Friday, 31 December 2010


We are on survival mode here, pretty much. From the day before Christmas (when Cassie was hospitalized) to Wednesday night when we had to let her go, I have been in a bit of a haze, trying to distract myself on the one hand, and then feeling guilty for trying to distract myself on the other. There has been an awful lot of crying, but also, little by little, moments of relief. Seeing a pet struggle is horrible, even more horrible than coming to terms with the fact that it is time for them to go. Cassie no longer responded to treatment, so I know we made the right decision to put her to sleep. That helps a little. Your kind comments have helped, too, and I appreciate your compassion more than I can express.

I don't know if it is just a coincidence, but since Cassie passed away, there have been subtle changes in the moods of our remaining six kitties. Blue, who shared the house with Cassie for eleven years, has seemed withdrawn, almost as if she feels a loss too. Audrey, Willow and Lyric are even more affectionate than usual. Masa, our feral tomcat, has become shockingly social all of a sudden. He jogs casually by my side when it's food time, he rolls on his back in my presence and plays with me. Who knows what's up with him, but to me it almost looks as if he has made a conscious decision to make a change.

Speaking of changes, as we move on to 2011, there are two things that will serve as New Year's resolutions of some kind.

1. I will stop procrastinating and start writing for real.

2. I will take better care of myself and start doing yoga again.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Cardigan: Urban Outfitters
Linen shirt: second hand / Valtteri flea market
Tee: Target
Cords: J Crew
Boots: Max%Co.
Butterfly necklace: vintage, JBL at Ruby Lane

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

TGAAD 21/52: On Spending and Buying

Chris and I are going to visit the Big Apple in a couple of weeks on our first wedding anniversary. I decided ages ago to not worry about The Great American Apparel Diet too much while we are in NYC. I am going to allow myself to do a little bit of shopping there. The question that troubles me right now is: what is going to be worth the money?

Okay, so I have bought a few things while being on TGAAD, but I have been rather surprised how differently I am starting to view buying the less I do it. I paid 3 euros for the cardigan I am wearing today. It has been a great purchase: it is warm, comfortable and wearable. I have worn it probably 20 times already. But if I had found it in a proper store, how much would I have been ready to pay for it? $25? $50? $100? I honestly don't know. I feel like I am losing track of what things cost and why. Or maybe it is not the cost that is the issue here: maybe it is me. The truth is that I feel uncomfortable spending money. I have somehow lost the ability to justify spending. I wonder if this has something to do with having reached "a stuff saturation point"? Or is this the result of no longer feeling a void in my personal life that I was trying to fill with a lot of shopping in the past? Have I broken the habit? Or, have I perhaps finally learned something about the value of money?

I have come to understand a fair bit about my own shopping patterns; for example that the thrill that I have got in the past from shopping reached its peak at the moment of money transaction. Realizing this was quite a shock to me. I had always just assumed that the main point in my shopping was to have and own new things, not to buy them. But the less I have bought things, the more I have come to recognise that the high has come from the buying.

Looking back at my little spending spree in Finland a few weeks ago, I notice now that I made one or two mistakes. I got excited about cheap prices at flea markets and, for example, bought a burnt orange corduroy skirt+shorts=skort that I probably will not wear. Overall though, I did really well, and yes, I am going to pat myself in the back because of that. I bought practical things that I could see myself wearing a lot in the future; things that I am excited about having and wearing. I even got myself a new pair of skinny jeans, and I didn't feel guilty. But I did notice feeling awfully distracted in proper clothing stores. (I visited quite a few while shopping for Christmas presents.) There were so many clothes everywhere; clothes that seemed horribly expensive, and more importantly, clothes I knew I didn't need, or even want. Clothing stores even looked like spending traps. The layout of a store would look obviously calculated to me. Everything from store windows to the choice of music played in shops felt like products of a carefully considered marketing scheme, which, of course, it is.

Back to the question regarding our trip to NYC: what do I need, or want? You know, maybe I don't need anything, although I could see myself trying to find a good pair of flat shoes, perhaps, or a neat handbag, maybe even a white shirt. Whatever I might end up buying though, I know that I will buy for different reasons than three years ago. I aim to feeling good about wearing something that I appreciate, not something I just wanted to buy for the sake of buying.

Cardigan: second hand / Valtteri flea market in Helsinki
Tee: JCPenney
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Kurt Geiger

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Man, woman, fashion

In case you are not familiar with The Man Repeller blog, do take a look. The hilarious author presents you with her (partly tongue-in-cheek) selections of outfits and fashions that make the opposite sex steer steadily away from her. Knowing how much Chris loves to see me in what are common "man repellants" such as denim overalls, nerdy glasses and clogs, I asked him to sit down with me last night to flip through fashion magazines. In short, I wanted to know what repels my man and what makes him tick, and how justifiable it is to claim, even half-jokingly, that straight men don't get fashion. I thought my husband would be an excellent pick for a guinea pig: so he is not your typical heterosexual male when it comes to fashion, but he has opinions, lots of them. We looked at catwalk pictures, street style photos and images of celebrities, pretty much whatever caused a reaction of some sorts. Here are the results:

To my surprise, this Prada look was an instant hit. Chris liked the skirt, even the fact that it is high-waisted, and heck, he even thought the monkey-print was cute. He thought that it would take a brave individual to wear this in public, that no one in our town would. But if you skipped the heels, the look would be a lot more wearable.

The two Celine looks above got low ratings. The sleeveless wrap-jacket in the top picture reminded Chris of martial arts. Overall, the whole outfit seemed "ill-fitting and plain". The blue blouse in the bottom picture was "ok", but the leather skirt "horrible".

The "ladylike luxe" as portrayed here by Harper's Bazaar was a hit. Chris took an instant liking to the yellow Michael Kors look on the right. The Proenza Schouler look on the left pleased him as well. And speaking of Michael Kors, the yellow maxi dress (a common man repellant) below was one of Chris's favourites of all the images we saw.

Kate Bosworth wearing this Proenza Schouler dress below looked "great". Chris thought the teaming of black accessories with the vibrant-looking dress was an excellent touch.

Another well-dressed celebrity was Diane Sawyer. Her outfit below looked like something many women of different ages, shapes and sizes could wear.

The harshest reaction was reserved for anything Lanvin.

Every single Lanvin dress we saw was "hideous" or "something an 80-year-old would wear in Florida". There was too much pleating, too much layering, the dresses (not just these three above, even short ones) were "cut horribly" and looked "ill-fitting and unflattering". The studded Burberry trench below was also "just horrible".

Some unexpected favourites included this Christopher Kane outfit.

Chris thought it looked "very attractive" because of the wallpaper-like pattern and the vintage-y look. It also got high points because women of different sizes and ages could wear this and look sophisticated. The only negative aspect arose once I told Chris that the outfit was made of leather: "Ugh, I just don't like leather clothes". The Fendi platforms were Chris's favourite shoes of what we saw.

The Marc Jacobs ad campaign got positive attention, too. Chris thought the clothes here were "bold and striking", although a little "costume-y". He thought someone in their twenties could wear it for real.

Overall, Chris seems to be a lot more open-minded about fashion than I am. I'd dismiss a look I didn't like in an instant, whereas Chris paid close attention to detail, cut and texture, and considered issues like comfort and wearability, age and size. There were only a handful of pictures whose potential he didn't consider: almost everything was at least worth a pause and a moment of weighing in what was presented. Alongside the above-mentioned Lanvin, anything by Jil Sander was met with instant disbelief: the clothes were unflattering and made even tall, slim models look odd and disproportionate.

Chris seemed very sensitive to the fact that in fashion magazines clothes are portrayed on young, very slim women. He thought that Marie Claire's "What I love about me"-section was refreshing: "it's nice to see what women actually wear".

I guess the purpose of this experiment was to be able to say what I already thought before: that sex isn't necessarily the defining factor when it comes to issues of personal taste. What is commonly considered man-repelling can also be woman-repelling: I hate Marc Jacobs's spring collection with a vengeance, and Chris happened to like several aspects of it. I thought the neon-green Christopher Kane ensemble was mumsy and the colour way too difficult, whereas Chris thought it was stylish, vibrant and interesting. Many things in current fashion repel me more than my husband. I still appreciate designers presenting and actual people wearing bold, unusual looks: it is refreshing to see people push the boundaries of what can be worn and how, regardless of what I might find appealing personally.

Are your significant others, boyfriends, husbands, partners or male friends interested in fashion, and do they comment on your fashion choices? Do you think there are such things as "man repellants"?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Long & Lacy

What an exciting week it has been! No, not really. I've spent the past week monitoring Cassie the Cat's bowel movements. Cassie has been sick a lot this fall/winter, and the vet has finally given a diagnosis - she suffers from chronic constipation and 'megacolon', which is just as nasty as it sounds. You'd be surprised how much sincere happiness a person can feel after successfully scooping lots of kitty poop out of the litter box after several days of not finding any! Anyway. Sorry about that. I wasn't really going to write about kitty poop. I was going to tell you all about long skirts, namely these ones.

Long skirts are very trendy at the moment, I hear, and it so happens that my friend Rosie had four just taking room in her closet. After the initial shock (The 1990s! Goths! Lace with velvet!) I figured that I'd give them a chance anyway. It turns out that if you pair the unlikeliest piece (black see-through lacy skirt, the shortest of the bunch - the other three are ankle-length) with something more current, say, ankle boots, a slouchy cardigan and a pendant, it kind of works. I know that you will probably not find these types of skirts on trendy hipsters or on the pages of Vogue (you'd see the black, narrow, plain kind instead), but I am going to go against the grain and say it : I am all for the more ruffly types. I am getting tired of the sleek, polished, tough and modern looks of the moment, and I am sure a little bit of lace and ruffles never killed anyone.

So far I have worn three out of the four skirts successfully (the white one is challenging this time of year), although I am sad to say that no photographic evidence exists at the moment. I am sure I am not the only one struggling with the 'grainy indoor' vs 'freezing cold outdoor' picture-taking dilemma.

Chris got me this dolphin pendant at an antique store.

Tunic: Max&Co.
Cardigan: Benetton
Skirt: second hand, Rosie's old
Ankle boots: Max&Co.
Pendant: second hand, present from Chris

Monday, 13 December 2010

Lost Affinity

I have known for quite some time that times have changed in the world of modeling. I used to be considered very thin even by modeling standards, but in today's world I would be too big in the hips to do runway. Despite being aware of this, for several years I have occasionally seen models here and there, and thought that they were somehow like me. I have held onto an odd sense of affinity with the awkward, tall, thin models even if I haven't modeled professionally in almost eight years.

On Saturday, as I waited for my plane to start boarding, I observed one of the top models of the moment, Freja Beha Erichsen, as she was killing time, waiting for the same flight. There it was, embodied in this girl, the difference I have known was there, the difference between models of the days past like myself and the girls who are in the business now.

Freja Beha looked stunningly photogenic. Her hair was fashionably messy, and she wore black skinny jeans and a black leather jacket. She looked effortless, very cool, and her face was beautiful despite clear signs of fatigue and sunken cheeks. She was tall and so tiny I felt I could have probably knocked her over just by touching her. Her thighs looked as narrow as my calves. From behind, she looked like a teenage boy.

I have always been critical of people discussing models' weight. I have comforted myself by thinking that the nature of the world of modeling is what it is, and that most models are naturally thin anyway, just like I was and still am. The industry adores and promotes thin girls, and it is not up to these very young women to change the world. But there is thin, and then there is the type of thin that makes you wonder how thin can a person get, and what is that person's responsibility over her own well-being.

As the plane was finally ready to board and Freja Beha sneaked quickly into business class and I lost the visual of her, I got to my seat on the plane and spent a good portion of the flight thinking about my past in modeling and all the things that have changed in me since I quit. For the first time I fully realised that I no longer feel affinity with other models. This realisation might have arisen because of the frail figure of Freja Beha, because of my reaction to her body: I saw myself look at her the way "normal" people do, with a mixed sense of admiration and horror. I don't know what that means. Maybe enough time has passed, finally, for me to see past as something that has truly passed.

Jumper: second hand, Tuuli's old
Dress: H&M, Tuuli's old
Tights: H&M
Boots: Max&Co.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Pet Shop Boys, please

Like Anu Silfverberg so perfectly expressed in this column, there are all sorts of odd artificial divisions between people: people who are cat people and people who are dog people, people who got picked first for team sports and those who got picked last, or people who understand the Pet Shop Boys and those who don't. I am more of a cat person, I was always picked last for team sports, and I love the Pet Shop Boys.

My first memory of Pet Shop Boys is their music video for It's a Sin. I was nine or ten. I had gone to my best-friend-at-the-time Anna's home after school, and they had MTV. Of course I didn't understand the lyrics or the dark atmosphere of the video, not to mention the cultural context of the song, but I loved the tune the first time I heard it. I remember the moment quite vividly.

I was in my early teens when I eventually bought three Pet Shop Boys vinyl albums at a second hand music store: Actually, Introspective and Behaviour. The type of music I listened to at the time tended to stick to your usual quiet-teenager-with-issues type of menu: Morrissey, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, R.E.M., U2, Suede, early Radiohead. My fascination with the Pet Shop Boys didn't quite fit the bill, at least at first glance. The deep melancholy of their music is often only palpable to true fans; others tend to dismiss it as simple electro-pop. So what if digging Willie Nelson would have given me more street cred when I was a teenager; to me, the Pet Shop Boys' version of Always On My Mind was the best there is, and well, being the superbly unpopular student I was, I never had a chance with street cred anyway.

I bought Very when it first came out in 1993. I was 15. It was my first experience of enjoying new Pet Shop Boys material with other fans. Not that I knew of any other fans, but the moment was meaningful to me anyway. I loved Very, I still do. The follow-up, Bilingual, was my first Pet Shop Boys disappointment a few years later, and I became a lazy fan. It just hit me today that there are four (yes, four!) Pet Shop Boys albums I have not listened to actively. I keep going back to the old ones, the good ones, the ones I have had for almost twenty years, on vinyl. There is a part of me that now understands how people get stuck on the music they have always listened to, how people tend to stop looking for new interesting music after a certain age. It hit me that I need to get my act together and get my hands on the albums I don't have. Unlike a lot of my old favourite groups, the Pet Shop Boys are still active.

A couple of nights ago I dreamt of visiting the Princeton Record Exchange, and I was desperately looking for Pet Shop Boys cds. The piles of cds were close to toppling over my head, and I was in a hurry. The only cd I could find was their first album Please, which I already have on cd. In the dream I also argued with someone over Neil Tennant's name: that someone kept insisting that his name was Sean, not Neil. I bet that someone was a dog person, and that he got picked first for softball.

Images: lastfm

Saturday, 4 December 2010


I spent a couple of days in the countryside in Pohjanmaa, where my mother and stepfather live. It was beautiful up there, but cold and dark. The sun dropped below the horizon at 2.50 pm.

This is my mother's house.

Hare tracks in the snow.

Frozen spider webs

Ice-fishing on the frozen lake

Sweater: H&M
Tee: JCPenney, top: Urban Outfitters
Cords: second hand, Megakirppis flea market
Boots: Merrell
Scarf: H&M

P.S. In case you are wondering why I am wearing glasses a lot: I was told by my optician that I have been wearing contact lenses too often, and that my eyes need a break.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Thrifting in cold Helsinki

Yesterday my sister and I decided to visit a fleamarket in Kaivopuisto, a relatively posh neighbourhood in Helsinki, right by the sea. The breeze made the chilliness almost unbearable, but we found some good bargains at the fleamarket (Kaivarin Kanuuna), which is luckily located in a cosy indoor space.

Today we stopped by another fleamarket, the good old Valtteri, and again, some excellent discoveries were made. I am in full-blown TGFASS mode, and oh well, I am giving myself permission to not worry about it. I felt torn for a day or so after buying a couple of "unnecessary" things, but I have made peace with myself (and with a little bit of shopping) now.

I think it is okay to do some thrifting with my sister while I am here (and I hope this doesn't sound like a desperate plea to gain my dear readers' acceptance, because it sincerely isn't one). Thrifting is (and always has been) one of the favourite things of ours to do together, and it would be almost sad to not be able to do it now. Visiting fleamarkets and second hand stores often happens to involve some buying - but I was happy to discover that these days Tuuli and I work harder to keep each other's purchases in check. We make sure that the materials and the prices are decent, and we know each other's styles. I am using TGAAD lessons to rule out everything that might be for special occasions only, or anything that has to be dry cleaned professionally. I refuse to buy anything really-cool-but-difficult, like a pair of blue suede pants yesterday, or a burgundy flared leather skirt today - I just know that I wouldn't get a lot of wear out of them. There is no room for wrong sizes or colours either. I also decided that I had to come up with an imaginary outfit around the piece of clothing in order to justify the purchase. No outfit means no purchase, and this "rule" proved to be very useful. I haven't had time to take pictures of the things I bought yesterday, but today I bought the following items:

Wool cardigan with duffel "buttons" - this will look really cute with denim shorts, tight and ankle boots.

Stripy cotton maxidress. I will wear this with a slouchy belt, a chunky necklace, a pair of rough style sandals, and maybe a small vest of some kind. Or alternatively, with a long cardigan and Dr Martens style boots.

These denim espadrilles I got for free! They would look cute with a simple summer dress, or with denim shorts and an airy blouse.

Last but not least, an oversized linen shirt. This would look nice over a simple jersey dress, with sleeves rolled up, and accessorized with a pair of clogs and big earrings.

As you can tell, it was another cold day today. The only way to spend any time outdoors is to bundle up big time. Like my friend Heidi said the other day, it can be tough to look stylish when the weather is freezing.

Tomorrow I will head northwest to visit my mother in the countryside. It will be even colder there. Coming up: if possible, even more bundled up winter gear!