vintage style

Failing at Ethical Fashion

mustard sweater feature

I was almost hesitant to share these photos, and for a reason that isn’t readily apparent. It’s not because my hair wasn’t quite cooperating this day, my camera wasn’t focusing properly or because it was really warm in the house and I was eager to get this sweater off.

It’s because this outfit fails at ethical fashion.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, it won’t come as a surprise that I care about responsible fashion- I talk about it a lot. I take part in Fashion Revolution each year. The majority of my clothing is secondhand. I sew slowly and thoughtfully- I try to make sure that each of the items I make are ones that will add value to my closet. I don’t technically have a “capsule” wardrobe, but each and every item is chosen carefully and definitely worn more than 30 times.  I very seldom purchase anything new, and when I do, I try to buy natural fibres, and search out ethical brands if possible.

I love fashion (no surprise there), but seeking to be purposeful and ethical in a world where fast fashion is the norm, can be hard.

And sometimes when you find a mustard yellow sweater, you buy it.

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A few weeks ago, I was visiting a local clothing store with my mom and sister, trying to help my mom find a sweater, and as we were looking, I came across this mustard yellow sweater. I’ve been looking for a long time (a couple of years) for some mustard yellow pieces, since it is my favourite colour, but is extremely hard to find!

Since it was on sale, I bought it.

And then I immediately started thinking about the fact that it is made out of rayon and polyester, and dyed with a toxic mix of chemicals, and was made in China, and other than that, I definitely don’t know “who made my sweater”, and then I started regretting it, because this is not ethical fashion, and how can I call myself an ethical fashion proponent, when I just made a very unethical shopping choice?

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But I’ve been doing some thinking lately, and I would like to share a few of thoughts on whether it’s possible to be completely “ethical” in your shopping choices.

I participated in a course that Fashion Revolution was offering a while ago. It was an interesting activity, but the one thing that stuck out to me, was this response by the founder of Fashion Revolution, Orsola De Castro to the question, “Is it possible to have a 100% sustainable or ethical wardrobe?”

I don’t think it’s possible to have 100% clothes that were designed or made sustainably or ethically. I think that is going to be very difficult, but it is possible to make sustainable and ethical choices about all of the clothes you have in your wardrobe. So, somehow, you can refresh with love and turn them into something they weren’t originally. . . You can do things like shop at Primark and H&M, but with the same respect if you were shopping somewhere like Gucci. You’ve got to treat your fiver like it was $500, and choose that piece not because you are “stress shopping at Zara”. We are not stress shopping at Zara: we are “deep love shopping at Primark” or Zara or wherever. . . Because, if we were to commit to 100% not putting one foot wrong, we would be damaging ourselves and our wardrobes immensely, and also the people who actually make our clothes, because there are an awful lot of people making clothes who are waiting for the industry to ameliorate, and what are we going to do in the meantime?  Boycott them all? As consumers, we still buy that product. We just buy it in a different way, so we can give a really strong message to the brands. This message might be “Slow down”. This message might be “No, we don’t want five for the price of one; we want one well made piece for the price of five”.

This past year I have started going zero waste in my lifestyle. At first, I thought the concept of “zero waste” was to try and produce no garbage at all. We’ve all seen the pictures of people’s “trash jars” where they are able to fit all of their garbage from the past year (or more) into one glass jar. It’s inspiring to think about living a life that doesn’t result in garbage, but it’s not completely realistic for most people.

I live in a small town, and there is no bulk store. Cauliflower comes wrapped in plastic. I recycle or compost everything I can, but still end up with garbage at the end of the day.

As I’ve been reading more, and started following several zero wasters on Instagram, one thing that keeps coming up is the fact that we are currently living in a culture that is designed to result in garbage. “Zero waste” doesn’t mean that you are producing zero garbage, but is rather a name for a movement that is trying to restructure our global economy to one designed to be circular, where garbage isn’t part of the cycle. Today our products (whether it’s clothing, or food or other things) are designed with waste. It’s impossible to create “zero waste” as a consumer. And even if you think that you are doing a fairly good job, there is garbage that has been created before the product even reaches you. (I work in a shop, and the amount of packaging garbage that is thrown out before a product even reaches the shelf is astounding.)

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But again, this quote by Instagrammer Andrea Sanders (@bezerowastegirl) has been bopping around in my head for a while:

“Zero Waste isn’t easy because it’s an infrastructure that doesn’t exist right now. Access to bulk stores, fresh markets and the like are not accessible to most. Everyone makes trash. Period. Do what you can. Never feel guilty because you can’t do something. There is no absolutism.”

And so, it makes me ask: Was this sweater an unwise shopping decision after all? Am I “failing” at ethical fashion?

Our current fashion culture is one that is driven by the need to buy more and more, regardless of how much we already own, but when I purchased this sweater, I wasn’t buying it from a fast fashion perspective.

I have been searching for a mustard yellow sweater for a few years, so it was not a spur of the moment purchase. It was “deep love” shopping, not buying for the sake of buying.

It is estimated that wearing a garment at least 30 times, reduces the carbon, waste and water footprint of a garment by 20%-30%. I wear all my clothes at least 30 times, and despite the fact that this sweater is not made of completely natural fibres, it is well sewn and will last me many years. I also take care of my clothes, and will be hand washing this one to help increase it’s lifespan.

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It’s a tricky issue. I can’t say that I’m completely convinced that I should have bought it. Maybe if I had waited a while longer I would have come across something in mustard yellow that would have ticked all the boxes, but then again, maybe not.

I want my wardrobe to be 100% ethical, but that’s not really feasible right now. If 95% of my wardrobe is ethical fashion, then is the 5% that isn’t ethical, OK? Where do you draw the line? Is there a line? How do you balance want vs. need, especially with something as “frivolous” as fashion?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. How do you decide for your own wardrobe?

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mustard sweater 7

mustard sweater sleeve

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Vintage Skating Party

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If I were going to a vintage skating party, this is what I would wear! Actually, even if it wasn’t a “vintage” skating party, this is still what I would want to wear, because it just seems like a vintage skating outfit, doesn’t it? Not that I have been doing much skating lately. . .  I haven’t gone once this year!

I have been making good on my plan to sew more this year, however, so there’s that. This past weekend I actually sat down and unpicked two of the wool skirts I got recently at the thrift store, altered one of the skirts, and finished several other mending and alteration projects that have been sitting in a pile for much too long! 

This knitted top, which is actually a 70’s inspired mini dress, was one of the garments I altered on Saturday. I got it several years ago from the thrift store, for an ambitious plan to do photoshoots of every era since 1900. Well, the photoshoots never happened, but I still really liked this dress- just not as a dress! The mini dress might have been a thing in the 70’s, but it’s really not my thing.

I was going through clothes a while ago, and came across it wondering whether I should just pass it on, as I was never going to wear it, but since I absolutely love the sleeves, I couldn’t bear to get rid of it. Then, I thought that I could try wearing it as a sweater, tucked into a skirt. It works quite well as a sweater, but it originally had a keyhole opening in the back. (Only the top two buttons were there.) 

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However, when you are wearing a sweater, it probably means that it’s chilly, and having an open back was COLD! I added some more buttons and loops and now this is a much warmer and more practical pullover! Well, as practical as it can be with sleeves like this! 

I know the dress is supposed to be a more 1970’s Missoni style, but the sleeves really remind me of the 1930’s. What do you think?

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I paired it with my black wool circle skirt, so the look isn’t truly 1930’s, but it seemed kind of like a skating outfit, so I decided to roll with it, and add a beret (my hair is actually long enough to wear berets again!), this lovely oversized pearl headed hat pin a lady in my church gave me, and a gold belt. These sparkly earrings my mom and dad got me for Christmas gave a bit more bling, and then these boots, with a fur detail, kind of completed the “winter skating” look.

I’m so glad I decided to dedicate some time on Saturday to mending and altering, as I was able to add several “new” items back into my wardrobe! It’s my own version of “shop your closet”! 

Do you get excited to add items you’ve mended or altered back into your closet?

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I would not be on one foot if I was actually on skates. . .

Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl, the artyologist

How is it already the end of October?

This month has just flown by for me, and has been a rather strange month too. I had every intention of posting these pictures on the Thanksgiving weekend (Oct. 8), but a combination of burning my right hand (which made typing difficult), getting a head cold that lasted forever, and then work and other engagements, has delayed me. . . and here we are now at October 22!

This is one of my favourite outfits and photoshoots of late. The photos were taken on the thanksgiving weekend, which also happened to be my birthday weekend! (Apparently I am claiming the whole weekend as my Birthday weekend, not just one day. . .) I was at first a little disappointed that the leaves had already turned brown by the time we were able to get these photos, but as it turned out, the colour palette worked incredibly well with the sepia tones of my outfit. The outfit is an amalgamation of some of my favourite pieces in my wardrobe-  I pretty much picked everything that I love to wear, and put it all into one outfit, because it’s always nice to wear something “special” on your birthday!

birthday outfit, the artyologist

Well, that’s really all I have to say, but if I try and think of something else to write, I am afraid that this will never be published. Sorry that the blog has been a bit boring lately, I’m a bit out of practice. . . I am hoping to get back in the swing of things, and post more frequently again.

Hope you are all having a happy October!

A New Look

new-look-feature

One of my favourite iconic vintage garments, is the Bar Suit by Christian Dior, from the 1947 collection. After the austerity of WWII, Dior’s designs must have been a breath of fresh air to women- although it is interesting, if you read about the time period, that not everyone thought that the new styles were a good change!

I’ve always loved this silhouette; maybe because it’s one that really works for me. I love so many of Dior’s designs from the late 1940’s through the 1950’s- the so called “New Look” of the era. Interestingly, the image below, often cited as from the 1947 collection, is actually an image taken in 1957 of a newer version of the suit. It has a few changes and, while the look is very similar, it is a bit looser than the 1947 version, which was more tailored, featured a padded hip to accentuate the waist, and a smoother line on the jacket without the peplum flare. Personally, I like the 1957 version more, and I love this image, so I decided to try and recreate it myself.

new-look-then-and-now

I’m not very good at replicating the pose, as it turns out. . . I guess this one won’t be going into the #myvintagecover annals!

As to the title of this post – yes I was alluding to that New Look, as my outfit was definitely inspired by the Bar Suit, but I was also referring to the fact that I got a new haircut, so it’s a bit of a “New Look” for me too! You probably can’t tell in these photos, because of the hat, but I got the sides trimmed (actually shaved) quite short and then left the top long and layered. I had a cut similar to this a few years ago, and it was the best cut I have ever gotten. This one was with a new hairdresser, and although I do really like it, there are a few tweaks that I will get her to do next time to make it perfect. It’s so hard to get a perfect haircut, isn’t it? I personally find it so hard to communicate what my vision is- when their vision might be quite different from my own!

walking-away-and-yellow-trees

Back to this outfit, though, I wore the same ensemble back in the spring, but never got photos. As soon as the weather started cooling off enough to wear wool, though, I decided to wear it again- and this time get photographs! The photographs were taken the day after I wore this outfit, and I didn’t actually wear the hat when I went out, because it was raining and windy- and I have no hair to pin the hat too! So, the hat is purely for styling purposes 😉

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We got snow quite early this year (September 15!), and even though it melted away again, it’s been quite cold. I was a wimp and didn’t go and get very many photos of the fall leaves. . . these are actually the only ones! But, there are still some trees with leaves on them, so maybe I can get some more this weekend.

Well, I’m off to my family’s place for the weekend . . . to all of my fellow Canadians: I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Did you know that there were two Bar Suits made? (I learned that just recently!) Have you ever tried to recreate an iconic vintage outfit or design? And have you had a nice Fall where you live?

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