A long time ago, before I was even aware of the concept of ‘fast fashion’ I took great pleasure in watching my favourite TV show, Offspring. For those unaware, it’s a brilliant Aussie drama series (all the good seasons are available to stream on Netflix – check it out) with incredible acting, equally heart-warming and heartbreaking plotlines and a whole lot of laughs. But mostly, the CLOTHES. The protagonist, Nina Proudman (played by Asher Keddie), is my ultimate style icon. Can a fictional character be a style icon? I’m leaning towards yes.
But more to the point, as much as Nina is prone to anxiety, is often socially-awkward and just generally highly strung, her outfits never fall short of perfection. I’ve never seen anyone work the knee-high tan boots, wrap-around skinny scarf, fine gold jewellery and floaty blouse or dress to such a degree of effortless boho perfection. One of the show’s costume designers Michael Chisholm, told Mamamia a few years back that Nina’s outfits had become so well renowned (and aspirational) that they were almost “almost another character in the show”. Everything always manages to look effortless, as if she’s just thrown it all together before running out the door of her trendy Melbourne apartment, yet we all know that these outfits have been superbly curated by a team of experts.
I could write about this all day, but I don’t need to, as Nikki Parkinson of Styling You has written on it extensively, with episode-by-episode breakdowns and a beautiful running commentary of every featured outfit. Check them out, here. Hats off to Nikki.
But I digress.
I do tend to get a little excited when it comes to Offspring, whoops!
I was watching an episode of Offspring one day, and out popped Nina wearing this Tigerlily ‘Universe’ jacket. IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. I don’t think I slept that night. I thought about it for days afterwards, day-dreaming about that red, kimono-style piece of perfection, in all its tasselled glory. I needed to somehow make it mine. Trouble was (as is often the issue for many fellow Nina groupies), the magic of television means that episodes are filmed many months before they are televised. Meaning, the off-the-rack styles Nina reps are often out of stock/season by the time you see them on her and determine you can’t live without them.
(Side note: In the most recent seasons, some capitalist munchkins have cottoned on to this and are working with labels to make the pieces accessible to consumers and giving people the ability to literally ‘shop the show’. Ethically, I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it would have been a little bit handy on this one occasion.)
I decided to take to eBay and, after much searching, was eventually able to purchase this jacket. It was a difficult decision. It was selling around $280, which may not seem a lot for many fashionistas, but was more money than I’d ever previously spent on a piece of clothing at the time. There were many phone calls to my mother, friends and anyone who would listen – because sometimes you feel better about spending money when someone else tells you its ok to spend that money, right? And finally, I decided carpe diem/YOLO/what the flippin’ heck, and hit ‘Buy it now’. And a few days later, it arrived in the mail and I was overwhelmed with excitement. It was a size 10. I am usually a size 10.
Alas…it did not fit.
The bloody thing was as beautiful as I could ever have imagined, but it made me look like I was wearing a tent (although an actual tent would have probably cost less). Gutted, is an understatement. When it comes to style, there’s not much worse than ill-fitted clothes. I tried desperately to rationalise it, running through potential solutions in my mind. I could have it altered (but that wouldn’t be possible without ruining the shape/structure/soul of the garment). I could just wear it oversized and try to pull it off (that was never going to happen, it looked bloody terrible).
I was left with only one option. Find and buy a size 8! Yes! For someone who deliberated so much over spending this kind of money initially, I was now in so deep that I was ready to throw all my money into this thing. And soon enough, there it was: a size 8, sent from heaven to eBay and destined for my closet.
Sadly, my boyfriend did not agree with my logic. I should point out, he is now my husband, so thankfully he has committed to a lifetime with me despite months of whining over a Tigerlily jacket (#firstworldproblems), so props to him. But this is where he drew the line. It was (very politely) pointed out that splashing out on a $280 was ok, but that dipping into our savings to spend the same amount on the same jacket was a bit ridiculous. Damn him and his logic. Always with the logic, that guy. And despite presenting my case with vigour and enthusiasm (which was quickly reduced to begging), he suggested I sell the Size 10 to pay for the Size 8. Sounds fair enough, except the Size 8 might have sold in the meantime, and processing an auction, successfully selling and receiving the funds takes some time. I didn’t have any time.
So here I was, lusting over this eBay listing and reading the ‘item description’ for the 678th time, when it dawned on me. The seller had prefaced her description with “I really don’t want to sell this, but it’s a size too small!” And at first I just thought, “I hear ya, sister!” and dismissed it. I feel like people lie in those descriptions. “Moving overseas, selling everything to save on storage!” which is often seen in such descriptions, sounds way better than what is probably the truth: “these clothes are all out-of-style and ugly to me now, please buy them and give me money so that I can buy newer and better clothes!”
But this time, something clicked. Maybe they weren’t lying this time! Maybe, in some magical and serendipitous twist of fate, this could be my answer! And what do you know, I messaged the seller and told her that I have a Size 10, and was looking for a Size 8 and asked her if she would be interested in a swap. To my great amazement and delight, she replied and said ‘yes’! Turns out she was me, in a parallel life. She had had virtually the exact same experience, with sizes reversed, and we were about to solve each other’s crises. What in the what?!
She was in Melbourne. I am in Sydney. Luckily, my super cousin, Scott, lived really close to where she lived, so I express posted it to him, he met with her, they made the exchange and he express posted it back to me. AND THAT IS HOW I CAME TO OWN THIS JACKET.
When I say this is a love story, I bloody mean it. It was love at first sight, but man, did she make me work hard for her. That is why it has become, and will probably forever be one of my most treasured clothing pieces. I wear it with everything, and even though it’s bright red and has that wicked pattern, it seems to complement almost any outfit (Nina-style and otherwise). It makes me feel grateful and lucky and a little bit magic.
I also think that when we truly love our clothes, we value them and take pride in them and that aids longevity. I always take great care when I wear the Universe jacket, so much so that in the years I have owned it, I have only had to hand-wash it once. I re-hang it immediately after taking it off. It was so hard to find this baby; I plan to have it forever.
For a while, I felt conflicted about wearing it. Once I started to learn about ethical fashion, I found Tigerlily to be falling short of what I felt I deserved from my favourite clothing brands. I even wrote them several letters and posted on my Instagram page about it. It’s always a shame when you find a brand whose designs you love but whose policies and practices you do not.
BUT…I am proud to say that Tigerlily recently announced that they are updating their supply chain to use Econyl brand fabric, which is made from recycled carpets and plastics. Hell yeah! They have also increased the transparency of their supply chains, including sharing the factories they use to produce their garments, and have pledged further commitments to worker empowerment. This is a very positive step and a great example of a company moving in the right direction and doing the right thing. Read more about it, here.
Now there was also an episode of Offspring where Nina wore this Camilla vest that makes my heart stop… But I think I learnt my lesson the first time. Maybe.
You can more info about the Fash Rev love stories, here.