Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Champagne Taste for Beer Money


Back in April I was browsing in a local consignment store where I've found a few nice pieces, but overall, isn't known for carrying high-end designer merchandise, and I found this coat.....


It looks like a nice coat, right?  The colour is not one I would usually wear, but the fabric was luxuriously soft, like a wool-cashmere blend, and the beautiful detailing indicated the coat was very likely an expensive purchase for the original owner.

The flaps on the pockets are held open by a button, instead of the usual "buttoned-down" position you see on most coats.  A length of binding (I don't know what else to call it) is sewn on the front (it's visible in the photo next to the row of buttons), and on the shoulders, and there is an ever-so-elegant half belt in the back.

And then there's the label...


And how much did this vintage, French-made designer piece cost me?   The coat, a vintage top, vintage maxi dress, and a t-shirt came to $11 (it was their end of season sale).  As I was inwardly "SQUEE-ING", the woman behind the counter eyed my bag of treasures and said, "well, you did pretty well today, didn't you?"  She really had no idea.

If you're not familiar with the designer Sonia Rykiel, here's a bit of history...

 French knit designer Sonia Rykiel, with her trademark red hair, in 2007 (source)

 The story goes that in the early 60's, when Sonia Rykiel was pregnant with her first child, she couldn't find any clothes she liked in her husband's Paris boutique, so she designed and created a dress and a sweater, using his Italian fabric supplier.  The sweater had high-cut armholes and a shrunken fit, and she began selling the sweaters in her husband's boutique.  The "poor boy" sweaters, as they became known, were very popular (Audrey Hepburn bought 14 in different colours).  Rykiel's husband helped her start her own company and in 1968 she opened her own boutique on the left bank in Paris, specializing in casual knitwear.

Rykiel is quoted as saying "I do not want women to disappear beneath my clothing, the woman must be more than the garment, for it is not the dress that makes the woman, but the woman who makes herself".  Her designs in the 1970's were very modern - garments were made inside out and hems were left unfinished. She was one of the first designers to put text on a sweater.  Colourful and bold stripes figured prominently in many of her designs.  In 1972, she was dubbed "The Queen of Knitwear" by Women's Wear Daily.

An outfit from Rykiel's Fall 1994 collection (source)

In 2009, she was awarded The Order of Legion d'Honneur in recognition of her 40 years of service to the French Fashion Industry.  Her company remained family-owned until 2012 which made it one of the last independently owned fashion houses. Rykiel died in 2016 at the age of 86 from complications from Parkinson's disease.


When I wear this coat, I imagine myself strolling down the Champs-Elysees in Paris on a cool Spring day, knowing that I am wearing a little piece of French fashion history.

Have you found any Squee-Worthy "champagne" designer pieces for the price of a couple of beers?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Taking The Black


If you're a fan of the series Game of Thrones, you'll get the reference in the title of this post.  I'm currently in the midst of the Game of Thrones re-watch in preparation for the final season which airs on April 14th.  I'm only 3 episodes into Season 3, so I've a ways to go and I realize I may not make it all the way through 7 seasons in 3 weeks.  I've had many favourite shows over the years (Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Hannibal, Veronica Mars, Penny Dreadful, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc) but I haven't felt as deeply invested in the outcome of a series as I do with Game of ThronesInstead of going off on a long-winded rant of why I love the show, I will move on to the subject of this post.

 

WEARING BLACK.....


I used to think I wore a lot of black in my early adulthood, but when I look through old photos, I see that aside from my favourite skinny black jeans, I wore quite a bit of colour, so perhaps it was just my attitude that was dark?   I had a few years in my 30's during which my mother would ask me "Do you own any other colour aside from black?, which must have been during my "I need to wear professional work clothes" phase as I transitioned from retail jobs to office work.  I remember having a temporary job in an accounting firm with a strict dress code, and everything I wore during the two months I worked there was black.  

In my 40's I embraced more colour, which may have coincided with my more mellow emotional state.  I loved colourful vintage pieces from the 80's and I had a couple of floral print jumpsuits that I wore in the summer.  But by the time I turned 50, I was slowing drifting back to the dark side.  More pieces of black clothing crept into my wardrobe, and when I went thrift shopping, I always looked at the black pieces first.  The colourful pieces were sold or donated.  Every time I was just about to take another piece of black clothing home, I would stop myself, and say "why don't you get something in a bright, or lighter colour?"   The answer would always be, "because I feel good in black".  

 faux leather skirt from Talize, leggings from Winners and FitFlop sock booties

Black can be rather boring if you don't pay attention to shape and texture and if I am wearing head-to- toe black (which isn't often), I will make sure there's some visual interest with different fabrics.

I don't think my fondness for  black has anything to do with it being a supposedly "slimming colour", mind you, I did start gaining weight in my 50's.  I think it has more to do with embracing a tougher and slightly more punk feel to my style, which suits my greying hair, which I've stopped colouring in the last few years.

 Photo from shoot I did with Melanie in Vancouver in 2016


 It isn't a seasonal thing - I wear just as much black in the summer as I do in the winter. 

 Summer black, in linen or light cotton

The late street photographer Bill Cunningham was quoted as saying "Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life"  and I feel like black is my personal armor.   I've watched many of my blogging friends (Melanie, Vix, Suzanne, Sheila)  happily embraced bright colours and patterns, while I feel more like a crow amongst birds of paradise.   I will add blue or grey, or even a bit of red now and then to break up the swath of black, but the foundation pieces of my wardrobe are black, and when I shop for clothes, I always look at the black pieces first.  When I was in New York in the fall, a friend took me to the Dover Street Market, which carries cool high end brands like Comme des Garcons and every piece I tried on (and loved) was black.

 Photo by Suzanne Golden

The massive neck ruffle on this Comme des Garcons jacket made me feel like a star, (worn with my own monster shirt and pants) 

 Photo by Suzanne Golden

The CDG dress I'm wearing above is all one piece.  The mix of fabrics was wonderful

  This is pretty much my idea of a perfect outfit

 Top - Talize, pants - From Mars

The background of the top I'm wearing above is actually dark blue, but looks black here.  I look so blissed out because this was one of the few sunny days we had this winter.

1980's cotton knit vest from The Sentimentalist, drop-crotch pants - From Mars

The outfit above is an example of adding a pop of colour to otherwise basic black pieces 

And Now, Back to Game of Thrones...



As the series draws to a close, all of the strong women end up wearing black, including the reigning Queen, Cersei Lannister, who is a nasty piece of work.  The colour suits her.


However, the "good guys" in the series also adopt a much darker wardrobe as time goes by.  Sansa Stark, currently the Lady of Winterfell, is all grown up and has abandoned the soft pretty colours she wore in the first few seasons of the show. 


I had to end with this photo of one of my favourite characters - 10 year old Lady Lyanna Mormont, who is wiser, and braver, than many of the other much older characters.  And of course, she is always dressed in black!

Do you have a lot of black in your wardrobe, or do you take a more colourful approach to dressing?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Read My Dress


In late January, fashion designers Viktor and Rolf showed their Spring 2019 Couture collection, and photos of the voluminous, candy-coloured dresses decorated with cheeky or inspiring messages were soon all over social media.  I thought they were delightful - why wear your thoughts on a t-shirt when you can put them on a giant dress?

Source - Getty Images

The two dresses above are my favourites from the collection, which Harper's Bazaar dubbed "Slogan Couture".  The quote on the green dress is from artist Frida Kahlo, and if I could own one dress from the collection, that would be it.

Source - AP

I thought it would be fun to make a modified version of my own (because that is the kind of thing I would rather work on than clean my apartment).   Since two giant dresses are better than one,  I challenged my uber-creative friend and fellow blogger, Melanie, of Bag and a Beret, to make one too.  Even though we live on opposite sides of the country we can still collaborate on creative projects.

The white dress in the photo above was the inspiration for our challenge.  I knew I wouldn't be able to match its volume unless I was willing to spend a fortune on miles of tulle so I made do with multiple layers topped with some lace curtains and a vintage crinoline.

It was crappy weather for an outdoor photo shoot, but it was better than in my cluttered apartment.  This was taken in my backyard,  which was definitely not a suitable location for a dress of this magnitude! It deserves a runway.....


I wanted the messages on the dress to be a rebuttal to some of the messages society has given me for most of my adult life. 


I learned at an early age to not open my mouth when I smiled in order to hide my protruding front teeth, and the lesson stuck for the rest of my life.  Unfortunately, being acutely aware of not showing one's teeth can also result in what is unkindly referred to as "resting bitch face".  When I was in my 20's and 30's, I was appalled when someone, usually a man, would pass me in the street and say "Oh come on, smile, it can't be that bad".  I never knew how to respond, and so would say nothing.  Either my expression has softened, or now that I'm older, men don't care what my face looks like, but it's been a while since anyone has told me to smile, and if they did, I would have no problem telling them to f**k off.  

I'm enjoying experimenting with creative photo shoots for my blog and while they are definitely more time consuming and often require another person to take the photos, they provide a satisfaction that documenting my everyday outfits doesn't give me.  I'm also improving my Photoshop skills which I've been wanting to do for ages.  Melanie has been a huge inspiration when it comes to trying more creative approaches to photos and I can't wait to see her version of the "Big Dress".  Head over to her blog to see what she's come up with - she's three hours behind me so it may not be up until later tonight.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Create Your Story



 "Shelter" - image by Brooke Shaden (more of her images here)

I have admired Brooke Shaden's fine art photography since I first found her on Flickr about 10 years ago.   When I starting posting to Instagram, I was happy to see she had also an account and started following her there.  She has offered photography classes and workshops in the past, and in late December she posted about a two-week, online, "Create Your Story Challenge" she was organizing for January 1 - 14th.  The registration fee was pay-what-you-can, with 30% of the donations going towards a charity established by Shaden that teaches photography to victims of human trafficking.  She hoped to get 1,000 people registered and I decided to be one of those 1,000 people.

Tomorrow is the last day, and it has most definitely been challenging, and much more time consuming than I anticipated (although, I'm not really sure what I anticipated).  On January 1st, we received a downloadable workbook, and four videos demonstrating Shaden's creative process for her work, and each day since then we have received an email with questions for that day and a social media prompt.  There were also some "create" days, followed by "analyze and feedback" days, and three live video chats with Shaden spread over the two weeks.   I was at home for the first two days of the challenge so there was time available to devote to this, but then when I went back to work, I felt pressured for time to complete the exercises and do justice to the process, and despite my best intentions, quickly fell behind.   I learned during the first live video chat that I was not the only participant struggling to keep up; the good thing is that we can take a long as we want to complete the challenge, and the hope is that we will continue the practice after the two weeks are over.  

One benefit I have found is that because we are encouraged to devote part of each day to thinking and acting creatively, I have been inspired to shoot more, which is definitely one of the things I hoped to achieve by doing the course.   On New Year's Day, I asked my neighbour, Natalie, if she would come out with me to take a few photos - I had some vintage furs I wanted to document as they were disintegrating, and although it was quite cold, we had no snow, so it was as good a day for an outdoor shoot as we would likely get in January.

I wore an ankle-length blue-green velvet dress I purchased from a friend's vintage store several years ago, a fox fur hat (from a consignment store), and two vintage fur pieces that I rescued from being thrown away, which, sadly, are shedding and falling apart.  I had no particular theme or inspiration other than the pieces themselves, which have an old-school, Hollywood style glamour which contrasted nicely with the back alley/parking lot location.

I haven't worn my glasses for the last couple of shoots I've done; I felt they were out of place with the outfits I was wearing.  I noticed that I definitely feel more vulnerable without them (most likely because I can see two feet in front of me without them).

There is an empty lot near my house that is being dug up, and I thought it might make an interesting backdrop for some photos but I ended up not liking any of them except this one.  I am pretty sure the  coat is from the 1940's, based on the shape and design details.  Sadly, it has large splits in the side and the back caused by the fur drying out, which are not really noticeable until you move.  I love the  warm, rich colour of the fur, and the gorgeous sleeve detail.

detail of the fitted inner sleeve and vintage elbow-length gloves


The other piece I wanted to photograph was this lush fox fur stole, rescued from landfill, but unfortunately so dry that the slightest shake releases a cloud of white fur, and the pleated satin is badly stained.  I hope it led an exciting life before coming to me.   

Natalie caught a shot of the back view of the dress as I sprinted across the parking lot to get my coat when we were finished.

What's behind the door?  Hopefully good stuff!

The questions I've had to answer during this challenge have required some soul-searching: some examples include: "How is your life different now from what you thought it would be?", "Would the child that you were recognize the adult you've become?", "After you die, what do you want people to remember about you?" and "What do you stand for?"  They are questions that require time and effort to answer and I will continue to work my way through the challenge in the weeks to come.  I also hope to ride the wave of creative inspiration this process has initiated and push myself beyond my comfort zone.  I am excited to see what 2019 brings, but more importantly, I'm interested in what I will bring to it.

What are your hopes for this year?  Do you have projects you've been putting off, or dreams that have remained unfulfilled that you are determined to see come to fruition in 2019?