As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
I HAVE been invited to two previously postponed weddings that will finally be happening in June. Suddenly I have been thrown back into the world of wedding outfits, posh frocks and high heels. Let me tell you it is way outside my comfort zone of track suit bottoms and big woolly jumpers.
I’ve never been a big consumer and am not fond of shopping, so I immediately turned to the younger women in the family to advise me on where to start. They seem to be in two camps. One of them has announced that I should pursue a policy of ‘full on glam’. Now I haven’t a clue what ‘full on glam’ is, but with some guidance I am willing to at least explore that option a bit further.
The other advice totally contradicts this. Don’t even dream of buying anything unless it’s recycled, handmade or second hand, they said. On this side of the family there is no tolerance for fast fashion, trends, or fake glamour. This feels very wrong on some level and yet it’s probably the right-on thing to do.
‘Online dress shopping is not half as much fun as swanning around town, drinking coffee and finding the perfect little gúna for a wedding’
Now caught between a rock and a hard place, they also recommended that I only buy online. This is what is done apparently. Buy two or three sizes at a time they advised, everything can be returned and cash will go back and forwards without you even leaving your couch. While my mind boggled over all that, I decided instead to try the traditional option and have a day out shopping in the city centre.
Myself and a friend were highly excited to be heading off to the big smoke. We parked on the Quay, and all I will say is that I look forward to the new Plaza and a bit less jaywalking across the road between cars. There is a very nice selection of craft and clothes shops along there and we felt we would have lingered for longer if these shops had been in a pedestrianised craft zone with added stalls and galleries.
While the relaxed and familiar “Shaws almost nationwide” is an old stalwart, oh how we reminisced about our visits to foreign cities with lavish and sprawling stores! For indulging in a day out for frocks, accessories and lunch you can’t beat an emporium with lots of floors bulging with variety. We left the windy Quayside with nothing and wandered up into John Roberts Square.
We loved being in this part of the town and there were lots of people enjoying breakfast outside the coffee shops and cafes. After parading in and out of all the boutiques, none of the posh frocks on offer seemed to cut it. A word about the current “trends”. Could we have some ‘less is more’ again? The yards and yards of flowery, crimped and pleated dresses were too over the top and something a bit more elegant is required by women of a certain age. I had one shop assistant in stitches when I asked if they had anything a little less loud for the introverts amongst us!
Well no surprise, as we followed the other shoppers around, the vast majority seemed to be heading for the busiest and buzziest shop in town, Penney’s, which was crammed! It’s exactly the same in most other places in Ireland where this shop dominates, while other retail outlets slowly decline. The anti-fast fashion brigade don’t allow any shopping here, although the same ‘trend’ for flowery dresses was in evidence but for less than €20 a pop.
A bit disappointed, there was nothing more to keep us in Waterford and so we headed up the road to Kilkenny. (Sacrilege I know!) Let me put everyone’s minds at ease, Kilkenny was less impressive than they take credit for. Far too many cars, still plenty of empty premises and although they had a bigger selection, we came away empty handed again.
After my first shopping outing for more than two years, I understand now why people say that retail is dying. I don’t love living here for the dress shopping though! I love the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside, the friendly community feel, the vast heritage and history. But if retail is dying, then we urgently need to shift the purpose of the city centre; more families living in the heart of it, a greener pedestrianised living city with a variety of leisure activities, food shops and markets.
I hope I don’t have to wait another two years before something lures me back into the city centre again. Meanwhile, the young ones are giving me a guided tour of online dress shopping. So far it’s not half as much fun as swanning around town, drinking coffee and finding the perfect little gúna for a wedding.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com