Thursday, June 28, 2012

Crocs. *shudder*

Let the self-loathing begin. I swore, SWORE, on a stack of fashion bibles that I would NEVER, EVER own or wear Crocs. In fact, I think I belong to a group on Facebook entitled "I don't care how comfortable they are, you look like an idiot in your Crocs". It was my declaration against Crocs in my life. A public declaration.
Proof you should never say never. One of the things I'm looking forward to purchasing (aside from some colourful Yoga Jeans) is a pair of Crocs. Fuck. I feel like I'm betraying myself. That being said, I'm definitely going to buy one of those nice pairs that look like Mary-Janes. Or should I buy these: A-Leigh wedges (jesus, they even bear my name now. why? WHY?!?!?!). I think I'm going with these ones or their open-heeled cousin because if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it cute.
So here's my rationalization (I feel like that should perhaps be the new title of this blog - Leigh's Rationalized purchases), Crocs were in fact created for gardening. That was their original purpose. I spend the majority of my time in the garden, farming. I loathe wearing sneakers unless I have to, besides when they get wet in the field its terrible. if I go barefoot, I end up with too many rock-related or thistle related injuries and flip flops are ok, but they get stuck in the mud in a suction-cuppy, unreliable sort of way. Finally, slimy-wet Birks are horrifying. So you can see my dilemma.
How do I know Crocs are the perfect solution to my problem? (*hits head against wall*) Because my mum brought hers out for when she helps in the garden and I used them in a pinch (though not without thinking and re-thinking about it). Anyway, I put them on and then (to my horror) I realized the glory of the Croc. They are lightweight, comfortable, sturdy in the garden and they even have little comfort bumps on the sole - its like a little foot massage!!!
Even though I'm super enthusiastic about them for my purposes (gardening), I still feel a sense of derision at the people who insist on wearing Crocs year-round and with those stupid charms in them (who ever thought they were a good idea? do you really need your crocs to smile at people?!?). Really, is that necessary? But, who knows in 6 months I maybe right in there with the worst of them. I highly doubt it though. I will limit my croc-wearing to farming-related activities only. I hope...
Just so you know, I'm less than a week away from the end. I feel excited about it, but also feel like this period has been long enough to break the habit without breaking my spirit.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Almost there...

So I officially entered a grey-area in my quest back in March (I can't believe its JUNE!!!) when I went to NYC and made special purchasing exceptions. I mean, really, NYC - I have no regrets. But other than that trip I've slipped quite nicely into a not-buying pattern. Its kind of become second nature and now I actually think about money on spend on everything, not just my garb.
I have missed my Yoga Jeans though, among other things. I've been making do with what I call my mom jeans (which makes me shudder). Its not that they are mom-jeans perse, its just that they are jeans that I feel are altogether too sensible and slightly ill-fitting. Too big, too long in the crotch etc. Not the kind of fit that one experiences with high-end designer jeans. Of which, I'm a big fan. You might recall my Yoga Jean post from earlier in the year. Some designer things are over-rated - like the ever-ghastly Ed Hardy anythings, but Yoga Jeans are not. I'm also a big fan of iT Jeans. These are things worth spending money on.
A couple weeks ago, I was able to close the Masters chapter of my life by "walking the stage" at convocation. The driving force behind this was my mum, but I'm really happy that I did it. Despite the fact I was stuck between two girls who knew each other and insisted on talking over me/through me or whatever through the ceremony on the stage for all to see (decorum is dead apparently), I enjoyed taking that time to celebrate me. So did the people I love. It was to my great delight when my partner surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of long stem roses (no baby's breath - ick) and a gift certificate to my favourite store: The Loop. When he gave it to me, I said "Only a month to go and I can use it". He quickly reminded me that not only was his gift appreciated, it was also genius! A gift certificate constituted guilt-free shopping because he had already spent the money and it was a gift. See the grey-area here. If I really wanted to ascetic about this, I could have waited. But lets be honest, I survived NYC without too much shopping...I definitely took my loop hole (pun intended).
This weekend, I celebrated me in a different way. We hired our friend to work the market for us and I took some time to go shopping. How glorious. Suffice to say, I replaced my long-mourned yoga jeans - good bye mom jeans - and bought some beautiful sundresses.
This experience made me realize how much this journey has made me grateful for what I have. I left the store with my purchases and felt truly spoiled and grateful. What would have been a run-of-the-mill shopping experience at previous points was totally satisfying to me. To appreciate the things I have is something that I've learned. Also, that I truly appreciate the people I have in my life, not just the things. This seems more important, no?
I have less than a month until the six months is up. I feel like the date will probably pass without me realizing. The absolute best thing to come from all of this is that I have changed my consumptive habits, which was the goal. I still like to buy stuff and I like a good outfit - that's just part of me - but now I feel in control of these things and I feel like I've removed myself from the constant want/need conveyor battle that our economic system wants us to be on. If I need or want something I can get it, but I won't want and therefore justify a need every second day. It makes my Type A personality smile to be in control of it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Things my hens have taught me...

Everyday is special. Give something to the people around you.

If you think your menstrual cycle is getting you down? Chickens have 8 eggs working their way to formation & laying on the go all the time. I imagine it's a conveyor belt.

I now really understand colloquialisms like: pecking order, what it means when someone says "don't lay an egg", shake your tail feather (it's actually very cute), chickens always come home to roost, don't count your eggs before their hatched (in our case graded - damn cracks!)

Play and work hard outside.

Eat well, plentifully, from the stuff that is found around you.

Stay close to your flock.

Don't be afraid to try something new, your flock might follow.

A little back scratch feels good.

Bathe regularly.

You can trust your mom. Period.

If some jackass predator is around - let your people know, they'll make you safe.

Eat your veggies!

Drink plenty of water.

An ample posterior is pretty darn cute.

Screefing can be a means of sustenance.

Whatever happened yesterday, today - you just keep on going.

Even small creatures are significant contributors.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What is this really about?!

I've been thinking a lot about what this blog is really about. Mostly, as you may have noticed, I've been writing about the ins and outs of my journey towards a less consumptive life - especially as it pertains to my clothing and wardrobe. I've also posted a lot about various pieces of clothing, town and home/work clothing, and public perception of clothing as its connected to identity.
But, what is it really about? What is the tie that binds? Is it just some girl mindlessly discussing her outfits? Sometimes, I guess it is.
For me this blog has become a record of experiences about clothing, consumption and body image. More importantly though its helped me to transition into full-time farm life. Much of how we cover our bodies is connected to our lifestyle, our interests and ultimately what is relevant for us. Many of these things have shifted for me over the last year or two with the loss of my job, relocation to the farm and making the farm my/our full-time living to support our family. There's also that part, I'm a parent now (which is still weird to say). I'm no longer a single entity with a beloved dog - I'm a partner, a step-mom, part of my own little family (beloved dog too!). I'm helping to create this life for us and our kids. Despite the fact that I still love a good pair of shoes and a cute outfit, these other things trump that for me most days. Which is not to say my life wasn't full before, because it was, but now its filled with different things. I think its incredible that love and family can shift the agenda before your very eyes.
This blog has also helped me to focus on the things I like to do that doesn't involve textile procurement. Things like cooking, writing, cross-stitching and gardening. I've been on a steep greenhouse gardening learning curve, but everyday instead of killing my plants, they grow. Last week my little sprouts went out into the field. By tabling these consumptive interests and habits to some back-burner in my mind, I've been able to work on skill-development. To focus on doing things instead of buying things. Instead of shopping most days or coveting some cute something; I water my plants, I feed my chickens, I run with my dog, I play in the kitchen (you should taste my homemade aioli and mayo!). All these things fill my day with new adventures and most of the time a comfy T-shirt, one of my many vests and some form of comfy pants is all I need. Those pretty things in my closet are there, ready for those times I take them out on the town and we have more fun than we did before. I appreciate the things I have, but mostly I appreciate the people I know, the things I do and feeling good about the way I get there.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hideous, tent-like gold raincoat & other lovelies

Ah yes, my hideous, tent-like gold raincoat (even I don't dare model it for you). Purchased last fall at the second-hand store as a "work around the farm" windbreaker/raincoat. In the same excursion I purchased the following:
1 pair of woolen "old man" pants for fall/winter outside work
1 set of suspenders to keep said pants up
1 golden rain coat
1 beige/oatmeal (yeck) down-filled vest for around the house
1 plaid work shirt
I bought this stuff at the onset of winter in the recognition that while I have (admittedly) a lot of performance apparel-type stuff, I don't really have a lot of muck-about stuff (particular winter warmth) gear. I bought a lot of these things at the second-hand store after considering purchasing many of their new & fancy versions (ie - gore-tex this and thats). I decided that the best things to have for mucking about were things that I wouldn't mind parting with. This was the same philosophy that guided me in my first year of treeplanting, I didn't know what gear would work for me, so I brought a lot of second-hand/used clothing that could get trashed (and it did!!!). This decision, as I reflect upon it now, was kind of a precursor to this journey of no-purchasing (or minimal purchasing I suppose, its become).
So back to this whole, "stuff I could part with" concept. When I first bought all these items they were the kind of ugly, drab things that you find in the second-hand store (not the wonderful gems that have people gasping). I thought I could live without them because they weren't outstandingly beautiful or particularly fashionable (ok, not fashionable at all). But, now I barely go a day without wearing one or all of them. They are infinitely useful and are (as you may guess) more relevant to my everyday life that my designer what-nots. My back-up down vest for example is part of my daily uniform. Its beige, I burned/melted a hole in the front upon which i sewed a "Scottish Power" patch. I'm not Scottish, its just what we had around the house. I wear my back-up more than my fancy white brand name vest.

The white one, after all, is my town vest. My beige one is used for cooking, feeding chickens, running outside, working in the greenhouse and the occasional trip over to the in-laws or the village pub/corner store. My other favourite vest these days (apparently I have a thing for vests) is my black & purple circa 1995 fleece vest from high school because the beige one is getting a little too warm for some of the spring-like weather we've been having here, but for the morning chicken-feeding and/or work in the greenhouse or barn...its perfect! one of the best reasons for my affinity to the vest is that they keep your core toasty without all the bulk and they have zip pockets to keep all my crap in (usually my iPhone & lip balm). Also, when washing the dishes or cooking you don't end up with your sleeves in everything (like you do with a sweater), if you're wearing a vest. I guess the old adage, "don't judge a book by its cover" (although I totally do), applies to my less-then-enthusiastic attitude about my new essential garments. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My favourite F words

Feminism & Farming! This is a must-read, from Bitch magazine's blog.

Thanks to my good friend M for connecting me with this article about ecofeminism, farming and their twin anti-capitalist interests.
This is one of the best articles I've read in a very long time. I keep reading it over and over and feeling good about my choices. I thought about it in the greenhouse as i potted up sprouts and while I was gathering eggs from my laying hens today.
Sometimes a little external validation is a-okay!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


It's been awhile since I posted, but I haven't abandoned ship - I've been trying to figure out where to go from here. With the exception of my trip, I think my less-consumptive habits have become just that.
So this post I'm going to focus on the input and ideas (albeit paraphrased) of others.
One of my first pieces of encouragement in the form of an informative video came from D. The story of stuff was great - it went straight for my consumer conscious sensibilities and introduced me to the term "planned obsolescence". We often marvel, that our teeny village in the boreal forest had all the stuff that any farmer and farmer would need. One of those services was a cobbler - a person who fixes shoes once they're broken. Think about that - someone who fixes shoes, which means your shoes are able to be fixed and not just throw-aways. I remember commercial cobblers in the mall when I was a kid, but they are long gone. So are high-quality, locally-made products made by craft and tradespeople. It makes me sad really, to think that this sustainable lifestyle many of us are seeking was more easily attained (in one sense) when our communities were smaller. At least more logical - our modern societies are designed to be convenient for urban dwellers, the hubs, but not for rural living like they would have been when our society had more of an agrarian focus. Fewer choices of course, but isn't that one of the great myths of capitalism? Places like Wal Mart and shopping malls don't really give us choice, they just distract us from what is really important.
Second piece of advice came from J, who upon discovering my quest and my fall from grace in NYC comforted me by letting me know she'd have done the same thing. More eloquently put she said that she looks always purchases things as a memento of a trip and that to surround oneself with beautiful things does bring a certain level of pleasure, especially in the form of art.
N recently sent me a link on FB about an artist who's minimalist exhibit of the things she saved from her life as a statement about our so-called need for stuff.
So it seems that I'm in good company on my quest. Keep that advice coming - mindlessly purchasing has become such a huge part of all of our lives, in one way or another, the idea of not doing so is intriguing, in the least, for all of us.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I cheated.

Well we all knew this was bound to happen. I cheated, on my own quest. If I make the rules - is that even possible and who wins? It's like cheating at solitaire - you win the game in the end, but you know in your heart what a dirty-little cheating card peeker you are.
So what tempted me off course in my quest? A purse/laptop bag handmade by one of our neighbors, purchased at the local farmers market. Seriously, how can I even feel guilty about this - its the most ethical kind of consumption there is...or something. I know, I'm on some stupid "self improvement" journey. Blah! I want to be cute and self improved. Thus begins a very dangerous line of so-called reasoning.
The impetus for the bag purchase was a trip to New York. I was bound to break the rules the moment I booked the trip so I might as well look good going into it.

(me & said beautiful bag in Central Park)

A friend suggested to me before leaving that I should think about the farm and the things I realistically might require in my daily life on the farm when I'm being enticed in NYC by fancy somethings. This seems like a logical perspective, but logic has nothing to do with it. Its all about the fantasy, the fantasy of the beautiful things and their ability to enhance my life. Really?! Is this really how I think? I suppose it is.

Truth is, I guess I have been missing that consumptive aspect of my life where you buy some new thing and it adds to your closet and your 'self'. Why do I look for that in stuff? Because its easy? Probably. I mean, its more satisfying to cook a great meal, have a great ski or run, read a book or spend time with friends/my partner. But all those things take considerably more effort AND you can combine them all with the simple bliss of buying something pretty! I also had the unabashed support of my partner when it came to buying stuff, this is one of the many reasons I heart him so much.

So what were the consumptive results of the trip? I'll make you a list:

1  beautiful black stretchy cotton pencil skirt from American Apparel (sweatshop free - c'mon!)
1 "I <3 NY" souvenir t-shirt (its my 3rd time and I've never bought one before, I also bought one for my love)
1 navy blue lovely dress (Anthropologie sale rack - sweatshop filled)
1 cute, fun orange shirt (ibid)
1 chartreuse cashmere cardigan (ibid)
1 pair of black Chuck Taylors (random store)
1 Tiffany & Co. Toggle bracelet **NB, this was a gift from my mum ** (god, I suck)

Total goods purchased and acquired while away: $635.00

Now. I've fully fallen off the wagon here and I know it. I'm also sleeping well at night and feeling good about myself. So where does this leave me in the quest? Am I off my own team? I'm not sure. Here's what I do know, my last trip to NYC I spent somewhere in the range of $3000 to $5000 - no shit. For reals. I blanch looking at that total, but its true. So in the land of progress, I have definitely made some. For all intents and purposes, I'm still on the quest and I'm too close to my period of transgression to reflect upon its meaning - for now. I'm also trying to win a new pair of Yoga Jeans - they are having a giveaway everyday this month for a free pair (find them and enter on Facebook). I'll keep you posted on my guilt and my winnings (I hope), for now I'm staring at my bracelet and loving my Chuck Taylors in my century-old farmhouse - the contrasts here are not lost on me and shouldn't be on you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Being brave

A huge part of this consumer behaviour for me is that when I'm not feeling great - in a body image self-esteem kind of way - clothing can help me focus on something positive about yourself physically or to change what I'm looking at.  I'm going to fess up and tell you about a horrible thing that happened to me yesterday.

Deep breath.

I'm currently employed at a local restaurant. I work part time a couple of days/week. We have loads and loads of "regular customers". One is a particularly cantankerous (read: dickface) old guy who brings each and every server a candy or chocolate every single day. I'm going to call him Mr. H. I never eat his weird candies or chocolates, because I think its weird. He's a super grouchy guy and this is his way of greasing the wheels I guess?! Often he will whip and/or throw the candy or chocolate across the restaurant at you - we're supposed to catch them, while he barks a "here you go, sweetheart". Oh swoon, Mr H.

Anyway, a big part of my job is hostessing.Meeting and greeting when people come in. I also work the till, take their money at the end of it all. Mr. H always wants his change in all loonies or two-nies for the parking meter. I've concocted a story that he has a sick wife or maybe he is sick that's why he needs the loonies and thereby humanizes the crustiness a bit. I'm good at my meeting and greeting and its important that people have a positive start and end at the restaurant. I'm kind to this old guy because lets face it, there's no point in not being kind. Plus, he has a really nice old guy friend and I guess I've met enough dickheads to know its about them, not me.

So yesterday, Mr. H comes in with his nice friend, the lobby is packed. He has to wait for a table, which he hates. He throws me my requisite chocolate which I put in the communal bin of other candy cast-offs for staff. A little girl in a blue coat comes in. Mr H, of course, assumes because she's in blue that she's a boy and gruffly says "Here you go sonny!" and offers her a chocolate. The little girl stares at this stranger who is offering her candy obviously recounting all the after school special she's seen where she's not supposed to take candy or even talk to strangers. And probably wondering why he called her sonny. There is an awkward pause.

I try to be helpful and say to the girl "Its okay sweetheart, he gives all of us candy everyday, its safe to take it". There. Awkwardness avoided, Mr. H comes off as less of a dickfaced weirdo.
For about one second. He looks at me jovially and says "Not you, I don't give them to you because you're too big". And he wasn't talking about my age.

This old fucking dickface of a man who I've been trying to have compassion for, giving loonies to and smiling when he chucks his candies at me while call me sweetheart - just called me fat in front of a room full of people. Me. Fat. In front of people!!!!!!!!!!! He said it a few more times, just to make sure I understood the "joke".

I looked at him, smiled and said "I'm surprised you've lived this long if that's the way you talk to women". On the outside I handled it like a champ. On the inside I was so mortified, I wanted to hide under a rock. I also thought about saying, "I'm 'big' in all the right places - asshole!", but this is a family restaurant and there were kids around. I also want to point out that he DOES (despite my so-called "bigness") give me candy everyday - THAT I DON'T EAT and only take because I'm HUMOURING THE OLD BASTARD!!!!

So now its a day later, I'm feeling super self conscious and being really paranoid about what I'm eating. His comment makes me feel like I need to declare war on my body. To change it. To make it closer to some norm so that I'll never EVER be embarrassed like that again. Somehow I've made this into my fault. How is that right? How can I do that to myself? The intellectual in me wants to rail against patriarchy and people who don't even think, but act, as oppressors commenting on women's bodies as they see fit. I've met many of them over the years. Mostly I want it not to bother me. I want to honour my body and all its capable of, all that its done and all that it will do long after Mr. H...well I don't need to finish that sentence do I? Bad karma. I want to do all these things, but after 30 years of stewing in images and socially reinforced beauty ideals, I want to eat celery, rice cakes and cry about how I've failed at being society's feminine ideal. That if only I skiied more, ran more and ate more celery, stupid old men wouldn't be able to take pot shots at me. That I've opened myself up to this criticism. Its my fault.

But it isn't my fault. And I'm not going to let myself do that to me.

I will not turn on my body. My healthy, strong, capable body that carries me through this life. My body that has planted tens of thousands of trees, run a marathon, skiied for miles and miles, farmed, traveled, swam in rivers, 3 oceans and countless lakes. My body. My HEALTHY body, that dances, sings, cooks, comforts and loves. My body that is full of enthusiasm for life. My body is also full of kindness, understanding and forgiveness. Sometimes its full of rage, frustration and anger. I'm going to direct that outward this time. I will NOT take it out on my body. It has stood by me, so I'm going to stand by it and offer it the kindness that I offer to the people I love, the people who are important to me. I'm one of those people, so fuck you Mr. H and fuck you patriarchy, I choose to love my body.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ode to my Yoga Jeans

I love jeans SO much. A good pair of jeans can set you up for the day, but a bad pair ick, the worst.
For those of you who fall into the category of "women whose thighs touch" you will especially appreciate this bit. Consider the alternate title of this post "Ode to thighs that touch".
In the last two days, both my pairs of wonderful Yoga Jeans by Second denim have ripped, more aptly, worn out due to the friction in the dreaded inner thigh, would-be chafe zone. Yoga Jeans, as promised, fit so well with 4-way stretch you could in theory do yoga in them, hence the name. They are Canadian made and designed AND you can actually go down two sizes!!!! These are my jean nirvana (thanks to my friend Cat for introducing them to me), I loved them so much I was even talked into skinny jeans. For reals. My first purchase session of Yoga Jeans from the always delightful Trove in The Annex on Bathurst in T.O resulted in me going home with two pairs (@$90+ a pop) and a half price denim skirt. For me, this is a no brainer, no big deal shopping outing. I should mention I had already hit up two or three other stores on this particular adventure, but had still convinced myself that because I didn't purchase more than one or two things at each place, I really hadn't spent that much.
A moment of self reflection followed by a rationalization, I am a masterful consumer. This is why friends like to shop with me, I'm likely to spend more and come up with a convincing argument in favour of purchsing. Even if I don't do these things on this particular outing, I certainly have in other contexts. Jeans are an easily justifiable purchase (times 3 apparently) because of the entirely complicated and often soul sucking process of finding the right jeans, a challenge for all women/people, of all shapes I am learning. Too short, too long, too tight, not tight enough, too high waisted, rise is too low, the dreaded muffin top, skinny jeans, flare, the stretch factor and my favourite, the long crotch. So when you find the right ones...stock up!
So this Ode to my beloved Yoga Jeans (and my thighs that touch) exists because I will not have Yoga Jeans gracing my life and lower limbs until July. It is my first hurdle in the quest.
I will have to make do.
At present I'm trying to think up ways that I could darn the parts that are worn out so that I could continue to wear them. My experience as a teenager (yes, this happened then too), was that patches underneath don't work and only draw attention to the fact that ones thighs are refusing to conform to their encasement. Darning might get a little more life out of my favourite jeans, they are not so far gone that they are beyond repair at this point.
I guess I need to remind myself that this journey was bound to have some hurdles, its more than closet discoveries of forgotten treasures.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Town clothes

This phenomenon is part of life for most, if not all, "country people" especially farm folk. Town clothes are like the modern equivalent of your Sunday best. I mean maybe not Sunday Sunday best, but certainly market day best.

Being a fairly new member of the country/farm folk demographic it's a newer, and therefore, more easily reflected upon part of my life.

So first I am going to talk home clothes or the non-town clothes. Untown clothes as it were. These can range depending upon the time of year and activity, but you can bet these clothes need to be functional and durable. Some aspect of home life, especially on a farm involves getting a little bit grubby whether from mud and dirt in the summer or wet from snow in winter or covered in wood chips, fire ash - whatever! They might be something like your camping/cottage clothes. The clothes for Rural grub. This means durable fabrics and sensible designs. Shit that can take abuse.

Home clothes are pretty self-explanatory because they are like city home clothes except no one can see you - so it doesn't matter if there are weird combos of colors/fabrics/ style. Its kind of like being a kid again, picking out your own outfits that your mum would likely be embarrassed of - It's all about what works in the end though. This makes me think of the external response to our fashion choices yet again. The public perception "what do my clothes say about me to others?" piece is pretty much non existent when it comes to country home clothes.

So now - town clothes. These are the things that you either can't, don't or shouldn't do any of the following in : fry bacon, wash dishes, bring in wood, cut wood, weed, plant, harvest, water or really go anywhere near the barn or garden in, feed animals (chickens etc), hunt, butcher after said hunt, operate tractor, have anything to do with poo in. I mean, we all try to avoid pooing ourselves wherever we are, but you don't want to pick up dog poo, shovel manure or touch anything to do with chickens in them. I think you're getting my point here.
These are the lightly colored, delicate fabrics, with more interesting design involving superfluous pieces that do not serve a functional purpose. Mmmm...superfluous. Adornment folks, adornment for it's own sake. Something we humans have always done. We like to look nice and whatever nice is, it's typically decided by the collective. Unless you're 6 and have a multicolored skirt that you live in because it looks like super kid ice cream!!! (my mum claims she burned it)

So your clothes communicate something about you to others. We all participate in this, knowing our clothing isn't the be all and end all of our "self" and yet we are so easily duped.
I can bet that if you were in a room of farmers (particularly) they would not be the carhart adorned, grubby faced folk you might expect if you went to their farm. This is because town, for farmers, is not the place to show your hardcore farmerness off by wearing your work clothes like some 2nd year university student. It's a place to socialize, go to market, it's an event. And events are things we dress up for!

Here's a story to try and illustrate my point:
Last year at market a friend from town was lamenting to myself and another farmer how it would be great if the market were on grass or in dirt (as opposed to the parking lot where it resides) because it would be way more fun to touch the earth with ones bare feet. I admit, as an avid barefoot-in-summer person, this notion had its appeal, but I felt something else. The other farmer articulated her response quickly.

"are you kidding?! I spend everyday dirty, in mud, dirt, water, shit- you name it! This is my one day to wear nice clean clothes, to see people and to get off the farm!!! look (gesturing) I'm even wearing earrings!!!!"

Where the pastoral becomes romanticized is an entirely impractical space and this farm life has little room for the impractical. I looked down at my town jeans that day and realized I had worn them into the field (bonehead) sloshed into a mud hole dirtying the cuff. As they were my clean town pair, I rolled up the pant leg and they were clean capris. I knew exactly what my farmer friend meant.
Sometimes we want clothing to communicate part of our identity and sometimes we want it to communicate or experience something for ourselves that we don't normally get to - for those of us who spend a lot of time in clothing that can take abuse - a pair of earrings and a nice outfit does the trick.


Last night we attended what many have described as "the event" in our city. Not a gala, not a big fundraiser, none other than the Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour. Every year they come to our local, out-dated Community Auditorium and anyone who is anyone is there. Well anyone who is a anywhere near to being outdoorsy, hippy, yuppie, climber, know the crunchers of granola.
The festival as it were has gotten more commercial over the years, this years sponsor roll - almost 15 minutes long - involved plugs for everyone's favorite performance apparel. Now I've already discussed my own gear, but I'm pretty sure that was a gear-heavy crowd.
We were there amongst the fleece, down vests, wool sweaters and (my least favorite) the overly-sensible shoe or worse yet...hiking boot, blech.
But before I get on my high horse, I looked down. Sporting my sensible black North Face boots (admittedly my mukluks were my first choice) and my down filled North Face parka, I started to think about my place in this crowd.
I'm terribly afraid of heights and don't engage in any kind of climbing off the ground. I've done some recreational water sporting and i really love xc skiing. I spent too many treeplanting months in tents (even those set ups were pretty fancy) for that to have any romance left for me, for more than a few nights anyway. There is always one moment during the films where I think - "I could be hard core like that". This usually subsides on the way to the car, where it's inevitably minus a million outside.
So, does my fashionable performance apparel and attendance at this event launch me straight into poser-land?
I'm not sure, but more importantly I'm not sure it matters. After all, I like going to the posh Auditorium when it's populated by aromatic hippy-folk (and us posers too).
As we pull into our long country driveway, on our 80 acre farm, bring wood into the house to start the fire (our only heat source) and make sure the pipes haven't frozen (like they did last week), I realize everyone's definition of toughness is different.
And I'm really freaking glad I have these warm boots and this warm parka.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The DICK shirt

I've been thinking for the last little while about what it is that people are trying to communicate with their clothing. Or maybe, better put, is what they're are hoping their clothing communicates about them to other people. I mean, we all get up in the morning and put something on our bodies, so why do we choose what we choose and not other things. Why is one person's trash, another's treasure? An extension of this is why do we feel the need to choose items from within a particular "genre" of clothing? We can so quickly identify or make assumptions about a person's hobbies, interests, musical tastes and political views based on their clothing. Or at least we think we can.
I think this has to do with where identity and clothing overlap. We have certain parts of our identity or things we hold dear and so we translate that to the world through our clothing. Its like greeting strangers without having to have a conversation. It can be a way of communicating similarity and belonging, but also a way of not belonging or dissimilarity.
Well, here's one fella I do NOT want to have a conversation with (or maybe I do...). The guy wearing the DICK shirt. This Shirt.

"I have the DICK, so I make the RULES".

In between the two charming lines is the outline of a large man, in white (irony in the colour choice here? is that irony, I don't even know) pointing a finger aggressively outwards toward a woman. As in, I have the dick, so I make the rules you stupid bitch. I can assure you, this shirt is real (see more here) and it is not being worn out of irony by a hipster.

Now, if I wore that shirt (like this one), it would say entirely different things about me and to the world. After I commented on the charming nature of his shirt, dickshirt guy's girlfriend (yes, people like this can actually get others to spend time with them and presumably engage in sexual acts with them), told me proudly that she bought him the shirt with a smile. Though she admitted it may have been a mistake because "he takes it too seriously. It goes to his head". MAY have been a mistake. Gee, I don't know, I'm not sure buying that guy that shirt would be on the top of my list of mistakes. Seriously, whatthefuck?!

I have the dick, so I make the rules. Maybe what offends me so much is that in our society most of the time, this is sadly the case. I mean this guy does not represent the ruling class who are manipulating the patriarchal puppet strings of our society, but he sure is an archetype of aggressive masculinity that makes me want to wear a shirt that says, "I have a VAGINA and your white male privilege is pissing me off!!!!".

I'm pretty sure they wouldn't sell that shirt at Spencer's in the mall! Everyone would be up in arms about its inappropriateness. Cries of "why won't someone think of the children" would ring out as radical [lesbian] feminists must have put those there to corrupt our youth and put ideas in their heads. After all, women can vote now right? Isn't feminism obsolete? I mean, really, women go to University, work out of the home, run for political office, that's enough right? Heck, sometimes we even let them run corporations. Oprah is the world's most powerful woman aside from QEII and even that is arguable, doesn't that mean they should shut up and be happy with what they have?! grrrr....

I tell you what idea I'd like to put in the heads of our youth. Ideas where they question guys like dickshirt guy, where they question why they have to hate their bodies unless they fit the impossible and ever changing ideal. Why they have to look like the it girl or guy and why whatever they do or spend, it will never be enough. I would tell them to never, ever let someone like dickshirt guy make them feel like they weren't strong, powerful and filled with the stuff it takes to dismantle the system. A system and society where so called men like dickshirt guy can walk around PROUD of themselves. I'd also tell them to vote, because dickshirt guy is probably too lazy or too busy being a dick to do so.

* Exhale*, I feel better now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

First ski

Its a fantastic 1•C here today. I decided to mark the occasion with my first xc ski of the year. I like gear, a lot of people do. For me gear, like the right job interview outfit, is a key part of the process. I like and strive to have the appropriate clothing and gear for whatever sport I'm undertaking. Those of you who engage in fairly gear intensive sports (especially in the North) know that this isn't just a vanity thing, it's a requirement. The right gear can make or break your experience (am I over-stating it?).
But there is also the image aspect of gear, what you are trying to communicate. A great compare and contrast exercise is the difference in the color palettes, prints and style of xc ski vs. downhill skiing and snowboarding.. Some of the stylistic differences have a functional purpose and some do not. More often its geared to the consumer (of course) and while more and more teens and kids xc ski many many more prefer the downhill pursuits. I am a perfect example, I grew up downhill skiing, and started pursuing xc in my early 20s.
So here is my gear list at the start of my 7th (wow!) xc season:
Xc skis: 2 sets (1 skate purchased @ ski swap, 1 classic - borrowed)U
Poles: 1 set
Number of bent poles: 1-ish
Boots: 1 pair (also purchased at ski swap)
Long johns: 2 pairs, both polypropylene
Base layer shirts: 3 (polypropylene)
Under the base layer shirt: 1 (polypropylene)
Sports bras: 3 maybe 4 (these serve me in all my athletics)
Ski pants: 3
Ski pants that fit: 2
Jacket: 1
Vest: 1
Gloves/mitts: 3
Socks: 2 pairs (1 paired chewed in places by dog)
Toques: 2
Neck warmer: 1
Bellaclava: 1 aka "the flying nun"
Dog booties for Blue: 3 (of 4) OF COURSE!!!
Kms of trail outside my front door: 2 or 3 :)

I got to thinking about my gear, because this is the time when my favorite skiing/running store (Fresh Air Experience) often has post Xmas sales. And you can't feel badly about buying another jacket, vest, base layer, fancy socks or something when it's for your health and supports a local business...right?
Maybe not bad, but perhaps think twice in my case. After all if one were really to look at what I could use its another set of poles and boots that are actually meant for classic instead of forcing my skate gear to double. But, why would I spend money on that when I could buy a prettier outfit?!? I hope you're sensing the sarcasm here folks.

My skiing adventure today reminded me that sometimes digging through the bottom of the gear bag can reveal treasures you forgot you had and fill that need that is so easy to create particularly as it pertains to "your health". I'm pretty sure I'll burn as many calories, have the same mental and physical benefit in this gear as new stuff I could buy.
Though, some wax may be in order :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The beginning

Every journey has a beginning and its the best place to start most things. This blog will serve as a record of my journey into the most difficult to beat of my consumptive habits: shoes and clothing. Now, before you roll your eyes and move onto another blog that is more...something, hear me out. I am a critical consumer. I do not shop at WalMart, I try to buy local (at least from local stores) and I love to purchase from markets or local stores that sell one of a kind, uniquely designed clothes: "upcycled", is the de rigeur term these days. So, in many ways I have a very solid foundation of criticism within consumer society to be a hemp wearing, patchouli smelling, hippy type. In fact, when I was younger, this was a path I romanced for a time (kind of). Ten years later, I have my reasonably fashionable version of my Birkenstocks alongside my Cavalli boots purchased in Italy. Just the mention of those boots, raises my blood pressure in excitement. Not because of the price as would affect many people, but because they are so beautiful. I can remember what I felt like buying them, where I bought them and how much I enjoy wearing them. So why, on earth am I questioning all of this? If its something I enjoy so much, why not just enjoy it. Because this is what I do. I question. Often out of curiosity and sometimes out of self improvement.

I am certain that my relationship to fashion is much more intimate than a first glance or reductive perspective would render it. After all, fashion for me has been related to (and not limited to) the following: professional life, body image, stage of life, activities, socializing, conformity and comfort (both sit on the couch comfort and have the right thing to wear to the right occasion comfort). Clothing is one of the first ways we perceive, make decisions about and ultimately socialize with people. I have used fashion for acceptance and resistance. Conversely, it is something I have been accepted because of and rejected on the same basis.
For example, if I walk into a room of left wing and/or hippy academic types in some fancy outfit you are immediately met with suspicion. More to the point, my credentials and intelligence are met with suspicion. After all, intelligent well informed people dress badly in mismatched and bizarre outfits, right? On the flip side, when I walked into my first teaching job in a peasant skirt and sandals, half the staff spent the day questioning "which team I played for". You get the idea.Seriously, these are people whose job it is to educate.

So back to why I like fashion. I like nice things, I like to look nice and I like the idea of wearing quality things. This includes athletic apparel and "gear". The question and focus of this blog is "why?". Why do I like these things and more importantly how does it feed consumptive habits (as opposed to conscious choices)?

I've made the decision that I will not purchase any clothing (new or second hand) for 6 months. This is a big deal for people who know me. Here are the reasons why or the things that have brought me to this point:

1) I'm trying to change my lifestyle so I don't fall back into old REALLY consumptive habits that lead to lots of debt and working for the man.
2) My friend is getting married this Friday and instead of buying something new, I'm going into my closet to find one of the many suitable ensembles I have instead of making up the need to purchase something new.
3) I've moved a couple of times in the last 6 to 8 months, in addition to purging 3 full bags of clothing, I've had entire "essential" pieces of my wardrobe packed for months and haven't missed them at all. Leading me to question this so called need to buy new things.
4) I'd like to lead a simpler life.Which is why the alternative name of this blog is "Simpleton", ha.
5) My winter parka zipper recently broke, the perfect opportunity for people who like to shop (like me) to buy an new coat instead of getting last year's coat fied. I've resisted!!!

So here are the rules:
1) I cannot purchase any new or second hand clothing (including shoes *gasp*) for 6 months, that means from January 4, 2012 to July 4 2012.
2) I can purchase underwear, bras and/or hosiery in case of emergency but not to fill the habitual so called need.
3) Clothing can be gifted to me, but I cannot solicit it. I'm thinking of my mom here, who will occasionally buy me a shirt or something.She can do that, but I can't ask or tell her to buy me something to skirt the rules.
4) I can make and or craft my own clothing by knitting, sewing and/or crocheting. As this would be based on actual skill development (I am a knitter, crocheter and very amateur seamstress) instead of habitual consumption I think this is aligned with my overall goals.
5) I cannot purchase clothing for other people to fill the void.

Other musings I'm sure you can look forward to are: gender analysis, social contexts of clothing/fashion, coveting, anecdotes of my many blunders and general hilarity in my adventures in ... not shopping.