A Fashion Conversation

Style Nation, I am about to do something very bad. Very, very bad, since so many of you are academics. I am going to write about a book that I have not read. I just read an excerpt from a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.

The excerpt is available on Slate. You can buy the book here. You could also, of course, get it from Amazon, but it seems bad to be talking about the impact of cheap clothing and post a link to a cheap source of books.

My impression is that the book points out that we, as (North) Americans–which is to say that the book is about the US but as far as I can tell, the basic trends also apply to our northern neighbors (feel free to way in IPF ladies and Kelly)–dress fundamentally differently in an era of cheap clothing than we did when goods were higher quality and more expensive. Basically, in our current world, clothing is a disposable good, where as it used to be more of a long term investment. The book, as I understand it, talks about what it means to have storage bins and bins of trendy, poorly made outfits. It goes over the cost to “us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being.” I want to read this book, but I am not sure that I want to take quite such a long, hard look in a mirror.

What I did read was the State article and I was shocked. Basically, the article points out that we all believe that there are charities just waiting for our clothing. That what we do not want, our cast offs with their labels still attached, our barely worn and discarded fashion trends will find homes through the Salvation Army or Goodwill. That they are not waste. Apparently, this is not true. We produce old clothing at a rate that we cannot consume in thrift stores and there is an entire industry that is dedicated to sorting the clothing that cannot find a home in the American second hand market. Much of it goes to Africa, where internet shopping and low priced Chinese clothing are giving people the ability to be much more selective about what they will use. Plenty gets turned into something else. Even more becomes garbage. The shear scale of the waste was amazing.

Some other observations were amazing as well. Did you know that the average American woman owns 7 pairs of jeans but only wears 4? I have no idea what counts as “jeans.” All denim pants? Black denim? I am almost positive (but not completely) that I do not own 7 pairs of jeans and once I get all of my wardrobe under one roof, I will find out. But wow. Just wow.

And so here I am on my anti-consumption bandwagon. Back to wanting to say “have a few items, make sure they are good quality, take good care of them.” But Style Nation, I have a hard time spending serious money on a dress when I could get something that looks as nice (in the short term) for 1/4 the price. I like the allure of something new. While I love classic looks, I fear the frump and I haven’t quite figured out who I want to be in terms of my personal style. And who I would be if I had more money to put into this project. And that limited but high cost wardrobe? It still costs serious money to get it up and running. And the cost of making a mistake gets so much higher.

But then again, my house as 3 1940s sized closets, which were, presumable, considered enough for 3 people. And each and every one of them is packed full of my clothing.

What do you think, Style Nation? Talk to me, talk to me about being fashion forward, budgeting responsibly, being environmentally aware, and being worried about sweatshops all while needing to step up your wardrobe to professional levels and earning so very little. And while we are at it, let’s about about Nicholas Kristoff pointing out that since for many people, the choice is not actually sweat shop or union shop, but rather sweat shop or harvesting a garbage heap, that maybe sweat shops are the lesser evil.

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Outfits for Working

I have spent most of the week (with the exception of Wednesday, whose outfit will need to be recapped as it was unintentionally patriotic) working, mostly on the couch at my mother’s house. The New Dog (I have decided that Mistress Madra is not a suitable name) does not really understand housetraining and so must be crated when I am not home. And she does not mind the crate, but she hates being left. And so I have hung about the house making sure she does not poop inside. Life is thrilling, let me tell you.

My mom’s big advice, from her days as a stay-at-home mom, is that even if you are only going to the mailbox, you must get dressed. So here are a series of working from home outfits.

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Jeans: LOFT, from Anne

Top: LOFT, from Anne

Shoes: AWOL

 

This outfit was entirely created out of the latest Missionary Barrel, sent by the Incredible Shrinking Anne! In the end, I decided that the jeans were too big–they were loose when I put them on, and as jeans do, they grew. As such, they are being passed on to a friend who is also working on shrinking and has shrunk her way into these pants. The top was a definite win, though. And no matter how much the Fly Lady says that you must wear lace up shoes when around the house, I never seem to do it. (I am just too Asian to wear shoes in the house, without a more compelling reason than pop psychology.)

The next work from home outfit:

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Jeans: Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, a little boutique in Grad Schoolville

Top: Express, from Anne

Shoes: Again with the AWOL

The New Dog: Photobombing and unnerved by the beeping of the camera

 

Not much to say about this, though I think that wearing something more structured than yoga pants is good for my productivity. Not as good as GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE, though. Which is what I have done today, wearing this:

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Dress: LOFT, from Anne

Shoes: Keen, remixed

Necklace: Ten Thousand Villages

Thus far, coffee shopping it seems to be working for me. And being back in the world of fashion blogging is causing me to step up the clothing a bit. If only I included my face. It might cause me to step up my makeup as well…..

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Hand Me Downs

This outfit was worn for a day of hanging about and going to used bookstores.

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Top: LOFT, Handed Down by Anne

Slacks: Dockers, from the Knitting Angel Missionary Barrel

Sandals: Børn

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A Wedding Themed Post

The weekend during which I met the wonderful Kelly in Beantown, I was also the Maid of Honor in my best friend’s wedding. The Wayfaring Physician and I have been best friends for almost 20 years and in this case, being a maid of honor really was an honor. It was also something of an exhausting job. All and all, the wedding was wonderful and if I was filled with a desire to kill one of the other bridesmaids, the third of our trio of attendants was sweet and delightful. During the rehearsal dinner, I taught the groom’s Austrian family how to play MadLibs. I opened my toast by saying “welcome” in the bride’s first language (Mandarin) and in the groom’s (German) and over the course of the toast, managed to make the bride tear up, thereby meeting my own personal goal. I also discovered that something in the eye-make up (maybe the glue from the fake eyelashes) really stung when I teared up. I reconnected with two old high school friends and watched my mom and the bride’s mom keep up a running commentary through both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. I discovered that when you are the honor attendant, you actually get to hang out with the bride while you are at the wedding. In fact, you get to stand holding hands with her before she walks into the church.

One of the most fun pieces of the wedding was that we walked about 10 minutes through a busy part of the city (think Harvard Square or Washington Square Park or the Castro or Dupont Circle) to get from the hotel to the church, 3 bridesmaids, a bride, and a photographer. People waved. Garbage trucks honked. A lawn crew cheered as they drove by. Cabbies yelled “Best wishes” and “Congratulations” in  West African accented French, Hatian Creole, and Hindi. It was grand.

I will try to post a full outfit photo, with the shoes when I get access to the professional photos, but in the meantime, here are a couple of shots from the wedding, as per A-Dubs’ request.

Here is probably the best shot of the Maid of Honor dress. I am sorry that my own personal blogging policy precludes showing you a picture of my face, because it turns out that if someone pays around $100 for you to have your make-up done (including false eyelashes) you look amazing. When he saw the pictures, the Academic Gay Boyfriend told me that I was HOT. (in point of fact, he also said I looked like a lost Kardashian sister, but I have decided that I did not, in fact look trashy.) The other person in this picture is the mother of the bride, who was stunning.

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Dress: Amsale in Cobalt Blue silk chiffon

Shoes: I am not wearing my 4 inch heels in the hotel room

Jewelry: a pearl necklace that my father bought in Lucknow and a pearl bracelet from the Wayfaring Physician (her gift for the bridesmaiding)

What you cannot tell from this picture is that in between when I had the dress tailored and the wedding, I lost 6 pounds. I also added slimming undergarments. This combination was deadly and resulted in me being more or less pinned into the dress with safety pins. traditionally, the bride is the person who gets help going to the bathroom. In this case, it was me! Honestly, I was surprised that the undergarments made such a difference–I was expecting them to smooth out bumps and lumps, but not to make me notably smaller, so I think that it was largely the weight-loss. But there you go.

What you also cannot tell from this picture is that the bride and her mother had quite the struggle with that dress (which looks black in the picture but is, in fact, navy blue). The bride was not thrilled with the sleeves or the rouching (how is that spelled?) down the front. But I think the MoB looked fab!

I also was wearing polish on my toes:

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and on my fingers. In a move that I am very proud of, I managed to perfectly match my fingernails to my bouquet. The reason that I am so proud of this skill was that it required botanical knowledge. I knew that the bouquets were supposed to be pale pink peonies, and so I had to draw on my knowledge of flowers to (sight unseen) match the colors:

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I was not totally thrilled with my hair, but I understand from others that it was perfectly designed to look fantastic on the side of my head that was visible while I was sitting and standing in the front of the church, so that is good:

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In the meantime, let us not kid ourselves. Yes, this is my fashion blog, but what you really all need to see is my best friend, the beautiful bride. She was truly radiant and lovely. Here she is from behind, walking into the church:

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See that navy blue sash? When the bride put on the dress, she realized that she did not have the sash that goes with the dress. She had taken it veil shopping and never reunited it with the dress. The navy blue sash, which perfectly matched her mom’s dress, was stolen from a sweater belonging to the awesome bride’s made. And I am very proud of the bride, who managed not to have any sort of moment or panic attack at any point in the process of realizing the sash was gone and finding a substitute.

And I would say that I am immensely grateful for all my years as a stage manager. With out it, I would not have been the maid of honor that I was that weekend. (You should see the wedding emergency kit that I made. There are photos, but they are basically of a satchel of sewing materials, pain killers, straws, and nail polish…..)

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A Real Life Meet-Up

Stylenation, I have things to say. I have lots of things to say about the Wayfaring Physician’s wedding and have, I believe, promised A-Dubs a picture of me in my Maid of Honor Gear. I also have outfits from the lead up to the wedding to share. I must, however, re-enter the world of work and actually get some stuff done. And so I leave you with evidence of meeting in real life.

Here I am, in Beantown with Kelly:

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My outfit:

Shirt: Pride and Prejudice t-shirt from Out of Print Clothing (New to Blog)

Jeans: LOFT and altered to fit (New to Blog since alternation)

Shoes: Børn (Remixed)

Bouquet: Peonies, leftover from Maid of Honoring

Kelly’s Outfit:

I probably should have asked her about that.

You should all note that Kelly looks happening and stylish, out to meet another fashion blogger, and I look like I am fried after being in a wedding and wading at the beach all day. And I was, and I had. And it was grand. I am, however, wearing my FAVORITE t-shirt, as a concession to the fact that I was going to meet Kelly. This will surprise neither those of you who know her in real life nor those who know her on the interwebs, but Kelly is marvelous. I found her delightful and hope to see her again sometime!

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Maid of Honor-y Errands and a New Place to Work

Please ignore what you can see of my hair. I am pretty sure that 150% humidity is impossible. I am equally sure that I now know what it would feel like.

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Top: LOFT, The Knitting Angel Missionary Barrel (New to Blog)

Pants: Dockers, The Knitting Angel Missionary Barrel (New to Blog)

Shoes: Keens (Remixed, I assume)

Dog: Probably going to be photobombing a lot as she is not so clear on how we do not poop on carpets and is therefore always on a leash

This outfit is drawn more or less completely from the Knitting Angel missionary barrel, except that, because it was cold and rainy, I added a sweater.

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I can’t really tell you anything about the sweater, but it is new to the blog and I have cut out its tags. It is acrylic and from Macy’s….

The weather was terrible today, and this was as bright as it ever got in my parents’ living room, so you can’t really tell that the pants are navy, but they are. And the sweater is chocolate brown. Of course, the terrible weather is part of why a long sleeved sweater is part of what one needs in June.

This fine outfit was worn for a day of errands and article edits. I had to go to a lingerie shop to buy the odds and ends that will go under my maid of honor dress on Saturday, which is to say a bustier and a pair of spanx.* In them, I look like a sausage. Which is fine, since no one, other than the bride, will see me. But the Academic Gay Boyfriend has been on my case about dating. You know, getting a real boyfriend (who will certainly not notice what I wear in the way that he does, but still). So the sausage  raised a question for me. About dating. How does one dress with the undergarments that help one look good on a date when dressed without then looking terrible should one want to be on the date and not dressed? Thoughts, Stylenation?

After pondering what it means to date while old enough to wear foundation garments, I settled in with a hard copy of an article in progress, to make some serious edits. Progress was made but not, of course, enough. And then I went to Ann Taylor LOFT. An excellent dress was bought along with 2 shirts. Marketing is amazing. I went in to use my $20 coupon and spent $120. I imagine that you will see all of those outfits in time. The dress is so great that I called a friend and told her to go buy it.

 

* Did you know that Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the Godey’s Ladies’ Book coined the term lingerie (or at least its English use) because she thought the term unmentionables was too coy?

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The Virtues of Gear

I have never been what you would call an athletic sort. Probably relatedly, I have never been a huge fan of gear. Gear is expensive, and a big investment for a new hobby. A dear and generous friend of mine, however, gave be a biking vacation as a graduation present. (No, Stylenation, I did not graduate. For various reasons (largely strategic) I am postponing. But the tickets were bought beforehand and so it is an early graduation present. And very, very exciting.) Because we are carrying all of our clothing on our bikes, I realized that I was going to need light weight items. I ended up with 2 quick dry dresses and cycling tights, complete with chamois. For the uninitiated, chamois is padding to protect your lady bits (or your gentleman bits) from your bike seat. They feel a bit like large maxipads and they are VERY HELPFUL for long bike rides. Additionally, it turns out if all of your clothing is spandexy, with seams carefully designed to be out of the way, nothing chafes or pinches. Your clothing does not make you uncomfortable, which makes it much easier to put up with the discomfort of pushing yourself phsyically! Who knew? (Okay, everyone knew. Everyone who was not me. And they told me. I was just too cheap to listen.)

This is biking outfit number one:

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Dress: Athleta (New to Blog)

Cycling Tights: Pear Izumi Insulated Tights, REI (New to Blog)

Socks: Target (New to Blog)

Shoes: Merrill, DSW (New to Blog)

I am aware that the dress is a bit snug across the hips. Sadly, I seem to need a 1X instead of an XL and I could not find a moisture-wicking, quick-drying dress that was a touch larger. I am hoping that spending much of every day on a bike will help make the bike clothing fit! I imagine that there will be more cycling gear appearing in these pages soon!

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