Sunday, 31 January 2010

Dare


I have had a really nice weekend. Yesterday me and Chris R. teamed up with Lynn and Chris A. to go to the movies. We saw It's Complicated, and it made me realise that sometimes it is good to see a film just for some laughs and wonderful company. We grabbed some pizza afterwards, and decided to make an efficient 20-minute visit to our local Salvation Army. I found a couple really cool things, and since green tags were 50% off, I ended up spending less than $20 for six items. Chris taught me how to play backgammon in the evening, (which was very enjoyable, with a cup of tea) before we watched Sleepy Hollow on tv. Today I felt that I just had to wear some of my new treasures - the orange jumper and the navyblue polka-dot skirt were newly fresh and ready to wear from the laundry this morning.

Today has been a perfectly crispy winter day; not too cold, wonderfully bright and sunny. Me and Chris decided to go see another film, and picked A Single Man, which I have been dying to see for a while now. Before we left the house, Chris dared me to wear a crazy Peruvian hat he gave me in November - I hadn't worn it yet because it is rather bold and, well, like I said, crazy. Of course I went for it. As Chris realised that I was actually going to wear it in public, he looked at me, sighed deeply and said: "oh, my crazy Finnish wife." Yes, I am.



A Single Man was probably the most touching, hearth-breaking and beautifully shot film about sense of loss, identity and grief I have ever seen. Colin Firth and Julianne Moore were astounding. Go see it!


Coat: Object / Only
Scarf: second hand / Aino flea market
Gloves: Sportmax
Hat: present from Chris

Jumper: second hand / Salvation Army
Skirt: second hand / Salvation Army
Tights: Urban Outfitters
Boots: Bianco
Brooch: Max&Co.
Necklace: Glitter

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

On the Politics of Clothing

Sally from Already Pretty wrote about signature pieces the other day. The conversation that followed in her comment box had people referring to their wedding bands, skinny jeans, cowboy boots, and all sorts of individual pieces that were specific to their style or person. In other words, certain pieces we wear can help us define our characters, not just for ourselves but the ones around us as well. What makes this issue particularly interesting is the power of the things we wear - they can be so much more than just statements of one's style, depending on how the people around us choose to interpret them. I was reminded of this yesterday when I read about the leader of the Swedish Social Democratic party, Mona Sahlin, whose political abilities have been questioned recently due to her carrying a 600-euro Louis Vuitton handbag. An expensive handbag, apparently, is not suitable to someone representing social democratic values in Sweden. Certainly then, Sahlin's handbag is far from being a personal style statement - it might have begun as a personal choice, but has become, in essence, a question of power.


Or take Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan. His karakul, the hat that made Tom Ford once declare him as the most fashionable man on the planet, has metamorphosed from a symbol of Afghan nationalism when he was elected in 2002, to a sad reminder of an electoral mess and failed policies in 2010. It might be just a hat, but consequently, hat-makers specializing in karakuls are facing closure due to the unpopularity of a politician.


Or even further, take the current workings on banning the use of full veil (burqa) in public places in France, after partial veils (niqab) were already banned in state schools a few years back. How do we decide whether wearing a veil represents religion, culture, tradition, personal choice, someone else's choice, or the state's choice? Can wearing a burqa even be considered a personal choice, or dare I even say it, a style statement? Could burqa be a signature piece, and if not, why? What is the essential difference between culture, or state, defining what we should or should not wear? If the burqa is a symbol of "debasement of women", what should we call the ban on wearing one? Freedom?


I realise that I am throwing a lot of questions out there - that is my way of trying to decide what I think about a certain issue. Regardless of culture, state, religion or any other notion of power coming from the outside, I am all for women (and men) deciding for themselves what to wear, and how to represent themselves on the outside. It is not that easy at times though. There are all sorts of forces in play, forces that are extremely difficult to pin down. The most important one, for me, is the individual's own will. How do we get to the point where our personal choices are free of our cultural surroundings and independent of social pressure - now that is a different question. Let me know what you think about the burqa ban - I am so torn on the issue!

Seahorse sweater: second hand / UFF
Skirt: Urban Outfitters
Tights: Noa Noa
Shoes: Vagabond
Necklaces: JBL and a random one

non-outfit images from bbc.co.uk, hs.fi, iltasanomat.fi

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Witch's Arrow

For the past couple of days I have been more or less immobile. I woke up on Saturday with a stiff neck, and by 6 pm I had trouble lifting a spoon. A couple of hours passed, and I couldn't even turn my head from side to side. The Finnish colloquial term for lumbago is, loosely translated, the witch's arrow. The ancient Finns believed that illness and pain was caused by an evil spirit throwing or shooting an invisible arrow or weapon into the body of the victim. It seems that evil spirits didn't think much of me working on a 1,500-piece puzzle for three days, hunching un-ergonomically over the table. Oh well, the puzzle looks great at least.


I spent the weekend and yesterday watching movie classics (Citizen Kane, Rear Window, Frenzy) and reading Alfred Hitchcock's biography by Patrick McGilligan, Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, as well as Foucault's History of Madness - I finally got my hands on the the full English translation last week. Ever since I visited the remains of the deserted local mental asylum last autumn, I have been completely obsessed with the history of mental illness. During the past couple of months, I have dived head first into Freud's Studies in Hysteria (1895), as well as an all-households-type of book published in the 1920s about abnormal psychology (which, for example, treats stuttering and epilepsy as mental illness). For someone who studied two courses of psychology in high school, the whole ordeal going through all this disturbing literature has been, well, a little crazy. Foucault's book seems substantial and above all, informative, if not always comprehensive and/or easy to read (hey, it's Foucault after all).

Hitchcock's biography and Foucault's book on madness aside, I can't wait to start reading Patricia Highsmith's new biography, The Talented Miss Highsmith, by Joan Schenkar. An enthusiastic collector of snails (Highsmith always had a snail or two in her purse to keep herself entertained in case she was stuck at a boring dinner party) and a compulsive fabricator of facts about herself as well as others - now there was a woman who would probably have a thing or two to say about mental stability! I have never read a single book by Patricia Highsmith (who is perhaps best known for the character of Tom Ripley, as well as her book Strangers On a Train, which was made into a film, by no one else but Alfred Hitchcock), but for whatever reason I want to learn about her. Oh how I simply LOVE coming across books that make me feel genuinely excited and interested in what I am reading and learning!


Sweater: Men's H&M

Blouse: second hand Pola / flea market

Skirt: sister's old

Tights: H&M

Boots: Nine West

Friday, 22 January 2010

Labels

I found this Lanvin dress at a flea market in Helsinki for 5 euros. There are times when I come across designer gear at charity shops or flea markets, and wonder whether I should buy it, with the thought at the back of my mind that at least I can sell it on eBay or Etsy in case I don't wear it ("it is an investment"). Needless to say, I have never sold any of my few second hand designer clothes, which is probably because at the end of the day, I always go for the particular piece rather than the brand. Seeing the designer label sets a shock wave through my body at times, but it always comes after the first shock wave that was caused by the actual piece of clothing. Not that the label changes anything, really. Perhaps it is more of a comfort factor. At least you know you have come across something that is most likely a decent quality piece, which is never a bad thing.

Shirt dress: second hand Lanvin / Aino flea market
Cardigan: Urban Outfitters
Tights: H&M
Belt: flea market
Shoes: mom's old Gabor
Necklace: Accessorize
Watch: 1950s Hamilton, present from Chris

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Things I Learned Today


I love newspapers. Flipping through my daily paper (in the old school paper format) in the morning is something I look forward to when I wake up and prepare my tea. The shift from Helsingin Sanomat to New York Times hasn't been an easy one for me. I was used to clockwork-like precision with HS - not a single paper was left undelivered, and it would arrive at 5 am the latest, every single morning. In contrast, we had huge trouble having NYT delivered. It took over a month for them to process our subscription, and once they did, it turned out to be a matter of pure luck if we managed to get our hands on the actual paper or not. We were lucky to get 3 out of 7 papers a week. After about 10 phone calls and numerous complaints, the paper is finally arriving on a daily basis, and just like in the movies, it is being tossed on our driveway, albeit not by a cycling teenager.

Anyway, for me, having the daily paper is like having Sergejeff tea at breakfast - a necessity. I don't know what I will do once they stop producing newspapers on paper - after all, it will most certainly happen during my lifetime. While I try to not think about my future paperless mornings too much, I am glad to share with you some truly fascinating pieces of information I learned today while reading my paper:

1. 40% of the daily calories consumed by average American children derive from snacks or junk food.
2. I am joined by social and political conservatives (ah, I love blanket categories so!), feminists, the Chinese and my personal favourite, the Vatican, in disapproving of Avatar.
3. The Russians have issued a ban on American chicken imports, due to the fact that American chickens are being treated with chloride for disinfecting purposes, and the use of chloride is banned in Russia, and also, the European Union, under food safety regulations.


Blouse: second hand / Aino flea market
Linen cardigan: Zara
Skirt: self-made
Belt: second hand / UFF
Tights: H&M
Shoes: Vagabond

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Love Kim So



After rambling on about Avatar yesterday - did I mention that I don't care about film awards? you all believe me, right? - I went on to watch Vertigo for the gazillionth time, and couldn't help but feel appalled that nonsense like Avatar will probably win the Academy Award for best picture as well as the Golden Globe, and a masterpiece like Vertigo did not win a single Academy Award. Alfred Hitchcock never won an Academy Award for best director. Only Rebecca won best picture in 1940. I guess there is no point discussing the Avatar injustice. It's not like justice took place in the good old days either. Edith Head won eight Academy Awards for best costume design in her career, but not a single one was a Hitchcock film. I love Kim Novak's wardrobe (by Edith Head, of course) in Vertigo. I am really feeling the 1950s look these days - the hem lengths, the shoes, the simple elegance, the gloves, even the make-up.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Boo!

I usually don't care about film / tv / media awards too much. I forget within the next week who won, and more often remember that no one wore anything that I really liked. I have a problem with Avatar winning the Golden Globe for best picture though. (I also have a problem with the universal acclaim Avatar has been showered with.)

I really love good science fiction. I have nothing against James Cameron. Aliens is one of my favourite movies of all time, as is Terminator 2 - Judgement Day. I was hesitant about Avatar at first, but when the reviews started pouring in and after my friends started raving about it on Facebook, I thought that it must be a good film. I was in for a shock. Aside from Avatar looking pretty (yes, the 3-D was impressive), I didn't think it showed any intelligence or depth whatsoever. The plot was way too easy to predict, the characters were nothing but stereotypical, and the message was packed with way-too-obvious references to colonialism as well as the current landscape of international politics. Add the plagiarism charges, as well as visual bits and pieces "borrowed" from Cameron's earlier works (especially the space ship equipment from Aliens), and the whole thing turns into a big blah to me. So boo to you, Golden Globes, BOO! I want my money back.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Mrs Chris R.

In Up In the Air (a wonderful film, by the way), George Clooney's character, a nothing-ties-me-down-and-all-I-need-is-my-freedom kind of guy, has to try to persuade his sister's husband-to-be to go ahead with the wedding after the groom has serious doubts on the morning he is supposed to get married. Yes, we all die alone anyway, and yes, there really aren't that many things you can come up with when one asks "what is the point of getting married" - except what Clooney's character ends up saying: that it is nice to have a co-pilot in life. I would add: it can turn long-distance relationships into close ones. Here's the big news: me and Chris R. got married on Thursday.

For those of you who haven't been coming here for long, me and Chris got together because of this blog. He started leaving comments as Chris R. about a year and a half ago, and after a lot of comments, e-mails, phone calls and IM conversations we decided to meet up in November 2008. At the time it seemed like too much of a coincidence to meet someone online who shares pretty much every single like and dislike (apart from peanut butter and Bob Dylan) with me, not to mention the general approach we have towards life. For a while I thought that Chris was someone I knew from before, hiding behind a secret username. But here we are, a little over a year later. What started here in the comment section of this blog, has become something very real, something to build a joint future on. This is what I wore yesterday, after having been married for about 24 hours:

Jacket: Helvi-mummi's old

Skirt: second hand / Fida

Scarf: present from Chris
Tights: H&M
Gloves: Sportmax
Shoes: second hand Bally / Fida
Hat: second hand / Aino flea market
Handbag: second hand / Play It Again Sam vintage

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Feeling Productive


My birthday came early this year - actually way early, but I am not complaining! I have been dying to get a dress form ever since I got my sewing machine. I haven't managed to figure out how to use patterns, and for the most part my sewing projects are not exactly projects that go from a proper plan to a finished piece of clothing. Instead they start from a nice fabric and become whatever seems right. The dress form is a huge help in trying to figure out what it is that I am trying to create. There is no need to make any decisions early on. I can just play around with a piece of fabric and see what happens.


Aside from working on this particular dress, I finally started a writing project I have been planning for months. I had a bunch of great ideas for a story, but was scared to start. I have wanted to write fiction for the past 15 years, but after my high school teacher of Finnish language and literature told me that I was better off writing opinion pieces and analysis, I sort of buried my dream. This particular idea for a story that I have now just wouldn't leave me alone, so I had to give in. I have no experience in writing fiction, no idea as to how to approach creating a storyline and no idea how to develop characters. For now anyway, I choose to think that if this story wants to be told, it will find an outlet eventually.

Friday, 8 January 2010

On the Social Code of Dressing

Andrea of a cat of impossible colour wrote about off-duty dressing, and I figured that I'd chip in and widen the topic a little. What we wear for "duty", work or a special occasion is an interesting concept, and what we wear for home or comfort is equally fascinating. Changing one's dress from breakfast to luncheon, from having guests to enjoying a cup of tea, from going to the theatre and having supper seems rather ridiculous these days, but a prominent social code used to dictate that women change their dress several times a day. Whereas the term "evening gown" still makes sense for today's women, "day dress" doesn't quite cut it anymore - we only have to specify our attire when we are outside the home. It is no longer necessary to define home-wear the way it used to be. I suppose the introduction of sports and travelling into women's lives in the 19th century began to transform that old social code of dressing. Our homes have also become more private. People live alone these days, and the custom of entertaining guests has become a rarity.

I enjoy dressing up for special occasions, but tend to lounge around in baggy trousers and cosy sweaters at home. As much as I like to think that I only dress for myself, I suspect that the traces of the old social code are still lingering within our minds and our lives. Not that we dress for others per se, but we become more aware of our appearances around other people. Perhaps it is in our nature to recognise the power of appearance in making first (or second, or third) impressions. There are still specific events where the role of the individual is defined with the help of what he or she wears: weddings and funerals are the most obvious ones. We don't dress a certain way in these occasions to impress others or to look nice, but to play our role within society. We dress out of respect for our fellow members of society, for the events that form social structures - essentially, for safety.

What I wear today is not dictated from above, and I didn't feel as if I had to please anyone but myself when I got dressed this morning. Nevertheless, I got dressed for the occasion of private comfort. That is a form of social code, isn't it?

Jumper: Salvation Army
Trousers: Cop-Copine
Ankle boots: Max&Co.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Etsy favourites: 1950s

I have had a a thing for lots of different decades when it comes to vintage fashion. My all time favourite has to be the 1920s, but lately I have developed a soft spot for the late 1940s and 1950s, Dior's New Look style with defined waists and full hems. I picked a couple of dream pieces from Etsy:

Dress, dandiesndames, $42


Coat, societygirlvintage, $395


Dress, swaneegrace, $250


Coat dress, storyboutique, $150