Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Wearing today, with instant relatives

I feel like I've been writing about moderately serious topics recently. So here's a frivolous outfit post!

1990s, anyone? The flannel plaid shirt has been one of my most-worn purchases of last year. I paid $1.99 for it at Salvation Army. Lynn gave me the scarf over the weekend - I love it! The platform lace-ups are from Urban Outfitters.

On an unrelated topic, how cool is this photo? It comes from my growing collection of instant relatives.

Note the cropped text on the building behind the boys.

Monday, 30 January 2012

On Shopping 2012, and thoughts on leather

In order to have a sensible approach to the 12 pieces of clothing I am allowed to buy this year, I made myself a shopping list. The list isn't definitive, and it will keep changing as time goes on. Right now, the list includes 5 items, and it looks like this:

- black, sleek "man boots"
- washing-machine-friendly skinny trousers in black or gray
- a black simple jersey t-shirt dress
- a shirt, white or blue
- a strapless bra

...and here's where it gets complicated. I added "a black leather jacket" - a wardrobe staple of sorts - to the list, and then crossed it out. It's the word "leather" there. I am starting to feel increasingly uncomfortable with leather.

It all started with red meat a long time ago. I am not against meat in general (I eat game and fish), but I am appalled by the way the meat industry treats its animals. I will not eat pork or beef because the treatment of the animals is disgusting and I don't approve of it. And yet I wear leather, which is mostly a by-product of the meat industry. So if I don't approve of the meat industry, why would I support the leather industry which in effect subsidizes it and makes money off the suffering of animals? The same goes with wool, whose production is immoral and disgusting.

I am not againt animal products in theory. If the animal had a good life, I wouldn't mind eating its meat or wearing its skin. I feel comfortable going fishing and eating the moose that my stepfather shot. But the reality is that the animals who became our shoes and leather jackets didn't have a good life. Most likely they suffered horribly.

I am not declaring anything specific in this post, I guess, except that I am starting to think that I will be unable to buy new leather and wool products in the future. The stuff I already have I'll keep wearing. I can live with that. As for the shopping list, when it comes to the black, sleek "man boots", it's too late to consider non-leather alternatives. Chris got me a pair of leather boots for my birthday. Until I figure things out, the boots will be the last leather item in my wardrobe. The leather jacket will stay off the list for now. I might try to find a nice pleather / synthetic one - if I can find a reasonably sustainable one, one that lasts. I also need to figure out how I feel about buying second hand leather.

Lastly, a big shout-out goes to jesse.anne.o. Her blog has been a huge influence in the way I view issues of sustainability and animal welfare. Thank you, Jesse, you are an inspiration. (View her vegan style post here.)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Boy oh boy

Since fashion magazines everywhere are raving about feminine pastels, 1950s and 1960s housewife looks, lace and peplums, I figured that it was a good time to get inspired by menswear.

Chris and I went to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy yesterday, and the entire cast's wardrobe is to die for. I got to thinking about buying a men's suit. I have been drawn to menswear for as long as I can remember. I have been buying sweaters and t-shirts at men's clothing stores for years - mostly because of fit and sleeve lengths - but there is also something that screams longevity in men's clothing. It seems to me that menswear is less fickle, less trend-driven. The clothes look like they are made to last for several seasons. There's no denying that I like to play with womenswear - I love to wear easy dresses and skirts - but there is an undercurrent in my sense of style that longs for Margaret Howell's menswear-inspired designs, nice tailoring, brogues, narrow ties and crisp shirts.

I'm considering investing in a pair of black men's boots. Nothing too rough, but something sort of sophisticated, like the pair above.

I am also drawn to narrow trousers. I still love flares, but there is something quietly cool about tailored straight-leg trousers.

Also, sign me up for pretty oxfords paired with awesome socks.

Pictures from Jak & Jill and The Sartorialist

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

When plurals go missing

You know what I really, really dislike? This:

There is no such thing as a skinny jean. It's skinny jeans. I'm almost used to hearing horrible things like "a jean" and "a trouser", but seeing it written is much, much more offensive. And just when I thought that it couldn't possibly get any worse than that, I saw these:

Please, Elle, no! My eyes, my eyes!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

On Why Fashion is not Feminist

A big chunk of the style blogosphere has been tackling the complicated relationship between fashion and feminism for some time. Feminist Fashion Bloggers have written one interesting post after another, and the current must-read is the article threadbared's Minh-Ha T. Pham wrote for Ms. Magazine.

The unlikely marriage between fashion and feminism is one of those weird, interwoven arrangements that don't quite make sense, but where strong connections and connotations exist nevertheless. Fashion is frivolous, fun, serious, and meaningful to a lot of women, including myself. On the one hand the framework of fashion creates unrealistic demands for what women should look like and how they should behave, but on the other, it also gives women the power to use fashion as means to an end. (Minh-Ha T. Pham's article resonates this power beautifully, so I will not dwell on that.) However, almost by definition the notion of feminism doesn't sit all that well with the level of fluidity and flux associated with fashion: after all, feminism is more than an idea. It is a project and a movement whose purpose is to create and defend equal social, economic and political rights for women. When it comes to what feminism really aims to achieve, the world of fashion is a big complicated lump of consumer-driven identity politics and business, post-colonial hypocricy and active wrong-doing.

The framework where fashion meets feminism goes far beyond the notion of the consumer who uses fashion to suit her purposes and her quest for gender equality. We like to think of fashion as an inspirational, expressive platform for our feminist identities, and in this scenario, we are the women feminism talks about. What we fail to see is that we are on top of a pyramid of women, that issues global feminism must face are ugly and complicated, and that as fashionable feminists and consumers of fashion we establish demand for women to be subjugated and abused elsewhere. We conveniently forget that fashion employs thousands upon thousands of women and girls in sweatshop conditions in the developing world - women who work 14-hour days 7 days a week, women who often get paid subsistent wages if they are lucky, women who work in deplorable conditions so that we can get our fashion fix. We fail to ask ourselves: when we talk about women, fashion and feminism, where do those women fit in? I readily confess that I spent years not asking that question, and there are still times when I shy away from asking it out loud.

I have written about sweatshop labour elsewhere so I will not repeat the sad facts and figures about sweatshops and how deeply connected every aspect of clothing production, be it low-end or high-end, is to sweatshop practices. But I will say that sweatshop policies and feminism are at polar opposites when it comes to talking about rights and equality. Yet fashion production, fashion consumerism and identity politics belong to the same process: the process where clothes are manifactured, sold, worn as identity markers, and eventually disgarded. Regardless of the ideological aspect of using clothing as tools of power in the consumerist Western world, within that same process there is oppression of women elsewhere. That oppression can a) go unnoticed, b) get noticed - and then we shrug our shoulders and move on -, or c) make people act. Unfortunately, a large chunk of fashionable feminists will fall into the second category, where sure, we see the oppression of women elsewhere, but since it's not in our backyard, we choose to look elsewhere and keep buying, because we can't bear to face the reality. I've been there just like everyone else has. We don't like to think that perhaps our feminism is very limited in its scope, that perhaps it only has a white face, or that yes, in theory we do think that sweatshops are horrible, but those clothes are so darn cute and we can't resist them, or, damn, as working women we have the right to spend our money in whatever we want. Because we like to think that that's a part of our feminist vision: that we get to act as proud consumers of the money we have earned, regardless of who pays the price.

When we think of ourselves as fashionable feminists, or when we choose to see fashion as a powerful tool in shaping what it means to be a woman, which women are we talking about? Well, it's pretty obvious that we are not talking about the women who sew our clothes. We are not talking about the teenage girls who pick the cotton our clothes are made of. So could it be that fashion remains deeply anti-feminist after all? It is a framework of exclusion rather than inclusion. It is a playground where racism and colonialist thought rages on. There is nothing feminist about that, and until fashion consumers everywhere reject the idea of using cheap female labour in developing countries, it will remain so.

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Word for the Weekend: Comfort

"It is perfectly astounding how fashion has knocked out the brains of people in regard to dress. When we consider that there is not anything in the world so comfortable as comfort, is it not surprising that men and women will attire themselves with little or no regard to comfort during their conscious hours? Only when about to get to bed, and enter upon a season of obliviousness to all earthly woes, do they put on garments that admit of a fair degree of physical happiness: and how many fashionable women rush frantically to their chambers when they escape from society at the close of day, to relieve themselves of their uncomfortable costumes. If 'the man in the moon' should be permitted to descend to this planet, entirely ignorant of the follies of the people of earth, it would be hard to make him believe that these discomforts were self-inflicted."

E. B. Foote, M.D. in "Health and Disease", 1900 edition.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Plan for 2012, and five shopping rules

After I had crunched the 2011 shopping numbers, my initial reaction to fix the spending and the buying was this: Don't buy anything! Ever! Or at least for a year! Second reaction: Oh yeah, I tried that. Didn't work. So I went back to my Great American Apparel Diet posts to figure out what went wrong that time. Here's what went wrong: I like clothes. I like thrifting. I don't like punishing myself. The conclusion is that total denial is just not going to do the trick. So I figured that I had some options.

Option 1: Budgeting. I've tried budgeting before; I've given myself allowances for shopping and that sort of deal. The reason why budgets don't work is that I buy stuff that's cheap. Yes, I might spend less, but I keep accumulating stuff. $10 might pay for ten pieces of clothing, and as long as I keep doing that, the wardrobe chaos will be just as chaotic as it has always been.

Option 2 (and this is it): Limit volume. I've never tried this one before, and I was quite happy with myself for thinking of this, although I am sure it is nothing ground-breaking. Anyway, I'm going to give myself a volume allowance. I tried to think of a number that was stingy enough but not depressing, and I came up with 12. I am giving myself permission to buy 12 pieces of clothing in 2012; that's one a month. If you think 12 is a lot, well, it does sound like it's a piece of cake, doesn't it? That's part of the plan. Considering that my previous number was 90 though, going down to 12 is an intense cut. The key here is that 12 sounds generous: it gives me the freedom to dream.

Here's what I hope the 12 will do: if I want something, I have to be sure it is twelve-worthy. It's sort of like trying to pick your favourite twelve movies of all time: you'll take your time before committing to a definite list, because those twelve spots on the list are valuable, and you don't want to make mistakes. At the moment I feel like this could actually work. Every craving I've had in the past couple of weeks hasn't even come close to being twelve-worthy, and I have a good example: there hasn't been a single pair of Fluevogs on the sale site that would have made my imaginary list of 12. So far (and yes, it is early) I haven't been tempted to buy a single thing. Right now I think of The Twelve as if they were some long-lost lovers or kindred spirits whom I am waiting to come along.

So that's the plan: the plan of 12. And to make things more interesting, I have a list of five rules that go with the plan.

1. There will be no online buying. Like I mentioned in the shopping post, my online purchases are often flukes, they don't fit right, and it's mostly just money down the drain. Off with their heads!

2. No multiples. If I want/need something, I'll buy one, not four.

3. No unpractical things. No sequin suits. Nothing that needs dry cleaning.

4. No hasty buying. I must shop with a particular piece in mind.

5. I must keep asking myself if money is well spent. If I can think of other uses for the money, I probably shouldn't be spending it. When in doubt, don't.

There is one more aspect to all of this. One of my initial reactions to the whole shopping disaster was to do a major wardrobe purge to figure out what I wear and what I don't. I thought that I should just be happy with what I've got and to simplify my wardrobe before embarking on a new mission. And then I thought of all the times when closet purging has actually justified more buying. I have done this a lot: I'd drag a ton of clothes to the flea market, feel good about a roomier closet afterwards, and then I'd start to fill the space. A year later, I was back at the flea market, selling, and then I'd go back to buying. This was a real revelation, and as a consequence, I've decided against doing a wardrobe purge at this point. I need to feel uncomfortable with the amount of clothes I have for a little longer.

Here's to hoping that this works.

I am wearing a second hand sweater, Gap jeans and second hand boots.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The long post on Shopping in 2011

After I went off the Great American Apparel Diet last year, I decided to write all of my spending down to get a better idea as to what might be wrong with the way I shop. I've had problems with shopping for several years. I've gone from trendy high street shopping to hoarding second hand, then back to high street, then investing in more expensive items, then back to thrifting. I've tried budgeting, splurging, shopping strikes, moderation, and everything in between. And still, at the back of my mind, I've known that whatever I was trying to do at a given time, things were not making sense. I was a bad shopper. My notebook and I were convinced that keeping track of spending and buying for an entire year would be my best bet to figure out what the underlying problems really were. 2011 is long gone, and here we are - except that posting about this topic is more difficult than you'd think.

I tend to write critically about fashion, personal style and consumerism, and after a year of what was supposed to be conscious buying, the end results are horrendous. I actually thought about not writing this post to save face, but at the end of the day, I thought that perhaps it is a good idea to just face the situation publicly. If I let you guys know what's happened in my end, maybe it could help me consume more carefully in 2012. And perhaps, just maybe, I'm not alone in this. So let's cut to the chase.

Your eco-conscious, critical consumer spent over two and a half thousand dollars on clothes in 2011, $2,520 to be exact. What's way worse, I accumulated 90 pieces of clothing. 90. Nine-zero. How could this be?, you ask in horror. Well, here's the math regarding the money and what it was spent on:

On things I bought brand new, I spent $1,274. This includes three pairs of Fluevog boots, a Diesel bag and a hat (all of these were bought during our January trip to New York City), two pairs of jeans from the Gap, a bunch of jewelry, new underwear, and a top and a hat from Marimekko. That's it; well over a thousand dollars gone, just like that. But the good thing is that this group is a hands-down winner in wearability. Everything I have bought new, I have worn actively. Could it be that I choose more wisely when I have to spend more money?

On things I bought from eBay and Etsy, I spent $455. This includes a couple of pairs of second hand Fluevog shoes/boots (yes, it has been the year I got to know and love Fluevogs), a handful of vintage dresses, a pair of cowboy boots, a sequin suit, jewelry. Apart from the eBay'ed Fluevogs, my online purchases were mostly flukes, or to be fair, just not very wearable. The items may have been nice, and I still like them, but they simply haven't found their way into my value-for-money daily wear. Also, there are issues here with fit. I am more likely to make mistakes if I don't get to try stuff on before buying it.

On things I thrifted on my two trips to Finland, I spent $365. (Sweaters, skirts, jewelry, belts, tops, dresses, trousers, jackets.) The volume that comes from this group is very high. A lot of the items are wearable, but there is just way too much stuff. More on that later.

On things I bought at antique/thrifty shops, auctions and yard sales in the US, I spent $266. (Skirts, jackets, jewelry, purses.) Considering how much money I spent in antique/thrifty shops and yard sales, the value for money is very bad. The winners in this group were two skirts and a pair of Converse, in all of which I spent $3 in total. The rest of that $266... nah. Just not worth it.

On things I bought at the Salvation Army thrift shop, I spent $160. (Flannel shirts, sweaters, skirts, dresses.) This group carries a fair bit of the volume, but I bought practical things. I wear my Salvation Army thrifts all the time.

Now let's talk about the dreaded 90 items. We are talking 3 pairs of jeans, 4 pairs of trousers, +25 tops and sweaters, 5 jackets, 4 belts, 11 dresses, 4 handbags, 8 pairs of shoes, and 12 skirts. Add random tunics, vests and what have you, and we've reached that staggering 90 items of clothing. That's 1.7 pieces of clothing every week.

Clearly, what got me into trouble volume-wise was thrifting, and more specifically, thrifting in Finland. I took two trips to Finland, and on both trips I visited as many flea markets and thrift shops as I could. Thrifting in Helsinki offers a lot more variety compared to my usual day-to-day life. There are lots of shops to visit. When you visit one, you think that it would be a good idea to visit another. Before you know it, you're thinking to yourself "why not visit them all, since you are here anyway?" In addition, clothes in thrift shops in Finland tend to be much nicer than in our little town in New York, and then there's the flea marketing. It's an affordable way to score great things, and we don't have flea markets where I live. There is just an awful lot of temptation around me in Helsinki, and since trips there are "special occasions", I give myself permission to shop more freely.

Well, it is not fair to put the blame on Finland, because thrifting at home in the US is equally problematic when it comes to the sheer amount of the clothes I have bought. The real culprit behind my shopping, I find, is the price tag. It is evident that I will keep buying stuff if it's cheap. The problem: I buy multiples. If I like a certain look, I am more likely to buy 3-4 variations of that look because it feels like a great deal. "3 skirts for 3 bucks! Why not!" I currently live in my thrifted black skinny jeans, and I keep thinking that I should find another pair, because they are so great. But the truth is that I already have the one pair that works, so why would I even need another? The sad thing here is that even if I have multiples, I am more likely to wear the same thing over and over. Among the multiples, a favourite will quickly emerge, and the rest of the items are left unworn. The mistake here, is 1) giving into the idea that I need many of the same, and 2) not knowing beforehand what I will actually end up wearing.

Here's the thing that really gets to me: honest to God, I really didn't think that I had gone all crazy in 2011. I thought that I had mostly bought - dare I say it - rationally, things that seem like basics, things that I really care about. Yes, there were some obvious mistakes: I spent $60 on an ill-fitting vintage army coat, and that still unworn sequin short suit cost me $30. I bought two vintage purses at an auction ($27), and yes, they are pretty, but I doubt if I'll ever use them. I splurged $29 on an on-the-shoulder cat brooch, and I haven't worn it once. Overall though, my feeling is that I've also made some great investments. I've bought great sweaters at Salvation Army for a couple of dollars, all of my Marimekko purchases (some new, some second hand) have been worth every penny I spent on them, and yes, those Fluevogs, too. I've worn my thrifted velvet skirts and dresses, my flannel shirts, and those Salvation Army sweaters on repeat this past fall. So yes, I've bought some great items along the way, and everyone makes mistakes, and learning to shop wisely isn't as easy as it sounds. So why do I feel so awful?

Well, the answer is pretty simple, and it comes in two parts. First, $2,520 is just way too much money to spend on clothes. This is not a universal statement by any means - it is a statement about the way I feel about money, and what clothes are worth to me. As you might guess, I don't belong to that group of people who believe that it is okay to spend 10% of one's income on clothes; heck, even 1% is pushing it for me. So let's put this in perspective: the truth is that my two-and-a-half-grand couldn't even buy me that wonderfully pretty Burberry Prorsum raffia trench coat that I saw in an issue of Vogue recently. (I'd be about $400 short.) The point is not that I could have bought two pairs of Prada pumps with the money - I don't need or want Prada pumps. What I need is the feeling that I've spent my money well. Yes, it could have been worse, and when I worked in clothing retail, I am sure it was much, much worse. But the simple fact is that the clothes I've bought this year don't seem like they were worth the money I spent. Some individual pieces, yes. But as a whole, no. I'd rather have money in the bank than 90 new pieces of clothing.

And that brings me to the second part of the answer: I guess it's no surprise to anyone when I say that no closet can hold 90 new items of clothing a year. It's just crazy. For the first time ever, I've actually had to put some of my summer clothes away for the winter. There simply is no space, even after I've donated some of my old clothes to Salvation Army. No matter how you go about it, there is absolutely no justification for buying 12 new skirts in one year. Buying so much in volume is unsustainable (and by unsustainable in this context I mean something that has no longevity): aside from the question of space, the cost-per-wear gets surprisingly high, even if you've only spent a dollar here, a dollar there on your clothes. It is simply not very smart to buy clothes that are left unworn due to something as weird as "too many clothes, not enough time".

The partial solution here, as many thrifters would say, is to donate or sell the back end of the wardrobe. Some thrifters choose to buy one thing and get rid of another on a constant basis. Others do an annual closet clean-up where you either sell or donate the clothes you no longer wear (I have previously fallen into this category). This works for many thrifters. They are willing and happy to keep their wardrobes in a constant flux. But if are interested in creating a sustainable wardrobe that works, if you are tired of going back and forth between what to keep and what to donate, if you feel uncertain about your shopping habits, if you feel overwhelmed or somewhat uncomfortable with the amount of clothing you are accumulating (even if you do the annual culling or what not), and if you find yourself in the situation where your wardrobe just doesn't make sense, I have a suggestion for you: observe yourself for an entire year. Write everything down: what you buy, how much you spend, when you buy, where you buy, what you donate or sell. First, you'll realize that you are buying a lot more stuff than you'd think you were even capable of, and second, your cost-per-wear is much higher than you think it is. You are most likely buying things and wearing them just a handful of times before you get rid of them. You'll soon notice that it's not just about the money you've spent, but more about the amount of clothes you buy and whether your system of recycling and wardrobe flux is actually working for you or not. It is about cost-per-wear, and it's about your peace of mind.

And I'll say it again: a lot of thrifters are perfectly happy with the way their wardrobes evolve with time, and for some, the culling process is fun and liberating. It used to be that way with me, too. But I think I've just reached a point where that process just doesn't make sense anymore. This doesn't mean that I'll stop shopping altogether, or that I'll stop thrifting - thrifting is, at the end of the day, the only environmentally sustainable way to shop. I'm willing to admit that I've been in this situation plenty of times before: I've decided to spend more wisely, and then I've fallen off the waggon before too long. This time, I hope, things will be a little bit different. You see, I have a plan, and I have new rules for shopping. More on that next time.

Next: Shopping plan for 2012, and Five rules of shopping

Monday, 16 January 2012

T-Shirt Travels (2001)

Ever wondered who ends up wearing the t-shirt you donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill? It is estimated that up to 95% of donated clothing is sold to huge second hand clothing sellers, who in turn ship and sell the clothes to developing countries, where the second hand clothing market has killed off local clothing manufacturing. It's a big business: see how it's done, and who profits. This documentary was directed, produced and written in 2001 by Shantha Bloemen.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Movie nights, or "step aside, Justin Bieber"

Have I ever happened to mention that I am married to a pretty amazing man..? No..? Well, I am. It was our second wedding anniversary on Saturday, and Chris took me to a private screening of two of my all-time favourite movies. So yeah, Justin Bieber took his girlfriend to a screening of Titanic. Well, we saw this:

And then, this one:

Pretty awesome, right?

Wearing a heavy wool sweater, black skinny jeans and Fluevog boots, all second hand. (Sorry about the grainy indoor photos.)

Friday, 13 January 2012

On wardrobe basics

I've given a lot of thought to wardrobe basics recently. By basics I mean the clothes I wear on a weekly basis: my favourite sweaters, jeans, long-sleeved t-shirts, flat boots... the stuff I, to my astonishment, "can't live without". There are two reasons for my newly-found interest in basics.

First, intense observation of my own shopping during 2011 opened my eyes about what my basics are. (As I mentioned yesterday, I wrote down every single clothing-related purchase in 2011.) Every time I added another purchase in my notebook during the year, my eyes kept wandering to the items I had bought and recorded in the notebook two months earlier. I was immediately struck by the fact that quite a few of my purchases had been total misses. The reason: they weren't particularly wearable. After all the time I had spent observing my personal style, I was still buying clothes that weren't the right colour, and I was still settling for things that weren't quite what I was looking for. Worst of all, I was still buying things because I had seen something similar in a fashion magazine or a blog, thinking that I could make it work. It's one thing to be inspired by beautiful pictures or the outfits of others, but it's another to feel comfortable in one's own clothing. And I don't mean to be hard on myself here, because I made some great purchases along the way, too. A good example are these Fluevog boots that I scored on eBay. I want to wear them every single day.

The second reason for asking questions about basics came when I went on the blogging break. When I wasn't taking outfit pictures for the blog, I was noticing that I gravitated toward the same clothes all the time. As much fun as style blogging was and still is, I realized that I had been dressing up for the blog a fair bit. That doesn't mean that I was faking my style, or that I didn't actively choose to wear the outfits I wore. It simply means that I was looking for more variation than what I really needed. And don't get me wrong: variation is good. But it can also get out of control easily. It's okay to have a lot of clothes and wear different stuff every day if it feels right for you, but when you find yourself guilt-tripping over the contents of your wardrobe, it's not okay. Then it just means that you are doing something to yourself that you probably shouldn't.

During the blogging break I wore a lot of really basic outfits; jeans or a mid-calf skirt teamed with a simple sweater. I haven't worn high heels in months. I wore sweatpants at home. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy the occasional dressing-up, because I truly do. But when it comes to buying wisely, it is worth while to consider things like cost-per-wear, or whether your purchases align with your everyday life.

I am wearing all basics: navy cotton sweater, black skinny jeans, red knitted cap, Fluevog two-tone boots. Everything second hand. Hand-crafted silver ring: Judy Bjorkman

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Waves Returns

Hello, all! It's been a while!

I've been trying to figure out for a while now how to get the blog running again. I've written a post here, a post there, but when it came to publishing them, I x'd out. For whatever reason it has been challenging to write the first post; I've gone back and forth between just jumping into random topics on the one hand, and trying to write some sort of a summary of the blogging break and the viewpoints and thoughts that have emerged from that break on the other. In the end I decided to just let it all come out naturally, at its own pace. I guess that means that this post isn't about anything specific, and I'm just going to go ahead and write!

I'll say a thing or two about the blogging break. Firstly, it was a good idea. Secondly, the reasons for it were sort of complicated. At the time I told you that I was working on "more serious writing", but now in hindsight I don't think it was really about that at all. You know how sometimes when one is immersed in a particular mode of action, one becomes a little blind to what's going on around them? Or it just becomes tricky to keep track of one's own thought process? The week before I decided to take a break, my brother asked me, out of nowhere, why I had a blog. I knew that I had started blogging because I was trying to make sense of my bulging closet, and I kept going to keep track of that very same closet and to share my thoughts on style issues with like-minded people. But somehow I knew that it wasn't an adequate enough answer.

It had been obvious for a long time that I was interested in questions of sustainability and fashion ethics, but despite numerous blog posts on the those topics, I felt like my own personal process regarding those issues wasn't really going anywhere. I still desired new clothes, I bought clothes (an awful lot of clothes, even if they were second hand), and it was starting to feel like blogging was just a way of clinging into the back-and-forth battle between myself and consumerism. Blogging gave me the avenue to express my confusion about consumerism, but also to feel good about buying stuff. There was a disconnect there. I could not stop thinking about the connection between blogging and shopping. That's why I needed a break. I needed to figure out where all of this was going.

So what has changed in the time I was away? Well, a lot and nothing. I still struggle with my more serious writing, and I still ask myself an awful lot of questions regarding consumerism. For one thing, I managed to keep track of every piece of clothing I bought and every cent I spent on clothing in 2011, and the analysis of those facts and figures has been eye-opening. I hope to share some of that stuff with you once I get around to writing a coherent post about it. I've also made new resolutions regarding spending and buying, and so far it has been going well. That's another topic for a post of its own. I've kept doing research on fashion ethics. (Oh, yeah, and I did have half of my hair shaved off.)

So the question is, then, why did I want to get back into blogging now? Aside from the obvious, such as me missing the interaction with all of you, I feel like I have a better understanding regarding what this blog should be about, even if it's just in my own head. I will write about the same stuff I always write about, and there will be pictures of cats as usual, and there will be that same battle between superficiality and depth, between blind idolation and harsh criticism. So in a way, nothing has changed at all. Somehow though, I feel like I have a new sense of clarity about the way I approach the questions that trouble me. You know how much I love throwing random questions out there, and this time around I hope to tackle the questions rather than just ask them out loud. And yes, sometimes it is enough to ask a question, but other times an answer is needed. It's time for answers. I hope that you will stick around.