small part of what that person has gone through but, somehow, they make it seem so simple, neat, packaged-up, that it makes it look easy.

But transformation is not simple, there's never really a miracle (except when serendipity sends the right person, or message at just the right time, which can seem miraculous). Change is heart-wrenchingly difficult. Change is not comfortable, in fact, by it's very nature it is the opposite of comfort. Change is filled with doubt, fear and tears. Change requires letting go and, if you've ever tried aerial acrobatics you'll know letting go is always the hardest part.

And I should know, my life has changed a lot lately and it has taken every bit of my courage (and support by some fabulous family, friends and colleagues) to get as far as I have. There have been times I've been so filled with doubt that it's been crippling. Sleepless nights and stressed out days, have been common.  All I can hope is that the end will be worth it.

I wanted to speak up about it in this blog because I think there are plenty of people out there who are going through a transformation who feel like they are alone in their struggle, like other people have it easier, like there are just too many mountains to climb. And I would hate for those people to compare themselves with others who have changed, whose change (from the outside) looks easy, to find it too hard, and just want to give up.

I'm lucky because in many ways my triathlon training has prepared me to cope with the strain and heartache of change. Because, no matter how much support I have there are always so many hard and lonely hours of training. So much pain that nobody else sees or experiences. So many times when it has come down to just putting one foot in front of another. Yet I know, when I cross the finish line it will all be worth it.