Monday, October 26, 2015

Slow Fashion October: WORN, and why I care about clothes

This last (I'm a little late with this again; at least I am consistent) week's theme for Slow Fashion October is "WORN," which Karen explains as being about:

heirlooms / second-hand / mending / caring for things / laundering for longevity / design for longevity (bucking trends, quality materials …)

I thought I would pick up on the "second-hand" aspect of the theme.

I think there are a lot of women out there who find that clothes just don't light their fire. Which is honestly awesome. More power to you all: sort out your 'uniform,' wear it with pride and confidence, and go about your important work in the world.

But, the thing is, I really like clothes. I don't mean that I consider myself a fashionable person -- I don't really care about trends and those who do probably give me the side-eye when they see me walking down the street. But I do enjoy the opportunity for creativity that getting dressed represents. I like juxtaposing patterns and colors in an outfit the same way I might in a quilt. I like exploring the way different styles can imply character and narrative in the same way that I like inventing characters in fiction.

And so, though I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of ethically sourced clothing, and the environmental imperatives of minimal (or at least...reasonably sized!) wardrobes made up of items chosen with an eye towards longevity, after a while this all threatens to become a little, well...joyless.

Shopping second-hand can be a solution to this conundrum, I think. It offers an opportunity for low-commitment, low-environmental-impact play. I am always happy when I find wardrobe staples at thrift stores (hello, knee-length denim skirt, and brand-new Breton-striped tunic from J. Crew). But I also like to occasionally relax my rules about what is and isn't "me" a little bit and try something new.

One can go overboard with this; buy anything that appeals to you in some way because "what the hey, it's cheap," and you end up with a mishmash of a closet where it's hard to find the things you truly love. But a little bit of deliberate "I'd like to give this look/item/trend a bash" can be a good strategy. Sometimes you conclude that a particular look doesn't suit you after all, but other times you might discover an enduring element to your style.

While thrifting with my mom during my parents' visit a couple of months ago, I found myself drawn to hippie-like maxi skirts. But I had an inkling that I wanted to wear them in a non-hippie way.

My style is neither "boho" nor preppy/conservative, but I think that sometimes juxtaposing both types of items in an outfit can cancel out or tone down both of those qualities in an interesting way.

So here are two outfits featuring my new maxi skirts, made up entirely of second-hand items. (Sorry for the blurry phone snaps -- this ain't a fashion blog.)

In this warm-weather take on the experiment, the skirt, t-shirt (Ann Taylor LOFT), and wedge sandals (Sofft) are all from thrift stores. The cardigan is by Leifsdottir via Ebay, and the bangle and earrings are both vintage via Etsy.


This second look is entirely from thrift stores (the sweater is by Banana Republic and the gray suede loafers are by Peter Kent, which I gather is a $$$ Italian brand; I paid $5 for them), except for the pearls which belonged to my husband's grandmother.

The implied narrative here is: "Oh this? I found it in a closet at Gran's country house. Would you believe Aunt Phoebe was a hippie in the sixties?"

In truth, I am not sure how long these skirts will remain in my closet, nor how often I will wear them. But in the meantime I'm having a bit of fun. I think I might wear the second outfit above on Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Eating lately: October

I am just coming off my busiest, craziest work week of the year, so to get back in to the swing of the domestic side of things, I thought I'd share a few quick snaps of some of our recent meals.

Spaghetti squash with cherry tomatoes and basil. I tried serving spaghetti squash in place of pasta, because healthy! low-carb! But even though I served it with garlic bread, we were ravenous two hours later! This is a delicious recipe, but I think I'll consider it more of a side dish in the future.

Nothing says "Happy Birthday, sweetie, I love you!" like a 10-pound lasagna. (See, because carbs.)

Split pea soup, carrot-raisin salad, and bread and cheese. I agree with Marian that soup with good bread and cheese never goes amiss. And I'm grateful that split pea soup is, unlikely as it may seem, a favorite meal of my very picky eater. Our table looks like this roughly once a week!

Rice and smothered cabbage soup. This was the first recipe I ever cooked from a food blog, way back in 2008, and it's been a staple ever since. It may not look like much, but oh, it's so comforting and wonderful! (Easy, too.)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Works in Progress: Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank muslin and Slow Fashion October

Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank muslin -- hey, at least I've figured out that hemming curves issue!

Here is a muslin for the second of three patterns I've been experimenting with in an effort to find my One True Woven Tank. This is the Tiny Pocket Tank by Grainline Patterns.

It's been a while since I last posted about this project, so to refresh your memory, the first pattern I muslined was the Wiksten Tank, but I decided it probably wasn't for me because (1) no bust darts, and (2) janky shoulders.

As for the Tiny Pocket Tank...I am not sure what I think. When I first tried it on, I thought it was great. When I put it on again to take these photos, I thought it was awful. But when I look at the photos, it seems...ok-ish?

Grainline tank muslin, side view...this is passable, I think.

I do think the Tiny Pocket Tank fits better in the shoulders than the Wiksten Tank, and I think I have some insight into why.

In the photo below, the Wiksten pattern is laid on top of the Tiny Pocket pattern. See the shoulder seam up at the top? The Wiksten tank has much more sloping shoulders compared to the Tiny Pocket pattern.

Direct comparison of the Wiksten and Grainline tank patterns.

So I think, when I lay that angled seam on top of my broad, straight shoulders, the inside portion of the shoulder seam is forced upwards, resulting in exactly the sort of janky shoulder fit that I saw with the Wiksten tank.

Wiksten tank -- janky shoulders.

You wouldn't think such a small angle would make such a big difference, but look what happens when you align the shoulder seams of the two patterns: the Wiksten tank swoops WAY out and up.

A little angle makes a big difference

I suspect this is why I initially wondered if I should lower the armholes of the Wiksten tank. In fact, looking at the patterns, I can see that the Wiksten's armholes are actually markedly lower than those of the Tiny Pocket, and yet the Tiny Pocket tank fit me much more comfortably in the underarms.

So, all in all the Tiny Pocket tank is a much better fit for my body. But it's not perfect. To make this closer to the Woven Tank of My Dreams, I'd need to raise the front neckline (by an inch or maybe a bit more, I think), and also shorten the bust darts (currently they go well past the apex of my bust). I have a short torso and a small bust, so neither of these alterations is very surprising.

I also notice a bit of horizontal pulling above the bust. I see this in a lot of Tiny Pocket Tanks made up online, and I'm not sure what the cause is (in my case, it's obviously not that it's too small there), but I suspect it would bother me a bit.

Horizontal pulling above bust. 

The fit across the back seems not quite right, either. Just under the arms it's very tight, and I suspect that's why I'm seeing that gaping at the back neckline, too -- the too-tight back is forcing the garment upwards.

Too small across the back, no? (Also, sorry for the involuntary sideways-thumb -- which actually sums things up pretty well, come to think of it -- and for the awkwardly placed bathtub faucet -- we only have one wall mirror in the house.)

And yet, from the front, let's be honest...I'm still swimming in this a bit, aren't I? The Liberty lawn that I plan to use to make these tanks will probably drape better than this vintage bedsheet, but it's still a fairly crisp fabric, so I can't rely on drape for a flattering fit.

But...kinda shapeless and blocky from the front.

What I think this adds up to is that the pattern needs the following alterations:
-raise neckline
-shorten bust dart
-cut a size larger (?) at the upper back
-cut a size smaller (? front and back ?) through the torso/waist

But I think I'll muslin my third pattern before doing any of that, to see if it is a better fit in any respect and also to see what additional insights I can gain.

Whew! Are you tired of me nattering on about all this? Me, too. To be honest, I'm feeling a bit demoralized about this project -- rather overwhelmed by the number of tweaks that need to be made in order to get a flattering fit in this very simple sort of garment (a feeling that is magnified by not really being sure how to diagnose what is wrong with the fit or how to fix it).

But I think I need to persevere. Which brings me to Slow Fashion October, an event/experiment/Internet-related happening initiated by Karen Templer. I recently started following Karen's knitting blog, Fringe Association, and I don't knit -- not even one little bit! I think that really says something about how thoughtful her posts are and how compelling her sensibility is.

I'm posting this a bit late (hey, so I'm slow about Slow Fashion October, that ought to be allowed right?), but my thoughts here are inspired by last week's theme of "SMALL," which Karen describes as being about:

handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability

I think it's pretty obvious from my last post on the capsule wardrobe topic that I'm not really a minimalist, in terms of either numbers or aesthetic. (Actually I suspect it is easier to be a numbers-minimalist when your aesthetic is also rather minimalist.) But I do care about sustainability.

I think the way that I might square those two things is with the concept of longevity. That is, especially when I add something made with new resources to my wardrobe -- either bought at retail or made from retail-purchased fabric -- I want to aim for it to stay in my wardrobe for a good long time. I mean five years, or preferably ten. Or even longer!

And that means that the thing has to be really pretty much perfect. The right color, the right style, the right details, and the fit spot-on. A big part of the appeal of handmade, as I've previously alluded to, is that it offers the potential for lots of control over these things.

And, looking at my existing wardrobe, I see the same silhouettes repeated over and over, most of the variation being in color and pattern. This means that all this fussing with fit is likely to pay off, if I can get it right; I am an excellent candidate for getting good use out of tried-and-true patterns. But I have to admit that I was hoping the trials would be shorter and I could skip straight to the true!