Monday, July 4, 2011

We need to talk...

Lately, I've been a little bothered by my own few non-serious clothes posts. You know the kind that just display an outfit, and a few words, best described, as commentator once so succinctly put (when gratulation yours truly on NOT doing so-the irony) "just some sort of meditative blogger haiku stuff".

The lovely Waves wrote recently a very thought-provoking post about the relationship of consumerism and blogging, specifically style-blogging, and though I don't usually post my outfit details anymore (Unless their origin has some special meaning to me: a swap gift, a fun find, or kudos to a etsy shop I really liked-which obviously falls into the category of inspiring consumerism, however alternative it may be), it really got me thinking about proliferating an image.

As she points out, there's a fine line between inspiration and encouraging meaningless shopping impulses for whatever image the source of the inspiration has been trying to convey. As my own blogging years go by, I find that I'm more and more concerned with painting a somewhat realistic picture of my life, as dreamy as it may sometimes seem to someone else.

To me this means a balance, I suppose, between an inspired fairy-tale and a down-to-earth portrayal of oneself, because who wants to read about the exact mundane details of your life, or worse yet, see them in picture form...
But even more than that, it got me thinking about my own relationship with clothes, the impact the way one looks has on one's self-image. And the impact of clothes-blogging on one's own perception of oneself.

This was never intended to be a clothes-blog, but a log about things that catch my attention, ideas I'm interested in, art that moves me. Notice the copious use of pronouns. Blogs are always, by definition very much about the person behind the blog, a modern day mix of a journal, a diary, a scrap book, a zine, an electric mirror for the Narcissus in all of us.
Now one of the many things that I'm interested in is clothes. I make no bones about it. I like clothes. A lot. I'm into them. I wear them. I think about them. I make them. I hunt for them in thriftstores and etsy shoppes. The clothes I like, may not be mainstream fair (though sometimes they totally are), a little over the top, a little costume-y.

It has been a great relief to discover so many sisters trough the internets who are not only like-minded dressers, but in turn like-minded spirits. The exchange of ideas, as well as outfits, seems equally important to our relationships.

At the same time, I refuse to be chastised (by myself or others) for loving clothes. For so long, fancy dress has been treated as a age old sin of women; frivolity, vanity, self-absorption. For me it's only a facet of one's personality, not a determining factor alone, but a part of mapping out the vast universe of a person.

So in the spirit of full disclosure once more, I'll tell you that I have, for most of my life perceived my clothes to be a reflection of my self-hood.

One of the reasons I do not post an outfit every day, or even every other day, is that for practical reasons I spend a big part of my week dressed in unremarkable clothes. Whether it's Carhartts for farm work, or boring stain-proofed ensembles for the restaurant, or my Elephant Revival Yoga pants and an old sweatshirt for working from home, I do not always wear clothes interesting in the sense of wanting to display them.

The other day as I was slogging along a row of kale pulling out endless thistles, stained and rubber-booted and two days un-showered I suddenly had a tiny epiphany. This realization, however small, was rather profound for me: I was comfortable. Feeling like oneself in ugly, practical wares marks for me a personal transition. It doesn't mean I'm gonna go through life from here-on-out in sweatpants, but rather, that though clothes are a form of inter-personal communication and self-expression for me, they do not define who I am, or how comfortable or confident I feel.

Intellectually it's easy to take one's looks, clothes, body, as just the exterior, a house for one's true self, but emotionally, those things carry a lot of weight, and this realization, however small, came to me as a great relief, like letting go of the last vestiges of adolescent anxieties about my looks, my selfhood.
So here I am, in my Carhartts (and massive sunburn) and my hastily captured 70s teacher outfit, featuring my new (I got one in each color-but more about suddenly buying new, soon), beloved Velvet Leaf blouse, (which I'm advertising only because it's a great deal, beautiful item and supports a wonderful, conscientious designer and purveyor of goods), a decidedly 70s teacher-y vest from darling Missa and yes, an egg-carton for the kid's craft projects.
The above images are here to illustrate the unglamorousness of these rushed pictures, the odd angles, mishaps and crazy poses that come with the strange territory of being a part-time clothes blogger. Do they inspire you to go out an buy an embroidered vest or what?
Or, do they, as I hope in some self-absorbed recess of my black lightning-heart, that believes it can be a positive influence to others, inspire you to go out and be your own self, however over-dressed or under-dressed she may be?
Either way, my love to you from the bottom of my work-pants.


  1. I must have mentioned this before, but yours was actually the first "fashion blog" I started reading way back when. I remember being absolutely enamored by your words, your ways and your wears. You enchanted me. I was a lost soul afloat on the sea, uncertain which way to point myself for shore. And then along came you!

    I read a lot of fashion and style blogs now, a lot of them very consumer driven (all the people who post items only ONCE on the blog, and yet post outfits daily?!) and can be quite shallow.

    You and your blog are still important to me though, now as then, and more as time goes on. So your thoughts aren't self-absorbed or silly, because you certainly helped me! I learned to look for my selfhood, as you put it. To shake her hand and let her out. And it changed my life. And I have you to thank. I will always remember the woman who was always amazing to me, whether she was wearing old jeans or a Gunne.

  2. I haven't yet read the post you linked to about the connection between consumerism and blogging (though I'll be sure to have a look at it later), but I'm glad to see people discussing this. The constant window shopping of blog land has troubled me for a long time (even as sometimes I also admire some of those same blogs that seem at other times like all-out product catalogues).

    I wouldn't put your blog in that category though. Even your clothes posts are a far cry from the product collages and wish lists of many blogs. Your photos have heart and plus you have lots of lovely posts about books or simple living, and other lovely things.

    Oh, and I can absolutely relate to rocking yoga pants a little too much when working from home! How much nicer other clothes seem in comparison afterwards though. No sunny days without cloudy ones right?

  3. Hello, I'm a fairly new reader though I remember popping by a few times a while ago, maybe by way of wardrobe_remix? I'm here recently by way of Teenysparkles...

    This post really struck me as I'm having similar feelings / revelations about my relationship with clothing and why exactly do I blog.

    I really like your words, "To me this means a balance, I suppose, between an inspired fairy-tale and a down-to-earth portrayal of oneself, because who wants to read about the exact mundane details of your life, or worse yet, see them in picture form..."

    Do you mind if I quote that in a forthcoming post of mine?

  4. I just wanted to pop in and say how much I love this post. (Lurker here ,who has been a reader of yours for a little while, but I think never commented until now.) I read a lot of blogs that do that sort of "haiku" thing you're talking about, and it's SO refreshing to see actual text content on a fashion/part-time-fashion blog that isn't just more advertising. I love when people talk about their lives and other interests, and even complain about things, because it's so much more personal and meaningful than just saying, "Hey, look at this stuff I'm wearing and these pictures I took." (Trying to break myself of this habit, too.)

    I like the idea of presenting an image of oneself that is more realistic, but also polished enough that it doesn't read like someone's Facebook updates.

  5. Your vest IS beautiful. It inspired me to leave my computer and get sewing - a bag. I get creatively inspired by that which i find aesthetic; including yours and other imaginative ladies outfits. I remember when you wrote that post on loving clothes, and i was like thank god someone who seems real and earthy and intelligent also loves clothes and wearing them and looking at them. It gave me permission to feel good about my own fabric (clothes) love. I've never considered your blog a fashion blog my sweets; was i meant to? I am always in awe of your pretty and original stylins, but I always thought your photos were complimentary to the words or mood of the post - rather than the clothes being the post, which is how it most often is in fashion blogs. yup, I adore your blog. Keep on girl.

  6. I've never considered your's a style blog, even though I think it was my gateway to the style blog world (like Celynne, above) - was searching for something re. Moomins, I think! When I got into "style blogs" I had just left a more colorful life in New Orleans and was in desperate need of some inspiration, and there it was. I do think the consumerism issue can be a turn off, it's one of the reasons I've ditched two attempts at style blogging in the past, I feel like I don't actually have the clothes to keep it up. But honestly I prefer your more honest approach, and I eventually stop following the blogs that are purely shopping wrap ups. I think your little log is a really good reflection of the mundane/magical balance, and you lead a very inspiring life!

  7. i have never considered your blog a style blog. it just so happens that your personal style and the way that you and c. choose to live is very inspiring (a lifestyle blog?).
    with my blog, i am more often than not in crisis: i am too private for it to be a pure diary and it will always have some consumer content because of what i do (which makes it feel a bit like whoring -- i am so in it for the money, ha!). many times, like recently when i can scarcely bring myself to sit in front of the computer let alone lift my hands to the keyboard, i am tempted to scrap the whole thing...but then i don't want to lose the connections that i have made with sisters living all over the globe. bloggers i want to follow tend to choose their topics thoughtfully and are not pure style blogs, but one can't control readers' response to it. if a blog reader has a big fat void that they fill with bags from the shopping mall, it isn't a blogger's fault. but seriously now, can we talk about ms. waves' tooled clogs?!
    miss you. xo

  8. interesting. i suppose i have never considered buying things because of blogs. i've always been inspired by them (especially yours). i know there are lots out there that do push certain brands and products, but i don't really read those very much.

    i recently expirienced a similar epiphany to yours, but instead of clothes mine had to do with make up. i went one week with no make up at all, and i can now say that i'm cool with or without it. it may sound lame, but i'm stoked to feel good about myself in my god given skin.

  9. interesting post and adorable gardening ensemble. i've accepted in my ancient age that i am incredibly shallow, vain, narcissistic and that i LOVE IT! plus i am an attention whore and an unabashed consumer whore. basically, i'm a big whore. conveniently i am also incredibly weird and poor so my consumer whoring takes place in thrift stores, so i can do it with minimal self-flagellation. i love your outfit posts and i really like knowing where people get stuff because I WANT TO GET IT TOO. see, i'm totally a clothes slut. and um, that is the best hairband ever. ever ever ever. love ya!

  10. haikus can be fun
    if they are funny i laugh
    if not then i don't

  11. milla i LOVE the epiphany you came to in your carhartts. it sounds like the perfect place to be. i have been so busy and hot lately i haven't had much time to think about my clothes either although i do love me a cotton sundress and flip flops and to me that will always be "outfit" enough! yesterday i spent the whole day working on our stage and starting my directorial debut - YIKES! exhausted yet fulfilled, i realized late last night that i was still wearing a dirty, ripped sundress over bathing suit, hair piled up top with a few mismatched clips, old smelly flip flops with paint on them. and here i am trying to direct people in an artistic endeavor! i had to laugh at myself but also realize, if your mind has a million other things to focus on, your heart is in its comfort zone anyway and your body is happy no matter what it is wearing.

    blogging is a whole different ball of yarn of course. no matter the content, lifestyle or fashion or maybe even cooking, it seems sort of like a narcissistic endeavor. and yet for me it is a little breath in between activity, and it is a log. i am happy to have met the lovely souls i am, and happy to go back sometimes and review my own life here. in other words, it makes me happy and i try to put absolutely zero pressure on myself for anything related to blogs or internet life (etsy, fb, etc) in any sense for that matter. blogging with the intent of "branding" oneself or something like that is certainly not for me.

    i love the way you go about your inspiring "mundane" life and your record thereof. i do think that indeed your underlying message, if one could be chosen, is that of enthusiasm for self-awareness and opening of the heart. what a beautiful thing you've got going here my dear!
    much love.

  12. Ah, Milla, Milla. I wasn't going to check your blog until I got back in the autumn, but I found nettles here at the farm I'm working on and thought that this here blog would be a good place to find some tips on what to do with them, and I read this! I was the one who wrote the quote that you used at the beginning of this post, and yes, you deserve to be congratulated for not writing empty nonsense, because you don't, so there. Even when you use poetic, or whimsical, language, you always mean something,and I really don't think you materialistic at all; nearly all of the most interesting people in the world have a passion for something that does not directly relate to mere survival or the improvement of the world.
    I have to go, but for the love of sweet Siddhartha don't be so critical of yourself! Even clothes are about more than clothes, and you have made your blog about so much more than that.

  13. Awww, the vest! It's perfect with your new Velvet Leaf top :)

    You know, I have to say though, that the shot of you in the garden in your Carhartts and tank is what I'm feeling most inspired by here. You look so radiant and so content and so YOU.

    That's what true style is all about I suppose. Feeling happy with who you are and doing what makes you feel productive and fulfilled. It always shines through.

    Been missin' ya sweet girl :)

  14. You are so stinkin cute in those braids slonking along among the kale and thistles.

    I appreciate the fact that clothes are there to protect, adorn, summarize, show off, and live in. There are so many different kind of outfits, and picking the right one for the right occasion is much fun! I grew up with horses so I knew rubber boots, jeans and tshirts... but I loved wearing a satin wrap skirt, clogs and some kind of blouse to match (high school). To this day, I appreciate very inexpensive clothes from thrift stores and estate sales, but love the way I feel when I wear something from Anthropologie that is unique and just "fits" right!!!!

    Loving you in your pink and purple and your title made me smile immediately! It sounds like something your best friend says with urgency and you drop everything to discuss it :D Happy Monday Milla

  15. I love your description of the moment that "it" clicked. I've increasingly been finding that the more utilitarian (read: comfortable, strong and capable) I am in something, the more at home I am with presenting myself as wearing those items.

    Thanks for writing this post.

  16. I'm glad this thought dawned on you, and at such a perfect moment.

    One of the reasons I visit your blog (but there are oh so many) is for your sense of style. I feel like it often strikes the perfect chord between utilitarian and pretty, country that also works elsewhere. It's a great inspiration for me since I've had difficulty dressing myself in a way I liked in the past because, no matter what I wore, I felt like it didn't really express what was on the inside: I'm rough around the edges, kind of wild, but creative, too.

    So, it's nice to feel at home in oneself, but I feel like if you can dress in a way that brings the inner you out, it's an extra advantage.

    The only advice I would give you is: go with it. Don't over think things so much ;)

  17. Great food for thought, and worthy of some contemplation. I have felt for awhile that in a world where anything you can buy becomes consumerized, you have to dig deep to see why you want something. With clothes, I have been up and down and thrifty and not, and careful and free, and now I realize, I just want to decorate my spirit, this form I walk and talk in, this space that I fill with an ever closer awareness, I want to make reflections of the beauty around me, which comes from a flower blooming and even it dying. I am aging and living and loving and loosing, and alive. Most importantly now is to dress for comfort yes, but to dress for the day with a whole 24 hours ahead of you of mystery, who knows what delight can unfold.
    You embody this here and show us your joys and realities always in earthy elegance and natural beauty, I am really grateful for your honest place on this.
    I love the days I have a bit more time to do something more creative with what I wear, or when I can spend a little time making something for myself.
    Beautiful words as always, Thanks xx E

  18. At first I read it as "fancy dress is treated as a sin of old women" and that made a little sense for a split-second (imagining "sin" in quotes at least) as in fact often it is when they are old that women finally do feel justified in taking on fancy dress. ("When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.") It is very much about feminism when the default for most of mainstream society (despite what you see in the magazines) is drab, boring, conformist. I live in a progressive area, but even here women relegate themselves mostly to jeans and t-shirts simply because it is safe and expected and, honestly, does not call attention to them as sexual or even particularly gendered beings. I do not think it is a feminist backlash to the Hollywood expectation of that, either. It is simply thoughtless convention, that people feel compelled to obey.

    I admire old women when they break free from these expectations and conventions, whichever end of the spectrum they're at, and simply do what they like. I admire young women who do so even more because they aren't biding their time until old age justifies it for them (as in the Jenny Joseph poem.)

    I don't see it as consumerism. Walmart is consumerism; Nordstrom too. Finding "treasures" in a junk shop -- little things that have magical meaning, maybe only for you -- and trading work for created beauty, or creating it yourself, and then putting it on display -- that has nothing to do with consumerism.

    And vanity -- oh, vanity has all kinds of forms, doesn't it, and if only showing off a bit of shaped leather in my hair were my only form of vanity! - I would be in good shape, I think. ;)

    And yes, I do want an embroidered vest.

  19. I don't know how I missed this post before, Milla! Sorry I am so late with my comment!

    I have also recently thought about how my appreciation of clothes is not really superficial at all - it is indeed a part of me, of my personality. A reader recently commented on a post of mine about style rut that the person inside stays the same, and the exterior style changes, and that it is not really so important because we are only talking about the surface - but I don't think I agree with that after all (for a while I thought I did). Surface is deep, too. Sometimes the surface tells us more about someone than their verbal expressions might. I don't know what my surface really says about me - it is open for interpretation. But what I do know is that my fascination with personal style is not just skin-deep. It goes straight into my heart. It really is as deep as that.

  20. It might inspire me to make one, though ;)

    To me clothes are about creative existence in the world - a part of the constant inspiration absorbing and giving process.

    I observe that women have to create themselves in this culture - they are pushed to do it much more men are. Why shouldn't we take the most of it and enjoy it? I wouldn't call that narcissism, vanity or self-absorbsion. Isn't the creator entitled to be proud of her/his creation and to admire it, if it's good? ;)

    Milla, thank you for blogging, I'm becoming a curious observer :)

  21. Milla - Such a great post! this is the kind of thing I'd love to have in the online zine I'm starting, just saying :)