Confessions of a Couture Junkie


by Naomi Hulbert - Date: 2006-12-28 - Word Count: 1231 Share This!

I purchased my first real piece of couture two years ago. It was a high-waisted soft leather Louis Vuitton skirt with black and red lace detailing lace underneath, and it set me back a cool $5000. And for a broke writer chained to the chain stores for years, a high fashion purchase of this calibre can become a life-changing event. I went into debt to buy it and I was damned sure I would get the wear out of it, out and about in single-gal Sydney.

The November after I bought it, I wore it to a Melbourne Cup luncheon at Cruise Restaurant on the harbour. A couple of weeks later, Louis accompanied me to Victoria Room for dessert and cocktails with the girls, and the week after that he made me look and feel fabulous at the Australian Ballet Company’s La Fille mal gardee. In between times, I wore that skirt to the local supermarket, Thai takeout store and a handful of work meetings.

Unfortunately, given my financial circumstances and bourgeoning taste for expensive fashion, I was in imminent danger of becoming one of those eccentric old women you see around the city wearing the same dress and full makeup every day for years. At a book launch at the Louis Vuitton store in Sydney, it almost killed me not to wear The Skirt. Only the thought that it would be naff to wear Louis to Louis for a publishing soiree stopped me.

Which brings me to my next confession: I have discovered that buying one’s first piece of couture is somewhat akin to committing one’s first murder (so they say), or losing one’s virginity. The first time is always the most difficult – after that it gets easier, and you can really start to like it.

With the Louis purchase still smoking in my credit card, it seemed I had opened the floodgates to fashion shopping. The early signs came just after receiving an invitation to the aforementioned book launch. What does one wear to a book launch at Louis? Dolce and Gabbana of course, dahlink. Which is exactly what I did. A quick visit to the upper echelons of the Queen Victoria Building and out I came with a stretch black pencil skirt with buckles and paneled detailing to wear with a low cut black top and FMBs, my take on the subtly sexy all-in-black publishing uniform.

But the night of the launch, the return to the Louis Vuitton store so soon, the scene of my initial heady crime, was fraught with temptation to offend again. There, for example, sat The Shoes.

At the time of The Skirt purchase, I had only been saved from further debt to The Shoes by the happy fact that they were out of my size. Since then, a new shipment had arrived. The Shoes were towering pumps in black with exquisite white ribbon around the edges that, when on, instantly gave short me the long legs of a model. There by a beautifully dressed mannequin in yellow silk were my shoes in full black, and over there again in cerise with black ribbon. And over by the table of Moët were my shoes in a kitten heel … And here in my hand, by way of mobile ‘phone technology, was my boyfriend, persistently sending text messages: “Try them on! Try them on!” As my supposed voice of reason, he failed me miserably.

Just in time, I was distracted by a tight wool skirt with delightful texturing just below the knee, the same one that Gwen Stefani wore to the 2004 MTV Awards, and an unbelievable tartan and fur high-necked coat. I won’t even start on the bags.

And the whole time by my side, like Satan in couture, was the lovely Caroline: store manager, sweetheart and salesperson extraordinaire, urging me in unison with my telephonic boyfriend, “Try them on, try them on.”

Now my obsession with buying beautiful clothes started innocently enough about 18 months before the Louis skirt, with a knit sweater from Surry Hills designer Jason Chetcuti. I was walking past his hip, streetware store in Crown Street, minding my own business, when I saw something amazing in the window display. I walked resolutely past but then stopped, took five steps backward and looked again. The knit was stunning, ragged-yet-tailored, complete with perfectly placed threads, a low-slung belt and a sci-fi neck that soared to my ears. Jason had finished knitting it only the day before, and within five minutes I was admiring my fabulous self in the store mirror while Jason adjusted the sleeves and hand-stitched the high neck as I was wearing it, making my winter warmer (yes, I had already decided to buy it) perfectly fitted to just me. Each time I wear it, I can’t walk two blocks without being stopped by a passer-by and asked where I found my fantastic sweater. And I have to admit to feeling a teensy bit smug when I reply in my most nonchalant voice, “Oh, this is a one-of-a-kind Jason Chetcuti design. Do you know him?”

Jason’s designs were so original that I quickly became a regular in his tiny shop. He had an excellent eye for a good fit, as I discovered on my next trip in-store. I tried on two tanks he picked out for me and they were so flattering I instantly felt five kilos lighter and yet somehow curvier, and I swear my breasts were perkier.

On another visit, he took in a sexy black mini-dress so that it fit me like skin, and altered a vintage boy scout’s shirt I had found in a second-hand store into something so provocative I had to be careful where I wore it in public. He spent a month hand sewing an exquisite contemporary ball-gown for me out of off-white vintage fabric, all Alice In Wonderland meets Madonna circa Desperately Seeking Susan. This was, after all, the man who won a swathe of design awards while still in his teens, studied at the Paris American Academy and turned down a subsequent internship at Dior to visit his grandfather in Malta instead. He has dressed the likes of Ben Unwin, Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey and moi, and put hot pop newcomer Chloe in a stunning chain-mail dress at the 2004 ARIA Awards.

So after 18 months of being fitted and adjusted and generally made fabulous by my own personal stylist, I developed a deep appreciation for impeccable finishing, flawless cut and not passing anyone else on the street wearing the same clothes as me. I was hooked.

Problem is, I had now become a classic rendition of ‘champagne taste on a beer budget’. There was no turning back: I would never be able to darken the doors of Sportsgirl again. What’s worse, Jason soon moved up north, his shop closed, and I couldn't even hope to establish an “I was there for you before you were famous”-related running discount.

And Louis Vuitton? Well, that’s a whole new budgetary ballgame. Which is what I’m doing writing this article: I need to attract the attention of fashion publications that will pay me to write. I mean, have you seen what's on Net-a-Porter lately? I seriously need to make some cash! Expect to hear from me frequently, if the editors around town are kind. But if I end up being the best dressed homeless person in Sydney, so be it. Sometimes, a girl has to prioritise.


Related Tags: fashion, shoes, clothes, spending, louis vuitton, confession

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Author Naomi Hulbert is founder and managing director of Urashima Writing Services, and Australian company that provides writing, editing, translation and training services to clients in the corporate sector. Naomi is an experienced journalist, author, radio broadcaster, ghost writer, corporate writer and educational writer, and teaches at the majority of Urashima's writing workshops. Visit: http://www.urashima.com.au

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