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!


jesse.anne.o said...

I love that t-shirt!

Lovely post - I agree that when you can speak to or even just identify the person who designed and made the clothing, there's an important connection there somehow. I think the exchange of money seems "cleaner" and more positive.

I just bought a dress from Vanilla & Lace online and I was really happy to do it.

Gracey said...

That dress is just wonderful and I love that you can wear it either way.

I have to say though that I found it sort of disappointed that the designer "doesn't think about sizes." At my size (a tall and healthy 14), I have to think about size and it sort of frustrates me that a lot of independent clothiers don't. I understand the impetus to create clothes based on your size, but not everyone is your size and to not think of sizing is to limit who can buy your clothes.

It's not just independent clothiers, I know that. Karl Lagerfeld is notorious for limiting production of Chanel clothes to smaller sizes. The thing is, I don't care about supporting the Kaiser or Chanel, but I would like to support my local designers and I would, if the clothes fit.

The fact of the matter is, that, for someone my size, it's a lot easier to by mass-produced, possibly sweat-shop-produced clothing then hope to find a locally produced item in my size. Which is why I stick to thrifting - I can limit my damage, but still find stuff that fits.

Wow, that was sort of rant-y. Sorry about that - your posts are just so thought-provoking for me, I can't help myself!

Shey said...

I love your post Waves, that Mexican dress is so pretty, I saw a few when I was in Mexico but I didn't stop to buy one, maybe because the urge of shopping was not there anymore, I only stopped to admire their beauty. I had never thought about what you mentioned of guilt not helping if it's not followed by action, you are so right, many times before I have beat myself about spending, not to say that I should go crazy, everything is good in moderation. =)

Sarah said...

Those are lovely choices--especially that vintage Mexican dress, yum!

I am a big thrifter, and one thing I find is that it is easier to "let" myself buy more stuff because it is secondhand, it's kind of an ethical "out," etc. But then I think about how the wondrous wide variety of nearly-new merchandise to be found at thrift stores sort of depends on there being quite a lot of people who buy more than they need, fast fashion, etc. And if I have a large and varied wardrobe from thrift stores, it doesn't necessarily "read" any differently to most people than the same wardrobe sourced new. So, in a way, my presentation of myself through my wardrobe doesn't really question the underlying overconsumption that is common in my culture.

I don't know, maybe thrifting will always be marginal enough that it's not worth worrying too much about these things. But I wonder if you have any thoughts along these lines.

Hmm, I feel like I have made a comment like this on a blog before. Hopefully it wasn't yours, or you will probably think me very boring/tiresome!

Teeny said...

omgosh between you and jesseanneo, i have some reading to do! You both reccommended some reading on my money post. You know....I haven't been paid to work since before my daughter was born 3.5 yrs ago - and i really really don't miss it. But my job was in front of a computer on a seat - so go figure, not exactly stimulating huh. Also thx for the link love, glad you found your perfect embroidered dress - I can't remember the last time I bought something and then took it home and hated it or didn't wear it. Posts like this one have contributed positively to my own conscious spending. Thx!

Carolyn said...

I'm glad you are feeling better about shopping! And your new dresses are really lovely! and I'm absolutely certain it was a wonderful day for the designer to see somebody loving and appreciating her creation as you do!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Waves dear!!!! oxox, CR

The Slowest Sewist said...

That dress really is wonderful--and how great that the woman who made it was sewing in the shop.

I am a visual person and I love clothes. I am not going to beat myself up about it.

I've finally accepted that about myself too, after much self-flagellation. Like you, I think the key is finding balance.

Charlotte Holmes said...

Oh, I wish I'd known you'd been craving a Mexican dress. I have a (thrifted) red one that's too small for me. Let me know if you're interested!

You share my clothing philosophy completely. Thrifting allows me to indulge my inner clothes-fiend.

As usual, you've thought through here something I consider in fits and starts. Well said, Waves.

Eline said...

I really really love your series on sustainable style! I only just got around to reading it and I hope you won't mind me linking to the series some time sooner or later. It's a great series, clearly and concisely written that is absolutely perfect to go around the blogosphere. Thank you for the effort you put into researching etc. I really appreciate it! I'm also happy to see you're not overwhelmed by guilt. Especially when one buys consciously one shouldn't feel all too bad. It's especially easy with second hand and, like you said, independent little (local) designers, that's not for everyone but you showed us that one can just look at the brand (and research it) and the fabrics. I can't wait for more!

Love your crying tiger shirt ;_; and you last dress! I like that ladies ideas, too.

Anonymous said...

Musta tulee isona samanlainen kun se ompeleva kaupanpitäjä!!!
Pus ja hali!

Madeline Quaint said...

Lovely new treasures, I especially love the embroidered dress. I agree wholeheartedly about clothing or accessories that are handmade and have a piece of the creator/artist in them. Again, I think of the "life" of my garment, and I'm happy if she was born peacefully, and not only made me but the artist happy as well. I'm a bit ridiculous with giving a lifeline to my stuff, I know. :)

Alessandra said...

Hi there! Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog.

I love this dress - laid-back but pretty at the same time. Perfection.

Anonymous said...

What a cool dress and the woman who made it sounds delightful! I also like your embroidered top. I have been shopping for one myself and while I've come across plenty in the thrifts...invariably they have been fast fashion, so I don't own one yet.

IrishRedRose said...

That t-shirt is wonderful!! I love tigers, heck I love cats, all cats.

I too love buying from the person who made the item in question, whether it's clothes or whatever. I have friends in Oregon and when I visit them at Christmas I always go to the huge craft fair Eugene puts on over the holiday. Inevitably I come away with something wonderful and unique that makes me feel good in all ways.

Are you planning on putting together a resource of such people on the web? I know there are some magnificent clothing makers on Etsy. Audi at Fashion for Nerds has gotten some remarkable garments that way, custom-made to size.

I loved your quote: "I am a visual person and I love clothes. I am not going to beat myself up about it." That, and issues brought up by Sarah in her interesting comment above, are thoughts I've been going over a lot lately regarding shopping and especially thrifting...