Wednesday, 5 August 2015

7 Reasons Wearing Vintage Clothing can make you a more Ethical Shopper (And 3 reasons it might not)

Four years ago, I read Lucy Siegle's "To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World" and my exploration of ethical fashion began. I haven't talked much about this on my blog, although you may have gotten a sense of my passion for recycling materials through my hat makeovers and use of old clothing for fabric.

Recently I re-read "To Die For", and then watched the documentary "The True Cost", and I have strengthened my resolve to change the way I relate to my clothes.

I'm not going to argue the importance of ethical fashion. That would be beyond the scope of my entire blog, let alone one post. If you need convincing, read To Die For (or I believe "Overdressed" by Elizabeth L. Cline is a very similar book with an American viewpoint), or watch "The True Cost."

What I am going to talk about are some specific thoughts I had about how vintage fashion fits in (and in later posts, about millinery, and vintage reproduction clothing).

Having an ethical approach to your wardrobe comes down to how you shop, how you look after your clothes, and how you dispose of them. Wearing genuine vintage clothing and being a part of the vintage fashion scene doesn't automatically convert you into an ethical fashion hero, but it can provide you with skills that allow and even encourage you in ethical fashion habits.

Here are my suggestions for 7 ways that this can happen:

1. You don't just buy new clothes

This is the obvious one, and the only one really discussed in the ethical fashion literature. Buying vintage means you aren't supporting the fast fashion machine. But it also gets you into the habit of looking beyond the shopping centre for your clothing purchases. You turn to vintage shops, online and in person, but also op/thrift/charity shops, Ebay, clothes swaps etc. Just being open to these options can make you a more ethical shopper, even when you aren't shopping for vintage.


2. You know your fabrics and fibres

Vintage shopping encourages an awareness of textiles. They tell you the quality of the item, the care it will require, how well it will last, and can help tell a genuine vintage item from a later item "in the style of".

This awareness can help you be an ethical shopper too. You know that there are both natural and man made fibres that have a similar appearance, and you know to check and find out which it is. You can make sensible decisions about buying a fabric that will wear well for many years, and that has a lower environmental impact.


3. You are willing to make a few minor mends...

Buying vintage often means that buttons need to be resewn or popped seams repaired. So you've probably gotten used to the idea, and it is an accepted part of your life. Sometimes clothes need to be mended.

This is an important part of an ethical approach to clothes in general. You are willing to make the effort to keep your clothes wearable, rather than just throwing them out as soon as there is anything wrong with them. Indeed, it may take a more serious flaw for you to consider something as really damaged, too, because you have gotten used to the idea that one small flaw or mark on an item isn't in fact the end of the world.


4. ...and maybe some serious alterations

Whether you do it yourself or pay to have it done, you have probably at least considered having some changes made to your clothes. Maybe a hem taken up, zipper replaced, size adjusted, or a new lining inserted.

Naturally, these same tactics can keep all of your clothes wearable for much longer, and help you get the most life out of them. You can also make the most use of your second hand shopping, clothes swaps or hand-me-downs this way too.

5. You are more likely to take up dressmaking

This may be a stretch, but compared to the average person, it seems like those involved in the vintage fashion scene are often very crafty. And the temptation to join those vintage lovers who are making their own amazing dresses, skirts, blouses and even jeans is very strong! And those patterns everyone keeps posting, with their swoon-worthy illustrations? You know you want to.

Which of course opens up a world of ethical options, and improves your ability to alter and mend your clothes too!


6. You know the value of clothes

You can appreciate the handiwork and you enjoy the specialness of clothes. They are not just a throwaway item for you. That detailed embroidery? You know how many hours it must have taken, and that it makes the item more valuable.

This opens the way for you to be aware of what clothing should really cost. When you see that detailed embroidery on a new item for $20, you might stop and think about how it got there for that price.


7. You don't throw your clothes in the bin

That clothing, especially wearable clothing, ends up in landfill, is an appalling part of our modern life. Being used to buying clothes that have worn before, you know that unless something is really really dead, someone else will probably want it!

By donating your clothes to charity, or selling them, you are stopping them ending up in landfill, and giving them the opportunity to keep being worn. (And if they really are dead, you can salvage nice material for craft projects, and use the rest as rags, right?)

But what are the possible downsides?

Again, these aren't necessarily true for every vintage fashionista, but they are things to be cautious about, or consider. And I'm not saying that you should change your behaviours, just make sure you've given these things some thought.

Here are 3 reasons that a love of vintage might steer you away from ethical fashion:

1. You don't buy new clothes

It's a plus and a possible minus. You may not be supporting the fast fashion machine, but you also may not be supporting the slow fashion makers and innovative eco and fairtrade companies.

That's ok, there are plenty of buyers to go around, I guess, and you certainly don't have to change the way you like to dress and shop. It might, however, be worth checking out some of the companies that are making big positive changes in the fashion world, just to see what they are doing. If you make your own clothes, you might get some serious inspiration!

2. It's easy to forget about the issues with fast fashion

If you are hardly ever buying new clothes, it might be easy just to say "Oh I wear vintage, so that isn't my problem." So when you do need something new (maybe underwear or sporting clothes or pyjamas or something else you don't buy vintage), you aren't aware of the ethical issues. Without facing them frequently, it is easier to remain ignorant of them.


3. Clothing lust

Ethical fashion isn't just about buying clothes with an ethical back-story. It's also about our unnecessarily high consumption. And we all know the blogging world is full of beautiful images of people wearing amazing clothes, and these images make us want ALL THE CLOTHES. All the pretty dresses we never need to wear. A totally new outfit no one has seen for our blog pictures.

Resist it!

I know that I personally love to see bloggers wearing the same clothes again, especially if they have changed up the combination of separates, the accessories, or the styling. It shows your readers the versatility of the items in a real way, and actual wardrobe inspiration that is more applicable to their lives than just a desire for more clothes (that maybe they can't afford anyway).

I would love to hear your thoughts on these points! Do you agree? Can you think of any other ways that a love of vintage inspires or helps a relationship with ethical fashion?

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Friday, 31 July 2015

Ladybugs Whimsy Design for July

This month I managed to wrangle someone else to model for me, even though it meant only just squeezing the July whimsy on to the blog by the end of the month!


For this month's theme, I chose ladybugs. When I was a young girl, I remember my mum receiving a package in the mail, labelled "live animals" that contained a large quantity of live ladybugs. They were released in our garden to tackle an aphid problem. I thought that was pretty cool.


Ladybugs are these tiny warriors, fighting for the cause of vegetables. A poster-child for Good Bugs.


Last spring, I was really excited to see a lot of ladybugs in my vegetable garden, because they are so cute, but then  I realised that of course they were there because of a large number of aphids. Darn.


No broad beans for me!


My little handmade ladybugs aren't going to defend you or your garden against aphids, but they do have the cute factor.

This whimsy is quite a "make do" kind of project, because I decided to work with the materials I had, resulting in me polka-dotting my own ribbon. I can't tell if that is lazy or the opposite!


My model is local musician Snez. She suggested that we take some photos with her playing guitar, but then we both forgot about it. Sleep deprivation will do that to you. The photoshoot afternoon was a bit of a hilarious experience in modelling for new mums and separation anxiety, but I'll tell you more about that with some future photos!

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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Carla

Adelaide has been visiting vintage lover, amazing dressmaker, knitter and all-round-crafter, Carla, in San Diego!


Carla is another example of how amazingly sweet, generous, and friendly the people I've met through blogging are. I feel very privileged  to count so many wonderful people as my friends, even if we only ever meet online!


How cute is the picture with the Australian flag? Love it!

Check out the rest of the photos and other great stuff at Carla's blog Tiny Angry Crafter.

Adelaide is more than halfway through her travels, and I'm so excited to see the rest!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat

Pillbox hats are a bit of an enigma, I reckon. They have gone through phases of being an insanely popular style, and they are relatively easy to make, which makes them an extremely easy-to-find vintage hat style. Today pillboxes are readily available in a multitude of colours and sizes, with all sorts of trims, in genuine vintage and in modern reproductions.

But, apparently, not many people wear them. When I published my first "how to wear" post, and asked what other styles should be featured, it was pillbox hats that were most requested. And when I went looking, it wasn't exactly easy to find great outfit photos featuring pillboxes. But I persisted, and in the end I've turned up gold! If you aren't inspired by these ladies to dust off your own pillbox, I'll eat mine.

(Each photo links to the full outfit post by the individual blogger, if you want to see more images of the outfits.)

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat

When a pillbox shape first started to appear in the mainstream millinery fashion radar in the the 1930s, they were small, and worn tilted, but pillbox hats of any size can be worn angled and look fabulous.

Wearing your pillbox on the side gives a great opportunity for your hair to shine on the hatless side, with curls or victory rolls for example, or a swept-to-the-side fringe. I particularly love a tilted pillbox with a party frock.

Kristina, of Twee Valley High, is an absolute star of this look. Angled pillbox, full skirted silhouette, beyond-cute accessories. Summer or winter, she rocks a pillbox, and loves them so much she wrote an article about it

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Kristina of Twee Valley High

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Kristina of Twee Valley High

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Kristina of Twee Valley High

On the back of the head is the "quietest" way to wear a pillbox hat. This is the way that Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, and more recently Kate Middleton chose, and it oozes class, and can also remain really subtle, if you are tentative about your first pillbox outing.

This option works perfectly with winter outfits, and also really suits a suit or a simple elegant dress. It is great for a lot of hairstyles, as long as you make sure your hair isn't going to get in the way at the back. It can show off a fringe or curls at the front beautifully.

Sara, of Ladylike Delicacy, lives up to her blog's name with these very ladylike outfits, featuring classic vintage separates, with a straight, structured silhouette and fabulous jackets, in flattering neural colours.

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Sara of Ladylike Delicacy

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Sara of Ladylike Delicacy

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Sara of Ladylike Delicacy

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Sara of Ladylike Delicacy

Kate mixes her pillbox with modern elements, shorter skirts/dresses and opaque tights and statement tops and jackets. (Kate's blog Schwurlie is not recently updated, but she has some great tutorials that are worth checking out, and her own excellent post on how she wears a range of hat styles) These outfits of Kate's really show how a black pillbox is not any scarier than a black beret, and is so versatile and wearable.

Schwurlie Style How to Wear a Pillbox Hat

Kate G Schwurlie How to Wear a Pillbox

Wearing a pillbox straight is a very classic and true-to-vintage way, and for me it is an in-between option in terms of bravery. There's no hiding it away at the back, but it's a more modern-seeming and casual-suitable way. Of course, it's going to flatten your hair a bit, so you may want to keep that in mind. It will work really well with shorter hair, a bob, or plaits. Again, I love this with winter outfits and vintage-fusion looks with jeans.

Judith, of Style Crone, is a hat lover and great promoter of hat wearing through her Hat Attack link ups, and she can wear any hat, including pillboxes, with superb style. She also wears them with jeans, and I don't know about you, but any inspiration for stylish dressing that still involves jeans is good news to me.

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Judith of Style Crone

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Judith of Style Crone

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Judith of Style Crone

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Judith of Style Crone

The star of my title image is Amanda, of Styleynn, who I love extra for being a vegan style blogger. Her pillbox looks I'm sharing here are both amazing studies in all-black dressing, but show how she wears her pillbox to the side or to the back with equal ease and elegance. Heavenly.

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Amanda of Styleynn

How to Wear a Pillbox Hat - Amanda of Styleynn

If you are nervous about going out in a pillbox, or think "I'm not a hat wearer, I can't do this," then start easy! Don't stress yourself out. Stick to neutrals colours and wear your pillbox in the winter, when at least a lot of people are wearing hats (even if they aren't as classy as yours).

I really hope this provides you with style inspiration and I'd love to see your pillbox outfits if you take the leap. Leave a link in the comments below or tag me (@tanithrowan) on instagram or twitter.

I think it's time for my good old Jackie O hat to make another appearance in my wardrobe this winter.

This week's newsletter will have a lot more about pillboxes, and a link to the best "How to Wear a Hat" I have ever read! Go on...sign up!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Cherry Darling

Adelaide has arrived in North America! So exciting. First stop Alaska, where she was greeted by the lovely (and more than a little bit badass) Cherry Darling.

Cherry braved a sweltering hot day in a black dress to get her beautiful photos with Adelaide, while the air was briefly clear of smoke from all the fires they are having in their Alaskan summer.

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat - Alaska

Her adorable dog cupcake photobombed, but you can't be mad at that face, can you?


The Travelling Hat with Cherry Darling and Cupcake

Check out the rest of the photos from Cherry's time with the travelling hat. While you are there, stick around for the rest of her blog, She Knits in Pearls, for stunning vintage knitting and killer style.

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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Felicity and Chirk Castle

Not to cast any aspersions on any of the elite sisters, but Adelaide has been visiting a extra special person recently.


Well, let's face it, without her, there would be no Travelling Hat to begin with! Because there would be no me.


That's right, Adelaide has been visiting my Mum (Felicity) in Wales.

For her photoshoot, Mum took Adelaide to Chirk Castle, and found some of the most amazing backdrops in the gardens. Including a ridiculously gigantic rhododendron.


I do really love the back of the hat, and it just matches this plant so perfectly!


Adelaide also went to work and had a bit of a dress-up party with Mum's colleagues but sadly there are no photos. I love that she is having a lot of fun adventures around the world and meeting heaps of people.

That ends the European leg of Adelaide's journey. She has already arrived in the North American continent, and you'll be hearing more from her soon.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

"Strawberry Blossoms" Whimsy

It looks like I'm modelling this month's whimsy design, so we all know what that means!

This time, however, I was a little more organised. It is the school holidays, which means my teacher-husband is around, and I wouldn't have to take eleventy-billion selfies to achieve 4 decent photos. We were heading out on our family-date-day for a picnic, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I dressed up a little, in a casual cold-weather-picnic kind of way, put on a little make-up, brought the whimsy and the good camera. Of course, the camera was out of batteries and my lipstick was long gone by the time lunch was done with, but at least I didn't have to take my own photos! And it turns out that a red whimsy hides a red nose admirably well, if not completely.

We visited the Rhododendron gardens in Blackheath for our picnic, which was really lovely, despite the chill and the fact that not much is flowering in the middle of winter.








June's theme is strawberries. My first gardening success, one of my favourite fruits to eat, and an always-charming vintage millinery trim.

In my ideal imagined world where babies sleep well all night and nap multiple hours a day and someone cleans my house for me, I would have made my own velvet strawberries. In this world, however, I settled (for now) for some lovely ones that I had in my sewing stash. They do the trick nicely!



So now the real question, can I get away with a whimsy and jeans? Probably not, but I was willing to try.


The year is halfway over, and the first six whimsy styles have been up on the blog, including the tutorial. Which has been your favourite so far?

I'm excited to work on the next six designs, especially with Christmas and Halloween themes to explore!

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