Category Archives: Fashion

Six Years and Slowing

On the "skiddah"

On the “skiddah”

It is March once again, and the anniversary month of this blog which started out as Outside the Box and is now Localista.

I don’t look too fashionable there on the skidder, but let me tell you, I was THRILLED to have a chance to get into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition key, and roll slowly backward, oops! I was maybe in the thing for a minute and a half before I stalled it. Heavy equipment operator is not going to be my next career.

What I did learn from this experience was 1)guys who work in the woods are great storytellers and hard workers and all-around great people and 2)enough about operating a skidder to finish a writing project.

Harvesting in the Maine woods has long been an economic driver for our state, providing jobs and a marketable resource. It is a local sort of job, and even with improvements in equipment, still requires a human brain. Unlike other jobs which are being outsourced to…robots. Check out this article, “Your Job May Soon Be Obsolete Thanks To Robots,”  on AGBeat from the American Genius Network.

Yes, computers are now writing news articles. Egads! Soon they will be writing books, I suppose, cranking them out from synopses and outlines, or maybe just picking and choosing from scenarios, character lists, and possible turning points from specialized plot and narrative computer programs. I’m typing this and thinking, “It’s probably already been done, but I don’t want to go look. I’m scairt!”

So, I’m still doing the localism thing as much as possible, have incorporated it into my life with room left for improvement, as always. Those hiking boots in the photo up there? Got ’em at Reny’s, one of Maine’s independent stores. It was the only size of its kind on the shelves, the only pair of boots in my size, and they fit perfectly. In fact, they were so comfortable with a pair of wool hiking socks I also picked up, I didn’t unlace them all day. The support felt fantastic!

Today I’m wearing a combination outfit–a sweater from Goodwill, a scarf that was a gift, and a pair of pants I bought full-price at Chico’s at the mall. I ate breakfast at a local restaurant, but then I got a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s not about perfection. It’s about awareness and small changes and doing the best you can.

Six years later, I’m slowing down but trudging along, one step at a time.

Fashion and Fiction at Goodwill

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Take me to the flower show!

Dear Reader:

As Polyvore.com automatically posts my new sets to Localista, you may be wondering if I’ve forgotten my original mission: to shop local sources rather than big box retailers.

I haven’t. I’ve just been very busy and captivated by my new fiction project, 52 Flash, where I create a fashion look on Polyvore and then write a story inspired by the graphic. However, a trip into the nearby city of Biddeford gave me a chance to drop into my fave Goodwill store, and while I was there I decided to search for some pieces to recreate one of my recent fashion sets: the Flower Show look, which is an easy, casual but classic look I imagined a youngish woman donning for a meandering walk around the Portland Flower Show scheduled for later on this spring (click that link to learn more!).

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The pink J.Jill blouse jumped right out at me. I wanted something over-sized, so I went right to the rack of clothes one size up from my norm. All shirts (and sweaters and pants) are grouped on the racks first by size and then by color, making shopping for particular items pretty straight-forward. I liked the pleating on the front and the swingy cut that I believe would make this a “smock” shirt. (Check out this guide I just found on internet world called Fashion Terms and Styles for Women’s Garments from the Oregon State library! If I’m going to ever get serious writing about fashion, guess I should read up on my terminology!)

The J.Jill blouse was more than reasonably priced at $4.99 and had not one mark or stain on it. Then it was on to pants. I found only a few grey jeans and none that were skinny. I tried on the most promising pair for the photo above but decided they were too big for me. Still, I’ve found ALL my recent pairs of jeans at Goodwill–at prices much too amazing to believe–so I wasn’t too disappointed. The search for the perfect grey skinny will continue.

I was actually very excited to accidentally grab my slimmest pair of jeans this morning–the ones I couldn’t zip up right after Christmas–and had them on and zipped before I realized they weren’t my big-girl jeans. Guess the French Women Don’t Get Fat philosophy is working. More about that in a later post. I’m obsessed with all things French right now, and if I can ever carve out a workable schedule for myself, I will spend some time learning la langue Francaise. I already have the champagne at dinner thing down pat.

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Colorful Rain Boots

But I digress. I already had rain boots at home, thanks to an earlier trip to Goodwill a couple years back. All that was left was a grey puffy vest with a fake-fur collar. Now, I really had no hope of finding that exact item, and I didn’t. What I did find was possibly even better! An olive green puffy vest with a brown, pink-spattered velvet collar originally from Old Navy. Parfait!

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Look at this pretty detail on the vest.

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I did not find a floral bag, at least not one big enough for a tote. For me, it is nice to have something out there still, awaiting discovery. What I DID find, though, were…

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. . . Books! Janet Fitch’s Paint It Black, Jane Green’s Jemima, and Elizabeth Buchan’s Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. See, fashion and fiction DO go together (at least in my world.)

And I snapped a photo of this amazing prom dress. Only 14.99, but not the right size for my dear daughter. (Plus, I’ve brought home so many fancy dresses from this store over the past couple of years there is no way she will be able to wear them all.)

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Oh, Goodwill, how I do love you.

So what about you, Dear Reader? Have any luck with the local shopping lately? Drop me a line, a link, or both. I love to hear from other Localistas out there.

And check out some short stories–flash fashion fictions–at Localista’s sister blog, 52 Flash.

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More like Autumn Browns…

More like Autumn Browns...

So, I whirled through the local Goodwill for about twenty minutes and came up with a pretty decent recreation of my Autumn Gold Fall 2013 outfit. The bag is Worthington. The boots are Franco Sarto (never heard of ’em). The dress had the label pulled out of it, leaving a tiny hole near the neck which I can easily stitch together. All that remains is for me to knit a red and orange scarf. Or a poncho. Which is lucky because I just ordered a kit from that microbusiness here in Maine I was telling you about last week, Darn Good Yarn. Click here to see the poncho kit details: http://store.darngoodyarn.com/products/knit-cowl-neck-poncho-kit

A Time for New Beginnings

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New Beginnings Resale Shop

In a time when many people are facing economic uncertainty and others are becoming more concerned about our impact on the environment, community-minded entrepreneurs are looking for ways to make a living and make a difference. For Janice Bergeron, owner of New Beginnings Resale Boutique in Limington, starting her own business also became a time of incredible personal growth.

Bergeron opened the shop in the Limington Meadows building on Route 25 in October of 2011 following a painful divorce. “The locals call the building the chicken barn,” she said, opening the door to the space where neat rows of clothing hang in well-organized sections. “People come in and say they are surprised at how clean it is. Local people say they depend on New Beginnings, that they buy all their clothes here.”

Bergeron, who grew up in Whitman, Massachusetts and moved to Maine a year after her marriage, was an at-home mom of seven for 27 years. Over the years, she often lamented the bags of clothing she discarded as the kids outgrew items, thinking how she would love to open a shop. After her divorce, she needed income to support herself, and the old dream of a consignment store became a reality.

“With the divorce, I was shaken. I didn’t have any skills. I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive.” At the time, Janice’s sister, Kathy Bergeron, was managing the Limington Meadows building–a space belonging to the late Charles and Cynthia Libby who were well-known antique dealers before their passing in 2006 and 2011 respectively. Kathy asked Janice, “If you could do anything, what would it be?” When Janice said she always wanted to run a consignment shop, Kathy suggested she take her tax return that year and open up the store. That was the beginning of New Beginnings, and the beginning of a new life for Janice.

“It’s given me confidence. It’s given my daughter confidence,” she said.

Janice stocked the shop from various sources. “A consignment shop went out of business, so I bought racks and inventory. I’d go yard-saling. I got two car-loads from a person who was simply looking to get rid of a bunch of clothes.”

As fate would have it, space at Limington Meadows became available at just the right time. “It was a huge leap of faith,” Janice said, and having sister Kathy next door has been helpful. “She’s been the key in teaching me the ropes.” The Limington Meadows shops include antiques, a bakery, a housewares shop, and a jewelry business as well as the consignment shop.

The biggest surprise for Janice has been the response of her customers. “I’ve been in consignment shops before and it’s not personal, like they expect people to just come and go.” But at New Beginnings, customers come in regularly, and there is a connection Janice didn’t expect. “I wasn’t expecting the positive reception from the local people. People are very excited by the option here.”

The boutique stocks children’s and women’s clothing, accessories, wedding and formal gowns, plus sizes, shoes, and jewelry. Janice’s daughter, Shania, works in the shop, as well. “She recently sold her first wedding gown,” Bergeron said proudly, acknowledging that the venture has given her teen confidence, too.

New Beginnings Resale Boutique is open Friday and Saturday from 9-4 and Sundays 1-4.

Localista At Large: California Dreamin’

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

Dear Reader:

The Teen and I joined Hubby on the West Coast this week, and are immersing ourselves in the laid-back California lifestyle as much as possible, staying in the seaside community of La Jolla which is home to the University of California San Diego, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the Salk Institute. La Jolla also offers a quaint art & shopping village, sea lion watching, impressive sandy cliffs leading down to sheltered beaches, great restaurants (avocado is in just about everything–I’m in dining heaven!), and perfect, and I mean that literally, weather. Every day has been in the low 70’s, with morning fog clearing to blue sky and bright sunshine.

Mormon Temple

Mormon Temple

The Mormon Temple simply glows and looks more like a castle than a church. Wikepedia tells me that the exterior is made of marble chips in stucco which is why it shines so ethereally against the sky. The Teen and I saw it from the parking lot of a shopping center where we had gone to stock up on some groceries for the week.

Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

The next day, we hopped on the hotel shuttle to La Jolla Cove where we stood watching the sea lions basking on the rocks. There was ample opportunity for people-watching, too. Snorkeling, diving, and swimming are all favorite pastimes here. We walked the pathway along the ocean and Scripps park, watching the waves and enjoying the breeze. Heading up Jenner Street, we left the ocean and headed into the village for some shopping and lunch.

Arugula Salad

Arugula Salad

I hate to admit this, but I can’t remember the name of the restaurant–it was on Girard Avenue, not far from Cody’s, and above a Thai place. My credit card says “Stella,” but I can’t find it on Google.com. Anyway, we had an amazing arugula salad with hearts of palm, avocado (naturally), and shaved parmigiano. Yum! Later, we stopped into a juice bar for some healthy and hydrating smoothies.

The Teen found a pair of great crocheted shorts at a clothing store. The clerk was a woman who grew up in New York City and moved out here awhile ago. Her family moved out with her, and she says she’d never want to move back east. The Teen also mentioned that everyone seems really happy here. Is it because of the climate or, as I suspect, because we are in La Jolla–a very well-to-do community in San Diego?

You know, when you don’t have to worry about where your mortgage payment is coming from and you don’t have to chose between medications or electricity for the month, you might experience a bit less stress. A for-sale sign on a condo in La Jolla Village listed the price as $800,000! Okay, having money might not make you HAPPIER, per se, but it certainly takes the edge off, doesn’t it?

Our first evening in La Jolla, Hubby drove us over to Torrey Pines where we climbed down the stairs built into steep sand cliffs, ended up on the sheltered beach, and did a little jogging, a little sprinting, a little walking…and I practiced tree pose while looking out at the Pacific. I saw my first nudist–unfortunately. Not a fan of public nudity. Also saw people practicing paragliding up on the cliffs at the Torrey Pines Gliderport while a guy played guitar, providing a soundtrack for the graceful, floating gliders.

palm trees galore

palm trees galore

Walking everywhere provides plenty of time for looking at the different types of palm trees, cacti, and flowers that are so different here in this dry climate.

Statue outside the Museum of Contemporary Art.

outside the Museum of Contemporary Art.

San Diego has alot to offer if you are into art and history. This big guy has a mechanical arm raising and lowering a hammer outside the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. I hope to talk the Teen into checking out the museum…maybe later today!

Outside Kate Spade

Outside Kate Spade

For you fashionistas out there, here is a shot of the Teen in front of Kate Spade. I’m sure we’ll be shopping some more–I’m hoping to find some consignment shops while I’m out here that I can share with you. That pretty much covers days 1 & 2 of our California Dreamin’ adventure. We spent Day 3 at the San Diego Zoo. Post coming soon!

Pelicans at the cove---they have their own gliders attached!

Pelicans at the cove—they have their own gliders attached!

Be Strong: From Corsets to Yoga Shorts

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Once upon a time, young women wore corsets made of whalebone. Magazines like VOGUE showed young women how to dress fashionably. This photo was taken at the Limerick Academy building here in my town. The Limerick Historical Society gathered items from the archives to create a variety of Edwardian Era (1901-World War I) displays inside the old academy. The hats are from the collection of Blanche Trafton Hatton, who loved hats and collected over 50 of them, according to local history. Her mother, Ellen “Nellie” Trafton was Limerick’s dressmaker.

apple blossoms yoga bottoms 2013 011 Here is one of Nellie’s creations.

It seems women’s fashions have come a long way since then…or have they?

After reading this article regarding Abercrombie & Fitch’s philosophy and marketing strategies targeting only thin and average-sized youth, I thought, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

I’m tired of hearing young women talk about “being fat” while swimming in their size 5 jeans. I’m tired of watching young women appraise their bodies with frowns of disgust and refusing to eat adequate calories because they believe they will be judged harshly if they have too much girth in the hips. Why would they believe us when we tell them, “nobody is judging you” and “you are beautiful just the way you are” when the guy who sells the clothes that hold the most social status in high school judges them every time they walk into that stinky, dim, navy-overloaded store in the mall?

I like fashion. I like fashion magazines. I don’t like the shrinking size of the models. They do not look like healthy women, most of them. Some look downright anorexic.

I like this model in the Hard Tail ad in this month’s Yoga Journal magazine.

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Strong. Balanced. Graceful.

And look what I found at Goodwill today for $2.99!

Danskins!

Danskins!

My wish is that young women (and older women, too) will be able to enjoy their bodies, to work toward balance and grace and strength rather than mere thinness. Thin does not equal beauty. Thin is thin. Beauty is beauty. Thin can be beautiful. It can also be scary and ugly. Big can be scary and ugly. It can also be beautiful. So can medium. All sizes can be strong. All sizes can be weak.

I say, be STRONG!

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What do you think?

Designing Woman

Eliza with bag and screen printing equipment

Eliza with bag and screen printing equipment

Studio = Art

Walk into Eliza Jane Curtis’s studio on the second floor of her Limington Village farmhouse, and you are immediately struck by two impressions: color and order.

Along one long, blue wall of the studio, shelves of paints, papers, and other artists supplies pop with bright colors neatly arranged and easily accessible. In front of a light-filled window, a silk-screen table is popped open to reveal a orderly floral pattern on a background of turquoise. Near the back wall, a rack of bright tee-shirts and scarves silk-screened with Curtis’s graphic motifs draws the visitor’s eye.

This is the home-base of Curtis’s business, Morris & Essex, which offers handmade stationery, letterpress cards and invitations, canvas bags, wallets, shirts, and scarves. Her products are sold in shops in Buenos Aires, Manhattan, Canada, and Australia as well as right here in her home state of Maine at places like the Portland Museum of Art, the Merchant Co., and Ferdinand in Portland and Archipelago at the Island Institute in Rockland.

The dual qualities of color and order in the studio are reflected in the designer’s art whose motifs lean toward the botanical, the natural, the vintage, and the geometric. “I’m inspired by nature and the floral and botanical,” said Curtis, sipping herbal tea at her farmhouse table. “I like traditional folk art designs.” A fan of early 20th-century packaging and ephemera, Curtis also draws on vintage design elements to inspire new ideas for her art. Her family, she said, tends to collect things of this sort, though, “nobody collected anything on purpose in my family,” she said, smiling. “I’ll see something in an attic or basement and think ‘this would be good’ and they’ll let me take it.”

Lino Block Stationery

Lino Block Stationery

Gorham to Gotham

Curtis grew up in Gorham where her parents renovated an old house and she and her two sisters attended the public schools. Attending Gorham High School, she took art classes and enjoyed them, but she wasn’t certain art was something she would pursue professionally. “I wasn’t totally aware what you could do with art,” she said. She believes that in high school you don’t necessarily need to know what you are going to do for a career. “I had no idea what I wanted to do. I worked that out later.”

Taking a few college classes after high school, Curtis realized that academia was not her cup of tea. “I was supposed to be reading classics, Ovid, that sort of thing. It was harder to focus and kind of boring, but it turned out that art classes were one area I could focus. Reading and writing are great, but not nearly as engaging as art.”

Finding a strong passion for hands-on work and enjoying the satisfaction of having finished an actual, physical product by the end of the day, Curtis eventually enrolled in the Parsons The New School For Design in New York City. Here she studied design and also graduated with a liberal arts degree in 2001. She then took an internship with a web design company that led to full-time work.

She enjoyed working on kids designs so much, she eventually landed a job working for Osh-Kosh B’gosh in New York doing children’s clothes, “That was really fun,” Curtis said, remembering those early days in the city. “There were few places in So-Ho, so we’d rent a whole house in Brooklyn and bike across the bridge to Manhattan to work every day. It was great.”

During her 11 years in New York, Curtis launched her own business creating tee-shirt prints on the side, working on her prints on nights and weekends and eventually opening a “shop” on Etsy.com. That is when she named her fledgling business Morris & Essex.

“People always ask me who Morris & Essex are,” she laughed. “I was driving on the New Jersey Transit and saw the Morris & Essex train line in New Jersey. I was making tags for my pieces and needed a name. I liked the image that popped into my head of two cranky old men.”

Eliza's Studio

Eliza’s Studio


Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina

Curtis then met her husband, Michael Topper, and he was offered a job in Argentina. In 2006, the couple moved to Buenos Aires, studying the language and learning to speak fluent Spanish while they were there. While in Argentina, Curtis continued to do design work for freelance clients in New York, but the experience of living in Buenos Aires was exciting for the artist.

“While New York is very art-centered, it tends to be more institutional,” Curtis explained. “In Buenos Aires there seems to be more empty space for productions, for artists. It is less institutionalized, with more creative freedom in general.” Curtis enjoyed the community of artists, the galleries that popped-up all the time, the spontaneity and the leeway that is given for creative endeavors, starting up things on a small budget and not worrying so much about the financial success of a project.

“People just can’t earn as much money there,” mused Curtis. “So maybe they become more inventive, they make do. It’s more than just making money.”

This quality of making-do is an area she finds similarity between Argentina and Maine, noting that here in Maine people often have more than one job, doing extra on the weekends or a side-business like cutting hair in the back room of their house.

As much as they enjoyed the vibe of Argentina, after four years, Topper and Curtis began missing their families and wanting to put down more permanent roots. They told their families of their intention to move to Maine, thinking maybe they would live in an apartment in Portland for a year while searching for an old farmhouse to fix up. Little did they expect to commit to a place in Limington even before leaving South America.

Clothing Options

Clothing Options


Back Home to Maine

“Mike kept looking at old house listings while we were still in Argentina, asking me ‘where is this place? where is that town?’ and I’d tell him where the were relative to Gorham.” One day the couple saw a listing for a farmhouse in Limington, and the location was perfect, halfway between Gorham and the family cabin in New Hampshire. They kept watching the listing as the price went lower and lower, and eventually they made an offer, moving back to Maine in 2010.

The house is in the historic Limington Village, and it is a work in progress for the couple. “We are gutting every room down to the studs.” Despite the heavy, time-consuming labor involved in renovating an old home, Topper and Curtis are enjoying putting down those roots they longed for. They have joined a local group committed encouraging to local, sustainable living practices, and have found the people in the area to be very welcoming.

“Another thing about moving back to Maine is that living in other places I always felt like a newcomer, or worse, a gentrifier. After being a foreigner for 18 years, there is an appeal to coming home and belonging,” Curtis explained. “I feel more free to get involved and to try and make changes and stay in one place.”

The relatively short distance to Portland and the art scene there is also a plus. Curtis has been able to connect with other artists at craft fairs and at the Merchant Co. in Portland, a retail emporium with over 100 vendors on block from the Portland Museum of Art. She has collaborated with fabric bag and accessory designer, Lillianka, and has created wholesale products for the Close Buy Catalog, a fundraising program for schools that sell Maine products rather than stuff made outside the country. Vendors must apply and be chosen to be in the Close Buy Catalog, and Curtis’s silk-screened canvas bags were featured in last year’s catalog.

Whether creating custom linocut (similar to woodcuts) wedding invitations or putting together a new collection of printed tees, Curtis strives to be as organic, ethical, and local-minded as possible. “I use organic cotton canvas for my tote bags, organic cotton for tee-shirts, non-toxic water-based printing inks, and in my general studio operations I try to reuse and recycle and minimize my environmental impact as much as possible, as well as using locally-available resources whenever I can,” she says.

Curtis’s designs and products can be found on the Morris & Essex website at http://www.morrisessex.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Morris.Essex. You can also read Eliza’s blog at http://blog.elizajanecurtis.com

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Goodwill Tunic Out of the Closet

Goodwill Tunic Out of the Closet

This cute, printed cotton tunic was purchased at the Gorham, Maine Goodwill last year (or was it the year before?) Wearing it today with slim jeans, also from Goodwill and a red cami bought at Marden’s, a local chain.

What local clothes are coming out of your closet this week?

Rodeo Girl

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Rodeo (Row-dee-0h) Drive Skirt. Photo by Brenda Morrill.

Dear Reader:

Localista find of the week.

Every Wednesday, a few community women get together at the Redneck Studios in rural Newfield, Maine to learn belly-dance and yoga moves. To laugh. To celebrate female energy. To exercise and stretch and grow stronger. Redneck Studios is much like it sounds–unpretentious, down-home, low-key, fun.

Proprietor Brenda has also started up a clothing and home furnishings business, up-cycling skirts and shirts and pants into blingy items suitable for belly-dance and beyond, as well as sewing custom orders for quilts and shower curtains and pillows and more.

She calls her biz Rodeo Drive. Like a cowgirl, not Beverly Hills.

So before belly-dance class the other day, I picked up this richly-textured chocolate velvet skirt, the middle tier embellished with thick-thread embroidery lines with tiny sequins and a flower button or two or three scattered around. The velvet contrasts nicely with heavy cream fringe. I was just taken with it–the texture, the color, the way it reminded me of the “Prairie Look” from the early 80’s.

Later that evening, I wore the skirt to a high school concert with my green Goodwill micro-cable sweater (simple enough to lend interesting contrast to the frou-frou of the ruffles),a hand-knit chunky scarf in browns and golds and cranberry, and ruffled velvet boots.

rodeo drive skirt

I felt bohemian. I felt Redneck. I felt like a Rodeo Girl.

What are your favorite hand-sewn or up-cycled or re-purposed home or clothing items?

Secondhand Fashion: First Snow Friday Outfit

Ring in the New Year

Ring in the New Year

Dear Reader:

My Dear Sis, who lives far away in Ohio, is an inspiration. She has been shopping Goodwill, consignment, yard sale, and local for many, many years and always (and I mean always!) manages to look smart, sophisticated, and fashionable on a budget. Hearing about my Polyvore.com/Locally Sourced Fashion recreation idea (obsession?) Dear Sis brought home a Christmas gift I absolutely went gaga over–a recreated outfit!

Using my First Snow Friday Polyvore.com outfit as a guide. . .

Polyvore.com First Snow Friday

Polyvore.com First Snow Friday

. . . she went to her local secondhand haunts and found almost every element.

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Gray pleated skirt, oxblood-colored turtleneck shirt, and a belted cardigan.

And the ring shown above.

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In the meantime, I snagged the perfect pair of satin sandals at the Biddeford Goodwill for a cool $5.

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Just Added: I changed up the outfit with a different skirt from my sister, also from Goodwill, and paired it with suede boots from Marden’s, our Maine-owned discount store and a handcrafted bag of felted wool by friend Sandi Waugh. I wore this outfit to a reporting assignment yesterday, so it is definitely a workable look.