Story N˚15: Yellow September

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A few years ago, I worked at a boutique that carries ethical fashion. The owner said she had to often avoid buying yellow colors when selecting styles. Even if the clothes looked really good, she had trouble selling them. Perhaps many women don’t think they look good in yellow.

I don’t know if I look good in yellow, but I enjoy wearing it. I also notice that yellow really catches my eye when I see someone else wearing it. It’s brave to wear such a bold, attractive color. The yellow may be ochre or soft; I still think it’s bold and beautiful to wear.

This time of year is a yellow color for me- this transition from summer to autumn. The light has softened from bright white to yellow. The tree-top greens become yellowed, then golden. Some of the first leaves to change are bright yellow. The tulip tree and silver linden. (I notice that Spring happens the same way: one of the first colors to pop is yellow- forsythia, daffodils, etc.)

I like to pull out a certain outfit around this time of year. A pale ochre dress I bought at the above mentioned shop. It was designed and made here in NYC by two artists who created a line (recently put to rest) called Feral Childe. I love everything they designed, because each piece spoke to the dreamer in me. I pair this dress with an Afghani cotton scarf I got from a friend who was stationed there in the military. I think the patterns look so good together.

I hope you’ll look for and enjoy all the yellow…

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Feral Childe dress from 2013 with Afghani cotton scarf

Story N˚ 14: In Memoriam

I realize this Memorial Day weekend, as I think of my loved ones who have passed on, that I keep articles of clothing in memoriam. It’s something I have done unconsciously, until now.  Here are a few pieces I cherish.

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After my father died, I kept an old blue T-shirt he wore in softball games with his coworkers. My dad was always athletic:  football in high school; baseball and basketball. He taught us how to swim, and loved to go running.

This T-shirt has a faded number 8 on the back, chosen for the number of children he has. I used to wear it to run in, but I want to preserve it. Now, I wear it around the house when I need some familiar comfort.  It’s wonderfully soft from use.

My Grandpa O began his life on a potato farm in Idaho; he’s my mom’s dad. He was a natural at growing things, and remained an avid gardener throughout his life. Whenever he came to visit us in Florida, he would be fixing up our neglected garden, and setting up the compost pile by the fence with dried leaves on top.  The compost bin would appear by the sink, and we’d return to the practice of tossing in peels and organic waste.  I mostly remember him outdoors, staying busy.

Grandpa O had a light grey Champion sweatshirt that was passed on to me by my grandmother after he died. I also wear it to go running. Now, it has a small hole near the cuff burned by a camp fire cinder.

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One year, I went with my mom and siblings to Yellowstone for the first time. It was late May, so we Floridians thought it was practically summer, and therefore warm outside. We realized our thinking error as we drove past snow banks taller than the car. My brother, Dan, didn’t even bring a coat, so I lent him Grandpa O’s sweatshirt. Luckily, Dan knew how to build us a fire.  The evidence of this adventure is seared in the sleeve.
This sweatshirt reminds me of my grandpa working in the yard, and of a snowy May vacation with my family every time I wear it. It’s a great piece for wearing out of doors.

Now that I’m aware of my practice of keeping clothing, I have plenty more stories for Memorial Day.  I have so many loved ones who have passed on, and I love to remember them this way- through the clothing that touched their skin, through the pieces they lived life in.

Story N˚ 13: My MANIFESTO

‘As a clothes maker and textile artist, I commit to living and applying practices that take into consideration the well-being of my community, both local and global, as well as my planet.  I believe that what I choose to consume has an impact on many levels, and that this impact matters. 

I care about the people and families who are working in all areas of manufacturing; I care about the resources and beauty of my planet.   I believe that there are choices I can make that lessen environmental damage, and that can improve economic conditions around the world, such as using sustainable, natural textiles and reclaiming existing clothing and textiles.  Recycling, reusing items, reducing my consumption, choosing ethically produced fashion and products that are made to last:  these are and should be a given in our society at this point.  I commit to implementing these practices, to being conscientious about with whom and for whom I choose to work, and to educating others through word, action and product.  

To borrow a saying, “beauty is as beauty does”.  In fashion, and in my life, beauty matters:  what I say, do, choose, consume, create, matters!’

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I wrote the first draft of this in February 2013 while taking an ethical fashion course at FIT.  I consider it to be a fluid statement that continues to evolve throughout my journey.    Since moving to NYC, I have added ethically produced fashion to my wardrobe, as well as thrift finds that I have upcycled.

Case in point:  Today I am wearing a skirt I made from an oversized dress I found at Beacons Closet.  It’s kind of perfect for St Patrick’s Day.  I wish I could tote around the Irish daffodils as well…

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Story N˚ 12: A Dress for Valentine’s Day

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Today’s dress comes from my fabric stash, rather than my closet.  I have yards of fabric that I’ve collected over the years.  Every time I went into a fabric store (which was often),  I would leave with something in hand and an idea of what to make with it.  Almost always, it would go on the “some-day project” pile, which gradually became the fabric stash.  I got so good at this, that I eventually organized my fabrics by season or craft.  So, I have a box for fall/winter designs, a box for spring/summer designs, and a few boxes for craft ideas and scraps.  The scraps box is the most prolific.  I’m careful not to keep adding to my fabric stash, but I have a very hard time throwing away scrap fabric. I will use it one day, I tell myself…

I decided to make a Valentine’s Day dress to celebrate today, and to challenge myself to design and use up my fabric stash. Even though I am single and not dating, I still love Valentine’s Day.  I enjoy the treats and love wishes that are shared.  And luckily, V Day fell on Sunday, so I had all of Saturday to create this. 

Design, pattern and finished dress by Yours Truly with love!

Story N˚ 11: Winter Blues

I don’t have the winter blues, thank goodness.  Rather, I love the color Blue, and have come to love Winter in the north (it took me about 3 winters to be able to say so).  I imagine January as a blue month:  I see blue shadows on the snow, the pale blue of a cold dawn, or glimpses of brilliant blue sky between bare brown trees and racing clouds.  Not surprisingly, I have a remarkable number of blue clothing and accessories.  Here are my faves that are keeping me warm this winter:

  1. My most recently acquired accessory: this Nepalese handmade wool blanket scarf was given to me by a sweet friend who is so encouraging of my clothing design ambitions.  I first wore this to the airport in December.  It is so soft and cozy, and I noticed the vibrant blues turned a lot of heads my way.

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2. Before I moved to NYC, I picked this plaid flannel shirt out of a crowded swap meet pile back in Florida.  I had a lovely group of herbalist/permaculturist friends at the time who did things like swap clothes, and share food and music on the front porch.  I was able to find my path and begin my journey on it, thanks to their influence.  This shirt is one I like to wear to draw in; a studio shirt, if you will.  I did have it on once when helping a short-term boyfriend paint his apartment.  There are still paint smudges on the front pocket to mark that event.  I need to do more drawings and make more memories in this shirt.

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3. For my birthday in 1995 (yeah, 21 birthdays ago), I bought myself these Kickers in Cordoba, Argentina.  They were worn by every adolescent on the street there, and I fell in love with them.  I have worn them off and on throughout the years, and I’m happy to note they are still kicking.  I recently dusted them off and began to wear them again.  On the first outing, the subway car I got onto was full of Argentine men on vacation.  I watched them look at my shoes and whisper to each other.  I tried not to grin, but I felt coy and very cool.  I love these shoes, and find that other people do, too.

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Story N˚ 10: New Year!

Once upon a time, the sun and wind had a competition to see who was the stronger, more powerful one. (The wind may have felt insecure, and instigated this.)  The contest:  which of them could make a man remove his coat.

The wind went first, blowing and gusting ferociously against the man, who surely fell down, but his coat stayed on.  The wind stopped to let the sun have its turn.  The sun did nothing but shine and glow in the sky, as it always does.  The man felt warm and removed his coat.

The wind, despite all its efforts to force the man’s coat off, was defeated by the sun’s power.  That power came from simply being the sun.

My former father-in-law told me this parable when I was struggling a few years ago.  (It is a stretch for clothestories, but there is the coat.)  I didn’t understand what he was trying to say then, but today I fully realize what I can do when I simply allow myself to be: who I am, how I am.  I have been working valiantly to clear away paradigms and societal norms that don’t serve me, like the one about mindlessly consuming cheap food, clothes, etc.  This is a life process, but I see my best and truest Self emerge which gives me the confidence to just Be.  And to just Be is bringing health, happiness and wonderful people into my life in unprecedented ways.

Here’s to a simple, steady 2016, and more clothestories to share!

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Story N˚9: Día de los Inocentes

Today, December 28th, is celebrated, mainly in Catholic communities, as a day for jokes and pranks- very much like our (U.S.) April Fool’s Day. The idea is to not remember the tragic massacre of infants recorded in the Book of Matthew, but to make the day lighthearted and fun. Children in some countries receive their Christmas gifts on this day as well, El Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents).
In keeping with a focus on children, I want to show off some baby clothes made by my great grandmother, Bessie (Elizabeth Badger Higgs). She was known for her handicraft and excellent cooking. She made these pieces almost 100 years ago. I am amazed at her perfect stitches and creative detail.