Chinos

LogoI finally went clothes shopping this week! To be more truthful, we were in the city for an appointment and I went into one clothing store. Just one!

After weeding several things out of my closet that should never have made the cut when I did my seasonal closet switch last fall, I identified a couple of significant holes in my summer wardrobe. As I mentioned two Friday’s ago, I have lots to wear when the weather is hot, but where we live I need things that are suitable for cooler summer days like the ones we’ve been having recently. One thing that I clearly needed was a couple of pairs of pants that would be warmer than my shorts and capris, but cooler than jeans.

Though I don’t shop for clothes online, the internet is a great place to do some scouting, especially during these days of Covid-19 when I don’t want to spend a lot of time browsing. I’d much prefer to go into a store, buy what I want, and leave again without lingering. When I knew that we’d be going to the city, I checked out the Mark’s website in advance and decided that their chinos might be just what I was looking for. Chinos are a nice middle ground between dress pants and jeans for both men and women.

The first thing I did when I entered the store was check to see if the fitting rooms were open. If I couldn’t try the pants on, there’d be no point in me even looking at them. Thankfully, a limited number of them were in use and there weren’t a lot of customers in the store so I didn’t even have to wait in line.

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Finding pants that fit well is often a struggle for me, but Mark’s slim-fitting, tapered leg chinos were perfect for my boyish figure. The toughest decision was which of the several colours to choose! I settled on two pairs; one in a light tan called Stone and the other in a dark Olive. Both will be very versatile. I’m showing you the light pair today, but I’m sure that the others will show up on the blog sometime soon. The bottom hem is meant to be rolled to ankle length, but they can also be worn down.

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I didn’t realize until after we’d finished taking the pictures that I’d forgotten to put on any lipstick, so this is my au naturel, at home look! Actually, I’d just got back from having several vials of blood taken at the local hospital, so perhaps I was even a bit paler than usual!

Being a word nerd, I couldn’t help doing a bit of research to find out how chinos got their name and what it actually meant. Apparently, the word was first used to describe khaki coloured military trousers that were worn during the Spanish American war of 1898. They were made from a cotton twill fabric that was sourced from China, so the name came from the fact that Chino is the Spanish word for Chinese. Thankfully, my new pants, which are made of a stretch cotton blend, were not made in China as one of my fashion goals for this year is to avoid buying Chinese products as much as possible. Of course, I have no idea where the fabric came from. As I’ve mentioned before, being a truly ethical shopper is very difficult, but I try.

The psychology of fashion

LogoConsidering all that’s been going on in the world lately, I must admit that I felt a little guilty complaining about my wardrobe in last Friday’s post. After all, that’s such a first world problem. In fact, sometimes writing about fashion at all seems terribly trivial.

On the other hand, I’ve been reading about something called enclothed cognition, a term that relates to the effect that clothing has on the way a person thinks, feels, and functions. There’s nothing new about the idea that how we dress influences the way others perceive and respond to us. That’s why we dress differently for a job interview than we do for a day at the beach. Recent studies show, however, that what we wear also directly affects our behaviour, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. If that’s the case, then perhaps taking an interest in what we wear isn’t as shallow and self-centred as it might seem!

An interesting question to ask yourself is not only what messages do you want your clothing to tell others about you, but also how do you want to feel when you wear them? I’m reminded of how I instinctively packed what might best be referred to as comfort clothes when I got the call that my father was dying. In this case, I was using clothes to help reduce anxiety and foster calm. If clothing actually has a therapeutic impact, maybe it really does matter that I’m not entirely satisfied with what I see hanging in my closet! After all, self care is an important aspect of mental health.

In a wardrobe funk

LogoLiving as I do in a location that has very distinct seasons, I have two almost entirely different wardrobes. There are, of course, some pieces that stay in my closet year round, but I do a seasonal wardrobe switch twice a year. Our bedroom closet isn’t very big, so the off-season clothes go into storage in the basement. Before that happens, I usually do a good sort and try to get rid of things that are taking up space and not likely to be worn again. I say “try to” because I’m not always good at letting go of things. That’s definitely part of what has led to my present wardrobe funk. It’s barely past the middle of June and I’m already feeling fed up with my summer wardrobe! There were things that I fully intended to get rid of at the end of last summer, but when it came time to do that, I wasn’t disciplined enough. Instead, they went into storage and when I hung them back in the closet this spring, I was immediately discouraged by what I saw. That’s definitely not a good way to start a new season!

And what a season it’s been! The monotony of the Covid-19 quarantine has definitely added to my present feeling of discouragement with my wardrobe. Though I firmly believe in getting dressed every morning and not hanging around the house in pyjamas or sweats, the shutdown has seriously limited where we’ve been able to go and consequently what I’ve worn. There are a number of dressier items languishing in my closet simply because I’ve had nowhere to wear them.

Then there’s the weather. Last year we basically didn’t have summer. It was the coldest, wettest summer that I can ever remember. Though we’ve had a few really nice days this year, it isn’t starting out a lot warmer. I still enjoy wearing shorts and sleeveless tops on hot days, but with temperatures barely creeping above 20ºC (68ºF) most days and some not even that warm, I need things that are suitable for cooler days. That’s where the choices in my closet are most limited; another reason for my present wardrobe woe.

A poorly curated closet + a pandemic + gloomy weather = a serious wardrobe funk! 

So, what am I going to do about it? This year, I’m not going to wait until the end of summer to weed out the items in my closet that should no longer be there. I already have a collection of clothing and other things to drop off at our local thrift store as soon as it reopens and I’m going to start adding to it right now! Although the Covid restrictions are starting to loosen, it’s probably going to be awhile before I go shopping for anything new, but once I’ve pared down the closet to those things that I actually want to wear again, I’ll take a close look at where the gaps are and make a wish list. That way, when I finally do go shopping, I’ll be prepared! In the meantime, I’m also going to work even harder than I already have been at putting together new and different combinations from the items that are already in my closet. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find some interesting ones to share with you in future posts.

Now, how are you doing? Have you found yourself in a funk lately… wardrobe or otherwise?

What happens to your returns?

LogoIn last Friday’s post, I shared some of the reasons why I prefer shopping for clothes in person rather than online. Today, I want to discuss what I consider to be another very big strike against online shopping.

Do you know what happens to the items that you return? In far too many cases, they end up in the landfill! That’s right! It’s estimated that more than 25% of all returns go into the garbage! I was shocked and appalled when a reader brought this to my attention.

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In a time when people are doing more than ever before to protect the environment, consumers usually don’t realize that their online shopping habits could be undoing a lot of the good that they are doing in other areas. While it might be convenient to order a pair of jeans in two or three different sizes, keep the one that fits, and return the others, most people would probably think twice about doing that if they knew that the pairs they are returning might end up in the garbage.

So why is this happening? It’s all about money, of course. It costs companies more to employ the people required to check returns for damage and, in the case of clothing, to re-press and repackage each item than it does to simply incinerate them or throw them in the dumpster. Not only does the environment suffer, but we, the consumers, end up paying more for products because retailers have to increase their prices to recoup their losses.

So how big is this problem? In Canada alone, we are returning $46 billion worth of goods every year. In the US, over 4 billion pounds of brand new returned apparel end up in the landfills annually. That’s approximately the equivalent to every family in the country throwing one laundry load of clothing in the garbage every year. This dirty little secret isn’t exclusively an online shopping problem. About 5 to 10 percent of in-store purchases are returned, but that rises to 15 to 40 percent for purchases made online. Clothing and shoes bought online typically have the highest rates with 30 to 40 percent returned.

If I wasn’t already committed to shopping in person, I definitely would be after looking into this! I learn a lot from my readers, so please keep the comments coming. 🙂

Online or brick and mortar?

LogoOnline shopping has grown in popularity over the past few years, but Covid-19 has taken it to a whole new level. Here in Canada, e-commerce giant, Amazon, uses the postal system to ship parcels. For the past couple of months, Canada Post has been handling volume comparable to the usual Christmas rush. I’ve made a couple of orders myself, but when it comes to clothing, I’m definitely a brick and mortar shopper even though I live in a teeny, tiny town that doesn’t boast a single clothing store!

There are several reasons why I prefer to shop in conventional stores. First of all, I like to actually see the garment that I’m considering buying, feel the fabric, and examine the workmanship. I can’t do that looking at an image on my computer screen.

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Fit is another important reason why I choose to shop in person. Size charts and customerScreen Shot 2020-06-03 at 2.00.26 PM reviews are helpful, but nothing beats trying the garment on and standing in front of a three way mirror. I could probably do quite well ordering tops online, but pants are my nemesis. I’m tall and thin with a very boyish figure, sometimes referred to as a pencil body type. Made for more curvy girls, pants that fit my waist often bag at the hips. I usually have to try on several pairs to find the ones that fit me well and flatter my body type.

Shoes are another item that I would have a very hard time buying online (except for this pair that I had already tried on in store). My feet are very narrow, so again, finding ones that fit well sometimes involves trying on several pairs.

I realize that online purchases can be returned and that many companies seek to make that process as simple as possible, but it’s still a hassle and there’s often additional cost involved. The fact that our town doesn’t have a drop off point for any of the  courier services adds further complication. I do wonder how often someone ends up keeping a garment that would have been returned to the rack if they had picked it up in a brick and mortar store. Chances are those items don’t get worn very often if at all.

There’s also an emotional and social aspect to personal shopping that’s absent when purchasing online. While setting aside time and actually going to the store requires more effort, the personal attention of trained customer service staff often enhances the experience and, of course, in-store shopping can also be shared with friends. Finally, there’s the luxury of walking out of a store with exactly what you want and not having to wait for delivery.

As pandemic restrictions gradually lift, we’re likely going to see long-term changes to the shopping landscape. Sadly, some retailers, especially those that were already struggling financially, may disappear entirely and others may move to an online presence only. Hopefully, however, there will always be a place for in-store shopping!

Do you prefer to shop in person or online? If you shop online, do you have any tips that you can share?

Fast fashion, ethical shopping, and Covid-19

LogoJustine Leconte is a French fashion and jewelry designer who lives and works in Berlin. On her YouTube channel, Justine Leconte officiel, she shares her creative process as well as fashion tips about how to create and enjoy your own wardrobe. Her weekly videos often include information on how to shop for good quality, dress for your body shape, create a capsule wardrobe, or choose colours that work for you.

Sometimes, however, Justine Leconte deals with more serious fashion related topics. She is strongly opposed to fast fashion. When she designs a piece of clothing or jewelry, it is produced in Europe using materials that are sourced within Europe. She oversees the process and checks production samples herself. She refuses to work with factories that don’t pay their workers a fair wage. Clearly, she practices what she preaches!

Unfortunately, fast fashion brands have been taking advantage of the present Covid-19 pandemic in ways that are seriously disturbing. In one of her most recent videos, Justine addresses this topic and tells us how we, as consumers, can make a difference. If you are even the least bit concerned with being an ethical fashion shopper, I urge you to take thirteen minutes to watch this video!

Function over fashion?

LogoMy friend, Kari, left an excellent comment on last Friday’s post that immediately triggered an idea for this week. She wrote, “When I choose clothes to go out these days I more often choose for comfort and function over fashion, but what makes my clothing functional has changed. I now think about things like if I can take a layer off to remove a layer of contamination after opening doors with my hip, elbow or touching a public surface. Will the sleeves be in the way for frequent hand washing? Will my hairstyle or headband keep my hair from getting in my face so I don’t have to touch my face to sweep it away?” All very valid considerations during the unusual days that we find ourselves in.

Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, however, there are other times when it makes sense to consider function over fashion. Function was certainly a primary consideration in January when I bought new running shoes for walking on the treadmill.

Every now and then, a trend comes along that really doesn’t make sense functionally. Take the bell sleeves that were so popular a couple of years ago. The look was definitely fashionable, but not very functional. Unless the sleeves were short or three-quarter length, those bells were terribly impractical. I avoided the look for quite awhile because I didn’t want my sleeves dragging in my dinner and I certainly didn’t want to set them on fire when I was cooking! I eventually broke down and bought this top which is still hanging in my closet.

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I love the colour and the print and when I bought it I thought that once the trend had passed, I could remove the bells and be left with much more practical 3/4 length sleeves. Come to think of it, that might be a simple project to tackle while I continue sheltering at home.

Then there was the very popular cold shoulder look.

I never did buy one of those. For me, they’re a perfect example of fashion taking precedence over function. In my opinion, the purpose of a long sleeved top or sweater is to keep the wearer warm. I tend to feel chilly even when other people don’t, so why in the world would I want to leave my bare shoulders out in the cold? I’d be so uncomfortable!

With Covid-19, a new fashion item has entered the scene. Face masks started out as purely functional and very plain in appearance, but as people started making their own, they quickly became the latest in urban chic. This one was made by the mother of a friend of mine. Definitely not my best look, but very functional!

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Who would have thought that this is what we’d be wearing in spring 2020!

Who do we dress for?

LogoIn a comment thread on another fashion blog that I read recently, several women objected to the idea of dressing to work from home during the pandemic. They felt that they were just as productive in their sweats or pjs. One reader brought up an interesting question, however. “Who are we dressing for – ourselves or others?” she asked. “If we wear nice things outside the house, but not inside, do we do that to be complimented, to impress, to influence, or perhaps to display wealth?”

I think women, especially younger women, often dress to impress or attract men. I wish I could tell them not to bother! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive, but if a man is only interested in you for your looks, he’s not worth it!

More often, though they may not realize it or want to admit it, women dress to impress other women. Looking good in the eyes of other women often makes us feel better about ourselves.

To me, one of the best things about growing older has been reaching the point of not caring so much about what other people think. I choose to dress the same at home as I do to leave the house because I’m dressing for me. Wherever I am, I want to look like I matter, like I care about myself, and I want to have fun with how I dress. Of course, I also want to be comfortable and appropriately dressed for whatever I’m doing, so I’ll probably change if I’m going out to dig in the garden or wash the car!

I don’t suppose I’ll ever dress like Iris Apfel, but I definitely agree with her philosophy!

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Who do you dress for?

Inspired again

LogoTwo weeks ago, I showed you an easy jean outfit that was inspired by Brenda Kinsel, one of my favourite fashion bloggers. This week, Susan Street featured an outfit on her blog, Susanafter60.com, that immediately caught my attention because I knew that  I had similar pieces in my closet that I’d never worn together.

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Since spring has finally arrived here on the Canadian prairie, I did my seasonal wardrobe switch last week putting my winter clothes into storage and bringing out warm weather wear. As a result, my DIY white frayed hem jeans are back in rotation and were ready to become part of my Susan inspired outfit. The black and white striped tee and little black jacket, both from Montreal based Reitmans, stay in my closet year round.

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After deciding that I quite liked the look, I switched out the white jeans for the bright red ones that I found at our local thrift store two or three years ago and the grey flats for the brand new white sneakers that I showed you last week. And voila! Another outfit that I look forward to wearing when we finally have somewhere to go!

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They wanted to be mine!

LogoNever would I have imagined that a virus like Covid-19 would help me meet my fashion goals for 2020, but one of those goals stated that “I will strive to buy less and experiment with new ways to wear what I already have” and that is most certainly what has been happening! Unlike many women, I don’t like shopping for clothes online. I like to touch and feel the fabric, look at the workmanship, and try things on before I buy. Consequently, until this week, it had been over two months since I last bought a fashion item of any kind.

The last time we were out and about before we started sheltering in place, my husband wanted to check out a sale on men’s jeans at a Mark’s. Originally called Mark’s Work Wearhouse, Mark’s is a popular Canadian workwear and casual clothing retailer. Knowing that it would take hubby awhile to try on jeans and decide what to buy, I headed for the women’s section to browse. There, I spotted a pair of shoes that were part of a display and I immediately heard them called my name!

It was the quilted side panels and the little bit of bling that caught my eye and it was definitely love at first sight!

Changing direction, I made my way to the shoe department to try them on. They had my size. They fit perfectly. I walked around the store and they were comfortable, but then I reminded myself that I really didn’t need another pair of sneakers. Feeling quite virtuous, I bid them a fond farewell and left the store without them.

A few days later, a Mark’s flyer arrived in the mail and there were the shoes in a photograph on the very front page! I eagerly poured through the pages only to discover that they weren’t actually included in the sale. I even looked them up online to be sure. That was, perhaps, my fatal error! We all know what happens once you look something up on the internet. Every time I went online, there were those shoes calling out to me from side panels and advertising banners. They simply wouldn’t leave me alone! Scrolling on Facebook? There were the shoes. Reading the news? Those shoes again! Checking blogs? You guessed it. The shoes were there too! I couldn’t escape them. They really wanted to be mine, but I continued to resist. I didn’t need more sneakers.

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 2.32.40 PMThen one day it happened. They were there again, but this time, this is what I saw! Believe it or not, I continued to resist. I mentioned the shoes that wouldn’t leave me alone to hubby and he told me that I ought to order them. Finally, after days of arguing with myself and reminding myself that I really didn’t need another pair of sneakers, the shoes won out and I placed the order!

I was very impressed with the service I received. Not only has Mark’s done away with shipping fees for the duration of the pandemic store closures, but I ordered on Friday evening and the shoes were delivered to my door in a small rural community on Tuesday morning! On the other hand, I was less than impressed to discover that the price of the shoes has dropped even more in the few days since I bought them! Oh well, they really wanted to be mine and now they are! I’m sure we’ll enjoy a long and happy relationship!