The fashion handbrake every woman needs.

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My friend Jo got married a few months ago and in the lead-up to the
wedding, her behavior was particularly shocking. Not in a Bridezilla
kind of way but actually the opposite. The invitations had gone out,
the wedding planners were planning themselves into a frenzy, relatives
were booking flights from interstate and overseas, the flower girls
were having dress fittings and the bride herself? Well, Jo hadn’t even
thought about what she was going to wear. I repeat: not only did she
not have a dress, she didn’t have a clue. And did I mention the wedding
was five weeks away?

I was baffled. After all, this was a girl who loves her clothes and
adores to shop. She was hugely excited about the wedding and couldn’t
wait to get married, so it wasn’t cold feet. So what was behind this
weird fashion reticence?
It was geography. You see, Jo lives in Sydney but she’s from Brisbane.
Her parents still live there. Her best friend (who was the only
bridesmaid) lived in London and Jo had no sisters. So without a mother,
bridesmaid or significant female relative to go bridal shopping with
her, Jo was a bit lost and very stuck. It wasn’t how she’d imagined
looking for her wedding dress: alone.

After finally working this out, another girlfriend and I quickly decided to take matters into our own hands. We made a few speedy calls to Rosemary Armstrong at Tea Rose, Collette Dinnigan and Lisa Ho and off we went, Jo, me and my digital camera. While she tried on about 17 dresses in four hours, I snapped away, making sure to get the all-important back view as well as fabric details and editing the shots as we went.

By the end of the day, we’d narrowed the field to four frocks. I quickly downloaded and emailed the photos to Jo so she could forward them to her mum and bridesmaid. They were, of course, delighted to be able to feel a part of the dress-choosing-ritual and were able to email back photos of their own outfits to make sure the bridal part would look cohesively stylish. And voila: a happy marriage between technology and fashion was born.

There has been so much chat about how technology has changed dating and relationships but I can’t help noticing how it’s also changed shopping. And brides aren’t the only ones to take advantage.

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Apart from on-line shopping, the internet is a beaut way to check out trends and actual items so that you can recognize the good copies when you see them. I do this a lot on ebay and net-a-porter. And digital cameras and camera phones are great tools if you’re unsure about an item and want to either think about it from the safety of your own wardrobe or get a mate’s opinion. Fashion editors and celebrity stylists have replaced their sketchpads with phones and cameras in the front row at shows and many sensible shoppers use the same technique when they’re on the hunt for a particular item. They’ll go everywhere from Country Road to Charlie Brown, try on a bunch, snap the ones they like and then go home and compare before they drop coin.

But for me the most revolutionary use of technology is the way you can use it as a shopping handbrake. I do this a lot.
There are some stores that are a bit like entering a parallel universe. Where the shop interior, the sales assistants and the clothes are so trippily full-on that you can be fooled into believing you too should dress that way. Alannah Hill is one example – I adore her shops and always want to buy everything. They’re like fancy dress boxes for grown-ups and invariably after being in there for five minutes, I suddenly decide that the missing link in my wardrobe is a jaunty feather boa and some flowers the size of dinner plates to wear in my hair.

I have similar fashion accidents in Zambesi. I think it is a brilliant label and they make such clever clothes but they just don’t work on me. There used to be a Zambesi shop next to my office and when I was having a bad day, I’d pop in there at lunchtime. Once inside the calm, minimalist interior, I would check out the mannequins and the sales assistants and before you can say “out-of-your-fashion-league” I would be trying on clothes that were just too fashion forward for my lifestyle. Jackets with one sleeve, asymmetrical skirts with distressed hems, tricky fabrics and garments that needed a demonstration from the ever helpful sales girl who would invariably add “and you know, if you wear this wrap top upside down and throw a belt around it, it’s a pair of leggings!”.

This is where my mobile comes in and technology becomes my fashion friend. You know how Virgin now has a service where you can text them any phone numbers you don’t want to call when you’re drunk and they’ll bar your phone from dialing them for 12 hours? My friends and I use our phones to supply this service to each other for shopping. It’s mobile phone as fashion leash. When I stray into shops where I have a history of losing my mind (and then the contents of my wallet), I either take a camera picture of myself in the potential purchase and text it to a friend or confess via phone or text that I’m in one of my danger shops.

Recently, I had a conversation with my friend Wendy that went like this:
Me: “I’m in Zambesi and I’ve found this great gold brocade coat that I think could be fabulous. And also these unreal pants in this stretchy fabric that makes my bum look really good and-“
Her: “Listen carefully. Put down the clothes. Step awaaaay from the change room. You are not buying anything in there. Not today. Not ever again.”
Me; “But no, I swear they’re really excellent and it’s not like the other times -”
Her: “Pick up your handbag, put your own clothes back on and walk out of the shop. I’m not getting off the phone until you have walked out of the shop and are back at your car. Keep breathing. Stay on the line.”
Me (lying as I walk my purchases to the cash register): “Oh wait, I can’t hear you, the reception is really bad in here, what did you say? Hello? Hello?”

Because sometimes, even technology is impotent when a woman is determined to shop.

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