Friday, November 28, 2008

article on the Dress Project

My article on our short Dress Project on the Curator, a wonderful arts and culture magazine based in New York City. The magazine is definitely worth your time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

red (is my neutral)

I have been building up to this outfit for several days, finding different red elements to pull together and also reading Some Girls Wander (, where Emily is posting about monochrome outfits.*

I think my red outfit beats hers, though. I have a sweater, stolen from my mum, a sash borrowed from another dress, a burgundy dress I got from Forever 21 from my October experiment (which I will post about), my apple necklace (thrifted), black leggings. I wish I had red leggings, but I don't. I also try to be wary of buying things just because I want them for one outfit.

no. 1
closer up
exhibit a- my hair is also red for fall.
exhibit b- close up, apples.

*Emily from Some Girls Wander is also responsible for the phrase 'Red is my neutral', one of the best phrases in the world.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I have come to conclude that big thrift stores (Value Village, Salvation Army, Goodwill) are the best places in the world to shop. Here is why: with any other kind of clothing store, your options, your creativity, your decisions, are limited to what the store has decided is worth selling. At a thrift store, anything wearable is sellable. That means that there is no one trying to influence your decision. As long as you are brave, you can wear anything.

Also, it is cheap and cheap=good for students, my friends.

I am also, it should be generally declared, an expert at thrifting. So here are some good rules for thrifty people that I have conjured up in my long beautiful hours at the local Value Village:

1. Move fast. If you want to come up with good finds, you basically have to go through EVERYTHING. That means you have to enter the thrift store with fire in your eyes, scattering people as you come. Move three hangers at a time through every section of clothing in your size; you don't have to look at everything individually. You should be able to tell whether something is worth looking more closely at by the fabric. If the fabric is ugly, or cheap-looking, skip over it. If you have time at the end, before the thrift store closes or you have to go, you can browse idly through the vinyl, housewares, etc, but if you want to find good clothes you need to be able to see everything.
2. If you think something might be worth trying on but aren't sure if it is dorky YOU MUST TRY IT ON. If nothing else, consider it a purging of the last remnants of fashion dependency; you're used to people telling you what to wear even if you are the kind of person who ignores it, but at a thrift store, your own judgement isn't even affected by the desire to be fashion-contrary.
Note: Another nice thing about thrift stores is that, in browsing through a hundred ugly, odd, and dated clothing items, your mind gets all washed clean. You forget what everybody has decided is fashionable. All you can remember is what you like, because that's part of you.
3. However: if it is shabby, stained, or damaged in any way, you may not try it on. Because you're buying used, you run the risk of looking shabby if you don't commit to only buying perfect clothes. Also, unless you're adept with a needle and never procrastinate, don't buy something that you think you can alter. You will probably decide it isn't worth it.
4. Ignore the changeroom rules if at all possible. Collect as many items as possible, and take them all in at once. One thing that must be understood about thrifting is that, because of the diversity in sizings, 95% of what you take into the changeroom won't work. It will fit wrong. What you need to do is bring enough so that other 5% still gives you some nice options.
5. Limit what you buy. Because thrift stores are so cheap, it can be tempting to buy everything that fits. I usually only let myself buy one thing, though, because odds are, I'm blinded by the low price, nice fabric, etc, of some of my finds, into thinking they're nicer than they are. By only letting myself choose one, I force myself to be more objective.
6. Dresses are the easiest thing to thrift. Guys' clothes are the hardest. I only let boys come along with me on the rarest of occasions, and then I dedicate myself to finding awesomeness for them, because otherwise they get totally jaded with the whole experience. That's not really a rule. Oh, well.

Good thrifting fortune to you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


one of my trusty always-right outfits. i never feel like i am pretending to be somebody else when i wear this outfit. it also has a market lady slash bag lady hint of an effect, adding to its unpretentiousness, i hope. but i speak of "effect," which is only a letter away from "affect." what am i saying?!

i'm wearing a necklace with a clay pendant made by Annie Ling, my good friend who is now also my good friend in New York City, in the Documentary and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography. she is a maelstrom of artistic adventure and i love her to bits, but it helps that the necklace looks so incredibly perfect with everything i wear. (a conditional love, yes.) the necklace is technically my mother's, but i steal it regularly.

maybe you can see the blurred lizards floating in the foreground - a mobile made out of (stolen?) telephone wire, bought at a market by the side of the road in south africa. overlooking knysna's warm-water estuary, we browsed the miniature volkswagens and giraffes, row upon splendid row. the touch of homemade love! here is one lizard in focus.

Monday, September 1, 2008

the truth about sweaters

To tell you the truth, I don't know if Alpaca sweaters from Peru are fashionable at all, but I love mine. I bought it on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, so it must have some claim to style. Maybe it is a throwback to the sweaters my mom bought for my dad in the seventies. My great-grandfather went into the mountains of Brazil with a pistol and a mule to be a peddlar as a fourteen-year-old. Finding that out at the same time as this was purchased gave this special sweater a special place in my special heart. Peru, Brazil - they're both in the southern hemisphere. Ah, sentimental value isn't easy to come by.
Pretend the blurry, yellow, almost irritatingly dark atmosphere of the photo is a throwback to Baroque portraits.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

my next halloween costume...

...including looking like a little boy.


Monday, July 7, 2008

you tell me.

What do you think about the role of function in clothing? What about when clothes become a tool? Should clothes be functional before they are nice to look at?

e.g. sportswear (Olympics), farmers, firefighters, sleepy University students

If clothes only serve a practical purpose, why wear them in the Bahamas, in a moviehouse, or in your livingroom?
If clothes are only meant to accentuate your looks, why not wear lingerie all day? Yes, a rather vulgar notion, but the point is, many sheep conform to society without knowing why, and your answers will help to jolt them out of their dull reverie.

Look here for even more spectacular Harper's Bazaar shots from the fifties.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My friend Valentina R.

Like all loving grandchildren, Val thanked her grandmother for the nice dress and then altered it severely. She is now putting off the day when she tells her grandmother. Photo on the left.

This outfit I like for its simplicity, and for the two details that you can't see very well--her red hair band and her necklace, which has nice designs. I also like the printed cloth on the wall but I can't give her credit for that.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Part Two: Red Lips and Big Shirts

The hub of inspirational street fashion, Hel Looks, has provided me with my first subject. Please remember, this is merely a casual analysis, not an informed opinion. Also, nothing I say is a comment on this person as a person, but only on the way she dressed herself. It will be a positive review, never fear.


a. Choose outfits according to context and relationship.

She is wearing a striped collared shirt that adds an air of formality and care to her clothes, indicating that she cares about her appearance, and therefore, for the people on the street who have to see her. Nothing about her outfit is offensive in the West, generally. Her glasses give me the impression that she can be serious and focused if she wants to be.

b. Be aware that clothes tell a story.

She is carrying a weathered (leather?) briefcase, obviously because she wants to, not because she can't afford a new one.

[Side note: This ties into our generation's palate, formed by a deep-rooted nostalgia for the past. I think the cause of our nostalgia is a lack of story and tradition in our own lives that we believe was present in the past.]

The briefcase may be important to her because of where it came from, or, she may just like things that do not look factory-made. The little belt also adds shape to the shirt, flattering her figure, which is more the fifties look - a time when convention was very important, for better or worse.

[Side note: It's true that one-dimensional (American?) consumerism loves products that are flat, clean, and shiny new. The irony is that we, nostalgic and environmentally friendly as we wish we were, spend just as much money on worn clothing and accessories, all so that we can feel down-to-earth. Our desire to be more simple by wearing anything that looks historic and therefore from a time of hand-made goods - as if it was bought from Mr. Degas next door in his little shop - requires us to live anything but simple lives. However, it's a good thing that we turn away from the anonymity of the suburban commuter's culture. Whether we will ever be more than fake versions of the past is the real concern.]

c. Be imaginative.

She isn't wearing completely matching colours. The sweater is bright and bolder than her shirt, but still informal enough for on the street. Her black flats and grey leggings take care of the cute factor. Her hair, in my eyes, is the most important part of her look, because it's a little wild in a playful way without being unattractively out of order.

[Side note: Our generation's obsession with cuteness seems to be connected to our desire to be simple. Being cute is a child-like characteristic, and childhood is often less stressful, because of one's ignorance of the complexity of reality.]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Part One: Rules for Taste?

In an effort to organize my thoughts, I will undertake a series of posts in which I explain why I like what I like. There may or may not be a climax or discernable theme, but hopefully by dividing my thoughts into parts I will be a little more comprehensible. Regardless, I cannot be less sensible than most television series, and masses of people waste their lives in front of those screens - perhaps a handful will choose to tickle their craniums here.

First, On Being Sexy.

I have been thinking about everything that is tied up in the word "sexy." Today, aloofness and ability to intimidate is associated with being sexy. I see this obsession with being sexy everywhere I go, but I'm not sure what purpose it serves, other than eyefood for men and women on the street.
The most obvious theory would be that the strength and power afforded those with status as "sexy beasts" is exhilirating. Perhaps there is a bias that only the sexy members of society are truly sophisticated. But sophistication is associated with being elite, and to be part of the elite, one must peer from the eaves of society with a cold expression of indifference. I don't think that being powerful is a bad thing, but when power's primary purpose is to disassociate the powerful from the rest of humanity, power can only serve to splinter communities and intimidate the powerless. This, I believe, is a bad thing. Achieving "class" without claiming superiority over other people is very difficult, although I would not claim that it is impossible. For example:

Skyy Vodka

Immediately, these keywords come to mind: wealth, pleasure, suntanning lotion, perfect blue skies, sunglasses and manicures, men's suits, shine, leisure, drinking, sex.

Nothing is wrong with any of those things when they're enjoyed in the appropriate contexts, but this picture is a world of exclusion, where nothing else is allowed in, not to mention that the relationship between the man and woman is very clear - there is no sense of trust, child-like wonder, knowing love, or anything that could allow for imperfection or human frailty. The man overcomes the woman, while she coldly glances up at him. They inhabit a harsh, unkind, gated community, and all of this is evident merely based on the way they have chosen to carry themselves and dress themselves.

Now, it is easy to point out wrong ways of structuring society, but it isn't easy to define what would be better. So, I will try to limit my criticism and advice to the way we dress. I will try to articulate why I like clothes that do not put sophistication as their first goal, but I will most likely fail to discover any absolute rules for dressing. Here are some Not Quite Rules for Dressing.

a. Choose outfits according to context and relationship. e.g. In the West, you do not wear white to a wedding, because, traditionally, the colour is reserved for the bride or her wedding party. As a witness to a ceremony that holds meaning for the bride and her surrounding community, to violate the order of a wedding would be to destroy the story that conventions seek to build around a marriage ceremony. Yes, traditions tell stories, and a wedding is a tradition. Without being part of a tradition, the purpose of a wedding is lost, which is why so few people bother to get married. It is no longer a story within a story - it's merely a fun thing to do. Unfortunately, along with the erosion of tradition, manners, and the order of society, civilization crumbles. And it isn't called a cradle for nothing. Humanity without civilization is like a baby without a bed.

b. Be aware that clothes tell a story. They say a lot about your background, whether it is one you chose for yourself or one you were given. They explain your relationship to the people you wear the clothing around. They often connect you to a subculture or a tradition or a style, which people assume means you are somehow connected to the people or the values of that subculture, tradition, or style. Choose carefully, because you are a member of society, if not in prison or a cave, and other people like to jump to conclusions about you.

Hiroji Kubota

c. Be imaginative. You are not a carbon copy of Paris Hilton, even if you wish you were, so use your imagination and do something that might relieve people on the street from the boredom of routine. All rules are only there to give you something to work with - as with being given a piece of paper, or a piece of land, what you make of the basics is the exciting part. There are so many ways to express and communicate through your clothing, whether you celebrate, mourn, flirt, dream, or work.

Michal Chelbin

I will try to use these rules to evaluate clothes, in a series of posts, so that I can test their relevance. If you, dear reader, have your own ideas about rules for dressing, please share them.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

thriftie outfit + prettiest shoes

thrifties of love: vintage slip, little indian shoes on a brooch/pin, orange and dark teal scarflet. my parents think wearing a slip showing is the ultime of faux pas, so now i'm all second guessing myself, however i think it's kind of sweet to have a bit of lace showing under your skirt?

anyways, all things aside, these shoes are the delight of my soul. they are sweet worn purplish-brown leather and for once (and this is marvelous when they're thrifted shoes) they actually fit me perfectly. they are pretty scuffed, and though i kind of like that, my parents think it is the second greatest faux pas to wear unshined shoes, so i must hie me to the mall and fetch some brown shoe polish soon, and then i will flash about the world in the prettiest shoes of all. so.. there.

Monday, May 26, 2008

hat revival

If there is one thing missing in our generation's wardrobe of necessities, it is The Elegant Hat. I took it upon myself to remedy this problem. Or that was the post-purchase plan, in any case. My family, along with my grandparents, took a pleasure trip to Quebec City, a cute tourist destination sporting all sorts of faux European and real French Canadian sights. The quaint but not-so-small harbour, the rain spattering on the cobbled streets, the cute French waiters, the gelato, the bakeries, the horrendously pricey clothing, the rolling green fields, sweet little cottages, and the local farmers' market, combined, was an altogether delightful experience. One of the highlights involved dropping in at a hat shop, completely genuine with hats spilling off the shelves and everything. And, to top it all of, the owners were also the chief hatmakers. As soon as I saw this hat, it reminded me of a burlap sack, and because I take to the poetic value of birds but not their poop or worm-eating habits, I decided the feather simply sealed the deal.
Since then, I wear it when I feel the need to be Really Me, although, it is probably closer to the feeling that I Wish I Were Her, that untouchable woman of the 1930s.

To conclude, it is only fitting that I drink tea from an Elegant Teapot while wearing my Elegant Hat, and so, to let you imagine yourself in my position, I have provided a picture of my math homework in the kitchen by the blossoms in a bottle and the aforementioned object.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday, May.

The thing I like about this outfit is the black dress. It is really a sort of, I don't know what you'd call it, it's like an over coat but it's a light material, and you can wear it in a million different ways. I like it because I got it in one of those Indian-imports stores that smell like incense and have jewellry, golden Buddha statues, carved wooden mirrors, etc., in some obscure town with a good second hand bookstore, when I was 11 or 12. I have worn it consistently for about 4 years and I still find new ways to wear it and it's still in perfect condition. I wore four variations on this outfit this week, it made dressing very easy in the morning, and I felt like I went to private school every day. Especially when I added a neck tie.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Etsy Fashion, as is only usual

Blogger and I don't really agree. But I just wanted to "talk" about the dress on the left, but for only one reason. The bow on the bottom. Why don't I see that more often? I am depressed at the state of fashion that this has appeared but once in my studies. Apparently this dress was made from a table cloth. Envy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

sixties throwback

yes. i look silly. but that is not the point here. this is about the sixties sundress, which i thrifted and which i'm pretty sure was handmade, a cardigan which i borrowed at the last minute from my cousin, and mary janes which i thrifted two summers ago at this little jam-packed and grofty thrift store in alliston where i used to be a regular. (i wanted to steal my friend's gothish boots just to be incongruous, but she kind of needed them).
closer look at my attempted miniature beehive. i think i could have pulled off a beehive fairly well. also, i was going to the movies. for some reason, that always always makes me want to dress up.
the immortal twiggy. she's much more mod than i was today, but i am going with the 60s tradition of the dark eyeliner/pale lips combo. twiggy is pretty cool.. but quite twiggy.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

mod cloth

This afternoon I stumbled upon this: Once you get past the somewhat annoyingly cute front page, there are lots of little treasures. (I wish I could find their location so I could see if shippings would be totally implausible, but at this stage of my life I should just never spend money anyways.) I approve of their vinyl/typewriter jewelry, their oxford pumps, and their dresses; not so much of their t-shirts. Anyways, here are some pretties I was specially impressed with:
Sail Away Dress.
I love corset-style tops; they're terribly flattering, but they're only corset-style so they can be sweet and pretty instead of vampy. Also, the sheer bottom of this dress lends itself to fun times with vintage slips.
Fairy Tale dress. You can see the fabric, but it is tres awesome. If you visit the site, look at the close-up. It is kind of bleedy; it looks way clearer in this picture. I'm pretty sure this dress wouldn't flatter me, though.

Lace-up Dickensy shoes always meet with approval.

This is the crowning glory-- vintage style bathing suit, sweetheart neckline, squared-off bottom, full-piece without being mumsy... lovely vintage flapperness. I may have to get one for myself. All not-spending-money resolutions aside.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Clothing from my Other Continent.

Because it is Monday, I'm going to post my three favourite photos this week of people and clothing. They are all from Africa because lately I've been listening to a lot of Afro-Beat radio and wearing wooden bracelets.

First. My parents at a wedding in Johannesburg sometime in the 80s.

Second. A photo I posted already on my other blog--but I can't get it over it. From a photo shoot inspired by the skinheads of Lagos, Nigeria during the 70s.

Third. Cloth.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

some red shoes and other red/grey things

Usually-- my outfits can be summed up in a phrase, because I am dressed as something- spring, a scientist, a flapper- it is a definable costume. not today.

This is le hodge-podge. It is partially inspired by dora in this qc comic, but only partially.

I would like to talk about glasses frames. They are part of the outfit. They are not my own. Two people (both boys, actually, so I'm surprised I don't care more) have mentioned they think that wearing frames when your eyesight is in perfect working order is pretentious. To them (and anybody else who happens to agree) I say- um.. nonsense! Accessorizing your face is not any more pretentious than accessorizing your neck with jewelry/scarves or accessorizing your face with make-up. Just less people do it. But that's not a good reason not to wear something.

The necklace, which makes me happy, I got thrifting last night. It has an immense wooden elephant on it. Also a hybrid lion-wolf. They are red. Here are two of my deepest-held clothing philosophies: 1- If it has animals on it, it is drastically increased in awesomeness. 2- In the words of a wonderfully dressed girl (emily of some girls wander) "red is my neutral".

In this picture I am also wearing my heinously small red shoes. I have yet to wear them out because they pinch my toes, and I feel like my feet are being mugged after about ten minutes. If I'm ever going somewhere where I get dropped off at the door, sit down for a few hours, and then get picked up again, at the door, I will wear them. Because.. um.. 'round here, we do love red shoes.

Also, I have never dressed up as spring and only the 'knickers over tights' thing (and I guess the red-and-black thing) is inspired by a webcomic. I would feel weird dressed as a webcomic character.


P.S. I apologize for small pictures with poor lighting. Sometimes you are a girl who lives in a basement with a borrowed and not particularly amazing camera. So, the lighting is bad. The pictures are fuzzy. They can be nicely clicked bigger though...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

speaking of shoes...

I've had luck with these lately.

For instance, when I walked into Stouffville's gem of a vintage store, Chic Thrills. Let us proceed by making this a visual presentation: You are walking down Stouffville Main against a chill, untimely spring wind, but what the heck; you walk into this store with the most amazing vintage displays on the mannequins: read; fashion heaven. (read also: spending casualties). You enter, breathe in the aroma of sweet sweet vintage clothing (or maybe the perfume of elderly ladies) and hop to the back of the store, fall before the alter of shoes, and pray.
You get the picture. I suppose this is a special vintage clothing store because it's in Stouffville, and in the words of a disciple or two, "can anything good come out of Stouffville?" (We have had some pretty rotten baseball championships, let me tell you).
The wonderful thing about this store is that it's homegrown, small, and situated one store down from a coffee shop- The Love of Joe- which boasts a private library of 1984 and Jane Eyre amongst other classics and things I wouldn't condescend to read... by the way, I picked up the tastiest Columbian coffee ever there, and I would certainly go back.
Right. Back to Chic Thrills. Really, besides proximity to decent coffee, this shop has a lot of really great jewelry. For me, it was a "just touch, don't buy" limit. For some items, prices run around 15 dollars, others up to 30 or more. They have some real classy stuff if you don't mind spending money. Also some cameo earrings running at 30, but I limited myself to drooling.
Besides jewelry, they do have a decent selection of skirts- the lacy frilly kind that makes you feel all happy to find even though, honestly, they're not that rare- 80s style tops, vintage looking lace tops, the most amazing brocade pants I'd ever seen but would have to gain a few pounds to fit into, ...and a whole wall dedicated to formal wear.
The only downside of this store is that I'm too much of a dunce to figure out how things are sized. For the most part, things are ordered according to colour. That creates some confusion, but what have we been put on earth for except to overcome obstacles, try on clothing, and buy if need be?
Not to become anti-climactic: this store ALSO has an amazing selection of footwear. It would rival Aldo, especially because the footwear is actually -interesting-. The problem with footwear, that classic problem for anyone with an affinity for drop-jaw shoes, is the large amount of highly confused shoe-makers. They consistently put the pattern INSIDE the shoe, where it is obscured by the foot, rather than where people can see it. No one seems to have caught this gross mistake, or else merchandise was too expensive to redo it. What started out as a mistake has become a fashion repeat. Blah. Anyway. Nice shoes.
I happened to pick up a perfect 71/2 size kitten heel, brown satiny (probably polyester) with an Indian beaded pattern. Excitement ensued. That's why I actually bought a coffee and chucked a whole loonie into the Tuition Fund at Love of Joe, because these shoes were 15 dollars. (Although the barista at Love of Joe's was talking on his cell-phone while I waited, like, how important can that be compared to me?? I have shoes, and I am -really- -REALLY- important!!) and I had a loonie to spare. The sum of all this is: go to "downtown" Stouffville, stay FAR far away from Walmart and the box mall there, and go to some of these lovely small town places; they won't last forever... unless of course, you spend your tuition on vintage clothes and coffee.

L Cain