03.24.08 {polka-dot progress}

I haven’t talked much lately about what I’ve been doing in school (besides the emotional turmoil of midterms), which is a pity because in Design History it’s starting to move into the territory that I find fascinating! Specifically, we’re beginning to cover the Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau movements, which sadly are only briefly covered in the book–I think I could devote a whole semester to studying it. I just love the marriage of influences (Eastern and Western), the creative and artistic energy and exchange of ideas that one perceives, and the beautiful legacy of this era in design history.

Going over the assigned reading, it struck me how closely both movement mirrors the current revival of interest in the creative pursuits that is going on right now. Aesthetics, and returning to a sense of the wonderment art can produce, and creative exploration seems so prevalent right now. Perhaps it is just me, but I can’t help but think there is a bigger movement going on that is touching so many areas. I suppose the best label to slap on it is “DIY culture”. It has influenced so many areas of the arts and created a sort of frenzy among artists of various types to reach out and express their own vision of the world (whether real or perceived).

Yet as I was reading my textbook, this paragraph caught my eye and resonated: “…art historian Herbert Read once suggested that the life of any art movement is like that of a flower. A budding in the hands of a small number of innovators is followed by full bloom; then the process of decay begins as the influence becomes diffused and distorted in the hands of imitators who understand merely the stylistic manifestations of the movement rather than the driving passions that forged it.” I can’t help but feel that we’re beginning to see the diffusion of the DIY Movement into commercialism and the greater, societal “aesthetic”. Take for instance the oft-cited Urban Outfitters, a company that peddles a wide variety of “faux handmade” items in an effort to bring the look of DIY to consumers who may not fully embrace (or understand) the concept. In a way, is Urban Outfitters (and like, mass retailers), not cheapening and causing the “decay” of the original movement in its effort to cash in?

There is no doubt that the “handmade look” resonates with quite a few people; I think in many ways the DIY culture is a reaction to the overly sleek and impersonal manufactured goods that are available to the wider market. Its a return to the feeling of “soul” in a piece because someone, not a machine, put thought into the design and process of creating those goods. I know I personally am drawn to making things myself, or purchasing them from other artisans, because it gives a feeling of integrity to the piece; that it wasn’t just slapped together thoughtlessly, nor am I just following some whim or trend without thought.

But where does the line between “bloom” and “decay” become crossed? The popularization in the social consciousness of the DIY movement has in a way, I believe, created a movement away from thoughtful creation and effort to protest against impersonal consumerism, to a more frenzied appeal to “standing out” and looking “handmade” at any cost. While I applaud anyone who does take an interest in engaging in DIY (after all, I do encourage everyone to find their creative outlet!), when mass marketers and manufacturers begin to mimic the essential “look” of handmade, have we lost the edge and have begun to witness the beginning of the end?

What are your thoughts?

To reward you all for having read through this rather tedious, muddled post (thank you if you stuck with me the entire way! hehe!), here is the Vintage Monday feature for today!! Hurrah for pretty things!

03.24.08 {vintage monday loveliness}

Another, pretty 1840s print! Although this one is just black and white (I think I’ve posted most of the hand-colored ones), I love the details and lines of the gowns.

I hope you have a lovely Monday, all!!!


[ email me ]

p.s. I was aimlessly surfing the web yesterday, and stumbled upon Julia Kuo’s pretty little illustrations. I love how light and storybookish they are; go take a look!


1940s ways to refashion 02

I vaguely mentioned about a month back my resolve to be more conscious about my fashion purchases. I’m rather fed-up with an industry that not only relies heavily on sweatshop labor, planned obsolescence, but also encouraging a very narrow view of beauty and trend (a word I have come to rather dislike). I’ve found that my wardrobe has been much richer when I rely less on what mass-marketers are promoting and selling, and my conscience is a little less perturbed by the thought of encouraging sweatshop labor.

But this is not all that is behind my decision to snub the fashion industry in my own (very small) way! The idealized beauty that is shoved daily in our faces has played a very personal role in my life. One that–unfortunately–has been destructive and is causing many mental and physical problems for me. I’m tired of buying into the lie that one needs to be thin, blond and (society’s ideal) sexy to be considered attractive. I have had enough of the unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. Some women may be able to ignore these messages to a certain extent, but I am not one of those strong souls. I have been battling anorexia for the past two years. In no small way did immersing myself in the fashion world play a role in this. I am thankfully starting to get out of the nightmare that an eating disorder and low self-image creates (my wonderful family, boyfriend, and pastor are to thank!). But I do not want to continue to support an industry that causes this type of low self-esteem.

1940s ways to refashion 03

I am much happier when I put together outfits that please me–not what the magazines tell me to wear! (And anyway, its usually like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole… I just don’t have the “fashionable shape” that is required by wearing uber-body-conscious clothes!) I love putting outfits together–ones that really showcase my view of what is beautiful, attractive and usually a little bit artistically whimsical! So why should I any longer bow to the whims of mass marketers who say what shade of blue is in, how wide or skinny my jeans should be, or whether I should be wearing kitten or platform heels?!

1940s ways to refashion 01

So in this year I will be doing a little investigation. An exploration of whether I can abstain from frequenting mass-retailers and relying on them for my clothing purchases. Doing my own part in being conscious both socially and environmentally by harnessing sources for vintage and second-hand garments. Encouraging and supporting smaller, independent designers (like those on Etsy) for my clothes and accessories. It’ll be a definite challenge because I love to shop, and am constantly drawn in by sales and window displays that catch my eye! But I think it’ll be a good exercise, not only in the reasons I mentioned before, but also in self-control (saving money!) and doing more with less!

first refashion of 2008!!

[ the first refashion of 2008!! click on the picture for a details… ]

I’ll be relying very heavily on my existing wardrobe, thrifting skills, and the occasional vintage store find–as well as the internet (Etsy and Ebay being the two main sources). I want to challenge myself to sew more as well–create my own garments from my collection of vintage patterns. Even become more adept at refashioning things in my closet to give them a new lease on life! This means no Target, H&M, Ross, or Nordstrom’s Rack. Skirts, coats, pants, shirts–even jeans–should preferably be bought through alternative sources (those that are sustainable or non-mass produced). The only garment purchases that will be bought brand-new will be for things I am not comfortable buying second hand (such as undergarments and swim suits), or that I may genuinely need (like shoes for a specific event).

green cardigan refashion detail

Eeep! I’m scaring myself a little with all this talk!! hehe! But I think it’ll be fun and character-building! I’ll be keeping you all updated with little snippets throughout the year; successes and failures. Wish me luck… the Mall Queen is about ready to forsake her favorite shopping venues! lol.

Cheers & Creativity,
Casey [ email me ]