Saturday, 27 February 2010

Fashion Positions

It is just a regular Saturday in my neck of the woods, but can I just say how much I dislike seeing this picture below, in pretty much every single fashion magazine this month? Yes, yes, the way I see it tells an awful lot about me, but I am just going to take my chances on that one. I think this picture is degrading. The facial expression, the positioning of the legs, the flap covering her private bits... I don't know whether this model being 28 years old and a mother of three makes it better or worse for me. The last time I have been as annoyed at a fashion image was when I came across this double-page picture in US Vogue last December. (For whatever reason I couldn't seem to allign the two photos side by side, but you get the idea.) Nice little all-fours pose there... with the guy sneaking up behind.

In addition to these two images, I am so fed up with ad campaigns featuring teenage girls lying down on the ground half-naked, and because we are talking about fashion, she usually has to have company, a girl just as half-naked as she is. I would like to see the clothes on models standing up, or actually, on women standing up, without the needless eroticism. Yes, portrayal of fashion is all about fantasy, but the lesbian connotations and teenage girls do not do it for me. And neither do women spreading their legs, for that matter.

Phew, sorry about the rant. I hope you are having a great weekend!

Blouse: Noa Noa
Jumper on top: second hand / Salvation Army
Skirt: second hand Nina Ricci / Petrune Vintage
Tights: H&M
Shoes: Vagabond
Earrings: gift from Lynn

Friday, 26 February 2010

Bad New

The adorable Milla wrote about the future of vintage in a very thought-provoking post this Tuesday. Since thrift shops are drowning in cheap lycra and horrid acrylics already, it makes one ask what we can expect to happen within the next, say, 30-40 years. When the treasures of our thrifting generation are passed on to our children and grandchildren, they are pretty much antiques. Milla asks what is the legacy that our generation leaves behind from the perspective of style choices. Fake-leather shoes, cheap jersey, and some supposedly high-quality designer pieces in the mix? Whatever the answer is, the sheer amount of stuff is going to be overwhelming.

This got me thinking about the contents of my wardrobe. There is a lot of second hand stuff in there, but also quite a few items that I have bought when they were brand new. I have never had trouble admitting that I have done my share of binge-shopping at H&M, and I keep hoping that I can hold onto my promise to never do it again, for both environmental and stylistic reasons. Considering that I do have "new" stuff in my closet, I took a long and hard look at the clothes I have, and tried to think which ones would qualify as vintage treasures of the future. I was pretty shocked. I kept finding great items, only to realize that I had bought them second hand. I tried to come up with an outfit using only clothes that I had bought new in order to prove to myself that I had made some good choices. (I couldn't. The pea-green cardigan is second hand.)

My criteria for future treasures were as follows: 1) the material would have to survive wear and tear, 2) the style would have to be somewhat timeless, and 3) they would have to be well made (no threads hanging loose, no serged seams; in general, good craftmanship or tailoring). The few non-second hand items that would qualify included a black Sportmax pencil skirt, a couple of pairs of Acne and Diesel trousers, an age-old jeans jacket, and a few outdoor coats. That's it. I did, luckily, find several pairs of shoes and two handbags that would qualify, but unfortunately I also found many that did not. It also hit me that a lot of these future treasures were items that I had got access to because of my previous job and staff discounts at a good-quality clothing retailer.

Living in the US has awoken me to some harsh realities regarding consumerism. What I have seen in Finland (13-year-olds getting their weekly fix at H&M and Zara) is nothing compared to driving past Wal-Mart on a Saturday and realizing that shopping is a past-time here for entire families. Shopping is about buying. You want it, you buy it. If you don't have the money, you put it on credit. Houses here are huge because otherwise you can't fill them with stuff. (Just an example: our "small" town-house would be considered a residence for a family of four in Finland). I have seen adverts for a tv-programme called Hoarders that tackles people's houses so full of stuff they can't even move in them. It features people who are literally sick with consumption, but the consumption in question is quite different from the one a hundred years ago (tuberculosis).

I have a bad feeling that Europe is going down the same path fast. There was no H&M or no Zara in Helsinki when I was growing up in the 80s, and my mother would take us shopping for school clothes twice a year, and even then, the stuff I wore was mostly hand-downs from my sister. The sad reality is that these days there are a lot of blogs out there that feature "buys of the week" or publicly admit to spending thousands and thousands of euros on cheaply manufactured mass-market clothes every year. These blogs are kept by women in their late teens or early 20s. They consume like there is no tomorrow. Like I said, I have done my share of senseless shopping in the past, and I am still no role model when it comes to consuming. But I do worry about the future, and what I see makes me sick.

What are you leaving behind for the future generations? Do the clothes in your wardrobe qualify as future treasures for thrifters in 30 years?

Ghostbusters t-shirt: Target
Cardigan: second hand / Salvation Army
Taffeta skirt: Max&Co.
Tights: Noa Noa
Shoes: John Galliano

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Fade to Colour

When I started this blog over two years ago (wholy Moses, has it been that long?), I wore mostly pale pastels and grays. There were occasional pops of colour here and there, but for the most part it was all about the soft and the muted colours. I don't know what has happened to me over the past year, but I wake up every morning craving for colour. And not just colour, but random mixes of colours, and mixes of colourful prints. The pale stuff haunts me every time I open my wardrobe. There is an awful lot of gray in there, and I keep wanting to wear the few really colourful and patterned things I have, over and over again. Today I tried to come up with something new with mixing two different florals with plaid and stripes, and even though I liked the patterns together, the tailored jacket just didn't feel right to me.

I have never felt fully comfortable in blazers, even though I really like them on other people. I feel like they make me look too "dressed up", as if I was going to work in an office, but who knows, perhaps it is just in my head. Anyway, I changed into a patterned poncho, but I somehow feel like this isn't enough patterns and colours for today. I don't know what is wrong with me!

Knowing that I seem to be into brights these days, Chris got me some superbly colourful flowers yesterday. They certainly brightened up my day. We are surrounded by a blizzard, and spring seems to be awfully far away.

See-through print tunic: Tuuli's old
Poncho: Urban Outfitters
Stripy tee: Only
Trousers: Diesel
Boots: Sportmax

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Observations, Opinions and Blogging

I wrote my first-ever opinion piece about reckless people operating their jet-skis on a lake. It was June, and there were little ducklings everywhere. I was twelve years old, and I was angry. My piece was published in the local newspaper, and I felt better, even proud. I have always been opinionated, but after my teenage years I started to struggle with finding an outlet for my opinions. With strong views come people who don't agree with you, and being able to deal with confrontation has never been one of my virtues.

In my early 20s I became best friends with relativism. It was a great way to sound smart without having to carry that baggage of being the opinionated girl. No one likes a girl with opinions, right? It was a dangerous path to stray on. At university my essays would often portray an issue from as many standpoints as possible and my conclusions were grossly diluted. As much as I had to say, I voiced nothing. My low point with relativism came when I found myself defending a culture's right to female genital mutilation and the use of child soldiers. That was not where I wanted to be.

I write about this because the response to my post about the "ugly" Americans got me thinking about opinions. One commentator mentioned that I should have kept my thoughts to a personal journal, and another wrote that it was unfair of me to draw such general conclusions of this country and its people so soon. I am the first one to admit that I wrote the piece in question when I was angry, and it shows. In my struggles to become less of a relativist I have noticed that anger gets me talking. I used to be awfully cautious, and I'd supress any sense of instinct and moral judgement I might have had. I'd exhaust every possible aspect of a given issue before saying anything. Not only was that awfully consuming, but it often left other people troubled. All that talk, and no way of finding out how I really felt. These days I try to go with my gut-feeling instead of making excuses for others. I observe tentatively and I do some research, but I am not a social scientist (well, actually I am, but not for the purpose of this blog), and I try to become more comfortable with having strong viewpoints even if I don't have multiple fact sheets on my side. Doing this makes me feel better about myself, and it certainly tends to create conversation.

Let me cut to the chase: I have recently moved to a different continent. My life is bombarded with new ideas, practices and norms on a daily basis. Settling down to a new culture is never going to be easy, and there is only so far I can go with cultural relativism. There is a real danger of losing oneself if one only entertains things that are positive. Some aspects of living here are wonderful, others terrifying. My observations are, of course, very personal in nature, and I have assumed that they would make interesting reading for many. However, the last thing I want is to be disrespectful towards the country and the people who are hosting me. However, if I write about my settling down here, there are going to be ups and downs in the process. I am not big enough a person to only write about the happy stuff. Which is why I ask you: does my settling down in the US make interesting reading? Does anyone want to hear about the negative stuff, or even the positives? Do you blog if you are angry, or having a bad day? Where do you draw the line when writing about opinions?

On a different note: I went to see Crazy Heart last night. It was the same cinema, but a very different crowd. As I sat there with my fellow movie-goers, there was only silence and awe to witness this gem of a movie. Go see it, Jeff Bridges is amazing.

Red sweater: second hand / Salvation Army
Shirt underneath: Urban Outfitters
Skirt: second hand / Salvation Army
Knee-high socks: Urban Outfitters
Shoes: second hand / UFF

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Theatre of Fools

One of the questionable habits of "intellectual" Europeans is the bashing of Americans and their lack of general knowledge. I am ashamed to admit that in my youth I made vows to never set my foot in the United States. I was a hardcore pacifist (and still am, but a less aggressive one), and found the wars the US was involved in deplorable. I, too, tsk-tsk-ed when my dear friend Teresa (a US citizen) claimed out loud in our international politics lecture that America was the greatest country in the world. (The tone of her claim suggested that she was not only referring to the military might of a nation, but the supposed superior moral status her country enjoyed.) While working at a student residence in London, I dealth with American law students who did not know what country codes for phone calls were, or who blew the fuses of all of their electronic apparatuses before asking if there was something wrong with the electric circuit of the building. Even last year I laughed out loud when I saw a YouTube clip of a US beauty queen showing her dumbness when asked about the lack of geographical knowledge of her countrymen, or when an Australian reporter went around asking Americans about the most famous buildings in the world.

In the past year or so, tables have turned. Since it became evident that I was going to move over to the US, I have struggled to learn to put the US states and the major cities on the map. I would have to double-check when the declaration of independence was drafted, and what the events were that led to it. If you had asked me to put Indiana on the map a year ago, I would have struggled. Ask me to name the presidents on dollar bills and I wouldn't have had an answer for you until very recently. I shriek like an idiot at the sight of a racoon, and don't even know the names of the basic weeds around here. Summa summarum: I have gained a sense of sincere humility whenever I encounter Americans who mix Finland with Sweden, or who might struggle with the details of the Paris Peace Agreement. The best bit is that these Americans are just as humble as I am when it comes to acknowledging their lack of wisdoms. They might not know whether Paris is a part of Europe (I was asked this by a student from Florida about ten years ago), but they are sincere and curious, and for the most part, they have extremely detailed knowledge of the history of their own country and culture. Add the numerous Americans who have first-hand experience in university life, world affairs, science, business or media, just to name a few outlets, and intellectually speaking the average American might not be worse off than his or her European counterpart.

Having said all that, yesterday I was presented with a first-row seat to witness the emergence of a scary American subgroup: the obnoxious, rude, loud, ignorant Americans. Chris and me decided to go see Shutter Island (after all, the movie takes place at a mental institution in the 1950s - I was intrigued). Without giving the time much consideration, we went to a 10:50 showing on a Saturday night. As you might guess, in any town or city, that is the time when anyone interested in safe-guarding one's own sanity should stay at home. It is the time for the obnoxious, rude and loud.

Shutter Island is a serious (if not all that great, but not bad either) movie. It deals with mystery, the human mind and the fragility of our condition. Chris and me were accompanied to the movie theatre with dozens of teenagers and young adults whose only reason to come to the cinema that night was to discuss Lakeisha's new haircut and to shout remarks such as "I want someone to die already", "That's some f^&king ugly child" and "I bet she wants to f%&k him". Add hysterical giggles every time the camera moved into show an insane person or to a dark cell with naked asylum inmates, and you have a pretty decent idea as to how the entire two hours were spent in the cinema.

There are badly-behaved teenagers and young adults in every society, but I have to say I have never in my life encoutered anything like what I witnessed last night. These young people spoke non-stop, from start to finish of the movie, walked around in the cinema when the movie was playing, and showed no consideration whatsoever to the fellow people around them.

Chris tells me that there is a certain part of the American population whose first and foremost way to look at the world is "I am entitled". These people think that it is their God-given right as a citizen of the United States to behave as they see fit in any given situation. Me first, others second. I wonder whether it is for these people that our local Barnes & Noble bookstore stocks "South Park and Philosophy" next to Hobbes' Leviathan.

I feel bad about having the need to write this post. During my stay in the United States I have met so many wonderful people - people who have hosted me in their homes, people who have shown genuine interest in my culture and country, people whose smiles are sincere and who are eager to learn about the world and other people. I hate to bash anyone in this country, because it gets enough bashing already, and its people have given me so much. Still, I am horrified that the other side of the face of this country is so selfish and ugly. I am sad to note that I have not encountered such ugliness anywhere else.

Blouse: H&M
Trousers: Acne
Belt: second hand / Salvation Army
Shoes: second hand / Fida
Beret: second hand / flea market
Brooch: gift from Lynn

Friday, 19 February 2010


I have said this quite recently, but here it goes again: the best thing about blogging is belonging to a community. We come from the far corners of the world, live our own lives and come together, sometimes daily, to have a look into each other's lives, thoughts and wardrobes. Angel passed on this blog award to yours truly. Thank you, Angel!

There are a lot of beautiful blogs out there that I follow actively. Some are picture-heavy style diaries, some are outlets for random (or skillfully) crafted thoughts. I figured that I'd pass on this award to bloggers whose scribblings I really enjoy reading. They go through the trouble to write from the heart, about their lives and thoughts, sometimes in a very personal sense. Here we go, the winners are:

Tie-dye t-shirt: second hand / flea market
Cardigan: Urban Outfitters
Skirt: self-made from an old tunic
Tights: Noa Noa
Shoes: Pura Lopez
Necklace: Indiska
Bracelet: Tom's

P.S. What a strange coincidence! Andrea of a cat of impossible colour just featured me as her Woman of the Week. It's almost as if we were exchanging awards, but I tell you, it is not what it looks like! Thank you, Andrea!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Cat Post

I realized the other day that I haven't written about our mad - err... I mean - cat house in a while. Surely, the kitties make an entrance every once in a while, but the last time I wrote about the kitty situation in detail was back in September last year when we were all desperately trying to get along. To recap: when I lived in Finland, I had two kitties, Masa and Illusia, both of whom came to me from an animal shelter in Helsinki. Illusia had a history of getting into trouble with other cats in the shelter (she has a cloudy eye and a shredded ear due to cat fights in the past), and Masa was basically a wild cat. For whatever reason they became the best of friends at the shelter, and the shelter decided to lump them together for whoever was crazy enough (who, me?) to take them. After about two years Masa is still on the wild side of things, but with Illusia's help he is becoming more acquainted with people-friendly cat life. Illusia is here on the left, Masa on the right:

When Chris came into my life, it soon turned out that he was very much of a cat person himself - he had five. There were the two older kitties Blue and Cassiopeia (probably around 10 years of age), and three sisters, Audrey, Willow and Lyric (all 5 years). When things with Chris and myself got serious it took us about two seconds to decide that no kitty was to be left behind in this whole ordeal of us making our lives beat in sync. Last August we packed up my flat in Finland, and with us came Masa and Illusia, on the plane, all the way to the United States. (Traveling with the cats, may I add, was by far the most stressful experience ever, but well worth it.)

Before long it was obvious that our seven cats did not get along. We pretty much expected it, but hoped for the best anyway. We thought that with time, they would settle all accounts and would at least learn to tolerate each other. As it turns out, they did not. After six weeks of hissing, running, yelping, bunches of fur flying in the air, and the older cats getting seriously stressed out, we decided that it was time to think of an alternative solution. In came the door separating up- and downstairs, and the two kitty-zones were successfully established. Ever since, we have had a very peaceful house of cats. Every once in a while we leave the door open (under our watchful eye, of course), and occasionally some Finnish cats rub noses with the Americans in a friendly manner. Other times fighting resumes. This, by the way, is Willow, by far the most easy-going, affectionate kitty I have ever met:

Willow has truly become my lap kitty. Whenever I have a free lap, she makes a mental note of it and fills the empty spot in no time. Willow's belly is all shaved up right now, because she had a little lump in her stomach that had to be checked out. Luckily the vet wasn't worried and said that most likely it was a deposit of fat (hmm, we do feed our kitties). Audrey, as usual, has that look on her face that means trouble:

Audrey gets first place when it comes to ranking the vocal capabilities of our cats. She makes the strangest sounds; little yelps, big yelps, random yipping, and while meowing her little heart out her mouth becomes so wide at times that it looks like she is going to be cut in half.

Cassiopeia here needs to go see the groomer. Her fur is getting all tangled up despite my brushing her every day. She sounds and behaves like the girl in the Exorcist whenever I tackle her mane. I have tried to condition her to respond to treats after brushing, but it seems to me that knowing that the treat is on its way, she struggles even more.

Our poor over-eating Blue has lost a little bit of weight, but she still resembles (and is often called) the Battleship Potemkin.

The only kitty not presented here is Lyric, who is, sadly, still very timid and scared of me. Unfortunately she refused to be photographed for the purpose of this post. She tends to hang out in the basement during the days, and only comes out when I am nowhere to be seen. During the past couple of weeks she has finally started coming up to me in the evenings, which is certainly better than nothing.

Anyway, living with seven cats is wonderful. Okay, so what if my clothing is always covered in cat hair, and who cares if our house never seems perfectly tidy. All seven are such distinct personalities and make our lives so much richer.