Tuesday, 25 August 2015

"Scottie" - Tartan and Scottish Terrier Whimsy Design for August

My inspiration for this month's whimsy comes from one of the fluffiest and most adorable breeds of little pup, the Scottish Terrier.


 I haven't been in a dog-owning household since we left our golden retrievers behind in America, when I was seven years old. They were bigger than me, and could bowl me over completely, but I don't think that bothered me at all.


Despite being more of a cat-lover, when it comes to my personal pet preference, I do love dogs too. And I have always liked Scotties. In fact, a very scribbly fluffy Scottie was the main character in a little comic strip I (very) briefly drew when I was about 11 years old.


Strangely, in all my brainstorms of possible whimsy themes, I hadn't considered Scottie dogs, but once the idea was in my brain, I couldn't make it fast enough. And I knew I had this ribbon, with the Black Watch tartan pattern, in my ribbon box, just waiting for an opportunity like this.


Mel's Maltese puppy doesn't seem to mind posing with a whimsy featuring a different dog, which just goes to show you that dogs have a less jealous temperament than cats. I'm sure cats would object to such scandalous ideas.


The felt dogs are cut out freehand, so they are all a bit different!


Just four whimsy designs to go for the collection! Are there any other animals that you think should grace the veil of a whimsy?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Ethical Millinery: Where Do Hats Fit In To Ethical Fashion?

Following on from my post about vintage fashion and ethical shopping, I want to explore how these ideas apply to millinery.

I will state up front that I am not setting myself up as an expert and that I am far from perfect in my own habits and choices. I often consider the ethical side of my making, but I do not always act on it in what I feel is the best way, and I think of myself as still exploring what ethical millinery means to me. This post is a way of sharing some of my current thoughts as I undertake that exploration.

Hats and Ethical Fashion: Made For Each Other


Firstly, I think that there are some qualities of hats that make them inherently inclined towards having an ethical place in our wardrobe.

1. You can wear a hat for life



Once you are an adult, your head size remains more or less the same. Thus, a hat can be a lifetime fashion investment, reducing wasted buys. This also means that buying a really high quality handmade hat is a more manageable expense - you won't have to do it too often.

2. Hats can almost always be mended, re-shaped, re-trimmed or salvaged for parts

Whether you do this yourself or get a milliner to do it, there is an AWFUL lot that can be done with an old hat. Although the idea of making changes to a vintage hat might be sacrilegious to you, many can be re-blocked to their original shape and cleaned up to give them a longer lasting life, or have the size changed a small amount without any damage to them.


A more modern hat you may have fewer qualms about, and then all sorts of things can be done. Felts and straws, in particular, can be reworked in minor or major ways pretty much ad infinitum. And they should be, in my opinion. A hat should never have to be binned. When it comes to embracing "make do and mend" hats are the ideal candidate, and if you want to do this yourself, many of the old millinery texts available (second hand, reprinted or scanned online) have sections on these arts. If this is beyond your interest, most milliners would be thrilled to be a part of a project to keep an old hat alive and kicking.

A number of times I have spoken to people who have been clearing the estates of loved ones, and although they are giving away or selling some vintage hats, they have told me that they threw some out that they thought were beyond rescue. Now there may be some cases where this is true, but I think they are far fewer than these people think. Please at least try to find someone who wants to save them, or parts of them. (I can assure you that I will always lovingly accept such donations.)

3. A large proportion of hats are handmade 



Although there are plenty of cheap mass-manufactured hats out there, they don't outnumber the handmade creations by the same vast majority that exists with clothing. Buying hats that are made by small local industry can therefore be easier for hats than for clothes. Even the hats you buy from department stores (at least here in Australia) are often made by Australian milliners, and there are many individuals and old traditional manufacturers still in operation.

Making Ethical Choices


There are also a number of things you can actively choose to do, to keep your hat adventures being nice to people and the planet.

1. Buy vintage or handmade



As with clothes, it is clear that buying vintage or second hand removes our supply chain worries and promotes the mindset in ourselves and in society that these items are not to be thrown away.

As mentioned above, milliners and hat makers are around and not hard to find. Their work is diverse and impressive, and you are bound to be able to find the styles you are looking for, or have hats custom made.


2.  Buy to suit your lifestyle, taste and wardrobe



For everyday hats, think about the clothes you actually own and wear, and the activities you do. Think in winter about something warm and practical, and in summer something that will shield your face and eyes. But think beyond caps and beanies, and use hats as a way to add practical elegance to your wardrobe. Unless you have a very coordinated wardrobe or a strong signature colour, picking the most versatile hat colour can be hard, but for winter you can match it to your favourite coat (or gloves or scarf) to make sure it will get wear, and in summer natural straw is a neutral that goes with everything.

For occasion hats, you may not wear them too often, but make sure you will at least get to wear them once! Don't just randomly buy a pretty hat, select one or have a hat custom-made that matches a dress you can wear for evenings out to dinner or the theatre, or to weddings and other special events.

3. Select ethical materials



When buying new, consider where the material has come from. I'm not going to go into the issues with fur and leather, because, frankly, thinking about it makes me sick. But be aware that many felt hats are made of fur felt, and consider whether that is something you want to get behind. I still find feathers a tricky choice to navigate, but personally I am moving away from them.

I want to research the manufacture of other millinery materials further, but in general it is easier, if not necessarily the actual case, for plant-based materials like straw and sinamay, as well as wool and fabrics to be sourced in an ethical way. Consider looking for milliners who are working with reclaimed or recycled materials as well.

4. Look after your hats


 
Store them carefully, keep them clean and in shape.

(I'm going to share some of my favourite resources on the topic of hat care in the next newsletter, so sign up here if you want some advice, but it is too much to just add in to this post!)

And wear them. I'm pretty sure hats need love too :)

5 At the end, give your hat another life



Although a hat might fit for life, it won't necessarily suit your tastes and lifestyle for life.

Vintage hats can be resold, donated or given to friends. Hats can be reworked to suit your current needs better (as mentioned above). Hats can be donated to friendly milliners who like to recycle, or your local charity shop.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one! Do you find that you keep hats longer than clothes? Have you tried your hand at mending or re-working a hat?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

More Winter Felts and 1940s-Style Turbans


Today is going to be a picture-heavy post focusing on some hats I've been making and finally taking photos of recently.




If you follow me on Instagram, or subscribe to the newsletter, you might be getting sick of this 1940s-reproduction turban made from wool felt, because I just LOVE it, so I keep sharing it! (Oh, and you can custom order your own in your size and any colour.)


This was the first version of this style of turban, and it turned out a bit small for me, and also for my model, but you get the idea!



This one is made from thermofelt, which I've talked about before. It has the benefit of the bounce-back qualities of that material, but being thinner, it has a less full and lush feel, I think.


Away from specifically vintage styles, I still think this winter felt hat with faux fur trim has a vintage feel to it. Maybe it's just the way it softly frames the face.




Jasmine just managed to turn up in coats that matched the colours of the hats I brought to the photoshoot!


I shared another hat made from this same vintage hat block earlier, but I played with faux fur trim on this one for a different look.


My favourite thing about it is how it looks like completely fur from one side, and almost all felt from the other side.


I think I will be continuing to experiment with this block. I think I still haven't worked it out to my satisfaction.


This purple fur beret is also from a block you've seen before, and, again, I'm still working it out. It is a little large and I need to work out how to make that still work for me. Still, I love the colour of this one. I love bright purple in winter outfits.



What is your favourite colour and style of hat for winter? Leave me a comment and let me know! I love finding out what people like to wear.

To see sneak peeks of my new hats as I'm making and photographing them, as well as other behind-the-scenes info and useful hat-related links, sign up to the newsletter.

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?

Don't forget the newsletter, if you haven't signed up already. There are new products going into my Etsy shop this week that you'll hear all about!

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!

Make sure you don't miss out on any posts or other updates, as well as all the fun extras and links, by signing up to the newsletter.

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!