Sunday, 14 August 2011

Signposts in the Sea

I've been blogging for three and a half years. I've written over 500 posts. For the past two weeks or so I've been trying to figure out where No Signposts in the Sea is going. I don't post every day, but I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the blog, outfit posts and future topics. I am a slow writer, and posts that have more "intellectual" content take time.

Recently I've been feeling that blogging takes up too much time from living. There are things I want to do in life, such as volunteering and more serious writing, and especially in terms of the latter, the blog has become a bit of an excuse to not engage in something that is more demanding and less instantly gratifying. I have a long history of procrastination habits, and right now I spend my time drafting blog posts when I really should be working on my writing.

I am going to put No Signposts in the Sea on hiatus, just to get a better handle on the things I really want to do with my life at this point. I'll be visiting your blogs from time to time, so this does not mean goodbye. Once I figure things out, I'll be back.

Lots of love,


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Needs and Wants

I thought long and hard whether to buy this skirt at Salvation Army. I absolutely love the fabric (it is gauze, and the print is beautiful) but there is an awful lot of it, and the length is a little weird. I asked myself if I needed a new skirt (no), if I could think of at least five different ways to wear it (yes, easily), if I could take it from one season to the next (yes, gauze and all), if the colour was right for me (absolutely), if the price was acceptable ($4.99 - not bad). And then I came back to the question of need. When I posted the picture of the pretty Doc Martens a few days back, asking if I could have them, Mette asked me if I needed them. Ever since, I've given some thought to the idea of need.

So no, I didn't need a new skirt. I don't really need anything, because I have plenty of clothes. And it doesn't stop there, because need is a weird concept. If you really think about it, we don't really need much at all. Can anyone really justify needing two pairs of jeans, or more than two pairs of shoes? We don't really need TV, books, or the internet - we can easily survive without them. We don't really even need music or art, and we can cope without family, friends, or love. There might be consequences if we decide that we don't need to pay taxes or obey the law, but we can actually choose over all potential needs we might have. The more I think about it, need is a pretty vague, empty concept in our comfortable, privileged Western lives.

As you can tell, I bought the skirt. No, I didn't need it. I chose to want it. I guess for me anyway, the concept of want is easier than need. I am not talking about just caving in to any random want (we all have many, don't we); I mean that getting to the bottom of want is a little more complicated and demanding. Want requires the person to go through an intellectual process of justification: Why do I want this? Do I want it badly, or just a little bit? Do I really want this, or something else entirely? By definition, there is no going around in circles around the question of need: either you need something or you don't. You can't really need something a little, or a lot. Need has an in-built justification in it, and we don't stop to ask questions about what need really even is. Come on, be honest, how many times you've thought that you needed a new pair of shoes when you actually had 20 pairs in the closet already? Or what does it mean when we say that we need a new winter coat? Does it mean that we are shivering out in the cold, or that our old coat looks worn and unfashionable? In our world of plenty, to talk about need is a bit of a cop-out. I guess the challenge, then, is to keep our wants in check. It is important to keep asking questions. The questions we ask ourselves will define our actions.

I am wearing a second hand top and a much-wanted skirt from Salvation Army, and yes, once again, the Fluevog boots. They are the best! Speaking of the best, cats are it:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

EBEW: Pattern mixing

This is my take on today's Everybody, Everywear challenge to wear mixed prints. I decided to go with a silk top (thrifted in Finland), a cotton skirt (Salvation Army, thrifted last week), an old second hand belt, a vintage Miriam Haskell shell necklace, and Fluevog boots.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Could I have...


Or any of this seller's Doc Martens? Why, oh why, are all of them in my size?

gracielouwho at Etsy


I thrifted this sleeveless dress at Salvation Army (as well as the top in yesterday's outfit post). The denim jacket is from a flea market, and the boots are old as dirt, bought at Urban Outfitters in 2003. I love it when clothes/shoes/accessories have staying power like that! The watch is 1950s Bulova from Chris's collection, and the earrings are from Hietsu flea market. And now for something completely different:

Cucumbers! Zucchini! What's not to love about veggie-gardening? (Well, why yes, slugs, bugs, blight, disease, and what have you. But I won't think about any of that today. I'm just happy to be harvesting right now.) After last year's bitter cucumbers, I am pleased to announce that this year's yield is superbly crispy and delicious.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


I am wearing thrifted clothes and Fluevog boots. It also looks like I have a good hair day for a change. Yay!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Memories of Grunge

I was a teenager in the early-to-mid 1990s. I was the wallflower type: the one whose name no one would remember after graduation, the one whose face in the class portrait would only prompt an "I have no idea who that girl was" in her fellow class mates a few years later.

The Soviet Union had collapsed and Finland had entered a phase of serious economic downturn. A lot of people had lost their jobs. Us kids, we didn't talk about that stuff, but a cloud of anxiety floated around our lives anyway. I read articles in the newspapers about the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, and the war in Chechnya. Just like many of my peers, I escaped the impossibility of the world into my room, music and writing. My friends and I went for long walks in the woods. We didn't smoke, drink, or do drugs. We just talked for hours on end about how weird life was and how it somehow seemed to escape our grasp. We laughed at it all because there was nothing else we could do. We talked about music, books and films, and as much as popular culture shaped up our daily lives, it somehow felt like it had very little to do with our actual identities. We were plagued by the typical insecurities of teenagers; the questions of who were really were, of whom we might love one day.

I had a crush on River Phoenix, and for a long time my favourite film was My Own Private Idaho. Now in hindsight, I have no idea what my 14-year-old self really understood of the movie. I remember thinking that the world seemed limitless; the fast-moving clouds above the wide plains in the film's dream sequences provided me with a strange sense of security. Whatever might happen to me in life, there'd always be places I had never been to before, innocent and pure places with something real, places where I could perhaps start over if need be. River Phoenix overdosed in the fall of 1993. Kurt Cobain shot himself in April next year. I cut their obituaries off the newspaper and glued the clippings on the pages of my angst-ridden diary.

In the 8th grade class portrait, I sit on the front row, holding the sign with the name of our school and class. The sign lays crooked on my lap. I stare into the camera with my head tilted to the side, my long hair hangs limp. I am wearing a huge red flannel shirt, dark jeans and heavy boots, and no make-up. I look like I am really fed up with the world. If you'd look up "grunge" in a pictorial dictionary, you'd see me. Yet no one I knew used the word. There was no talk of sub-cultural groups; we didn't identify ourselves like that. No one spoke of personal style. We just were who we were, or whatever it was we tried to be. We didn't realize that our flannel shirts were oversized.

Photos: Steven Meisel for Vogue, December 1992

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Pink & Orange

Today's outfit was inspired by Ariel's recent post on Rufino Tamayo. I've always loved pink and orange together, but I think this might be the first time I'm actually attempting to wear it myself.

Today was a good day. I got to spend some time with my friend Rosie: we had tea and cake at Juliet's house, and then stopped by the Salvation Army. Actually, I shouldn't say "stopped by", because we were there for at least an hour and a half. Eventually we just had to drag each other out of there. I've been listening to my mid-1990s Smashing Pumpkins albums for the last couple of days, and the Salvation Army was the perfect place to get stocked up for what looks like it's going to be a very intensely grunge-inspired fall for me. Is it really wrong to want to visit a trend one has lived through in the past? Am I just trying to come up with excuses when I say that the concept of age-appropriateness doesn't apply to grunge? (Well, who cares, really. I'm going to do it anyway!)

I'm wearing a second hand silk top, belt and linen skirt, and Trippen sandals.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


We have plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures left, but it never seizes to amaze me how every year, come August, I start to think about fall and fall clothing. I am not one of those who start wearing black tights by looking at the calendar, but autumn is, hands down, my favourite season to get dressed. I anticipate the subtle hints of fall, even if a part of me dreads its arrival. I love the smells of late summer: crisp fruitiness, slowly decaying plants, the earth.

There are several things I miss about Finland. One is the gradual disappearance of sunlit evenings in late summer. One day in August you just notice that it is getting darker much faster than you anticipated. Going for a walk with a friend would suddenly involve strolling under streetlights after months of midnight sun. The apples we stole were cold on the surface. My mother would need to think of extra light fixtures for her annual garden crayfish party.

I haven't pinned down those small phases of August here in upstate New York. My instincts don't recognize patterns yet. I don't go walking late at night here. I don't steal any apples, and there is no crayfish party. To me, at this point anyway, August feels just like July. The days are so warm, the crickets loud and the evenings sweaty.

The pictures are from my inspiration scrap book.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Sustainable Style: So I Shopped in Portland.

In life, finding the middle ground and working through compromises seems to work pretty well for me. I've never really been an extreme person, and usually what makes sense to me is moderation in everything. Whether it comes to shopping, eating, or opinions, it pays to consider the two sides of every coin, it is worth it to take a deep breath, to make your choices with integrity, and to continue living.

I have been thinking about clothing/consuming/style-related guilt a lot since my last post about sustainable style. I received a wonderful e-mail from a reader, Annelieke, last week. She pointed out that guilt is a pretty useless feeling unless it makes us act, and I couldn't agree more. There is no point in wallowing in self-pity or anger, just like there is no point in floating through life cluelessly and without consideration. It comes down to making sense of the world and finding balance you can live with. I think I am getting there. I am a visual person and I love clothes. I am not going to beat myself up about it. But I will stand up against sweatshop labour and I will voice out my opinion about the environmental problems of fast fashion.

The more I think about it, the more certain I feel that thrifting is the way to go for me. A close second is supporting small, independent labels that design for the long haul. While in Portland, Maine this past weekend, I actually did some shopping. I bought some second hand things, but I also spent some money on interesting, independent design. I felt good about myself. I actually spoke to the people in charge of their products, and this felt really important to me. It seems to me that it is at least in part the faceless character of fast fashion that creates the consuption trap. Who or what we don't see, we don't appreciate or worry about. We just spend the money and get something in return. It is a cold transaction. When there is a real person involved in the process, there is something different about the whole thing: you are not just buying a piece of something fleeting, you are also buying someone's experience, someone's outlook on the world, someone's effort. The meaning of that interaction is probably just in my head, but it feels somewhat significant nevertheless. (I get the same feeling when I shop at the farmers' market. When I buy cheese that was handmade by the lady who sells it to me, I feel like I am a part of a process that makes a single person important. And the cheese is so much better than anything bought in a grocery store!)

So what did I spend my money on in Portland? I finally got my hands on one of these beautiful embroidered Mexican dresses - I've been looking for one online since Teeny got hers back in February. I've thought a lot about how following other people's blogs sometimes makes me want to buy stuff, and have come to the conclusion that it's not a huge problem. I like to be inspired by others, and if I can act on that inspiration in a sustainable manner, it is okay as long as I can stand by my actions. And yes, you guessed it, I stand by my decision to buy the pink embroidered dress. It is perfect. I also bought a pair of second hand earrings from the same vintage store.

At Pinecone + Chickadee, a cute indie craftie-type-of-store, I bought a print t-shirt and an old chemistry text book turned into a notebook.

We also stopped by Corey & Co., a great local clothing store. The owner/designer, Barbara Corey was busy at her sewing machine in the store. I can't decide what I love more, the clothes themselves or her design philosophy: when I asked her about the clothing sizes, she said that she just sews the clothes and doesn't think about sizes much. When I asked her which side of this dress was the front, she said that the dress could be worn however the wearer wants to wear it. That's the way I like my clothes (and life): a little adventurous, with a touch of odd. And the dress I bought is heavenly.

I am working on more Sustainable Style-posts and hope to get at least one out later this week. I'm going to be writing about good, fair, sustainable brands, and the dilemma of fast fashion at some point. Let me know if there are other topics you'd like me to tackle!

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Maine Thing: Weekend in pictures

This is what I wore on Saturday: an old Zara top, thrifted denim shorts, and Fluevog boots.