Back to the time when I was a teenager…
One day, during a visit to my grandparents, I overheard my youngest uncle making this comment about the famous fairy tale of The Red Shoes. ‘This story takes the punishment of vanity too far!’ My uncle made this statement while chatting with his girlfriend, a primary school teacher. Although how they came to be discussing this subject remains unknown; his point of view made a strong impact on my mid-teen mind.
Once I had started earning my own living, I began building up my wardrobe, nothing unusual there. But I was so in love with my outfits that I organised photoshoots for them – me wearing them – my favourite garments, accessories; heels, hats… everything! I started this hobby from even earlier with the clothes my beloved grandmother selected for me when I was only nine. What drove this was from the pure joy it gave me. The joy of playing the model, fun from being the stylist; excitement from location scouting and the creative pleasure of being the art director. If only I could do my own hair and makeup and press that camera button myself, I could be the world’s happiest one-woman show. (Cindy Sherman; I salute you!)
Back then there was no social media to post and share photos to. My early pictures were all made on film – negatives; that means every single frame had to be printed out. I kept most of these hard copies and the rest I included as postcards in letters to family and friends. A close relative who spent great sums of money on redesigning and renovating her mansion, called me one day after receiving some of my letters and photos. Concerned that I was having too much fun photographing myself and suggesting I ‘do something more meaningful’ in my life. Ah… Well obviously, my leisure time for fashion portraits was way too self-indulgent for her liking. That red shoes judgement did upset me for a while.
‘You are not a shallow person…’ One of my good male friends in Taiwan clarified. ‘But when you talk about your favourite fashion brands, you sound like a bimbo. You should tell people about the books you wrote and they will know the real you. They will respect you.’ ‘What’s wrong with this “me” who loves to pose in front of a camera? This “me” is real too!’ I thought. These red shoes judgements of vanity just kept coming.
There were also red shoes punishments that came with the judgements… One of these judgements at the start of what could have been a real relationship… ‘You are mad! What’s the purpose of these pictures, photographing your purchases?’ When your date started questioning your motivation so negatively regarding the portraits hanging proud on your unit’s wall. Well I knew right away that even if I explained myself; the other party would not understand. You either get it or you don’t.
Now the digital age has arrived, ironically, photographing one’s purchases is exactly what today’s fashion and style bloggers do. Was I a sleeper agent wide awake – the vanguard of this trend or just part of doing what women love? This activity even has its own name, known as the Outfit of the Day (OOTD). There are many differences between my self-styled self-directed portraits and the current OOTD culture. For example, I have mostly worked with and commissioned professional photographers for my work. I don’t do selfies by a smart phone. I prefer outdoor locations where I carefully scout for the story. And I don’t always showcase the latest trends. Having said that, the OOTD is pretty much freestyle anyway, and so I guess either fashion or style blogging would still be the closest exercise when describing my decades-long projects.
The times have truly changed. Nowadays, fashion devotees have been given so many platforms, tools and so much freedom to broadcast every part of their individual style – to the entire world! Quite the opposite from worrying about being judged; today’s fashionistas flaunt their daily OOTD choice ostentatiously! Although it will never be everyone’s cup of tea, and criticism will always be there; WE, the red shoes wearers have finally been forgiven and made acceptable by society more than ever before.
As an unashamed OOTD post, I want to use this opportunity to thank my followers and readers who understand and enjoy my fashion obsession, and the photographers who have helped me achieve them. Some people have said to me that I was/am ahead of my time, and I take it as a compliment. Once I drew a deadline in my mind that by age 33, I should put this driving force to retirement. Then ‘it’ moved to 35, then 40… Now I don’t believe age should be the limit for our achievements or dreams. I am just as grateful (and more relaxed) for any photo opportunity now as I was at the beginning. Fashion designer Zac Posen once said: ‘At the end of it all it’s just clothing, we’re not changing the world, but to put out a positive, artistic message that is empowering to women is very important to me.’
Yes! At the end of it all, why not have fun and dance with our red shoes?
Outfit Of The Day
Roberto Cavalli sunglasses
AGATHA Paris necklace
Masterpiece Opals & Gems Agate ring (right hand)
Keelung Night Market coral ring (left hand)
C.A.M. (Creatively Active Minds) clutch
VERSUS Versace skirt
Sergio Rossi peep-toe heels