Browse Tag by style
Fashion

Work Wear

Labor day was yesterday and it struck me that I did not remotely know what Labor day was for and why we had it off.

So of course I googled it and scored through a few sources to bust that mystery open (if it’s still a mystery to you.)

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s always the first Monday in September and it is in recognition of “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” (Source.)

Can you believe I didn’t know that? Especially given the name of the day! It got me thinking about how we take a lot of those achievements for granted, along with the day itself (I mean, some people ironically still work.) But this is a blog that concerns itself with clothing, among other things, and I thought about how a lot of our favorite styles come straight from the bodies of workers. So without further ado, here are some fantastic fashions that came from laborers themselves.

(And maybe next time you wear any of them, you can spare some silent gratitude their way.)

Boiler Suits

I know, I know. You have no idea what that is. Let me enlighten you.

Now clearly not all of these are vintage workwear, but the inspiration is clearly working class. The boiler suit’s origins are quite similar to their namesake: the men who maintained coal-fired boilers wore these to protect themselves. They are, after all, perfect for protection: rough materials, no gaps in the garment, long pocket in the front for tool storage, etc.

They are also fantastic one-piece fashion statements. Of course, like other borrowed pieces, you have to be willing to work with the lack of fit (or, if you’re very attached, tailor it to you) and to roll up your sleeves quite literally.

Mechanic Shirts

You’ve seen these. Likely on the backs of rebel teens from movies set in the 60s. Or in your local vintage store, waiting for someone to take up the name Earl once more.

The fun in these shirts is imagining who these people once were and taking up their name as a badge of legitimacy. Oh you have a cool tee? I have Earl’s shirt.

julian casablancas garbage collector shirt
Source: https://www.last.fm/music/Julian+Casablancas/+images/b04a1e6bc8914913b5e3b23f86b39057

The photo above is, if you’re a huge Strokes fan, a classic Julian Casablancas look. It’s unforgettable, this garbage collector shirt. You don’t even know.

The origins of these shirts are rather obvious as well: automobile workers wore these, embroidered with their company logo and name and the style spread to other professions with uniforms. It’s a classic look that bled into the rebellious counter-culture and then, of course, into fashion.

The Flat Cap

(You may be more familiar with its popular name, the Newsboy Cap.)

This headwear goes as far back as 14th century England and it really hit the ground running when parliament passed a law in 1571 to protect their oh-so-precious wool trade, decreeing that all non-noble men over six wear wool caps on Sundays and on holidays, lest they pay a fine.

You can imagine it became a popular look and the flat cap became The Look of all non-nobles and, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the working-class signifier.

With the working class in decline since the mid-20th century, the cap has found its home in the middle-class and sometimes the upper class, despite its peasant origins.

 

I do hope you enjoyed your day off and all the work that people in the past put in to get you that day off, as well as all of the fabulous clothing they brought us because of their jobs.

Try not to feel too guilty while you’re wearing a flat cap and thinking about how it was the signature look of the plebeian types! Eek.

Bisous,

 

Fashion

Working With My Hands

First, it must be said, that the prospect of posing for photos can be difficult for me. You’ll have to bear with me as I try to come to terms with that bizarre bashfulness. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art with Will to catch the Alex Katz exhibit right before it was over and, thankfully, I could squeeze it in.

My knowledge of the art world lies mainly in 20th century french art, so an American artist of the pop art movement wasn’t exactly in my repertoire. I’m beyond happy that I went, as his pieces are beautiful and the exhibit flowed to best show his work as it evolved.

paper flowers
Wildflowers in Vase c.1954-55 Collage with cut and watercolored paper  27.9 x 21.3 inches

I saw Matisse in him (some flatter looking portraits of his muse Ada in colorful palettes, some paper collages of bright coloring) and some strange elements of Pollock (dripping paint, Katz is said to have studied Pollock intently despite rejecting abstractism), among others. At one point, a man who came up to me and Will said “that one on the right reminds me of Renoir when they eat in the grass” and then he pointed to a farther portrait saying “she’s the new Mona Lisa.” It was strange having someone ignite a conversation like that and it reminded me how rare and, bizarrely, how nice it is.

Alex Katz, Black Suit (Ada) 1958 Oil on linen 48 x 32 inches

We were particularly drawn to a portrait of Ada (again, his wife and muse) that seemed to be burning from within. The portraits had a strange quality of existing and not existing, of feeling real but uncannily void.

Knowing little to nothing about Katz beforehand made me a little apprehensive at first (I’m the kind of person who dives into research before I do anything) but it proved to be rewarding. There was enough context for me to suddenly see the conversation Katz was having with other moments in art and that is, in my opinion, really ridiculously amazing.

 


 

If you have a sort of specialized disdain for artspeak, this is the section that you would probably enjoy more.

This is where Claire tells you about clothing choices.

I made a dress in my last semester of college, as I had suddenly decided sewing was something I needed to know (I had a stinging guilt about writing about clothing and knowing squat about why it was couture.) This dress, however ill-fitting or rudimentarily produced, is a point of pride for me and I finally got the guts to wear it when I went to see Katz. Seemed vintage pop-art enough.

lime green paisley dress

And here it is, in all its bright green glory. I wanted to make something interesting out of the choices I was given in class, so I went with the 60s shift complete with a tie belt. It’s a simple cotton with a cool slit in the back and a boat neck.

You should know it took me weeks to produce this. And don’t even get me started on that zipper. But it sure felt good to finish, to claim that I had made it with my own hands.

At the end of college, I needed a skill that required my hands and a tangible result.

I want to make more things and I’ve found that I have plenty of ideas now for cutting up, repurposing, and stitching up things I would have disregarded. I hope to show you more of these projects in the future, as I try to figure out how to further personalize what I own. We’re all obsessed with self-expression anyway, might as well tailor it (literally) to you.

Claire laughing with green dress on
Laughing off the fear at Cleveland Museum of Art.

 

I am glad you all enjoyed the last post so much, even if you simply glanced (it’s why I add so many pictures) and I hope you like this one too. Please comment what you want to see or maybe something you’ve always wanted to know, should a suggestion come to you.

I’m figuring this whole style blogging thing out and honestly it took me a long time to do it because I never felt ready or that I knew what I was doing, but after researching Katz I found this quote which is as much an encouragement as it is an affirmation that we’re all okay.

“If you know what you’re doing, you’re doing dull stuff.” 

 

Bisous,

Fashion

The Case for Predictability

In high school I had a rather astonishing promise that I made to myself: I would never wear the same outfit twice. I did not and, even when I wore the same clothing combination, I would switch up accessories or shoes or the little tucks and folds here and there. Below is a horrifying example of my “style”.

scary diagram of my high school style

People thought I possessed a monster collection of clothing and they weren’t totally wrong about that, but they also weren’t exactly right, as I played with my clothes in unexpected ways. A skirt was a dress, a dress was a shirt, etc. Some of it worked quite well, while a good number of these creative ideas went as well as they went above.

Fast forward to my days abroad and the decidedly less lucrative years in college and I find myself in a different conundrum.  I hardly like buying the clothing I used to, as much of it was the sort of chemically-stenched polyester nightmare popular for a teen on a budget with a thirst for trends, and I hardly have the income to spend as much as I used to.

In the spirit of Parisian dressing and of the unsavory knowledge one learns about the fashion industry (see the documentary “The True Cost”, the book “Overdressed” by Elizabeth Cline, etc) plus the increased appreciation I have for a good quality piece of clothing, I am wearing the same things over and over. Thus I present to you my newest philosophy: wear the same good stuff again and again.

The White Shirt (preferably a man’s)

white-shirt

It’s true that everyone always talks about the unlimited potential and joy that comes from a good, old Hanes undershirt. They’re not wrong and I can’t stop wearing the thing. It looks cool under dresses, it works well with skirts, and it’s an absolute victory when paired with denim. It’s amazing ability to drape casually on the body it wasn’t meant for is what makes this shirt the overlord of everything. I’m having issues not wearing it daily.

The Black Turtleneck

black-turtleneck

You should know that I wear this thing at every possible chance. I wore it in June. I’ll wear it the second we hit fall weather. I don’t know of a moment where a black turtleneck isn’t the most elegant and attractive item to wear. I don’t have much else to say other than that owning one of these is essential to feeling classy with literally no effort. Also it goes with everything.

Overalls

overalls

Finding amazing, blog quality photos of my clothing is weirdly harder than it would seem, but I’m fresh in the style blogging world, so you’ll need to forgive me immediately. I bought this strange, 90s-style pair of overalls about three years ago and I never looked back. They’re incredibly wide-legged, with ripped off pockets and other rip details—the back is entirely torn to pieces save for the connecting pieces. They come from an excellent woman in Cleveland who tears apart and bleaches old denim to make really cool pieces—she’s one of my older secret sources. These are SO comfy, very cool and unique, and they go with—you guessed it—pretty much anything.

A Good Pair of Cutoffs

cutoffs

Get on the cut-off train, you hipster. You purchaser of pre-cut shorts. The best thing I ever did was take scissors to my jeans and it would be the best thing you do too, if you’d just take the leap. Shorts are impossible to buy, in my opinion. I have stupid short legs and I’m quite petite, so everything in the store finds a way to fail me. When I do score, it’s usually with jeans and when my jeans have too many rips in the knee, the only logical move forward is to amputate their legs and let the fraying gradually become excellent with washes and wear.

 

That’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed my foray into more “style-related” things. If you want more of this, please tell me and if you want me to do something in particular, again, please tell me.

Bisous à vous,