Friday, 29 June 2012

Jumpsuit, Ronson, Hofstadter



Here's an outfit picture! I haven't posted one in so long, and I am sorry about that. It's not that I haven't been wearing anything worth taking a picture of (the idea of not-picture-worthy outfits is fundamentally flawed, and against everything that style blogging is about, right?); I guess I've simply been too busy, and taking pictures hasn't felt like a priority. Also, one alienates oneself from taking outfit pictures surprisingly quickly. When the routine is gone, one starts to think of all sorts of reasons for why not taking a picture and/or not  writing a post about one's own clothes makes more sense. Anywhoo, here I am, today, wearing a Marimekko jumpsuit. It is new. I saw it at the Marimekko store in Finland, fell in love with it, and tried very hard to reason myself out of buying it. (Too expensive, impractical.) But the love felt too sincere, too intense to pass. Perhaps it was just a sales pitch, but the sales assistant said to me that too often people forget to buy happy clothes. We sometimes focus too much on neutral items, things that just make sense, things that are in our comfort zone. There was no denying that I'd been taking clothing a little bit too seriously for the last couple of months, and there was no denying that this jumpsuit was a happy piece of clothing. So much for reasoning! I bought the jumpsuit and have been wearing it happily. Here's a cat-hair-filled close-up of the pattern:



Aside from frolicking around in my jumpsuit, organizing our move and all the random things that go with it, I've also been reading. (Yay!) I read Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test last week. The book is a fascinating story about Ronson's investigations in the world of psychopathy and the way some forms of mental illness were/are diagnosed, treated and understood back in the day/today. Ronson's writing is effortless, humane and entertaining, full of interesting anecdotes and questions about what it means to be a human being, what it means to be "crazy", and what it means to have authority over mental illness.


Ronson's journey included a brief encounter with Douglas R. Hofstadter, the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, (the Pulizer-winning mammoth of a book published in 1979) and strangely enough, I had just walked past Gödel, Escher, Bach in the bookstore a little earlier. I had taken a mental note of the odd title of the book, but that was it. What were the chances of me coming by GEB in a book I had randomly chosen to read, only an hour later? I took this as an encouraging sign of some sorts, and decided to embark on a mission to read GEB, despite the fact that the book is filled with what to me look like mathematical equations and scary-looking diagrams. The book is about what Hofstadter calls Strange Loops - self-referencing systems and ideas that deal with creation of identity and self-awareness, the "I" in things animate and inanimate. The book deals with mathematics, Artificial Intelligence, logic, paradoxes... all sorts of interesting things. I am able to read perhaps ten - fifteen pages in one go, and then my brain starts to ache, which makes me think that I haven't been challenging my mind lately. (It appears that wearing a patterned jumpsuit isn't the only way one can escape one's own comfort zone!) Since Hofstadter writes about Escher's art and its "strange loopiness", I am also spending some time looking at Le Monde de M.C. Escher. I am also planning to look up Bach's fugues, which are also discussed in GEB


Apart from reading and my other goings-on, I've been following this spider on our backyard for the past couple of days. Its web is growing every day. I can't help wondering if he's aware of his actions, if he is just a part of some inexplicable system, and if Escher might have found spiderwebs inspiring!


And then there is Audrey. I think I've come to the conclusion, with the help of Jon Ronson's discussion of Bob Hare's Psychopath Checklist, that she is not a psychopath.  


Monday, 25 June 2012

In the vortex


The dress pictured above is called Helle (rough translation: heatwave), and the fabric carries the name Pyörre, which means vortex or swirl or whirl. (Both the dress and the fabric were designed by Finnish fashion designer Vuokko Nurmesniemi.) I chose to share the picture because right now my life seems to resemble a whirlwind. There is so much going on: packing, getting rid of random stuff (moving is expensive, so we are trying to travel light), getting the cats' paperwork, shots and microchips in order, putting the house in the US on the market, all sorts of random planning... I've moved lots of times before, but this time feels different. Overall I feel really good about the decisions we have made, but at the moment everything feels just a little bit too exhausting and overwhelming. I am sure things will start to make more sense as time moves along and when all this endless planning turns into something concrete, something that actually takes place in real life rather than in our minds and on paper.

The move has been, and continues to be, a wonderful opportunity for me to cull my wardrobe. What has been going on with my wardrobe recently would certainly deserve a collection of well-organized posts, but the way things stand, a sampling of random thoughts about it will have to suffice. 

I have donated a lot of my clothes to charity. It became obvious early on that there was no way I was going to ship all of my clothes back to Finland. I have culled a little bit, then a little more, and then a lot. I have a feeling I will continue to cull until the moving company comes to pack up our stuff. I have donated a lot of nice clothes. Nice just doesn't cut it anymore, and if something doesn't get worn, it's out. Clothes I have paid good money for are out if I don't wear them regularly. Random bought-in-the-spur-of-the-moment stuff is out. Everything that doesn't fit right, is in bad shape, or needs fixing (which I will never get around doing) is going. If I have multiple representations of a given style, only my favourites, the ones I actually wear, survive the culling. I think I might have gotten rid of at least half of my skirts, if not more. I still have plenty left. 

One of the most interesting things about all of this is that after having culled several garbage bags worth of clothes, I still have what looks like a lot of clothes. Not "oh my god I have SO many clothes!"-lot, but certainly a fair bit, enough to play around with, enough to feel like I have a pretty substantial collection of clothes that provide me with variety and fun. It's a good feeling. I feel better about getting dressed in the morning than I did, say, three months ago.

Something else that's worth noting: I have bought some new clothes. When I was in Finland house-hunting, I bought some basics: two long-sleeved t-shirts by Marimekko, a pair of vintage Laura Ashley navy chinos, a linen sweater at Filippa K. As things stand now, I am very close, if not over the twelve items of clothing I was going to allow myself to buy this year. To be honest, the list of twelve items doesn't seem all that important right now, and I haven't really been keeping score. The move and the culling process that has followed has more or less changed my mindset about the twelve-item-list.  I guess the point is that there is no magic number that is going to make me feel good about my wardrobe. It comes down to having clothes that make sense and getting rid of the clothes that don't. There is no point in shipping ten all-worn, cheap-quality seams-twisting-and-turning long sleeved t-shirts, when I can just get rid of them, and instead buy two good-quality ones that will last for a long, long time. I guess at some point I will tally up the stuff that I've acquired and got rid of, just to have a better idea of what has been going on.    

Another though: it has occurred to me that I am not a minimalist. I have made this statement before, only to back-track in the midst of my previous culling-inspired moments of clarity, to claim that perhaps I was one in the making anyway. This particular culling process (and on and on it goes) is really helping me figure out what I like. It has become obvious to me that I like all sorts of styles of clothing, all sorts of colours, all sorts of materials. I am not a one-style-fits-me-at-all-times person, and to some extent this means that I think I will always have a fair amount of clothes in my closet. In fact, I actually like to have a wide variety of clothes. Yes, I am interested in having my wardrobe make more sense, but I also want to hold onto a level of variety. I don't think the two need to be mutually exclusive. See, I could try to reduce my style to a handful of variables: there is an androgynous element, there is a romantic element, there is a 1920s-inspired element, and who knows what else. I could try to give a definitive answer to that question on so many people's lips these days: "how would you define your style?", and cull accordingly. But I don't know if a reductionist policy does me any favors. The collection of clothes I have grown to love is a mixed bag. That's just the way it is. It's an eclectic sampling of all sorts of things that have appealed to me over the years and continue to do so today.

One final thing: I have thought a lot about love. Maybe there is something fundamentally superficial and frivolous about loving clothes, but here's the thing: I love clothes, I do. I love the feel of crisp, out-of-the-wash linen, and I love the bounce of a well-cut circle-skirt. I love the way a light-as-air silk top feels against my skin. I could be embarrassed about that, and I could try to talk about clothes as essentially functional, utilitarian items that we have to wear in our daily lives. That's not what it's about for me though. It's not about creating an identity with the help of clothes either, and it's not about following fashion. To be honest, I don't know what it's about. Fun? Hedonism? But you know what, I don't really care. It is what it is, and that's enough for me. 


Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Big Move


It's been a crazy couple of months. In late March (when I was still preoccupied with trousers) Chris and I suddenly stumbled upon an opportunity. No, sadly we didn't win the lottery. It was a work-related occasion which allowed us to sit back and think about life. We have both longed for a certain level of simplicity in our lives for some time: a less of a hectic life, a life where we can set our own pace. After weeks and weeks of all sorts of twists and turns, we have now bought an old farmhouse in Finland. We'll be moving at the end of the summer, cats in tow.