Thursday, June 28, 2007

I've Forgotten How to Shop!


Either I have lost my mind in the last few days before the wedding, or I have not been shopping for so long I have forgotten how to navigate a simple process of consumption.

To be fair to my poor adddled brain, this process did involve the lingerie department, known to drive even the most experienced consumers to the Scotch bottle.

I needed a backless bra for the wedding dress. I went online. There seemed to be numerous attractive options available. Fredericks of Hollywood had a particularly fetching number (see above), but I didn't have time for mail order. So, I headed to the Bay downtown, figuring that the venerable Canadian retailer would carry at least a few options. After all, it is prom and wedding season.

It's been a while since I was in a department store. My God they have a lot of stuff! The lingerie department is tucked discreetly away on the third floor, but must measure a few thousand square feet. There were two harried sales clerks, one of whom I cornered right away. "I need a backless bra," I said confidently, assuming she would lead me to the well-stocked aisle of such garments. Instead she looked confused. She showed me the one (!) item they had that might fit the description - a Calvin Klein number that claimed to have five different fastening possibilities, none of them backless. And it only went to a 36C. I think it's quite easy to tell by looking at me that I'm bigger than that. After all, I was shopping in person! Presumably there has got to be some advantage there - it's not like buying something online, where i could be a 14 year old boy for all the system knows or cares!

The clerk left me to peruse the shelves of a rather alaming assortment of tape on or magnetic bra cups. None of them bigger than a C mind you. Interesting how the great retailing minds of the foundation garment industry seem to think that girls with small boobs need a little extra support, while ignoring the needs of the rest of us. The thought of going braless fleetingly crossed my mind, but was even more alarming than the "invisible" bra cups in front of me.

"This is so demoralizing", i muttered aloud. An older woman browsing through the sale table next to me replied, "And it only gets worse." On cue, a baby in another aisle began screaming. 'He sounds like I feel," the woman said. I agreed, morosely moving over to the Elita section.

Elita makes nice comfy underwear, in Canada. My spirits rose a bit - there was a big sale on! At least I might be able to stock up on some less exotic undies than a backless bra. I grabbed several things in the size I have always worn in the past, and headed for the service counter, hoping to make a speedy exit. Oh, I forgot there were only two clerks. Eventually one of them made her way to the till, our transaction was completed, and I headed down the escalator, thinking the bar at the Four Seasons was only a block away.

When I got home, I took out my new panties and camisoles, and noticed they looked kinda small. Must be a new stretchy fabric, I thought. But no. I will spare you the disturbing imagery. Let's just say they didn't fit. Either Elita has changed their sizing or I was so addled by the fumes of polyester and foam that I mistakenly veered into the children's department.

I am now weighing my options. I can go back to the Bay and return the purchase, a thought of which sends me diving for a cool cloth for my forehead. Or I can lose about 50 or so pounds and fit into the underwear. It might take a little more time, but is probably more feasible.

The fact that I still need a backless bra is just too panic-inducing to contemplate.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fashion is Ephemeral, Pollution is Not


This is a picture of baled second hand clothing waiting to be shipped off to a country where need is more important than being up to the minute.

I found the following information on Treehugger - see more through the link on the sidebar. The article talks about a study (life cycle assessment) done in Britain by the Salvation Army (SATCOL), the University College Northampton and Environmental Resources Management. This study:
"calculated energy consumption for 1 tonne of recycled clothing by quantifying the energy, fuels and materials consumption for the year 2000/2001. The major energy consumer within the operation comes from their internal transport system for collection and distribution of donated items and they calculate that the energy required to recycle a tonne as being 1697 kWh, while the energy to create 1 tonne of cotton garments from virgin materials is 66648 kWh and 91508 kWh for a polyester garment. To calculate the net energy savings the study deducts the energy used to reuse or recycle 1 tonne of clothing from the energy used to manufacture it from virgin materials. The astonishing result is that:

The reuse of 1 tonne of polyester garments only uses 1.8% of the energy required for manufacture of these goods from virgin materials and the reuse of 1 tonne of cotton clothing only uses 2.6% of the energy required to manufacture those from virgin materials."

A little bit dense with the verbiage, but the point is clear. Wearable clothing ending up in the landfill is only part of the problem when we discard last year's trendy t-shirts. The other half of the equation is the magnitude of the pollution caused by the manufacture, shipping and retailing of the next new look. And we haven't even mentioned the child labour and human rights violations in third world sweatshops.

So as Wendy Tremayne so succintly put it on Threadbanger; "Fuck fashion." When you need some new duds check out the thrift and vintage stores. Remodel what you already own. And think classic. Think quality.

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Easy for me to say. Last night I watched as my step daughter sat transfixed in front of the computer, digitally trying on endless outfits via her new favourite website. This morning she spent an hour and a half trying on different combinations of her own clothes, recently purchased in a birthday money binge. Nothing was right - increasingly frustrated, she ended up saying, "I have nothing to wear!"

She just turned twelve. Little I say or do seems to make a dent in her conviction that being fashionable is the most important thing in life.

Friends tell me this is not uncommon in girls this age. But I know that young people face a highly sophisticated and precisely targeted barrage of marketing. How can we counteract this? Is it even possible?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Quilts, Bunting and Naked Men

So, yes, it has been a crazy week. It started off with a straight-forward enough project.

I should have taken a "before" picture. This quilt ended up in my hands, left behind by an old boyfriend. It was originally made by his aunt in the late '60's, in Saskatchewan. Using true prairie thrift, she used real scraps to create something useful first, and beautiful second.

By the time I got it, years of use had left it pretty tattered. It was stained, many of the patches had shredded, and the quilting stitches had rotted away. So I took it apart, reinforced or replaced the fragile patches, added a new batting and a backing pieced from other pieces of vintage cloth, and just for fun, added an edging of pom poms that I got at the Swap-O-Rama-Rama in San Francisco. Then I re-quilted it on the machine, washed it and voila! Resurrection!

I love the odd old fabric patterns. This quilt has now made its way to New Mexico, where it will grace the home of a dear friend.

Then, on to my next project. I wanted to make bunting for the wedding. I cut up my glitzy silk sarees into pennants, then attached them to a cotton tape. Recycled, reusable and quite festive! The only downside: I wrecked my new scissors cutting the beaded, sequinned fabric. If I had thought for half a minute first I could have figured that out!

And I promised naked men! Well, Saturday was the World Naked Bike Ride, a brilliant idea dreamed up by Conrad Schmidt of the Work Less Party. Like Critical Mass, it draws attention to both human pedal power and the need for bicycle friendly streets, as well as the infinite variety and beauty of the human body. It's a lot of fun for both riders and viewers too!
Although riders in Paris, Madrid, New York and Japan had sunny skies for their rides, it poured rain in Vancouver.

And my brother Rob, electrical engineer extraodinaire, made the front page of the Calgary Sun clad only in what appears to be an orange monkey.
I'm very proud of both Ian and Rob!!