Monday, 28 February 2011

When shoes become politically incorrect

At first, John Galliano's arrest last week just seemed like a weird case of public drunkenness which led to an odd "he-said-she-said"-type of debacle. Sure, the designer has always seemed a little eccentric, but I had a feeling that there was perhaps something else to the story. So here we are: someone caught Galliano on tape professing his admiration of Hitler. It seems that Dior did the right thing suspending him. All of a sudden my beautiful Galliano mary-janes no longer seem quite as appealing as they did before.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Recommended reading: Psychiatric Tales

I came across a fantastic collection of graphic short stories by Darryl Cunningham. Cunningham worked at an acute psychiatric ward for several years, which inspired Psychiatric Tales, a moving examination of mental illness and our society.

In eleven powerful stories, Cunningham describes the heart-breaking life at the dementia ward...

... explores the lives of famous people with mental illness, like Winston Churchill, Brian Wilson and Judy Garland...

... opens up the mind of the schizophrenic...

... and discusses the society's response to mental illness and the stigma that the mentally ill still face in their every day lives.

I have read a fair bit of literature on mental illness, and there have been times when I have felt that no matter how much I read, I just couldn't grasp the whole picture. Cunningham shows that sometimes it only takes a simple black-and-white image and a single sentence to make better sense of it all.

Men's cashmere sweater: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Skirt: Gina Tricot
Tights: JCPenney
Boots: Bianco

Friday, 25 February 2011

Bits of an outfit & some new things

A week just flew by! I wasn't taking a conscious break from blogging - the sudden change in the weather (cold, snow, more snow) has just made me struggle with choosing what to wear. I got so into the idea of spring last week that the intense return to winter has felt a little depressing. I have found myself wearing plain over-sized knitwear with jeans or cords, which just hasn't seemed outfit-worthy. Today I couldn't find a single spot in the house where the light would have allowed me to take a head-to-toe outfit photo, and let me tell you, I wasn't going to go outside either. So there you have it: random shots of an over-sized sweater and a pair of cords I am wearing today.

The cotton sweater is from Kohl's ($4.50!), the cords are from a fleamarket in Finland - they were originally boot-cut but way too short, so I made them into skinny cords instead. I found the etched copper pendant at a second hand store on Tuesday. My guess is that it is native American, but I wasn't able to find anything like it online. The smaller, round copper pendant is a present from Chris.

I am still in love with my Fluevogs.

Chris got me this bug ring for my birthday.

I found this reversible, knee-length 1940s cotton robe at an antique store last weekend. I think I will wear it thrown over a tank top, a pair of denim shorts and lots of random jewelry once the summer gets here.

Friday, 18 February 2011

An Ode to Hel-Looks

I found myself browsing through Hel-Looks last night, all the way to the days when the streetstyle site opened back in 2005. I flick through other streetstyle sites occasionally, but Hel-Looks has a special place in my heart these days. I used to be amused by it: the people's styles there tend to be weird, sometimes outrageous, even unflattering. I have found intense appreciation for Hel-Looks recently. I really miss seeing people on the street wear clothes that are different.

Okay, so perhaps some of the cool hipsters on Hel-Looks only got dressed for a crazy party, and some of them do seem a little pretentious in the little interview that accompanies every picture. But I love the fact that Hel-Looks is not like other streetstyle sites, where it seems that every person is trying to channel the latest trends or the It-shoes of the season. Say what you like about the personal styles of these people, but at least they are doing something that makes me smile.

Hel-Looks also makes me miss Helsinki, in a good way. I sometimes forget that in the midst of the armies of teenagers and young adults who wear leggings as pants and jersey tunics as dresses, there are interesting subcultures and plenty of people in Helsinki who have a unique personal style. Sometimes it might look forced, but that is okay. At least everyone doesn't look the same. I miss Helsinki. The summertime pictures - they go straight to my heart. The way the sky is blue like nowhere else, how you can tell that people don't quite know what to wear because they are so used to cold weather.

This picture is my current favourite. It was probably taken at an outdoor music event. I love the girl's hair, the Ramones t-shirt teamed with the plaid shirt, the boots, the green of her trousers and the park, the simplicity of the whole image.

All pictures: Hel-Looks

More sun, little-too-much-of-an-outfit, off the GAAD, and eBay issues

This outfit made more sense when I first looked at myself in the mirror. I started to take pictures and as I took a quick look at the results, I became hesitant of the whole combo of the belt and the boots. It seems like it's a little bit too much. It is funny how it goes sometimes: an outfit will look pretty good in person, but it just doesn't seem to work on camera as it should. This actually happens to me often, but I always post the pictures anyway. My style sense is far from perfect, and that's what makes it fun for me, and hopefully, for others, too.

I got this dress on eBay. It feels really good to be off the GAAD, as silly as that might sound. I haven't bought too many things - this dress, the cowboy boots, the sequined short-suit - and I don't intend to go crazy shopping either. But I do feel happy about clothes again. I feel somehow liberated to dream again. I guess since I am a firm believer in the importance of dreaming, the idea of a rigid ban never sat well with me.

EBay is an interesting place to buy things. This dress looked perfectly white in the seller's photos, but it was described as off-white. It actually looks off-white in this picture that I took of it, but it really is more like taupe, or sand colour. It turns out that I like it more as it is - lucky me - and even though the sizing is off from what the seller claimed, too, I have no problem with that. I would have probably had to tweak it a little anyway.

My other eBay score, the sequined suit (which the seller described as impeccable with no sequins missing) ended up having some serious condition issues. I contacted the seller and she offered a full refund, which was nice, but I ended up keeping the suit anyway (it really is so awesome) and I figured that I could fix it. The seller gave me 40% of my money back, which was more than reasonable. Hand-sewing sequins is awful though, and so time-consuming you wouldn't believe it. As fun as eBay shopping has been, my first two purchases have made me a little wary of the terminology that the sellers use. Both sellers had excellent feedback scores, so I don't know what to think of the whole thing. Maybe I am just more anal than most buyers.

Top: Max&Co.
Shirt: men's Gap, Chris's
Cardigan: Benetton sample sale
Tube dress worn as skirt: American Apparel
Tights: Target
Belt: second hand, Plato's Closet
Boots: vintage Tony Lama, Etsy
Earrings: gift from Shey at Modesty is Pretty
Glasses: Bjorn Borg

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Happy, Sun!

So here comes the sun, finally! The temperature hit 52 degrees (11 degrees celcius) today, and in the sun it felt way warmer. I sat outside for a bit (no jacket required!), and decided to open a couple of windows, too. Our cats are glued onto the screens presently, sniffing the spring air.

Stripy top: Max&Co.
Linen shirt: second hand, Valtteri flea market
Cardigan: Urban Outfitters
Jeans: Weekday
Belt: second hand, some random flea market
Boots: Vialis
Cap: Diesel Black Gold

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

On Public Eating

I am really looking forward to spring. It was supposed to be warm and sunny today, but as things stand, there is no sun. 40 degrees (5 degrees celcius) is certainly better than the way-below-freezing temperatures we have been having recently, so I really shouldn't complain.

In case you happen to be like me, always wondering why every single interview with a Hollywood actress or other female celebrity includes details of how much they happened to be eating at the time of the interview, check out this article in the New York Times. The phenomenon, you'll learn, is called the documented instance of public eating, or DIPE. As stupid as the whole issue seems (certainly there should be more substantial things to write about), I actually have some personal experience with this.

When I was younger I was constantly asked whether I had an eating disorder, to the point where I often felt self-conscious about eating in public. If I wasn't hungry, I'd eat anyway, just to get people off my back. It always seemed weird to me that people (both women and men) were so interested in what I ate. Women checked out what I ate to see if I ate at all, and men to feel good about having a woman around them who ate "like a man". I didn't order salads at restaurants even if I wanted to, because eating something unhealthy was easier. There was no need to assure my co-eaters that I wasn't on a diet, and I didn't have to deal with men rolling their eyes at "yet another woman who eats like a bird". There was even a time in my late teens and early 20s when I'd avoid going to the bathroom after I had eaten, to make sure people didn't think I was bulimic. Today, this seems horribly unhealthy to me. I don't know how it got to the point where other people's perceptions, remarks and worries about my thin frame got to me to such an extent.

I don't know if people pay attention to what I eat these days - I have stopped paying attention to them long ago. Last year there was an incident where a woman comletely unknown to me told me that I should have dessert, just after I had mentioned to my husband that I didn't feel like eating anything sweet. The woman looked at me up and down, told me how skinny I was, and that of course I should have dessert. I felt like telling her to go eat x, x being something she didn't want to eat at that time, like worms or raw ground beef. I got flustered and couldn't think of anything witty to say. It was the first time in a long time where I felt like I had to somehow prove to a total stranger that I had a healthy attitude toward food. Feeling like you have something to prove, of course, isn't all that healthy. But I didn't have dessert. I just took a mental note of having gone the distance from being a way-too-self-conscious nervous public eater to just getting angry, which, I concluded, was better. I'd rather get angry than worry about the remarks of others to the point where it would control my behaviour. I still wish I had had the nerve to tell that woman to mind her own business, and yes, to go eat worms.

Dress: second hand, Valtteri flea market
Top: Gina Tricot
Cardigan: Benetton sample sale
Belt: second hand, Plato's Closet
Boots: Max&Co.
Pendant: birthday present from Chris

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Compulsory Fashion Week Rant (without catwalk pictures)

I am strangely compelled to follow the fashion weeks. I find myself less inspired by "real fashion" than ever before, and yet I scroll through, jump from one designer to the next, only to be disappointed. I don't see much I like, and a lot of looks seem gimmicky and silly. What comes to mind is the embarrassing performance by P. Puff Daddy Dirty Money Diddy in Saturday Night Live some time ago. Like the artist in question, "real fashion" looks a little old, full of itself, and kind of stupid, even laughable.

I like The New York Times fashion reports. Eric Wilson recently observed that young men's fashion references were starting to revolve around themselves, and Cathy Horyn noted that in the age of tweeting straight off the catwalk, "lots of people just want to digest the experience of fashion without necessarily appreciating what makes a fashion new or interesting". I think Wilson and Horyn are right. A great deal of both men's and women's clothes I see on the catwalk look regurgitated and overly referenced. I, too, find myself unable to "digest" the fashion I see, but it is not because I am busy running to the next fashion show, but mostly because more often than not, there isn't anything new or interesting in it. It is February, and I am already sick and tired of the S/S 2011 looks, and I don't even read fashion magazines as passionately as I used to, and I don't read "fashion" blogs. I don't actually see fashion all that much, and it seems to me that the pulse of new fashion gets old as soon as I see it for the first time. I have taken one look at the F/W 2011 collection by Marc Jacobs, and I am already over it.

I can't put my finger on where I have read this, but at least some designers and fashion editors blame the retail market which demands new things all the time; people want fashion quickly, people get bored easily. I am going to throw a curve-ball into the mix though: could it be that people move on not because they just want the next trend, but because there isn't a whole lot of thought that goes into fashion these days? Could it be that there is actually very little staying power in the clothes we see? Perhaps nothing takes root in our style consciousness because we are shown bad fashion.

I am not your typical fashionista. I am no longer interested in trends, and a lot of the newer fashions that have found their way to my wardrobe have got there from the streets or style blogs rather than the catwalks. By the time catwalk-inspired clothes hit the stores, they seem redundant to me. I long for proper clothes: clothes that I can feel comfortable with for years to come. This doesn't mean I want "timeless every-woman classics" - it means that I want to see something interesting, something innovative, something that does not look like it is made for the fast and the furious. Clearly the fashion week is not the place to find this, because not only are the consumers of quick trends fickle, the designers are fickle, too. It seems that the reason I follow the fashion week is the same reason why I found myself watching an episode of The Bachelor yesterday: there is something tragically interesting in fast wreckage and lost cause.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tilda Inspiration

In I am Love, Tilda Swinton (one of my very few style heroines) looks stunning in her Jil Sander wardrobe. It took me forever to find a picture of the ensemble I loved the most: a pair of bright orange trousers and a babyblue shirt. The colour combination is unexpected but amazingly fresh. I don't have orange trousers or a babyblue shirt, so I teamed up my mustard cords with Chris's old shirt.

I got to thinking about style icons. I have never fully got my head around loving someone else's style so much that I'd want to essentially look like that person by wearing the same clothes. Inspiration is one thing, but copying is another. I never understood why people went so crazy over Kate Moss's Topshop line, for example.

I admire Tilda Swinton's style because it is so out there. She makes bold choices. She wears the types of clothes no one else could possibly pull off. In a world of celebrities who all somehow look the same, she stands out. I don't, however, want to wear what she wears. I simply don't have the balls. But the orange trousers and the blue shirt do look delicious, and I suddenly find myself wanting to wear those colours together. I wish I had come up with the combination myself. I will also confess that I am tempted to dye my hair red. The thought has simmered in my head for a while, to only now emerge to the level of "should I?".

Shirt: Chris's old
Cardigan: Urban Outfitters
Cords: J. Crew
Boots: Bianco
Glasses: Prada

Thursday, 10 February 2011


Since I concluded a little while ago that the myth of the frontier cowgirl is strong in the US, I figured that I needed to get me some boots.

So far no superpowers have emerged, apart from the ones I already have (you know, the kick-ass personality and all that).

Gray sweater: men's H&M
Vest: second hand, Valtteri flea market
Jeans: Weekday
Cowgirl boots: second hand, Etsy
Dolphin pendant: second hand

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Wearing today

Sweater: second hand, Salvation Army
Trousers: second hand Christian Dior, rummage sale, $3
Shoes: Kurt Geiger
Necklace: second hand

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The five-year wait

About five years ago I saw a woman in Finland wear a stunning bendable snake necklace. She told me she had bought hers in Switzerland, and since I had never seen anyone else wear anything like it, I figured that it must be a very unique design that just wasn't available anywhere. I didn't think to actively look for one either. I didn't know they were called snake necklaces, and I didn't think they really even existed.

Chris and I stopped by at a second hand store on Sunday, and there it was, in a jewelry case: the necklace I knew I had been waiting for for the past five years. It wasn't horribly expensive, so it just had to come home with me.

The interesting thing is that it turns out that the internet is full of snake necklaces, and they tend to be very inexpensive. Mine is old, unevenly tarnished, and a lot thicker than the ones that sell on eBay for a couple of dollars. If I had known that these types of necklaces were available in abundance, I would have probably settled for something less perfect, something cheap. The desire to get what you think you want immediately is at the heart of the success of the copycat highstreet franchise. Why save your pennies for years to buy a designer handbag, when you can get an imitation at Zara for $50? The same idea applies to those of us who have been trapped in the loop of buying tons of second hand clothes. I am sure I am not the only one who has been looking for the perfect circle skirt at the thrift store, only to end up buying five "nice" ones that I don't even wear.

My experiences with the GAAD, as well as some solid realizations regarding the items of clothing I actually wear on a day-to-day basis, have made me even more critical of the fast pace of consumerism that I have felt uncomfortable with for a long time. It really is mindless to assume that we should have access to absolutely everything we might want right that moment. You lose your focus in the process. You no longer remember why you wanted something in the first place. Immediate gratification does that to you: one loses the ability to differentiate between genuine want and some random fickle.

It turns out that sometimes it is good to wait for the right one to come along. The want somehow matures, it becomes more genuine, it becomes something you can grasp. And once the focus of the want walks into the room, you can actually recognise it, and it makes your heart skip a beat.

Monday, 7 February 2011

On kitty-related topics

Willow thinks newspapers are overrated - for me to read, that is. There are mornings when she couldn't care less, and then there are mornings, like today, when it's all about preventing me from reading the paper with my cup of tea. She walks around the kitchen nervously, cooing quietly, then tries my lap but can't get comfortable. Then she jumps on the table, and plops herself in the middle of the paper. I move her, maybe to a cushion by the window. Two minutes later she's back on the table. I put her on my lap, but she climbs back on the newspaper. I put her on the cushion again, and try to barricade the kitchen table so that she can't jump on it. She finds her way in somehow, because only the paper will do. We go back and forth for about twenty minutes, until I give up. I guess I'll just finish the paper later.

I don't think you guys have seen a picture of Lyric (Willow and Audrey's sister) before. She is the most timid of our six kitties. It has taken her a year and a half to get used to me, and even now she only comes to me in the evenings. This morning she poked her head in from the basement doorway. Usually she doesn't do this before, say, 6 pm.

More on kitty-related topics, this post on Passive-aggressive notes left me, once again, wondering about the debate that is "indoor vs outdoor" cats. Out of our kitties, after Cassie passed away, it is only Blue who gets to go out to our fenced-in backyard. She is older, and there is no danger of her trying to climb up a tree or the fence. The three sisters are curious about the outdoors, and we have tried taking them out on a leash, but they just freak out. Masa and Illusia, our Finnish kitties, are legally banned from being outdoors (unless harnessed, and that is just not going to happen). The animal shelter paperwork I signed when I took them in has a specific clause about not allowing the cats roam free.

Even if it wasn't for the promise I made to the shelter, I wouldn't let our cats out. I am too afraid that something would happen to them. Not too long ago, while waiting for our turn at the vet, a lady walked in with a cat whose cries were the most desperate I have ever heard. The poor kitty had been hit by a car. Last fall someone in our town found a cat with an arrow shot through its body. A local animal shelter tried to save the cat, but they did not succeed.

I know that there are plenty of kitty owners who believe in the cats' right to stay outdoors if they so wish. In Finland it is, I think, a countryside thing, at least for the most part. In the US, even many city dwellers let their cats out frequently. Personally, I don't get it. I don't think the same people would let their horses, dogs, rabbits, parrots, guinea-pigs or snakes out without supervision, and I don't think there is anything about cats in particular that should make them an exception. Or maybe there is, I don't know. Still, I am one of those who would take a street-roaming kitty to a shelter in a heartbeat. And I wouldn't care if I got a passive-aggressive note in return.

Shirt: men's Gap
Hoodie: men's Urban Outfitters
Jeans: Weekday
Boots: Merrell

Earrings: Christmas present from Chris