Thursday, 30 June 2011
I have started to feel increasingly uncomfortable listing where my clothes are from. I don't want to be a walking advertisement for any brand or clothing store. But even if I skip all outfit details, aren't I still potentially inspiring people to go out and spend money on clothes, just because that is sort of the crux of so many style blogs? After all, style inspiration often leads to spending money. I've actually noticed that I very rarely read other bloggers' outfit information listings, but if I see something I really like, I'll just go on Etsy or eBay to see if I can find something similar. (Shey's gorgeous harness boots are the latest item that I've been searching for online.) I try to keep a balance between blog-induced inspiration and to-be-consumerism, but sometimes it is hard to draw the line between the two. I wonder if style blogging exists at all outside the framework of consumerism.
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Friday, 24 June 2011
While thrifting, I often try to put myself in my old shoes - I'll think back at the time when I bought most of my clothes new. It has slowly started to occur to me that I have spent a whole lot of money on clothes in my lifetime, and putting my second hand purchases in that perspective helps me get my head around what my clothes are, or should be worth. I think of the times when 50 euros was an acceptable price to pay for a new dress, 100 for a pair of jeans, or 150 for a new coat. I try to remember the actual clothes I have in my closet, how much I paid for them, and if they've ended up being worth the money. Very few newly-bought clothes in my closet pass that test. Some of my second hand clothes don't fare well either, often because I've bought them because they were so affordable I didn't think twice about whether I was making a good purchase. Now that I feel I know more about what types of clothes I actually end up wearing, I can more comfortably focus on the price factor.
I think the most I've ever paid for a new t-shirt is 20 euros (now in hindsight 20 sounds awfully high), but considering what every time I've worn those t-shirts is worth to me now, I'm more comfortable putting my t-shirt limit at 1 euro at flea markets, and $2.99 at Salvation Army. (I accept the fact that thrift- and second hand stores sport higher prices than flea markets.) I've paid around 20 euros for many of my vintage dresses, but to be honest, I am more comfortable with the range of less than 10 to 15, if the dress in question is something spectacular. If it's any more, my thoughts on worthiness start to make me feel that I am paying for something I don't really need. Usually I refuse to pay more than 10 euros for a coat or jacket, or 5 euros for a skirt. But there are exceptions. And funnily enough, many of my second hand purchases have been exceptions. They will always end up being worn.
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Monday, 20 June 2011
Picture taken from here
Personally, I would not wear a Native American head dress as a fashion statement, even if I felt drawn to them for whatever reason or another. I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing one because I've read about a warrior's need to earn the right to wear one; the cultural context of a head dress would weigh way too heavy on my shoulders. I've also seen too many fashion magazine editorials where a white model wears some culturally specific gear in a purely eroticized manner, or poses next to indigenous people of colour in an "exotic" location. That type of stuff just makes me feel uncomfortable. (The issue falls in line with the Westward-Ho!-cowgirl rhetoric in American Vogue earlier this year, which I posted about at the time.) When historically and culturally sensitive issues are portrayed as being cool, trendy and disposable, yes, I have a problem with that. But if this means that I can't wear my dream catcher earrings without someone labeling me as a trend-driven, mindless, exploitative imperialist just because I happen to be white, I have a problem with that, too.
Vogue Italia, photo by Steven Meisel
On the one hand, diluting the meaning of cultural iconography is, of course, awful from the standpoint of tradition and cultural conservation. Being a representative of a nation whose own indigenous cultural traditions were wiped out in the Northern Crusades and only live in one awkward chapter in the comprehensive school's history book, I get it. But on the other hand, cultures and cultural symbolism are living and breathing entities, and they are known to have their ebbs and flows everywhere. The fact is that cultures mix and overlap. They have always done so, often at the expense of spiritual traditions and "purity". Cultures don't exist in a vacuum, they never have. And the unfortunate fact is that some cultures die, too. The indigenous culture of the Finns is long gone, dead, buried. What remains is an awkward collection of folk stories bound in a national epic, and a handful of de-spiritualized traditions like the sauna. The Finns' ancient god of the water and fishing, Ahti, is now a brand of pickled herring on the shelves of the supermarket, dressed in Poseidon's costume. That's the way it goes. But of course, this does not mean that we should consciously try to destroy whatever symbols of threatened cultures are still out there, and the cultural appropriation bloggers feel that that is exactly what the Western world (I use the term loosely here) is doing.
In the end it comes down to personal decision making, and the role of the consumer. It is unlikely that any free, thinking individual is going to let a stranger (regardless of what his or her cultural heritage might be) dictate what he or she can wear - in this sense, the cultural appropriation bloggers are the ones who engage in wishful thinking. It is individuals who eventually make the final decision as to what they want to wear and what they feel comfortable with. It is us who create meanings to our style choices: we pick, choose and wear our clothes to show the world who we (think we) are. Whether it is choosing eco-friendly materials or recycled clothing, whether it is all bought at H&M on the cheap, whether we are aware of the cultural references behind our clothes or not, choosing what to wear can be a pretty tricky enterprise. A lot of people in the Western world don't care about anything but looking cool, but others feel the need to make their clothing choices emotionally meaningful: we might wear our parents' old clothes or jewelry, for example, or religious symbols, or styles typical of where we are from. Our clothing choices can also represent a spiritual quest, an attempt to show that we are looking for ourselves. I am sure that these polar opposites exist in all cultures.
But there is one more question I haven't asked: why are we "Westerners" drawn to culturally specific and indigenous fabrics, jewelry and pieces of clothing? It is just because we are greedy thieves and imperialists? Or are we looking for beauty? Is it only human to be attracted to something that is different from what we know? Or perhaps our quest for indigenous cultures and their spiritual symbols and fabrics is telling of the lack of meaning and spirituality in the lives of many Westerners today. What many cultural appropriation critics see as "one destructive, white, void Western world" carries with itself a tragic, torn history of many complex, destroyed or disappeared cultural heritages that we, as citizens of the world, sorely miss.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
And this is what I am wearing today. I bought the top last year at a flea market, the jeans are from Gap. Chris got me the copper pendant and the bracelet from a yard sale while I was away.
The weather this spring and early summer has been very challenging on this side of the Atlantic. It has been colder and a lot rainier than usual, and my gardening project has got into a very rough start. After having come home to bolted radishes and lots of unsuccessful germination, the sight of healthy, perky peas was more than welcome.
Thank you so much, all of you, who have been leaving comments and visiting No Signposts in the Sea while I was in Finland. I haven't had the time to respond to comments or visit anyone's blog in almost a month. I promise that I will get my act together very soon!
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Maybe it has something to do with my hairdresser Teea, who time and time again finds new ways to transform my look.
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
These days my father lives on a small island off the coast of Helsinki.
Sunday, 5 June 2011
Kallio and its nearby area has a lot to offer: interesting architecture, bars and music, ethnic restaurants, small shops of all sorts. Kallio is notorious for its public drunkenness (the old drunks wandering the streets in daytime are sometimes called "professionals" by the locals) and sex shops, but those phenomena live side by side with old grannies, families with small children, vintage stores and organic cafes. It is an odd mix.
I feel comfortable in Kallio. The sometimes pretentious-seeming hipsters of the rich parts of Helsinki are mostly absent, except in the weekends, when they flock here to get drunk. Most of the people who live here don't seem to have the need to leave Kallio much. Compared to Kallio, the centre of Helsinki and the fancier parts of town seem impersonal somehow, even sterile, a little lifeless. Kallio has a certain roughness to it, a real character. Kallio is an old lady who tells a story. She has her ups and downs. There are days when she is horribly achy and angry, sometimes she gets wasted. Sometimes she has to line up for her dose of daily bread from a church charity. But then there are days when she looks young and beautiful, full of vigour, full of poetry and song.
I am wearing a second hand t-shirt, belt, sunglasses and earrings from the Hietsu flea market, Gap jeans and random online-purchase shoes. Oh, did I mention that the Kallio area has great second hand and charity shops..? Hakaniemi's Fida and UFF are the best charity stores in Helsinki.
Vaasankatu has a couple of good second hand stores: Keisarinviitta's selection is mostly sort of newish second hand, and Hoochie Mama Jane offers awesome real vintage. Last year the latter was chosen by a local paper as the best vintage shop in Helsinki.