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.

Sharing spaces

Big Knife Provincial park, less than an hour from home, has become one of our favourite places to get away from the busyness of life. We’re just back from enjoying three days of peace and quiet there. 72 hours without cell phone or internet. No news. No politics. Just us and nature!

We certainly weren’t alone, however. We shared our camp spot with a very busy pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. I’m not an avid bird watcher, but these two piqued my curiosity and I had to do a bit of research as soon as we got home. Here’s what I learned.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker that breeds in Canada and the north-northeastern United States. It makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker  laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old.

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That’s Mr Sapsucker in my photo. His Missus looks almost the same except her bib is grey instead of red. With thousands of trees in the area, why they chose one in the middle of the campground, I’ll never know, but they were clearly quite comfortable sharing space with us. Apparently, our trailer was in their flight path between this tree and the woods surrounding the campsite, but Mr quickly took to flying directly under our awning even when we were sitting there! Thankfully, there were no collisions as he went back and forth all day long!

We also shared our space with chipmunks and squirrels who checked the site from time to time to see if we’d left anything edible lying around, and a couple of rabbits who just passed on through.

One of the things that we love to do at Big Knife is kayak on the Battle River. Yesterday, we discovered the spot where Big Knife Creek feeds into the river, so of course we had to explore it. The slow moving creek was shallow in spots, but navigable. We went as far as we could (up the creek with a paddle!) until a huge fallen tree blocked our pathway and we had to turn around.

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Pristine, untouched wilderness!

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We quickly discovered that even here we weren’t alone. This time we were sharing space with beaver. Lots of beaver! They obviously weren’t as comfortable as the sapsuckers were with the idea of sharing space with us though. As soon as we got anywhere close, tails hit the water with thundering splashes and they disappeared below the surface. I managed to get a picture of this one just before he gave his warning shot and disappeared from sight.

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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?

Emerging

6b418a7e1c894727282ae55335b6bb1aLike butterflies coming out of cocoons, we’re gradually emerging from the Covid-19 shutdown and figuring out what living in this new world is going to look like. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m finding it a little bit unnerving. My cocoon was comfortable. I knew exactly what to do and what not to do. I wasn’t worried about contracting  the virus because we easily kept our distance from other people and almost never left our county where there hasn’t been a single confirmed case. Thankfully, I was able to fit the local golf course into my cocoon!

Even though Alberta entered the first phase  of a three stage relaunch strategy back on May 14, nothing really changed for us. Now, with the introduction of Stage 2 on Friday, a week ahead of schedule, bigger changes are happening. In addition to those businesses that were deemed essential and never closed, as well as those that reopened in Stage 1, theatres, libraries, places of worship, casinos, bingo halls, arcades, and recreational facilities including gyms and pools, as well as many other similar facilities, can now be open. Personal services, including skin and body treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and tanning are also allowed now.

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Life at this stage is a bit like the newly emerged butterfly; somewhat fragile and facing many unknowns. As we step out of our cocoons, we need to decide which of the many available options we feel comfortable resuming right now and what precautions should be taken when we do.

Though we’re being reminded to remain diligent about social distancing and to wear masks when that’s not possible, I’m concerned that many people seem to think the crisis has passed and are becoming lax about following the recommendations. If that continues to happen, I foresee an upswing in Covid cases and possibly a need to shut things down again. Though my cocoon was comfortable and safe, I don’t want to have to hide away in it for any longer than necessary, so while we spread our wings, please let’s do it with care and caution!

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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. 🙂

Celebrating survival!

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Today, the first Sunday of June, is National Cancer Survivors Day, an annual, worldwide celebration of life set aside to honour the millions of people worldwide who are living with and beyond cancer and to raise awareness of the challenges that they face.

Major advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment have resulted in longer survival, but a cancer diagnosis can leave a host of problems in its wake. Physical, financial, and emotional hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Depending on where they live, survivors often contend with rapidly rising drug costs, inadequate insurance coverage, difficulty finding or keeping employment, and a lack of understanding from family and friends. Despite these difficulties, cancer survivors can live active, productive, inspiring lives.

So what is a survivor? To many, the term ‘cancer survivor’ suggests a person who has beaten their cancer; perhaps one who has been cancer free for several years, but I like the definition used by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

In other words, I am a survivor! In fact, I’m a three times survivor.

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I live with cancer every day. Unless a cure is found for neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) within my lifetime or God performs a miracle on my behalf, I will never be cancer free. People have a hard time grasping the idea of a chronic cancer. The usual assumption is that patients either die of their disease or they are cured, thereby becoming cancer survivors, but I look at my situation differently. I may eventually die of my cancer or I may die with it, but either way, I am a survivor! Fortunately my NETS is stable at this point and it doesn’t significantly impact my day to day life. I’ve had all the PRRT treatments that I can have, but a monthly injection given here in my home by a visiting nurse seems to be keeping things under control. I had my 87th of these “butt darts” just over a week ago.

I’m also a cancer survivor in the more tradition sense, as in one who had the disease, but is now free of it. As many of you know, seven months after my NETS diagnosis, I was diagnosed with a second, completely unrelated cancer that was removed surgically. Six weeks of radiation followed and, since that time, there has been no recurrence.

Cancer number three, most likely caused by the radiation that I received for the other two, was discovered in my thyroid almost exactly a year ago. Though it’s not a particularly aggressive form of cancer, it’s the one that concerns me the most right now. I was supposed to see my specialist two months ago and have an ultrasound to determine whether or not the cancer is growing. Thanks to Covid-19, that didn’t happen and it’s been eight months since my thyroid was last looked at. Though my specialist still isn’t seeing patients except in emergency situations, I decided to do a bit of self-advocating and his office is now in the process of trying to arrange for me to have an ultrasound done in a hospital closer to home in a small city that has only had one Covid-19 patient.

Yes, in spite of all this, I am a survivor! Survivors are people from all walks of life, of all ethnicities and income levels. They’re children, moms, dads, and grandparents. They may be your coworkers, friends, and loved ones. Traditionally, National Cancer Survivors Day celebrations have included parades, carnivals, health fairs, awareness walks, candle-lighting ceremonies, and other community events. This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the celebrations may be somewhat more subdued, but life with and after cancer goes on and it ought to be about more than just surviving. It ought to be about living well and that’s always something to celebrate!

 

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!

The time before

It’s been over ten weeks since the World Health Organization officially declared the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 a pandemic and countries began to shut things down. More and more I hear people expressing nostalgia for “the time before” and wondering when, if ever, life will return to normal. As I’ve mentioned before, I feel fortunate that my life has not had to change as drastically as many others have. As a retiree, I don’t have a business to close, a job to lose, or children at home. Nevertheless, life is different now and I’ve been pondering the things that I miss.

In the big picture, most of the things I miss are small, but small things are often what bring interest or significance to our lives.

I miss browsing our local thrift stores and perhaps finding a treasure or two. After cleaning out our storage room and kitchen cupboards as well as doing my seasonal wardrobe switch from winter to warm weather clothes, I also miss being able to donate the items I no longer want to keep.

I miss impromptu lunch dates with my husband at The Wooden Spoon, our favourite local eatery. We usually go at least once or twice a month.

Although I enjoy being at home with hubby, I miss spending time with other women. Whether it be dropping in for a cup of tea and a chat with a friend, a morning coffee time with women from my church, or sipping wine and visiting with my “craft night” friends at our monthly get togethers, I need my girlfriends. Thankfully Zoom has helped, but it’s not the same as being together in person.

Though we’ve been enjoying online services from the comfort of home, I miss gathering together with our church family on Sunday mornings.

We don’t live close enough to see our grandchildren on a regular basis, so two months without seeing any of them hasn’t been too hard to handle, but there are babies close by who are changing so quickly that I’ll hardly recognize them when I finally see them again. And then there’s the one that was born late last week. How I’d love to visit and hold her!

Though I’ve learned to live one day at a time, I miss being able to plan ahead. Not knowing if or when we’ll be able to travel internationally again is especially difficult for a wanderer like me. Half the fun of traveling is the planning that goes into it.

Perhaps more than anything else, I miss having things to look forward to. Never before has the calendar page been so blank! In fact, the only thing I’ve written in for the entire month of May is the morning that the nurse comes to give me my monthly injection! I don’t mind life slowing down a bit, but at the moment it seems almost to have stopped and there’s a sameness in our days that’s getting rather tedious.

Perhaps when life finally returns to normal, or the “new normal” that everyone is talking about, we’ll have a greater appreciation for the things that we’re missing right now. Or will we quickly get back into routine and begin to take them for granted again?

What do you think? What do you miss the most from the time before?

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