Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

To say I read a lot might be the understatement of the century. I read books, both fiction and non-, tons of magazines (hey, even fashion mags count as "reading") and even the old-fashioned newspaper. Rarely, though, do I read a book that causes me to actually change the way I think and act.

This book changed me!

The author's premise is simple. Fashion and shopping have evolved to a place where stores like Forever 21, Zara, and H&M fill their racks with a constantly churning influx of poorly made, super-trendy items. Whereas shopping for clothes used to be seasonal, now it's become constant. Never-ending. There is always something new on the racks and it's so cheap you can shop every week! The clothes are almost considered "disposable"...wear 'em a few times, and toss them in the "Goodwill" pile.

But it feels good, right? What gal doesn't love to be able to pick up something cute and fresh for a bargain price? I do! Or that is to say, I did...

The thing is, this "fast fashion" thing is bad...really bad.
It's bad for the environment, bad for the economy, bad for the workers who make the clothes, and perhaps most importantly, bad for us psychologically...we're like junkies, looking for our next fashion "fix"!

The factories that make the textiles that make the clothes, mostly in China, but increasingly in even-poorer countries like Bangladesh, are completely unrestricted as they belch toxins and pollutants into the sky and pour poisons into the rivers. Most of these clothes are made of polyester and similar fabrics that are all petroleum products. The workers that make the clothes are paid, at best, less than the poverty-level limit set by the World Bank. There are fake "demonstration" factories, clean and cool, that are set up to fool visitors into thinking that the factories are all OK & safe, but they are not. In Bangladesh, hundreds of people have been killed in fires when there were no safety standards set in place. The factories are dangerous, sweltering, and the workers toil seven days a week for a measly wage to make that cute little Forever 21 top.

factories in China are environmental nightmares!
As if that weren't enough, there's another element:  these stores are counterfeiters. Copycats. They copy directly from fashion designers and artists, frequently knocking off entire collections almost identically. Forever 21 has been sued over 50 times in the last few years for copyright infringement. Zara in particular is known for reproducing entire designer's collections, and Urban Outfitters has been alleged to take the work of small, independent jewelry artists and has their items reproduced in overseas factories with no money or credit to the original designer. The copyright laws governing fashion in the US are appallingly weak, and these companies use this to their great advantage. As an artist, I find this especially disturbing!

So this is all really depressing, right? I know! It's awful to hear and makes me want to shut my eyes and ears and block it out. But we can't stick our heads in the sand, ostrich-like, and ignore these horrible facts.

There are things we can do! First of all, get a copy of this book and read it! It's well-written and just detailed enough to get a very complex point across. You can buy it at Amazon: here
If you feel like diving in deeper, the author cites many references.

Next, change the way you shop!! I did!
Buying vintage? Fabulous! Thrift stores? Another great step in the right direction. Most importantly, *new* clothing SPARINGLY and WITH THOUGHT and buy only from responsible retailers! Support designers using sustainable materials. Seek out companies that manufacture responsibly.
$$$$$$$$ We have power...the power of our dollars $$$$$$

I'm not saying this is easy. It's not. I went to the mall the other day, mostly to escape the heat, and let me tell ya...the siren song of those stores was mighty hard to resist. I DID resist it, though...and I'm going to keep trying. Because the health of our country and our planet is more important than another cute dress.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: Topanga Vintage Market

A couple weekends ago I had a chance to go check out a new local event:  the Topanga Vintage Market.
It's only been going for few months, so it's still in it's growing phase...and with the hot summer weather it'll be a little rough going for a while. Come October when it cools down, though,  I definitely plan on making it a regular thing. It's held at the Westfield Promenade in Woodland Hills, the 4th Sunday of every month. It's very small compared to, say, the Rose Bowl or the Long Beach Antique Fair, but that's kind of's not overwhelming and it costs less to get in!

Here's what I found: lots of vendors who specialize in housewares, like this booth which was almost entirely vintage Pyrex.

If you were decorating your house or apartment, this market would be a great place to go!
Check out this fabulous lamp:

There were two separate vendors selling vintage posters. this one was my favorite:

He had so many great posters, from mostly the 50's  & 60's with a bit of 70's thrown in.

I think my absolute favorite item that I saw was this petite suitcase:

It had colorful old travel stickers from exotic places all over both sides, and was perfectly banged-up and aged...I loved thinking about who might have owned it and how they carried it all over the world. I've seen faux versions of this type of thing, but this one was the real deal! The price was no deal, though...this vendor was an ex-set designer and she had a great eye, but her prices were astronomical! In my opinion, anyway...

I also found a few cute clothes & accessories, like this Collins bag with a roadrunner:

It was a bit overpriced, I think, at about $70 or so. It was in good shape, but I see them on eBay with some frequency for a lot less than this.

Even the snack stand was cute & vintage!

We ended up leaving pretty quickly as it was getting too hot on the blacktop of the parking lot, but I did manage to score a great sparkly pair of glitter & Lucite clip-on earrings from the late 50's or early 60's for ten bucks.
You'll see them soon...I'm working on a how-to post on how to convert clip-on earrings to post earrings.

Overall, it was fun, and although a few of the vendors had crazy-high prices, most of them were very fair in their pricing. The selection is heavy on the housewares and light on the clothing side, at least it was the day I was there. I'd say if you're an LA local, or you just happen to be passing through the San Fernando Valley, it's worth a trip!
Here's a link to their website for more info:
I'm so lucky that there are enough flea markets and vintage markets around L.A. that I can go to one every weekend, if I want to!
What flea markets or vintage markets do you all like to go to?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mood: Inspired!

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post! The pity-party is now officially over.

attitude is everything!

 Thanks, especially, to my friend Steve the Kaleidoscope Guy who graced me with this outstanding quote:

"If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind"
                                                                                                     ~ Kurt Vonnegut

I think I might need to needlepoint this on a pillow ;-)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'm Melllllting...

I tell you what, dear readers, I don't know much.

One thing I do know, however, is that one of the principal tenets of Professional Blogging (ha! Say that with a straight face) is that you are not supposed to Blog About Blogging. Sort of a "don't break the fourth wall" sort of a thing, I guess.
Well, I guess I'm not a professional, 'cause here goes:  I'm feeling pretty icky about writing my blog, lately. It doesn't help at all that the Weather Gods appear to be punishing me right now and it's easily 85 degrees in my office... no AC, no laptop that I could take and work in the coolness of the local library :-(

Mostly, though, it's that I can't get over the feeling that I'm just sending random thoughts and pictures out into the void...

Is any one out there???
Is anybody actually reading this???

I have tons and tons of fun (honestly!) ideas for blog posts, but I guess I feel like if no-one is reading them then what's the point?
If anyone's actually reading this, please comment and tell me :-)
It would be massively appreciated.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Few Brief Thoughts About Marilyn Monroe

Lots of big to-do is being made in the media about the fact that tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of Marilyn's death, and hot on the heels of last year's film "My Week With Marilyn" are several new books about her life.
I find the whole thing so interesting...both the continued fascination we seem to have, culturally, with this long-dead actress, and also how the fascination with her seems to ebb and wane with regularity. Why is this?

I'm *ahem* old enough to remember the last big Marilyn resurgence, in the 80's. The nation's economy was really booming at that time, and on the surface it seems that things couldn't have been more different than they are right now, but I think we were yearning, culturally, for more innocent times. Right now this is also the case...we long for simpler and happier times, as a culture, when our lives feel too complex and fraught with problems of a very un-innocent nature.

The thing that I find so ironic is that Marilyn's life was rarely simple or happy, so obviously was it filled with difficulty and complexity. The image that she crafted and sent out into the world was the epitome of simplicity and innocence, and yet it was such a shallow facade. Although I admire her enormous beauty and talent, I honestly look at images of her and feel mostly sadness. In her face, I see pain flickering under that child-like smile. Such tragedy. Perhaps that's the real root of our fascination: she presents the ultimate irony in the most lovely-to-look-at wrapping...blessed with incomparable beauty, charisma, brains (yes) and talent, she was also cursed with insecurity, a horrible early childhood, a long string of failed relationships, and the drug addiction that ultimately killed her.

If Marilyn had lived, we can only wonder at what her life's trajectory might have been, but it seems a reasonable guess that she may have lived a later life similar to that of her contemporaries. Perhaps she would have ended up in an institution, and then a life of quiet religious contemplation in obscurity, like Bettie Page. What if she had evolved as an actress and continued to do more interesting, deeper films into her older age? We may have been treated to an aged Marilyn, a la Bette Davis on the "Tonight Show", giving us hilarious one-liners in a creaky old cigarette-cured voice. The one sure thing, if she had lived, is that we wouldn't be quite as obsessed with her as a culture as we are now. It's her untimely and sordid death, and her frozen-in-time images that feed the obsession. There is something more than a little creepy and morbid going on here (and I'm a fan of creepy and morbid, usually!) that may not be the healthiest thing...obsessions rarely are.

Perhaps it's time to let poor Marilyn rest in the peace she most assuredly deserved.