I'm wearing three non-matching merino jumpers and a pair of jeans tucked into woollen tramping socks and Ugg boots. Plus a capacious mohair, David Bain-inspired, opp-shop jumper . My ensemble is finished off with a belted blue XXXOS polar fleece dressing gown and accessorised with a simple rubber hot water bottle in a toning shade. I look awful but I am really, really cosy: I have achieved the very essence of the AFASHIONISTA look.
Keeping warm while simultaneously maintaining a toehold on the ladder of sartorial acceptability can be very taxing. Unless, that is, you embrace a whole new fashion paradigm and become an afashionista.
Being an afashionista involves inhabiting a self-invented sartorial Never Never Land where clothes are worn purely for comfort, warmth and practicality and not a single item of clothing has to be smart, sexy, cool, classy or on-trend. It’s the very opposite of haute couture: the land where the natives wear sensible shoes and relaxed-fit clothing with elasticised waistbands in easy-care fabrics. Within this gap in the fashion spectrum high-waisted, pleat-fronted, stone-washed jeans are perfectly acceptable. So are Crocs worn with rugby socks and baggy grey track pants. In the land of Warm’n’Comfy bulky is the new svelte, ugly is the new beautiful.
The current star of my 2014 Home Alone Winter Collection is a vast hand-knitted garment which I rescued from almost certain obscurity at the Motueka Recycle Centre. It’s of an indeterminate colour vaguely suggestive of balding rabbit and elderly velour teddy-bear with a dash of ancient gabardine raincoat. Its creator obviously lost all sense of scale and proportion while knitting it and that is its genius; ramshackle excess and enveloping woolly warmth make it the perfect afashionista winter garment.
Be warned. Being an afashionist can be a high-risk strategy. Pleasing yourself will almost certainly displease everyone else, particularly those who have a stake in your appearance. This is very likely to include spouses, employers and best friends - unless they are fellow exponents. Teenage offspring will most definitely not want to occupy the same space-time continuum as you.
There’s another risk: lowering your sartorial standards can unwittingly encourage a lowering of standards on other domestic fronts. The afashionista therefore needs to be alert to increased consumption of potato chips and frozen TV dinners, and more belching and arm-pit scratching, particularly amongst male members of the family. My domestic arrangements only include a Fox Terrier and he’s in full accord with my fashion choices. In fact, as a fellow martyr to the cold, he is inordinately fond of my mohair jumper and hastens to nest in it if I leave it unattended on the couch. I’m pleased to report that he hasn’t been scratching or licking his private parts any more than usual.
I must confess that I am not yet courageous enough to fully adopt the afashionista approach to winter dressing: I can withstand the withering glances of the fashion mavens but not the pitying glances at Pak and Save. And sometimes, when I must step outside the house, I just don’t want to look, or feel like the Michelin man.
It took weeks of compulsive browsing of local outdoor clothing shops to find an outer raiment which would confer warmth without bulk along with a socially acceptable appearance. After churning through racks and racks of hi-tech, water-proof, wind-proof, chill-proof, breathable clothing I finally decided upon a turquoise knee-length duck-down jacket. It has all the cosy charm of a sleeping bag but without the droop and sag. It’s got a hood, snug wrist cuffs and drawstrings to prevent the infiltration of draughts and the escape of body heat. It’s even got a special little pocket for my MP3 player. It’s utter perfection. It’s all I can do to resist the impulse to wear it inside, as well as outside the house.
I fully intend to be one hundred percent fashion-free by winter of next year. My design team is already developing low-cost, low-tech add-ons for my 2015 Afashionista Winter Collection which I hope will encourage others to join the trend.
The most promising of my designs is a shoulder harness from which hot water bottles can be suspended to keep the wearer’s chest and back at optimum temperature. We've almost solved the problem of weight and slosh, and are now seeking sponsorship for hot-water refill stations at key locations around the city.