Friday, 28 October 2011

A Second Lesson

Another lesson that I have learned through this year's October Dress Project is that my tendency is to define 'needs' too loosely.

I have included below a list that I had been composing in the six months leading up to this October (I missed last year's Project so it wasn't really very fresh in my mind). This list was/is an attempt to limit the amount of frivolous money I spend on clothes by trying to carefully delineate EXACTLY what I was looking for in a wardrobe, down to the colours and styles of the items I felt were necessities. I edited this list carefully, pruning and tweaking as I felt the need, and felt pretty happy with the final product that you see below.*

In fact, I'm still pretty happy with it, but I look at it in a different way now than I did before the October Dress Project 2011. I've used this list when shopping, and kept a tally of the things I still 'need'. This is the thing, though-- looking at it now, after a month of wearing the same thing every day, it seems pretty extravagant.

I'm not sure it actually is. After all, I want to be able to be gracefully and appropriately dressed for whatever occasions my life brings up, and it is often true during the ODP that one doesn't feel quite appropriately dressed, don't you think? But I'm going to be more careful, after this month, to refer to the items on this list as things I need. A little mantra of, "One dress for weekdays and one for Sunday" will be skipping through my head to remind me to be careful how I define necessity.

1 winter formal dress, knee-length, blue, fitted so it can be layered and warm enough that it needn’t be
1 summer formal dress, knee-length, shell pink, light enough for dancing in
1 grey formal cardigan in a tone that will match both summer and winter dresses
1 pr. black formal heels, simple and elegant
1 vintage silver clutch to hold a few essentials

1 black winterweight dress, knee-length with fitted sleeves for layering
1 red winterweight dress, knee-length with fitted sleeves for layering
1 white summerweight dress, light and airy, knee-length.
1 yellow summerweight dress, light and airy, knee-length
1 transitional shirtdress, knee-length, blue-and-white striped
1 transitional tunic, navy, good for layering

2 winterweight flannel button shirts
2 winterweight jersey long-sleeve shirts, black and forest green
2 winterweight blouses, white and forest green (silk is nicest)
4 cardigans/pullover sweaters in a range of colours
2 summerweight cotton t-shirts, white and navy
2 summerweight sleeveless tops, shell pink and blue
2 summerweight short-sleeve blouses, white and red, (silk is nicest)

1 pr. black leggings
2 prs. shorts, one camel and one jean
2 prs. Levi's straight-leg jeans, dark wash
2 knee-length skirts, high-waisted, navy and red

1 pr. snow boots, shearling-lined for warmth
1 pr. brown leather dress boots, riding style
1 pr. black leather jazz shoes
1 pr. leather sandals
1 pr. suede moccasins
1 pr. hiking/work boots
1 pr. slippers (fur-lined for winter)

1 watch, ladylike and old-fashioned
1 leather belt, basketweave
1 mid-size leather purse for everyday use
1 small leather clutch, large enough for wallet, keys, phone, and sunglasses
1 canvas tote for beach, etc.
1 canvas duffel bag for overnight trips
1 pr. tortoiseshell sunglasses, vintage shape
1 swimsuit, navy or forest green, vintage-style one-piece
3 necklaces (1 statement, 1 pearl, 1 silver cross)
1 green silk scarf

1 goosedown parka, forest green or navy
1 black wool peacoat, suitable for formal occasions
1 raincoat/trench
1 black leather jacket
1 autumn coat, shearling-lined
1 wool hat
1 pr. wool mittens
1 pr. leather gloves
1 wool scarf
1 fur stole

*I didn't include the underclothing portions of the list, as I felt that would be kind of awkward in the public domain like this, but it is that thorough of a list. I also have a smaller maternity list in the works.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Some Thoughts at the 3/4 Mark

It's hard to believe that there's only a week left of the Project. This October has gone much faster for me than other years. I'm still decently fond of my dress, too, which is unusual. Maybe I'm getting better?

Anyways, I was noticing in the Facebook group some of the girls talking about their dresses starting to look shabby and/or actively fall apart. My own dress (thrifted jersey wrap dress) is looking pretty good except that the seam on the front side of the wrap seems for some reason to have stretched out so the front of the dress is longer than the sides and back. It got me thinking about buying cheap ready-to-wear clothes.

I prefer to buy thrifted clothing whenever I can. Buying online from little handmade shops is a nice idea but without being able to try garments on, I know I would probably waste money on things I thought would look good on me, but didn't when they came. I don't like shopping at malls or big-box stores though, for a lot of reasons-- ethical concerns about the sourcing of the fabric, the integrity of the design process, and outsourcing of labour for one, and for another I'm not a fan of the way buying mass-produced garments goes against two of the tenets written into the Dress Project motto-- pro-creativity and anti-conformity. That said, buying more conscientious and creative garments can seem like an unnecessary expense to those of us without a lot of spare cash.

But is it? If you bought a mass-produced dress at a cheap price (and I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad about doing that; I'm going in a different direction), how have you seen it hold up? Is the fabric pilling or stretching? Are the seams unravelling? Is it holding it's shape? If not-- stop and consider.

You've been wearing that dress for twenty days.

Just twenty.

The inspiration for the Dress Project, as you probably know, came from some remarks my grandfather made about the dressing habits of the frugal Dutch immigrants who settled the area I lived in in the first part of the century-- one dress a week and one for Sundays. Another group that I find inspiration from is the pioneers-- I think of the Ingalls family buying the fabric for one new dress a season and making over outgrown clothes for the next child down. For many of us, though we may have saved money, supposedly, by buying a $10 dress, if it's wearing out after twenty wears, it's really not saving us money.

I had never noticed or thought of this, because if you're not wearing that $10 dress every day, you might find it wearing out after six months of ownership without realizing that you've only worn it a handful of times in that six months.

I remember a quote from a Japanese craftsman that I read on the Kitka Design blog:
"Professor Oda pulled out a scarf and a pair of leather gloves that he has ... owned for over 40 years. He held up his scarf and told me that when he was younger he purchased this wool scarf that was well beyond his salary. It took him a very long time to be able to afford it, but he purchased it with the intention of having it for at least 25 years. That, he said, is the magic number. If you can’t pick a product up and say confidently that this product will serve you well for a minimum of 25 years, it is not a good purchase."

I saved the quote when I read it because I thought it was sound and sensible. But I think one of the big takeaways from this year's Project for me is going to be a concrete sense, which I never had before, of just how much sense it makes to buy this way rather than just buying what's cheap.

What about you? How's your dress holding up? Where did you get it and how much for? What are you learning?

*Not sure of my image source here. Please let me know if you know it.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Day Six

Missed a few days worth of pictures-- I'm working extra hours and have been home alone in the evenings, but cross my heart, I'm not cheating. Tonight I'm going out to watch the first hockey game of the season with my husband, so I wanted to wear something that would seem at home in a blue-collar bar. TNA plaid shirt, borrowed maternity jeans.

We are almost a quarter of the way through the Project. This is still the fun stretch, though. Week three is when things start getting tough. Happy to be following everyone's Projects on blogs, the Facebook group, etc. If you want to be added to the Roster as a latecomer, email me at finally.vinyl(@)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Day Three

Today's picture is quickly snapped with the iPhone and without the benefit of my husband's editing. That's okay. Thrifted cardigan, husband's socks, 10000 Villages necklace.

Why Do The Project? Part 2: Pro-Simplicity

The second phrase in the October Dress Project motto is 'pro-simplicity'. This one is a little more straightforward than the last. I think it's also very easy for most participants to relate to: the need for more time, less complexity, and less stress in their lives.

The 'pro-simplicity' part of the motto is, like the last phrase, a two-sided coin. It helps women who are too busy (or too lazy) to put the time they'd like into their dressing, the women who throw on some jeans and a t-shirt every day and get on with their lives, to keep that simplicity of routine but to do it more beautifully. I think it is important to allow for a distinction between simplicity-- a beautiful unclutteredness-- and the kind of meager or impoverished living that is reflected by the habit of being careless in dress. On the other side, the Project helps the kind of woman who changes outfits three times before she's happy leaving the house, or who spends more time than she ought getting ready for the day, to question whether her concern for taking care of herself and for beauty develop into a lifestyle of vanity, shallowness, or selfishness.

'Pro-simplicity' also reflects a concern for and awareness of those who have less. Many people doing the Project find that they come away with an awareness of their abundance and blessedness. In the month of November, they may decide to clean our their closet and donate their clothes to a thrift store where it can benefit the less fortunate. Some people choose to support a specific charity through their Project the next year they do it. I find for myself, the occasions when I stare into my closet and say, “I have nothing to wear!” are much more rare now than they were four years ago when I first started the Project. In simplifying our approach to dress just for that one month a year, we make waves in our life of generosity and contentment that last all year.

Have a lesson you learned like this from your last Project? Is your Project linked to a charitable group or endeavour in some way this year? Let us know in the comments. Happy Day Three!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Day Two

Here's me on Day 2. That expression you see on my face? That's what is known as FREEZING. Because it was. The cottage my husband and I spent the weekend at had no heat, which the owners failed to warn us of. So, in actual fact, I spent the better portion of the day with a big wool sweater and a pair of jeans on, but this was my planned outfit and I chose to document that rather than my survival-technique outfit. Happy Day 2!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Day One

October Dress Day One

I posted it up with no accessories because I wanted to show it in it's natural state to start off the month, but here in Ontario, it's only 6 Celsius, and I'll be heading further north for the weekend. Expect the addition of flannels, furs, wools, and boots-- it is too cold to actually dress like this here. Looking forward to seeing everyone's dresses when I get back to the land of Internet access!