Archives For May 2013

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When I started this blog, I started it for fun. I started it to talk about 90s nostalgia, pop culture, and thrift shopping. I didn’t start this blog to talk about sweat shops, fast fashion, and 1,127 dead people in a pile of rubble. Yet, here we are.

One thousand, one hundred, and twenty-seven.

That very long number is the number of people that perished in the Savar building collapse on April 24, 2013. You know the story by now: On April 23, a large crack was spotted in a Bangladesh Plaza that housed shops, offices, and a very large garment factory. Warnings to evacuate the building were heeded by some, but on the very next day, thousands of garment workers were ordered back to work and into the building. A few hours later, the building collapsed, and 1,127 people suffered a horrific death.

A crash that loud, and number that big, is hard to ignore. But with a crash that loud and a number that big, it’s hard to know what to say.

And yet, I feel a strange pressure to say something. I think that’s because nearly every article that attempts to offer some conscience-freeing solutions to this tragedy suggests more thrift shopping. By that measurement, people like me are star students. It’s easy, looking at my closet of 95% thrifted garments, to feel like a smug star student. Nearly every dollar I spent on clothing in the last two years has gone to the Salvation Army, BFM, or Talize. Looking at the images like this from Bangladesh, my inner monologue starts almost immediately: “Well, I didn’t buy any Joe Fresh last year. I don’t support slave labour. I can go back to reading TV recaps and stop feeling guilty.” But I don’t have a right to do that, because if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t start thrifting out of global concern. I started thrifting because I wanted to cool clothing for cheap prices. That right there is the very the same reason people go to Joe Fresh, F21 and Walmart. It’s the same game. That game has less harmful consequences when you play it in the thrift shop, but that mentality – more for less – is at the root of the fast fashion problem.

This problem needs addressing, and so, I’m going to address it. I’ll admit, I’ve sort of been waiting for someone else to say something, so I could just tweet a link to it and feel better. But sadly, the fashion blogging community has been nearly silent about this. Their silence comes from the fact that these cheaply-made garments are their bread and butter, and I’d imagine it’s hard to condemn the industry that fills up your side bar with ads. If it isn’t silence, then it’s a singular post stating that “my heart is with Bangladesh” and “I’ve donated what I spent on Joe Fresh to the relief fund”.

That last option is, of course, a good thing to do, but it’s not enough. What does it do to quell the production of the millions of garments still being produced by millions of people in other factories, in different countries? All the other retail giants (WalMart, Target, American Eagle) are still producing garments in buildings as packed, as inhumane, and maybe even as dangerous the one that fell down in Bangladesh. They just haven’t fallen down yet, so we haven’t heard the crash.  Outside the fashion blogging community, various bloggers and non-profits have attempted to provide some suggestions for consumers who are aghast at what the industry has come to. This article offers up some good ideas, and rightly points to thrift shopping as a good alternative (# 6), but again, I’m struck by the last two words in that sentence: “…save money!”

Donating money to the relief fund is good. Thrift shopping is good. Don’t stop doing these things, but they aren’t solutions if the bottom line is still about saving money. So what is the solution? What can we do to foster a more responsible garment industry?

Continue Reading…

My Murtaugh List

May 28, 2013 — 6 Comments

Soft pink summer dress // We So Thrifty

Patters and prints // We So Thrifty

Soft pink summer dress // We So Thrifty

I’ll be 27 later this summer. 27 is a good age. I finally feel old enough for most of HBO’s programming, but still young to clean off a bag of Lays while I watch it. That said, these past few years have certainly led me to acknowledge the limitations that come with every new birthday. There are quite a few things that I can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t, do anymore: I can’t drink vodka coolers, I shouldn’t watch more than one show on the CW, and I won’t spontaneously crash at a friends house without first ensuring that I have pajamas, face wash, contact solution, and a decent place to sleep, lest my neck issues flare up (that sort of negates the “spontaneous” part, huh?). The How I Met Your Mother team aptly explains this concept as a Murtaugh list. Over the weekend, I very nearly added another item to the list – I can’t shop at Plato’s Closet anymore – but today’s look kept that item off the list for a little while longer.

Even heard of Plato’s Closet, friends? It’s the next big thing in thrift stores for the tween, teen, and college kid crowd. Actually, the people at Plato’s likely wouldn’t take kindly to me calling it a thrift store. I can’t find the t-word anywhere on their website. Why? Because Plato’s Closet caters to people that think thrift stores are icky. Instead, I can find these words many times over: “Brand-name! Trendy! Hip!”

While it won’t identify itself as a thrift store, Plato’s Closet is really just a half consignment, half second-hand store. If you want to sell some clothing, they’ll pay you for it, but only if it fits within their modus operandi: It’s got to be cheap and trendy. That means their racks are comprised almost-exclusively of Forever 21 and Urban Behaviour. Plato’s Closet is a store that only exists because of our insane fast-fashion industry. While it’s sad that we’re so addicted to cheap, flimsy pieces that we need a whole new store for them, I think Plato’s existence is a positive thing. At the very least, it slows down the fast-fashion industry, and extends the life of all those bargain blouses. That’s good.

NOW, back to the original point of this post: Seeing as I’m a few years outside of the Forever 21 demographic, I’m a few years outside of Plato’s demo as well. If I were still 22, I’d have eaten up all their sheer crop tops and sparkly minis, (and maybe I wouldn’t hate the Taylor Swift song so much? Eh, I’d probably still hate it) but that’s not what my closet needs these days. Thusly, shopping at Plato’s closet called upon all of my discernment skills. I skipped over anything with an XXI label, and tried to find something appropriate for a girl of nearly 27 years. After nearly an hour in and out of the change rooms, I’d amassed a large pile of H&M and Express rejects, and was confident Plato’s was headed to the Murtaugh list.  I took one final look around the store, and at last I found good piece from a quality label: this Max Studio dress, with its original $148 price tag still attached. I purchased it for $24, and left quite pleased. My Murtaugh list would remain unchanged.

Conclusion? There is gold to be mined at Plato’s, so long as I shop with patience and pickiness. And that, ironically, is exactly how I shop at every other t-word store.

Soft pink summer dress // We So Thrifty

Soft pink summer dress // We So Thrifty

Leather ballet flats // We So Thrifty

Dress: Plato’s Closet | $24.00
Earrings: Bibles for Missions | $2.00
Bangles: Can’t recall
Shoes: Birthday gift from mom!

Now and Then

May 24, 2013 — 17 Comments

Structured vintage // We So Thrifty

Structured vintage // We So Thrifty

Structured vintage // We So Thrifty

Does this dress need a post? No, it doesn’t. It speaks for itself. But if I were to say a few things about it, I’d mention that it’s fully-lined, impeccably-made, and it fits me like a glove. In fact, most of the gloves I own don’t fit me that well, so when I find gloves that fit, I’m going to say “these fit me like that dress!” I really could leave it at that, and be on my merry way, but we all know I can’t leave a post without at least cresting the 400 word mark.

If I were to say a little more about this dress, I’d point out that I’m its very first owner. This dress has been around since the early 50s, and I’m the first lady to call it my own. How do I know that? It came complete with a lovely little hot pink tag, that revealed it to be an Alix of Miami original, and was priced at $22.95 back in the day. Considering what a loaf of bread cost back then, that was a pretty penny. Upon further Googling, I discovered that Alix of Miami made all sorts of gorgeous cocktail and dinner dresses with a “tropical edge”.

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I love finding original tags and labels on vintage, and I love it even more when the internet hasn’t forgotten about these labels. It gives the whole look some context, and makes me feel connected to the women that originally worn these sorts of garments. 60 years ago, a woman with slightly smaller hips may have worn the very same dress in another size. Maybe she wore it to fabulous pool-side party, and sipped cocktails as she complained about what the salt water did to her hair. A few weeks ago, I wore my Alix of Miami dress as I sipped G & Ts at a wedding overlooking the Ottawa river. She likely had a decent tan, I’ve settled for a blotchy sunburn. Her concerns were probably widely different from mine, and her daily life a far cry from the routines and rhythms of my own, but when I’m wearing this dress, I feel just a little closer to her. For all our differences, we both appreciate a well made dress.

Structured vintage // We So Thrifty

Bow earrings // We So Thrifty

Dress: White Elephant
Earrings: Bibles for Missions | $2.00
Purse: Bibles for Missions | $5.00
Flats: Salvation Army | $5.00

When I Grow Up

May 15, 2013 — 17 Comments

Vintage rainbow skirt and a strappy tank // We So Thrifty

Vintage rainbow skirt and a strappy tank // We So Thrifty

Vintage rainbow skirt and a strappy tank // We So Thrifty

Ha! How sultry am I in that first pic? I’m all “yeah, wall, I like the way your brick is layed.” Blogging and taking photos is hilariously dumb sometimes. Then again, I can truthfully say that about most of my favourite things. The best things in life are sometimes free, sometimes not, but they are always hilarious and dumb. That should be on a motivational Pinterest poster.

Anyways, let’s rein in this entry. If I look like I’m romantically into that wall, it’s because I’m romantically into this outfit. Well, not romantically, but I am pretty into it. I bought this vintage skirt at the Salvation Army last year (worn also here), and I don’t wear it nearly as often as I should. It makes me feel like a bouquet of flowers. I also feel a little like a ballerina, and a little like a gymnast. The bun accounts for the ballerina vibes, and the gymnast within comes from the double-strapped Lululemon tank top I scored at Talize a few weeks ago.

Oddly enough, Ballerina and Gymnast were the #2 and #3 future professions on my “When I Grow Up” list from age 5-7. Back then, my career aspirations were determined by the attire associated with that career. Obviously, Figure Skater handily secured the #1 spot for all of Kindergarten and most of Grade 1. Flouncy skirts! Shiny leggings! Sparkles!…Sadly, those dreams were dashed the moment I realized that skating is very cold, and I suck at it. I would forever be relegated to the penalty box, silently weeping as all my crushes skated pass me during the painful coming-of-age ritual known as “Couple Skate”. All the funny-tasting hot chocolate from the instant hot chocolate machine in Georgetown couldn’t warm my sad, sad soul.

If I could have offered young Julie a few words of sage advice, I would have told her that eventually she will get to wear all the sparkles and ballerina buns in the world, without ever having to set foot in an arena again. It’s true. They let anyone wear sequins these days! The same goes for all my forgotten gymnast dreams. When I bought this Lululemon tank at the thrift store, I didn’t even have to pretend I was stretchy enough for yoga. I can wear it just because it’s comfy and the straps are groovy.

Eventually, I stopped picking careers based on the cute outfits, and instead picked them based on whatever unit we were studying in school. At one point, I sincerely thought I wanted to be an astronomer (this was before I realized I suck at math and science even more than I suck at skating), and during the Ancient Egypt unit, I thought Future Archeologist sounded pretty rad.

Obviously, I did not become an astronomer (although a few summers ago my friends and I were pretty confident we discovered a new constellation in the shape of a K, and called it Special K), but in my own small way, I practice a bit of archeology every time I enter the thrift store. Archeology is the study of human activity in the past, and my favourite thrifted finds always reveal a little more of that. I didn’t grow up to be a ballerina, a skater, or an archeologist. I grew up to be a thrifter. That means I can steal a little from all of those professions, and do it all in a climate that’s more temperate than an arena or the pyramids of Egypt. I’m definitely into that.

Vintage rainbow skirt and a strappy tank // We So Thrifty

Vintage rainbow skirt and a strappy tank // We So Thrifty

Vintage skirt: Salvation Army | $3.00
Lululemon tank: Talize | $17.00
Sandals: Talize | $3.50
Photos: Yen
🙂

Daily Dress

May 7, 2013 — 12 Comments

Floral vintage // We So Thrifty

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Floral vintage // We So Thrifty

Hi friends! Thank you for all the kind comments on our fanciful photoshoot. We had such fun wearing those beautiful dresses, and I hope I’ve convinced a few more of you to check out the dress sale this weekend. Before that time comes, I’m sneaking in one more White Elephant dress for your viewing pleasure (and a gratuitous picture of a Perrier bottle because I think it looks cool. Now you know how utterly banal my Instagram feed is). If my last post illustrated all the dreamy, fantastical ways of wearing vintage, this one is meant to bring it back to real life. A wedding, a prom, or a party is the perfect occasion for a vintage splurge, but even if you don’t have one of those events coming up, the right piece of vintage can be worn on the daily – no occasion necessary.

For me, the trick for bringing vintage into the everyday comes down to the accessories. This dress actually had a coordinating belt with it, but I opted for my trusty Ralph Lauren (via Bibles For Missions) belt. It make the dress feel more casual and wearable. I left a few of the buttons undone, and the look was finished when Yen slipped me her golden loafers and this sweet necklace from Merl.

Vintage can be worn with balloons, flowers, kittens and ice cream, but it can also be worn in the office, on the bus, at home, and at the baseball diamond. I always cringe a little when people say “vintage just isn’t my style,” because “vintage” has no inherent restrictive style – it spans decades of trends, fashions, and fads, all of which can be reclaimed and re-worn with a little help from your favourite belt.

See you at the sale!

Floral vintage // We So Thrifty

Floral vintage // We So Thrifty

Photos by Yen and her bro Henk! Except the Perrier. That piece of art is all mine.

Sunny & Sheer

May 3, 2013 — 18 Comments

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Just over a week ago, Yen and I spent some time sifting through frocks of tulle, silk, and cotton over at White Elephant. This activity in it self was a dream come true: we were like kids in a candy store. You know what? We don’t even need that metaphor: we were like fashion bloggers in a vintage dress store. That alone should indicate our level of glee.

The lovely ladies of White Elephant are the curators of an amazing collection of vintage from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and they’re putting it ALL up for sale next weekend. While they put the final touches on their selection, they invited us to take a few of these beauties home and show them a good time.

Narrowing our selection wasn’t easy. It’s like choosing a favourite child! Or cat! But as soon as I stepped into this full skirted lemon yellow number, it was love. Not long after, Yen slipped on a similarly-sheer minty green beauty, and we knew we had our girls.

These dresses look like they belong together. They look like they belong to debutants going to prom; to sisters in a wedding party; to friends meeting up for a night on the town. Simply put, the girls in these dresses look like they are going places.

That idea of a special destination is just what we aimed to capture in the photo shoot that followed. Wearing vintage brings a sense of story and whimsy, and we wanted to play up all of that (we also wanted to make sure we used balloons, because there’s a helium shortage and we’ll need something to show our grand kids when balloons go the way of the 45 record player).

With our dresses in tow, Yen and I let ourselves dream for the next few days. Our vision finally came together when Yen secured the use of her brother Henk’s FABULOUS 1977 Cougar. Look at this car! We weren’t just going places now, we were going places in style. In additional to lending us this sweet ride, Henk also took many of the photos you see here, and didn’t say a word as we primped and preened well into the evening. Thanks Henk!

I won’t say too much more, as I’m hoping the photos will speak for themselves, but I will remind you that these very dresses, and hundreds more, are available at the White Elephant To The Nines dress sale next weekend. This sale has become one of my favourite events in this city. It’s an incredible collection from ladies who love and live vintage, and it doesn’t get much better than that. They are joining forces with Ottawa’s Victoire, so get thee to James Street North on May 10 and 11, and you too can live the dream.

For a closer look at Yen’s dreamy dress, head over My Edit for her side of the story.

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sheer vintage // We So Thrifty

Sunny & Sheer // We So Thrifty

If you follow me on any other medium (Twitter, Facebook, traditional stalking), you’ll know that last Saturday, the ever-wonderful Jentine and I spent the day with several other pretty ladies: these UHMAZING vintage beauties from the loveliest shop in Hamilton, White Elephant. The girls over at White Elephant are gearing up for one of my favourite events of the year, the “To the Nines” vintage dress sale. In order to spread the word, and get all of you a little more aquatinted with the incredible selection that will be on display (and for sale!) next weekend, Yen and I got to live the dream in these dresses for a few short hours, and fall in love with vintage all over again. We’ll both be posting full spreads tomorrow, but in here’s a little sneak peak while you wait!