What to wear in Auckland
Navigating your way through the world of fashion.
Looking back, it wasn’t the best idea to turn up to my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding in a negligee. I’d suffered a bout of Emperor’s-New-Clothes-itis and purchased the flimsy baby-pink silk frock at a market in Beijing that purported to be an outlet for the manufacturer of BCBG Max Azria. At least that’s what the label said and I believed it. The other guests couldn’t see the label (which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly haute couture anyway).
They could see everything else, though. I still can’t look at photos from that happy occasion without cringing at the near-nakedness of the situation.
Really, no one gets it right all of the time and nor would you want to. In our view the biggest sin is not the misstep. It’s being boring. Alas, in Auckland we still have plenty of people playing it safe. That’s why we applaud the Aucklanders who have made it on to our esteemed Best Dressed List this year. Every one of them dresses in a way that allows their personality to shine.
Conversely, we commiserate with those who find themselves on our Worst Dressed List. You weren’t alone: that list could have been much, much longer.
What should you wear in Auckland? And what’s wrong with what people may tell you? Just for starters, here are three myths.
Myth: Fashion is for the young
There are shop assistants we know of in this town who will snub a silver-haired customer. To quote Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Big. Huge!” That silver equals gold, shopgirl. You may be interested only in long-limbed droopy-mouthed teens but it’s the mature punter who’s got the credit card ready for new-release $300 distressed denim.
A unique sense of style can take years to develop. It’s tied in to confidence — who we think we are — and a fair amount of disposable dosh sloshing around the bank account helps too. The babyboomers in our photos have all brewed their own style, and they’re not looking back.
The apogee of ageless fashion is Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old New York pocket rocket in Mr Magoo glasses. Bubbling up in street-style blogs for years, Apfel reached high-priestess status this year with the release of Iris, a documentary by Albert Maysles. “The key to style is earning who you are, which takes years,” she says in the film. “There’s no roadmap to style. It’s about self-expression, and above all, attitude.”
Myth: A uniform is failsafe
This is a curly trick the internet regularly tries to pull. If making decisions about what to wear is spinning you into a frenzy, just wear the same thing every day and you’ll be hailed for your calm assuredness. It worked for New York art director Matilda Kahl, who hated the stress of dressing for meetings when her colleagues effortlessly turned up in suits. So she devised her own work uniform — a white shirt and black trousers topped off with a leather string tie for a personal touch. The uniform technique lives and dies on one thing: your ability to pick a pitch-perfect look.
It’s subtler than you might think. Art dealer Gary Langsford and tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom share a signature look: black, top to bottom. But one does it with smooth charm and the other, well, not so much. If Dotcom wore a suit instead of that tragic wrap look, who knows, he might even charm the courtroom.
Myth: Fashion is frivolous
History lesson time. Studies on lice suggest humans have been wearing clothes for 170,000 years, following the second-to-last Ice Age when being nude got a little chilly. No word from the lice whether flares or skinnies were in then, but ochre thought to be used to paint bodies and shell jewellery has been discovered in cave excavations: reds and oranges were the hot shades in South Africa around about 100,000 years ago.
Decorating our bodies is part of what it means to be human. And there are strong psychological arguments for giving a damn about how we dress. A study by the University of Hertfordshire found 96 per cent of women believe that what they wear affects how confident they feel. If they’re feeling sad or depressed, 51 per cent said they reach for a pair of jeans, as opposed to 33 per cent who do so when they’re feeling happy.
Baggy tops were another sign of glumness — favoured by 57 per cent of unhappy dressers versus just 2 per cent of happy dressers. We know, we know. You crawl into something schlubby when you’re feeling low. But it’s worth remembering that dressing up can pep you up. As our bester Makanaka Tuwe observes, adding some jewellery and a personally meaningful item, like Tuwe’s traditional head wrap, gives you strong emotional armour.
WHAT TO WEAR IN AUCKLAND
You may want to keep this handy style guide with you.
LynnMall: Pyjamas. The rule is, if they’re flannelette they’re outerwear.
Queen St Friday night: Sausage-skin-tight minidresses and pig-trotter heels. The tighter the better. The higher the better.
Ponsonby lunch: Lulumelon for the ladies. Tom Ford sunglasses for the dudes.
Sylvia Park: Tunics, tunics, tunics, maybe some leggings.
Botany Downs: Puffer jacket and jandals.
Takapuna beach: Gym-bod-hugging merino.
Otara Markets: NBA singlet.
Matakana Markets: A beard.