Life at the bottom of the Fashion Caste

Rants

Re: In Defense of Slow Fashion

Workers protest on the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh. Image via Solidarity Center.

Workers protest on the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh. Image via Solidarity Center.

Expounding upon one Leandra Medine’s recent post, “In Defense of Slow Fashion”: fast fashion kills.

This is not a nice conversation to have, it is not a fashionable subject to speak about, it is not a feel-good realization to come to. But it must be considered every time you reach for that $20, fresh-out-of-its-plastic-wrap, fresh off the freight liner, oh-so-trendy piece of clothing: who made this thing I am about to purchase? How much were they paid to make this thing? In what kind of conditions did they make this thing? Were the coerced or forced to make this thing? Did they have breakfast the day they made this thing? How old were they? And most importantly, do I support the the implications of the answers to these questions?

If they answer to that last question is no, put it down.

If this image of the garment worker who made your clothes is too abstract, too far away to be considered relevant in your purchasing decision, think instead of the retail workers that surround you in whatever fast fashion retailer you happen to find yourself in. These people work tirelessly at thankless jobs, often under management pressured to keep full-time staff to a minimum, scheduling part-timers for 39.5 hours a week to avoid the certain doom of a health insurance violation. These workers toil at all hours of the day, unpacking boxes, snapping censors onto garments, folding and re-folding, hocking credit cards to cushion the company’s bottom line all while being paid a pittance and being told to be grateful for an $0.11 raise, the first in two years. Do I support the corporations that turn a blind eye to the very people that make their successes possible?

Clearly, I acknowledge that not everyone can afford to pay $50 for a t-shirt, much less $350 for a pair of fine shoes. Generally speaking, neither can I. I admit that those adorable Asos shoes haunted me until of course I bought them. At $30 with free shipping, who wouldn’t? The point here is that all those five, ten, and twenty dollar purchases add up over time to piles of clothes that will last for only a few wears, ultimately ending up in landfills the world over. If the focus was instead on purchasing a well-crafted item made to last, the overall amount of money spent on clothing and the total amount of clothing purchased would both be reduced.

It is difficult to battle the indoctrinated consumer attitude required by our capitalist society. And I don’t think we will ever be fully free from its implications. What we can do is become more conscious consumers, people who use our minds to think critically about the origins of our potential purchase. The key is a change in our overall mindset. When I am pining for something new when I can’t afford something I know is well made from a reputable and responsible brand, I shop for vintage or handmade items on Etsy or scour my local thrift store for a good find. In that way I know I am not contributing to the supply demands of poor-quality garments made in poor working conditions by individuals—human beings with lives and families and joys and stresses like yours and mine—who may never live to see the day when their hard work earns them enough money to actually buy the clothing they create. It’s no novel concept, just quality over quantity at its finest.

That is my defense of slow fashion. It is not just the intricacy of the design, the weight of the silk between your fingers, nor the beautiful French seaming that warrants the desire for so-called slow fashion. It is the fact that you can proudly don a garment knowing that its path to you was not fraught with forced and underpaid labor, over-consumption of resources, and mindlessly low production standards.

Until next time,

TFS

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Short Cuts

I have not cut my hair in approximately three years. And, after countless dye jobs from many a sad box, my ends are split and crunchy. The last boy who did my hair was so concerned, he immediately recommended me to his friend, insisting I let her chop my length. I cringed away, crying “No! I’m trying to grow it out!”

But it seems breast-length is as long as it’s going to get, so long as I insist on all the flat-ironing, hair spraying, and box-dyeing I’ve become so accustomed to. Upon this rather tragic realization (that I will never have the long, voluminous locks of the Giseles and Lordes of the world), I’ve become more and more swayed by the “long bob,” all the rage like, three years ago when I decided to grow out my hair. I recognize this irony.

My first inspiration was the vintage inspired look that Gwynnie totes in The Royal Tenenbaums.

margot-bus

But I’m afraid it’s just a wee bit too flat for me. So I turned to one of my beauty icons, the irreverent Dana Scully, of course. Is she not SO gorgeous? I love her dusty rose lips and neutral brown eye  makeup. Plus, the hair. In all its bouncy glory.

scullyshort

I also really love Tavi’s latest rendition of the above look.

tavishort

Tavi

And then I realized, isn’t it just Alexa’s hair that I really want? Slightly disheveled, often wavy with pretty, blunt bangs.AlexaBut you can’t have the derivative without mentioning Ms. Chung’s obvious references and long bob, blunt bang foremothers. We’ve got Jean Shrimpton and Jane Birkin, natch.

Jean

JaneFurthermore, there are a few more modern gals who’ve really done it right. Check Elizabeth Olsen’s curly rendition. Leandra Medine has been rocking the carefree version for just about ever. And someone else, who remains mysterious, but has great hair nonetheless.

Elizabeth

Leandrashortcut1Anyways, the debate continues. Every other day I convince myself in or out of the decision I’ve already made. I’ll probably end up with a very long bob, and only chop two or three inches in the end. You know, just to get acclimated.

Until next time,

TFS


Blasé-Faire

Is it just me or is New York really slacking in the creativity department? No, not the designers (well, not all of them; Thom Browne case-in-point (!!!!!!!!!!!)), but the fashion folks on the street. One of my favorite aspects of Fashion Month is pouring through endless Tommy Ton et. al. slideshows of those lithe (and sometimes beautifully un-lithe), unfathomable beings as they flit from show to show.

So, naturally, I took the bait when I saw the Refinery29 link to “70 Next-Level NYFW Street-Style Snaps.” I was able to get to photo 29 before drifting down to the comments section where someone brashly proclaimed “So basically, you can wear anything to fashion week, and R29 will call it chic.”

Seriously. I thought. Seriously!

Okay, I take that back. I honestly don’t think it has anything to do with R29’s vision of what is “chic” or “next-level,” whatever that happens to mean. But I DO think that, as a rule, anyone who dons a pair of overalls, looks like a lady, pretends to be ironic, or is wearing anything from net-a-porter will be photographed for some sort of photo blog FW situation. Believe:

Okay, so no one ever said I was the poster-child for wild dress. But, bro, if you’ve got the budget, the status, the influence, SURPRISE me! Push the boundaries. Dare yourself. Dare me.

Thank goodness that to make a rule there must be exceptions, am I right? After much sifting, I picked these as my fave looks from NYC.

I can’t say how excited I am for the London collections. I may be slightly biased but London is second to none in both designer and street style excellency. I can always count on the Brits to not only excite and inspire me, but remind me why I fell in love with the whole crazy world of fashion in the first place.

Until then!

– The Fashion Serf

All photos via Style.com, The Sartorialist, Vogue.com, Vogue.co.uk, and Refinery29.com


School Daze

 

It has been horrifyingly cold lately, meaning a severe lack of opportunities to be even slightly stylish. En route to a holiday party with friends last month it dawned on me; Wisconsin isn’t known for its fashionistas not because there’s no one in the whole state with a keen sense of personal style, but largely because 6-8 months of the year completely prohibit any opportunity to wear an appealing ensemble. Trust me, any height of heel in three inches of snow just doesn’t work.

Good thing I’ve been keeping busy indoors while ruthlessly pursuing my transfer applications. Breaking news, I will not be attending Central Saint Martins in the fall. Instead, I have my sights set on a slightly warmer locale, but I’ll stay mum until my plans are set (!). Either way, these apps have been draining any semblance of sanity I have retained over the last year so I haven’t had a ton of time to blog. Does this mean I’ve already broken one of my resolutions? Gosh, I hope not.

To keep my spirits up in the midst of this wintry slog, I’m proud to say that I’m working on streamlining my wardrobe. I never thought I would be the kind of gal to desire limits in this area of my life but things are getting out of hand. After an influx of crap clothes from my old dorm in London, I’ve not only run out of hangers but also drawer space. And let me emphasize, I have plenty of hangers and drawers. More than average.

So I’m taking Anuschka of Into Mind‘s advice and planning my Spring 2013 capsule wardrobe. The planning portion has been surprisingly enjoyable. Lot’s of self-reflection, dog ear-ing magazine pages, collaging, and–gasp–pinning. That’s right. I’ve learned to use Pinterest for something other than entering unattainable contests. It’s still in the works, but feel free to check out my board of looks/textures/patterns that are inspiring my SS13 looks.

If you couldn’t decipher the huge range of themes in the board, I hope to aim for two different styles of looks. I love Sarah Rutson’s ladylike-chic style (vibrant tailored trousers, nautical stripes, a-line skirts, sheath dresses, no-nonsense colour combos) but i also have a huge weakness for a bohemian, gypsy woman, carefree, Dylana Suarez kind of style, too (flowy maxi skirts, an excess of paisley, windswept hair, and layers layers layers). Also, add a dash of schoolgirlisms including jumpers, letterman sweaters, and charm bracelets. I know it’s kind of passe at this point but I just can’t get over it.

To be honest, I’m no minimalist. I love trinkets, packed book shelves, and cozy clutter. So I do plan on keeping some stand-out pieces from my current wardrobe for sentimental reasons, even if they don’t fit into either of the broad categories I’m aiming for with my capsule planning.

Also, P took me on a much-needed tour of some of the best vintage shops in the cities recently (more on this to come!). The topmost photos are a preview of our outing! Some of those shops were last seen here.

Anyways, now you’ve been updated! Hopefully I can get out of this school daze long enough to blog again soon!

ttyl,

Maria Nichole


Beautiful Blogger

Beautiful Blogger

Gosh, I’m so excited to say that I’ve been nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award by an incredible gal who writes under the moniker My Cup (or Not) of Tea. It’s so nice to be recognized by another writer in the amateur blogging community because we are all each other’s support system. So thanks to everyone who takes the time to ‘like’ or comment on a post, it really keeps me going.

Part of this award is to pass on the little nod of encouragement to seven other bloggers out there. And so, without further ado, the nominees are:

Lois Louis

Fit Kitten

Organized Scenery

My Boring Closet.

Mirror Me

The London Oxford Express

Pauper to Princess

And finally, I’m asked to state seven facts about myself that many people might not know.

1. I’m a Libra and I’m always asking new friends when their birthday is so I can guess their sign.

2. I have a real passion for painting, metalworking and jewelry design.

3. This year I hope to expand those passions into leather work and hat construction.

4. Every summer I reread the entire Harry Potter series. Test me, my knowledge is slightly terrifying.

5. When I was little my greatest ambition in life was to become Indiana Jones.

6. Once I played a bit role in an independent short film which you can view here.

7. One day I hope to start a business specializing in peace silk shirts and sheath dresses with sustainably sourced, fair trade glass bead embellishments.

And now you know!

ttyl,

Maria Nichole


Movie Mania: Heathers

“Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count.”

– Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer in ‘Heathers’

Heathers title card

For those of you who haven’t been transfixed by Heathers’ darkly attractive analysis of the GenX teenager, the film depicts one Veronica Sawyer navigating the social jungle that is high school. Veronica has made it to the top of this hierarchy through admittance into the most powerful clique at Westerberg, a group of three uber-popular, conniving girls all dubbed Heather. The Heathers rule the school through a combination of fear, admiration, and sex appeal (“Everyone at this school either wants me as a friend or a fuck,” Heather Number One, aka Heather Chandler, boasts to Veronica).

Not to give away too many plot points for those Heathers virgins out there, but thee rest of the film highlights the demise of Westerberg’s most despicable characters, largely at the hands of Veronica and the rebellious newcomer, Jason Dean. Heathers is everything I ever wanted out of a John Hughes movie gone very, very wrong.

Heathers

My thirteen-year-old self was instantly drawn to this movie, chiefly based on the absolutely brilliant wardrobe choices. At the time of production, shoulder pads were at their pinnacle; there is no being a Heather without power shoulders. Giant hair, blazers at school, brooches, and monocles were also apparently things that teens wore. At least what the Heathers wore at Westerberg. And don’t forget the all-powerful scrunchie.

Monocle

Each Heather has her own signature colour which, not only affirms her place in the clique, but also conveys her character through non-verbal queues, if only on a skin-deep level. Heather Chandler, the most vicious and deluded Heather of the group, is red. She’s powerful, she commands attention, she’s dangerous. Heather Duke is green; she’s jealous, vengeful, and ironically, bulimic. Heather McNamara is yellow; she’s cautious, delicate, and easily persuaded. Our heroine, Veronica Sawyer, is blue; moody, discontent, and confused.

I love how this detail furthers the surreality of the whole film. Sure, there are dream sequences and a general fogginess about many of the scenes, but the Heathers’ ensembles catapult them from average teens to some kind of bizarre uniformed royalty. Primary coloured outfits never looked better.

Check out my style board inspired by Veronica. I am super into this schoolgirl/collegiate chic trend that’s in the works so I would definitely wear a Heathers-inspired look just about anywhere. College included.

How VERY.
Another reason my particularly angsty self loved/loves this movie is that it effortlessly captures the frustrations of overly intelligent, bored, listless teenagers. Veronica became a Heather because there was nothing better for her to do. “Now I use my grand IQ to decide what color lip gloss to wear in the morning and how to hit three keggers before curfew.” She’s disgusted with the institution of high school, the blind, hypocritical over-guidance of the adults in her life, and even more horrified at her own contribution to the unproductive cycle. When her hand is finally forced at changing things, Veronica’s own apathy overtakes any real emotion: “I say we just grow up, be adults and die.” Que sera, Ronnie, que sera.
True friends
I find Heathers really hits the mark in my book because it goes beyond poking fun at hilarious high school stereotypes. By pulling all the characters toward the extreme ends of their personas, the film not only mocks society at large, but also gives it a big eff you. Despite its dismal box office debut, Heathers has filled the dark teen comedy void and since become a headstrong cult classic. I approve.
Even if you hate Heathers, you can’t deny it’s influence on all teen/high school movies and shows that followed in the two decades after its release. Clueless, American Beauty, Mean Girls, Gossip Girl, etc. Case in point: Heathers cafeteria scene vs. Mean Girls cafeteria scene. Obviously the setup for either scene is completely different, but it is clear that each clique has its own designated table creating social boundaries that are almost never crossed. Thus, Heathers = insta-classic.
Fear not, Heathers-inspired outfit post coming soon.
ttyl,
Maria Nichole

Currently Crushing: True&Co

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I learned of True&Co‘s existence. I’d been reading about the company and how it’s been in the works for a long time on the blog Blushing Ambition by the darling Annabel. I thought it would be just your average middle-end boutique that sells nice sleepwear and pretty undergarments. Boy was I wrong. Everyone and their mother, literally, needs. this. website.

Let’s talk breasts. Mine are small. I have struggled since puberty to find the right bra for me. Believe it or not, I’ve worn the same size bra since I started wearing them. It’s a tiny size. Victoria’s Secret doesn’t even carry it in their stores. Even on the off-chance I do find my size, in Vicky’s mind, all A-cups must wish desperately they were DDs. I like my small breasts, I really really do.

So, for the last few years I’ve been ordering 3-10 different bras from online vendors like Asos, trying them all on, and sending 9-10 of the ill-fitting, overly-padded ones back, then repeating the cycle. But not anymore. Thanks to True&Co’s delightfully positive questionnaire that narrows down your best bra size based on your favorite bra’s fit, your dress size, and a few other factors, I have fallen in love with lingerie shopping once again.

Sign up with your email and the site catalogues your information for future purchases and stocks your personal shop with bras tailored to your needs. The big twist on conventional underwear shopping? For a $45 deposit, True&Co will send five different bras (three picked by you from your special shop, two recommended by True&Co especially for you) directly to your house for you to try on. If you don’t like any, send them all back for free. They return your deposit and you can go on searching for that perfect fit. If any of them do tickle your fancy, great! Keep the best ones, send the rest back. Obviously you have to pay for them but the shipping is free!

Check out my True&Co. Gift Guide ripe with recommendations for your sister/girlfriend/gal pal/mom (?).

Holiday Gift Guide: True&Co

Another huge bonus: they have an impeccably edited sleepwear shop as well. Whether for sleep, play, snuggling, or the holidays, they’ve got your lounge time covered with a great selection of labels that truly fit every budget.

ttyl,

Maria Nichole


It’s Vote’n Time

Hey everyone! Just wanted to send out this friendly reminder into the interwebs reminding you to get on out to your local polling place and cast your valuable vote. Only you can do it!

Don’t know where to vote? Check out this website.

Did you miss the last presidential debate? Lucky you, the New York Times uploaded the whole thing to YouTube.

Need a refresher on your local issues up for revision this election cycle? Visit your town’s local news websites to get the full briefing.

Curious about the issues concerning us gals that could be decided by the results of this election? Watch this video (below).

“You Don’t Own Me” PSA -Official from You Don’t Own Me on Vimeo.

Regardless of your political ideologies, it’s more important than ever that women get out to vote. Sorry guys, but you’ve had the power of government on your side for almost always. Consider the points made by former Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, taken from her November letter from the editor:

“[Women] make up 51 percent of the country’s population but represent only 17 percent of Congress. You do the math….It’s astounding to me that in the history of Congress, only 217 women have held office compared with 11,279 men….if Congress were representative of the population, with 51 percent of seats filled by women, do you think we’d still be debating about contraception? Of course not. We’d be focused on jobs, the economy, education, and the myriad of pressing matters that really need our attention now….Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, having women’s voices heard and represented is something we should all be able to agree on.”

To me, that extremely astute argument is huge. We are leaps and bounds closer to equality in America than when our grandmother’s were our age, even our own mothers, but there is no denying that we still have a long way to go.

I’m not a true blue fan of either party. In fact, most days I have a sarcastic word or two for the political puppet show that massive media makes of our national elections. But I am a fan of my personal voice being heard concerning issues regarding my body, healthcare, gender-equal pay, education, foreign policy, and human rights.

So, I will vote today for the millions of women of the world who do not have the right to vote, and may never live to gain it. I will vote today so I won’t become a statistic of female non-voters. I will vote today in hopes that the world will be a fairer place for my future daughters.

I will vote today, and so should you, sister.

ttyl,

Maria Nichole


It’s That Time Again…

Mid-season sale time, that is! For guys and gals on a seriously college-level budget (like me), this is your chance to stock up on essentials and snag that trendy swag you’ve been lusting after all season.

Below is me this summer, on location in San Francisco for a Mawi London piece about our amazing American stockists. I’m wearing a Topshop dress that I scored during their spring mid-season sale. I love it to death, and it’s easily become my most-worn piece of clothing.

I’ve rounded up my top ten picks from Topshop’s sale. Hopefuly I’ll actually be able to invest in some of them but for now it’s just wishful shopping. Have a look below!

TOPSHOP: Top ten picks from the mid-season sale

1. Mix and Match Sweatshirt: For those grumpy/hurried/oops-I-slept-in days where you throw on some black leggings, yank your hair into a topknot and stomp around in your most bad-girl booties.

2. Rib V Jumper by Boutique: For always.

3. Wash Zip Tunic by Boutique: Been obsessed with this dress since I saw Elle Fanning wearing a similar one, also by Boutique.

4. Floral Print Mesh-Backed Maxi Dress: Throw on pick numbers two and ten and you’ve got a perfectly disheveled fall ensemble.

5. Lace Soft Bra: No explanation necessary. Considering going wireless forever.

6. Spike Bobbies:  Spikes are almost too on-trend at the moment but, for the days when your hair could use some edge.

7. Oxblood Calf-Length Wrap Skirt: Not usually one for the lo-high hemline but this one hits the mark. Plus, oxblooooooooood.

8. Metallic Lace Flippy Dress: Pastels, check. Lace, check. Metallic? Yes please!

9. Oversized Boyfriend Coat: Been drooling over this since Christmas, literally.

10. Aerobic Hi-Top Trainer Wedges: Because I can’t resist the wedge sneaker anymore! I’ve been trying but, let’s be honest, they are awesome.

What are you sizing up and hunting down during this month’s sale season? Anything specific? Let me know in the comments below!

ttyl,

Maria Nichole


Getting Cozy

Well last night was the first official frost here in Eau Claire. And, I’ve officially diagnosed myself with a cold.

So, in my self-inflicted couch ridden-ness, I created a polyvore for fool-proof fall coziness, complete with cute fuzzy slippers and immune supplements!

Get Cozy

But seriously, when you’re feeling under the weather and the weather is less than encouraging, take full advantage of these facts and pull out all the stops in the layering sector. No one gets to judge you round this time of year, especially if your sick.

And, if they do say something snarky about your too-hip patterned leggings, you can always threaten to give a hefty cough in their direction.

Tune in next time for the full dish on my brilliant birthday weekend!

Until then, stay warm dear reader.

ttyl,

Maria Nichole