Friday, 30 April 2010

Happy Vappu, happy living things!

Vappu is probably my least favourite Finnish public holiday (too many people get drunk in public places), but I still feel a little weird not being able to celebrate it here in the US. Lynn's jewelry party is tomorrow, and because she is of German origin and they do celebrate 1st of May in Germany, I am just going to take tomorrow's party as my Vappu celebration. The weather is gorgeous (72 F, 22 C), so what else is there to do but a) wear 100% second hand, b) do some gardening, and c) join our kitties in enjoying the beautiful day.

The "wear 100% vintage" challenge has actually been, well, challenging. I realised in the beginning of the week already that I have a lot of really summery second hand things, so it was tough to find things to wear when the weather was cooler on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I don't have many second hand shoes, and just two second hand cardigans, which has proven to be troublesome because I love wearing cardigans. Today was easy though, because of the warm weather. I had no difficulty choosing my outfit. I am so in love with this skirt it is almost ridiculous, and I was super happy to receive my giveaway package from Andrea of a cat of impossible colour, and wear a scarf that was included in the package. The contents of the package are amazing - three dresses and a beautiful selection of scarves. I have to adjust the dresses so that they fit a little better, but at least I can wear the scarves immediately! Thanks again, Andrea, for the package! I was so pleased with winning your giveaway!


It is so weird to think that it was haling and snowing on Monday, and now it is so warm again. Luckily my garden survived the frosty weather, and today I got acquainted with the first onion that is peaking through the dirt.

I planted some violas today:

Our decorative apple tree is blooming:

And my zucchini seedlings have grown dramatically over the past few days - I even had to re-pot them!

The cats are loving the warmth. Cassie hides under the Japanese maple:

Audrey hangs out by the screen door:

And Masa keeps an eye on things from the second floor window:

Happy Vappu, everyone, and have a wonderful weekend!



Silk top: second hand / Horisontti flea market
Linen skirt: second hand Calvin Klein / Salvation Army
Belt: second hand / Salvation Army
Shoes: second hand Nine West / Salvation Army
Scarf: giveaway from Andrea of a cat of impossible colour
Swirl pendant: second hand / Petrune vintage

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A lot is too much

An article in today's NYT's style section discussed the prices of designer clothing and how they are justified. Their example featured a pair of Band of Outsiders' khaki trousers, with the price tag of $550. Basic khakis like that cost less than $50 at Gap. The high price for the designer khakis comes from high production costs: they are made in Manhattan, materials alone cost $54, and the average employee earns $13 an hour (20 people are involved in making a single pair). The designer doubles the production cost in order to profit from making the trousers, and the retailer uses an additional mark-up of about 2.5. End result: well-tailored, American-made, high-quality khakis that cost $550. This got me thinking about my decision to not spend $250 on a pair of clogs recently.

I have mentioned before that I have trouble spending a lot of money on an individual piece of clothing. I often wonder whether I'd feel more comfortable spending if I had a ton of money, but I honestly think I'd still cringe at high prices. I am, however, becoming more and more aware of the hidden costs of cheaply manufactured clothes, such as sweat-shop workforce and use-once-and-throw-away fashion. The immediate answer from the consumer's standpoint, of course, is thrifting. After reading the article in NYT, I started to think about the blatant opportunism of my kind of consumerism.

I appreciate high-quality clothing and shoes, but I don't want to spend money on them. I have a lot of respect for fashion designers' visions on the one hand, and skills of those who hand craft their items with love and care on the other, but essentially, I don't want to support their work financially. I got to thinking whether this standpoint is at all sustainable. As cheap mass production of clothes is becoming more and more popular, shouldn't I be showing my appreciation and respect to the sellers whose standards of creative work align with my values? Wouldn't it be easier to justify spending money on clothes if I knew I was giving something back to the forces behind them and making sure those gifted seamstresses got their $13 an hour?


This opens a huge can of worms. How do I know what the values of a particular designer are, apart from the likes of Stella McCartney? How do I know if I am supporting someone's creative vision, or their market-driven need to sell their product, or are the two just different sides of the same coin? Can I be sure that their employees work for a decent salary? Do I want to spend a lot of money on a high-quality, unique designer piece, knowing that my money will go toward things like marketing expenses of a business? The answer is no. No matter how I twist and turn the issue, I can't see the point of paying $550 for a pair of khakis. I wouldn't buy the ones at Gap either, and yes, you guessed it, I would thrift them instead. At least with thrifting, you are giving back to the environment, and possibly to a charitable organisation, which is certainly more than justifiable. This is not to say I will never buy anything new again, because I am sure I can come up with all sorts of arguments for a piece of clothing if it is something I really, really want. But there is no way that calculating production costs of a business is making me want to spend more money on anything.

Seahorse sweater: second hand / UFF
Skirt: second hand / Salvation Army
Shoes: mom's old Gabor
Tights: Urban Outfitters

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

100% Second Hand


I am having one of those weeks when I feel like there is just so much going on. For the past two days I have been helping Lynn, who is throwing a big jewelry party over the weekend, and there has been a lot of polishing and arranging to do. Our house is a mess because our downstairs home improvement projects are slowly but surely taking over our lives. The veggie garden has issues of its own, such as snow, hail and freezing temperatures, and I have been busy trying to save my lettuce, onions and pansies from certain death. One of our cats has started peeing in unusual places again, so that's another concern. I have also been working on a very therapeutic guest post, which has been wonderful, but it has also made my mind feel increasingly occupied. However, I managed to find the time to throw together an all-second-hand outfit in order to participate in Eyeliah's wonderful "wear 100% vintage" challenge. My tights are not second hand, but considering how difficult it is to come by vintage tights, and tights are sort of like underwear anyway, I think I am happy to call this outfit 100% second hand anyway.

Despite our jewelry party project, Lynn and I found the time yesterday to swing by a wonderful antique / second hand store. I bought this blouse:

these vintage clip-on earrings:

and this cute candy / sugar dispenser:


You know how I complained about my green card stuff yesterday? Take a closer look at the form they sent me regarding their need of an additional copy of our marriage certificate. They are asking for one between myself and a deceased US citizen. Isn't that just the most ridiculous thing you have ever seen?




Orange sweater: second hand Finn Karelia
Cardigan: second hand / Salvation Army
Skirt: second hand / Fida
Tights: Noa Noa
Belt: second hand / Salvation Army
Shoes: vintage Bally / Fida
Brooch: used to belong to Lynn's grandmother - that counts as second hand, right?
Watch: 1950s Hamilton

Monday, 26 April 2010

Good news, bad news


I'm just checking in quickly to let you know that yay, Willow is doing fine - the lump in her belly is benign! Thank you so much for all of your kind wishes!

On a different note, we got some bad news from Homeland Security regarding my green card. It turns out that they have been sending stuff to a wrong address, and for well over a month they have been waiting for me to send them a second copy of our marriage certificate, and my application has not moved anywhere in the system, not an inch. I guess it is not a big deal, but it is still frustrating. We have wasted over a month because of their mistake, and just to rub it in, it is not that we have done anything wrong, they just want to have an extra copy of a paper they already have. Grrrrr.



Cardigan: second hand / Plato's Closet
Top: Max&Co
Skirt: second hand / Salvation Army
Tights: Noa Noa
Shoes: Bronx
Belt: second hand / Salvation Army
Necklace: JBL

Friday, 23 April 2010

Decisions, decisions


I have felt a little ridiculous for the past couple of days, spending way too much time thinking about spending money on a pair of shoes. I am very grateful for the advice you guys have given me, and you know, if I, myself, am so torn about the money and the shoes, it is better to not get them. I want to make good decisions, not ones that eat me alive, and make me feel vain.


I realise that thrifting has really changed the way I feel about spending money. Whether it comes down to clothes or, say, furniture, my instinct says: recycle. Think. Feel. Feel good about the purchase. Right now, there is no way I could feel good about spending $250 on a pair of shoes, even if they were hand-woven by blind Tibetan monks and half of the money went to charity. It just doesn't feel right. For now, I am just going to hold onto the money. One of our local animal shelters needs a new roof and we were going to give them a donation anyway, so perhaps we'll just give them more money than we originally thought. And perhaps I'll spend a small part of the money to treat myself at Salvation Army or something, I haven't decided yet. But anyway, having made the decision to not spend the money on the shoes makes me feel liberated.


I don't consider myself awfully vain, and style is important to me not just because of looks. It is all about expressing my identity, it is a way to have fun, but more often than not I do struggle with the concept of spending money on looks. No matter how I feel inside about the clothes I wear, the beast of consumerism still lurks behind every purchase I have made. The leap from consumerism to vanity is a major one, of course, but I do often wonder how I can morally justify wanting to look a certain way and using consumerism as a tool to get there.

I realise that we all have to wear clothes, and I just don't want to wear the same clothes all the time. Dressing a certain way can be a manifestation of power, of self-esteem, of identity, and I hold those things very dear. I don't want to take spending money on clothes, style and looks for granted either, but going back and forth with wanting and not wanting, spending and not spending, is sometimes a little annoying. I just feel torn. What I want and need are two different things, and I often wish I could just settle down with a certain guiding light, a real ideology regarding consumerism. I feel like I have to make up my mind about how I buy and the reasons behind it.

Perhaps I take this stuff too seriously. Maybe I should just go with my instinct and not think so much - there are so many moral loop-holes in the whole concept of money to begin with. For whatever reason I still feel I need to think about these things right now. Perhaps I am at a stage of my life where these issues seem more meaningful. I just need to figure out why, and then, what to do about it!

Okay, enough about that, because there are more important things to consider. Look, my red ridinghood lettuce is growing!


as is my gourmet salad mix:

and pak choi:


and romaine lettuce!


Come to think of it, maybe my gardening project and my shopping dilemmas have something in common: I have a strange need to feel more self-sufficient. I feel perfectly happy watching these green little ones grow, and this is a project I can fully justify while enjoying it tremendously. I would like to feel the same about style, but for some reason I don't. There is something lost in translation. For now, I can't really expand on that thought further, but I have a feeling it might be something important once I figure out what this all really means!


Blouse: second hand Calvin Klein / Plato's Closet
Belt: second hand / Salvation Army
Skirt: second hand / Hietsu flea market
Socks: gift from Jenni
Shoes: Vagabond
Sunglasses: Max&Co.
Ribbon worn as hairband: random
Plopping kitty: Blue, who is constantly on a diet, but does not lose any weight.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Pros and cons on Earth Day


Happy Earth Day, everyone! I was trying to figure out how to celebrate it, and realised that I am pretty happy with our levels of recycling, supporting local and organic farmers, and saving energy whenever we can. I still take too-long showers and should give up meat altogether, but I hope to get there one day. Dana informed me today that a 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars, planes, trucks and ships in the world - more reasons to either go vegetarian or only buy local and organic!


After getting that big handful of cash due to my recycling efforts at Plato's Closet, Earth Day is also a good time for me to re-think whether I am really going to buy that pair of Swedish Hasbeens. For the past two days I have been trying to figure out whether to get them or not, namely this pair in particular:

(image: http://www.swedishhasbeens.com/)

Pros:

1. They are handmade from start to finish.

2. They are made of natural materials.
3. They are awfully pretty, and I have been looking for something similar for a long time now.
4. They are practical - sturdy and closed-toe, meaning I can wear them during several seasons.
5. After calculating price-per-wear, I think they would be an economical choice.
6. I have the money - and it came from recycling my old clothes.

Cons:

1. $250 is an awful lot for a single pair of shoes.
2. They are trendy right now - am I convinced that I will wear them next year too, and the year after?
3. The company tells you up front that they are difficult to maintain in pristine condition.


There are more pros than cons, but the cons are pretty heavy, especially the question of money. One the one hand, the money I have came from my recycled clothes, which is a good thing. On the other, I have lost count as to how many times I have promised myself to only buy things that I absolutely love, regardless of whether I might have to save money for a year in order to purchase them. It is just so hard for me to spend the money, even if buying less is better from the consumerist point of view, especially if the end result is something I can wear for years to come. I love the clogs, I really do, but there is still a voice in my head that keeps telling me what other things I could get for much cheaper, and also one that tells me to give the money to charity, because, really, do I need a new pair of shoes?

It really is the need-to-get-new-things-often-disease that is difficult to shake off. I admire Chris for focusing on buying clothes rarely, but when he does, he gets it right, he buys things that last, and he wears his clothes until they expire quite literally. I am too much of a hoarder to do the same, but I do feel like I have to start making better decisions at some point. As for the Swedish Hasbeens, I think it might be a good start to get them, and wear them with the love and devotion they deserve.

P.S. NYC Fashionista asked me where our garden containers are from: we ordered them at Lowe's. They come in a kit you assemble yourself, with all the bolts and things you need, and you are able to make them into different shapes and sizes. We made two 4 ft x 4 ft ones, and two 8 ft x 4 ft ones - lots of space for veggies!

P.P.S. I am sorry for being so behind with replying to comments or visiting your blogs - I appreciate all of your comments tremendously, and need to get my act together!


Blue blouse: second hand / Aino flea market
Lace vest: vintage / Rosie's old
Shorts: second hand Sportmax / Ruuturouva
Knee socks: H&M
Shoes: Vagabond
Scarf: second hand / Aino flea market

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Ramblings on Mistakes, Insecurities and Gardening

After yesterday's post about the types of mistakes I have made in the past when buying clothes, (and after some very interesting and thought-provoking comments you sent my way - thank you for those) I got to thinking about the clothes I have fallen in love with. It is never just the print, the colour or the pattern, it is always the whole package. There is just something unexplainable about those clothes. They are not traditional classics, but I love them throughout the years. They might not be perfect in terms of fit or style even, but they make me happy and I smile a lot more when I wear them. Above all, they make me feel confident about looking the way I want to look.


When it comes to the mistakes I have made, the "wrong" clothes I have bought almost make me feel as if I am trying to be someone else. I guess everyone has those days once in a while: you know the days when you just wish you could fool everyone around you and pass for a different person, someone who is perhaps not quite as sensitive, someone who doesn't care all that much about the small things in life, someone who oozes inner strength. Don't get me wrong, I do like myself just the way I am. But there are days when I don't feel like it's enough. Those are the days when I seriously feel like everyone is staring at me, and it makes me uneasy, almost to the point where I wonder if I perhaps have issues regarding crowds.

Overall, one of the characteristics that I least like about myself is my tendency to waste time on trying to figure out what other people think of me. I know that there is no reason for me to do so, and that it is kind of childish anyway, but there it is, that's me. I sort of realised today that my clothing mistakes often arise from situations or phases in life when I, for one reason or another, feel stressed out about others' percetions of myself. It's almost as if I give in to the invisible stares, as if I am convinced that the teenagers on the street corner are laughing at me. I am 32 years old, and apparently there are still days, or even weeks, when I feel like I did at school - like the wallpaper girl no one remembers, who needs to try to be someone else in order to be noticed. I haven't consciously felt like that in a while now, mainly because I am happier in my own skin and my own mind than I have ever been before. But I do still recognise the pattern, the train of thought, and now in hindsight I can figure out why I tried to look a certain way in the past.


One of the challenges here in the US (and I'll remind you that we live in a small town) is for me to maintain my own concepts of beauty and style. Most women in our town wear jeans, sneakers and hoodies, or shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. I feel like my style stands out more here than it did in Finland, and being 5"11 doesn't really help. If it wasn't for the emotional healing and building the past two years have provided me with, I would most likely bury myself in something that everyone else wears. I still have days when wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt makes me feel like I somehow fit in, and those are often the days when I don't post an outfit picture. That person is not the real me, it is the little conformist whom I don't like. Although she doesn't come out all that often anymore, she still resides in my head and I hear her whispers relatively often - I just try to not listen all that much!


Okay, that is enough about insecurities, mistakes and all of that negative stuff for one day! On other fronts, we took Willow to the vet today, a biopsy was taken, and we should get results very soon. The vet still seems to be confident that her lump is nothing to be worried about, which is good news, but I just want to be sure! After we came home from the vet, Chris and me spent the entire day working on home improvements. I spent hours and hours weeding, shoveling, dragging top-soil bags, planting and whatever else. I got rid of two horrible half-dead bushes on our front yard...

...and got new space layed out beautifully for the-new-flowers-to-come:



I also got our onion container ready, yay! The bulbs are in there, believe it or not!


I'll confess that I didn't wear this while gardening, but I have a feeling you might have guessed that. I wore this to hang out with our friends Lynn and Chris - we had pizza and watched an old Pink Panther movie, and had a wonderful time!


Cardigan: second hand / Plato's Closet
Skirt: self-made
Knee-socks: H&M
Belt: second hand / Salvation Army
Shoes: Vagabond
Hat: Gap
Necklace: second hand / local craft fair