The Fitch Pitch: Socially Conscious Re-Branding?

So, I know that I had promised that my next post would be the finished jacket that I’ve been working on (See posts 1 and 2), and I promise to get to it. However, I saw this video in my Facebook news feed, and wanted to comment upon it.

I’ve never been all that keen on Abercrombie & Fitch (or American Eagle, or Hollister, or any of the other cookie cutter trendy fashion outlets for that matter). It’s just never been my style. When I was a teenager, I spent all of my hard earned burger flipping money at Hot Topic (which, 10-13 years ago actually carried some pretty awesome stuff). I still have my spiked leather collar… oh, memories. Of course, this was also before I woke up and started to learn about where all of my clothing came from and noticed the consumer machine I was taking part in. But, I digress…

A&F, like just about every other brand out there, is marketing to an audience and is pushing this image of what is physically and socially desirable. Everyone and everything around you is trying to influence you in some way. Our parents, our friends, the schools, the media, religion, all of it. How do you think culture is passed on? No one is born knowing anything or having any opinions or philosophies. We learn these things from the society around us, for better or for worse. At least the guy doesn’t deny he has an agenda. I don’t agree with his agenda, but, I give credit where it’s due.

So, the Fitch the Homeless campaign. I kind of like it in that they’re pretty much telling A&F, “Screw You and Your Elitist Crap!” And I also get that, generally, giving homeless people clothes isn’t a bad thing. Donating used clothes and keeping them from being trashed is certainly the opposite of the massive textile waste A&F creates by burning clothes (Seriously? Quit being such a dick.), so it’s doing some good there.
— Did you notice though, that they didn’t just shop some anonymous thrift shop, they went to Goodwill, and even made sure to flash the logo? The song, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis also specifically names Goodwill and just recently Beyonce teamed up with Goodwill for her latest tour. I’m sure these are all just coincidences, and it’s likely just genericized trademarking at work, as Goodwill is one of the largest second hand companies internationally and perhaps the most widely known company name in the US, aside from Salvation Army, but 2 syllables is less hassle than 5. Sorry, Salvation Army, we’ll always remember you come bell ringing season.

Perhaps what rattles around my mind the most with regard to this Fitch the Homeless campaign, is that, it’s pretty much using the homeless people to combat this image that A&F is pushing. I’m sure they have the best of intentions and they just want to wake some people up to this system we live in, tarnish the A&F CEO’s elitist vision and hopefully get him to 1) Quit burning clothes that people could use 2) Realize people come in all shapes and sizes and 3) We already have a big enough self-body image problems and disorders stemming from them.  I also respect that in order to get people involved in a cause, you have to get that message out somehow, so why not make a youtube video and use social media to get people motivated, interested and interacting with your cause? It’s a very smart thing to do and hopefully it *will* get people involved and bring about some positive change. But, despite all their well-meaning, at the end of the day, they’re still juxtaposing the image of homelessness against the current conventional ideals of social desirability. They’re mad at A&F for saying “A is pure, we don’t want to be tainted with B” – which I wholeheartedly agree makes them douchebags – but they’re fighting this message by saying, “Hey, look! We’re tainting your precious A with B all over the place and there’s nothing you can do about it!”. This is still a problem.

Fringe Distractions and The Wonder of Fusible Web

Was my last posting really 3 weeks ago? Where did the time go?? I suppose I can blame a recent obsession with Fringe for part of my distraction. I discovered it was on Netflix and have been systematically working my way through the series (I’m currently into the first 2 episodes of season 3 for anyone who cares). Though I did just spend a week out of town visiting family, so, that played a role too. (I managed to get my grandmother hooked and now Walter (played by John Noble) has become her heart throb. It’s too cute.) For anyone unfamiliar with the show, here is the promo for it:

Whatever the reasons for my absence, I hath returned! And I have updates on the progress of the jacket I started working on last time.  The very first thing I did was to take out that upper back panel and the two cuffs, as they suffered the most damage. I ironed them out and used them as patterns to create new pieces. Because the front sections of the vest were too small by themselves to cover the entire back panel, I needed to combine them to create a big enough piece. So, I played around with them a bit – laying them out in different ways, trying to imagine how cut out pieces would look, how I would need to arrange them to both utilize as much of the decorative material as I could while trying to maintain some kind of visually pleasing aesthetic once the sections were to be joined with the denim.

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Now, while I am entirely replacing the more damaged pieces, there are other areas of the jacket that are worn down as well. The folded edge of the collar has a lot of wear on it. However, as the collar sits directly above the back piece that’s already been replaced, I can’t very well replace the entire collar without compromising the visual harmony of the jacket. But I couldn’t very well leave it to wear down further, otherwise I would be doing all this repair work only to have my friend’s beloved jacket wear out again in a short time. So, as an answer to both of these problems. I patched them from the wrong side with the help of some fusible web.

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This is actually the same thing I did when I realized the buttonholes from the vest were part of the back piece I’d cut out and installed. As I was predominately concerned with layout and fabric conservation, I managed to overlook them! However, a few pieces of scrap and some fusible web and the buttonholes were no longer an issue.

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Next time, I will show you all the finished project!

Productive Procrastination

procrastinate-productively-work-hacks-02

It’s the middle of the afternoon on a beautiful Sunday. I have 2 loads of clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away, my kitchen is a mess from all of the dirty dishes that have not only filled the sink, but have also piled up on the counter and stove, and one of my couches is still covered in various balls of yarn, purses and other odds and ends. I *should* be taking the time to clean this place. And I will, eventually, sometime before I go to sleep tonight. But for right now I am putting it off.

There is a lot to be said for procrastination and it isn’t necessarily all bad. Sometimes, when we put off doing one thing, we’re still being productive, we’re just not doing what we feel we are *supposed* to be doing. Walter Chen wrote a fantastic post over at 99U on this very idea. You should read it. It’s marvelous. Basically, what it boils down to is that, when you feel the urge to procrastinate, do it – but do it in such a way that you are still accomplishing something. If you’re not keen on doing your homework right now, what else needs to be done? Do that. I did a hell of a lot of that in college. For quite awhile when I was in school, my apartment was actually clean almost all the time. Why? Because I would put off finishing a term paper in favor of doing the dishes. I made a pair of denim bell bottoms, entirely hand stitched, in a matter of 3 days (less than that if you subtract sleep, work and classes) because I was putting off something else.

Of course, you still need to eventually get around to doing whatever it is you need to do. My boyfriend, who always has 5 million tasks that he has to juggle, frequently uses something called pomodoro. Basically, you work for about 25 minutes, then you break for 5 minutes, work another 25, etc.. and every 4th break is a longer one, about 15-20 minutes. I think this is great if you can get it to work for you. It apparently works for him. I haven’t been able to get it to work for me. I just don’t work that way. I generally start off at something slow, but then I get into a zone and I’m entirely focused on nothing else but what I am doing. While I was in college, this was often how I did my papers. I would agonizingly struggle with an introduction, but after that, things would flow, and I’d crank out 4-8 pages in a single night, and not even realize it was 4 AM and I’d stayed awake all night. It’s how I still do some of my artwork (although now that I work full time at a physically demanding job, I have to force myself to get some sleep, or pull most of my all-nighters when I’m off the following day). I want to note here that getting into a zone does not necessarily mean the day before a deadline. That will get you into trouble.

So, what am I doing instead of washing dishes and folding laundry? Aside from writing this post, which is in itself productive, I have been watching episodes of Fringe on Netflix while taking my seam-ripper to a vest and a jacket a friend has asked me to repair for her. Take a look at this jacket:

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As you can see, this isn’t exactly a simple repair. The back of the neck is damaged badly enough, and so close to the seam, that it has to be replaced. The cuffs too are pretty bad off. If one were interested, the other edges could be made raw and the cuff could be left as they were, and just re-fashion it to be intentionally fringed. But, I’m not going to be doing that GEhere. Instead, I will be replacing those cuffs and that back panel with sections from this vest, which my friend also gave me to use. I really like the colors and patterns in this vest and I think, if I do it right, it can look quite nice with the well-worn jacket. Now. To fold that laundry…

 

Purse Repair and Updates

After a wonderful 2 weeks in North Carolina, I had to return home and return to work. I had hoped to have some pictures of Neil’s baby nephew wearing the shirt I made for him, but sadly, when Neil and I left to drive out to visit his brother, we both forgot to bring the box of baby clothes. We did, however, leave them in NC with his Dad to give to the baby later next month. So, pictures are still to come, they just have a longer wait than I originally anticipated.

While I was on vacation, I took advantage of the time to read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline. If you’ve been following my Facebook page (click on the “like” button in the Facebook widget to the

overdressed_bookright of the blog), you’ve already seen my praises for this book and that I feel everyone needs to read it. What happens in the textile industry and how clothes are consumed does not stay in the textile industry. It has direct ties to the economy, unemployment and the struggle for a living wage/ fair labor practices, the environment, and how arable land is used just to name a few.
If you’re like me, you can’t really afford to buy “new” clothes anyhow, even the fast fashion from the mall or Target. I buy almost all of my clothes second hand, or I make my own. But when you DO buy new clothes, you should understand the power your dollars really do have. No matter where you get your clothes, it could be worth the time to learn how to alter and/or repair them yourself to make them last and fit better, or find a local seamstress or tailor to do the work for you (and help support your local economy while you’re at it).

It is in the spirit of repairing and keeping what I already have and getting it’s full use that I am fixing one of my purses. This backpack purse was actually my very first purse. My father got it for me when I was in 6th grade. I never really used it until I started riding my bike more than driving my car – the little black backpack purse was both cute and effective for carrying while on a bike. However, the lining inside my little purse ripped and I’d been having issues with my keys and other things falling through into the no man’s land between lining and purse. Not really having any lining on hand and knowing cotton is sturdier anyway, I chose to re-purpose an old pillow sham.

The old lining, after taking a seam ripper to my purse. I used the original lining as a pattern for the new.

New lining.

The inside of my gutted purse.

I still have to do the actual sewing yet, but wanted to share the start with you all the same. Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Running from Frustration

I have yet to determine whether this works to my benefit or to my downfall, but, I am forever juggling multiple projects at the same time. More often than not, I start a new project because I’ve gotten fed up with a previous one. I’m trying to be better about going back and completing already started projects… I currently have 4 projects I am in the middle of: The Rag Rug, a jacket I started around this time last year, a latch hook kit, and an afghan I started in September. The only thing anywhere close to completion is the afghan.

Complications with The Rag Rug

  As of right now, I have completed 49 out of 176 rows of the rug. I’m not nearly as far along as I originally hoped to be by now. (Granted, I’d be at least 5 rows further along if I never had to undo and redo rows because I didn’t pay attention to the pattern.) There are multiple factors for this. The project isn’t portable at all, so I only work on it when I am home. When I *am* home (when I’m not at work, out of town visiting family, at an art show, or spending time with my boyfriend), my attention is also being taken by trying to clean my apartment or watch a movie, which is hard to do while I work on the rug as my back is to the TV. It’s also while I am at home that I work on writing these blogs, check email, Facebook, etc. As the weather gets nicer I find myself getting cabin fever quicker, always wanting to go for a walk and enjoy the sunshine. Of course, allowing myself these pleasures cuts down on my productivity. However, there is one other reason I’ve been avoiding the rug lately: I’ve noticed that the lower rows of the rug are bulging out. I don’t know if this is a tension issue, or due to using scrap material of varying thicknesses, or what. I don’t know if this is something that can be easily smoothed out once the rug is taken off the pole. Because of this, I’ve been somewhat putting off rug production – I’m worried I’ll do all the work, think it’s done, but then have to go back in and fix it somehow.

The Mandarin Jacket

I started working on the Mandarin Jacket shortly after I finished the Nowhere Man jacket early last year. I replaced the entire front panels (by hand!) so that I could create and utilize frog button closures. I then used brocade to make the bottom band and the collar. The collar was hard for me as I had no pattern to work from and was using scrap fabric to try different variations. Because an iron will melt brocade without a press cloth (and a press cloth obstructs my view of the fabric), I had to create the creases with tiny hand stitches near the edges. After all that, I learned a valuable lesson when trying on and trying to close the jacket: brocade has no stretch. Suddenly, a jacket that fit me fine before no longer wants to close. I was so wrapped up in the concept that I failed to consider the properties of the fabrics I was working with. I haven’t touched it since, but I still have it, waiting for the day when I will come back to it.

The Latch Hook Kit

I picked up the latch hook kit from the I.D.E.A. Store a couple months ago. I knew it had a hole in the mesh when I got it. I’ve just been trying to work around the hole in the meantime. I know I have extra mesh around my apartment somewhere…  Until I find it, this will wind up in the unfinished pile.

The Afghan

I started the afghan when my mother came up from Florida to visit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to work on the rug, so I began this endeavor so I would have a decent travel project. The pattern I’m following is called “Blue Star” from the book Blue Ribbon Afghans. This is probably closer to being finished than any other project right now, simply because it is portable – I take it to work and to my boyfriend’s all the time – and because it doesn’t take much brain power for me to follow a pattern (unless I stumble upon any errata).

T-shirt Memes, Humor, and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.

I was scrolling through my Facebook this morning and came across a link one of my friends had posted about a former TV star speaking out against certain t-shirt JC Penney had been selling a few months ago (they have since stopped). Here is the link if you’d like to read it yourself: Former “Blossom” Star Speaks Out About Controversial T-shirts

This is not the first I’d heard about these shirts, and it really isn’t just JC Penney. I can remember, maybe a year ago, while sorting through clothes at the second hand store that is my current day job, I came across a woman’s t-shirt reading “Why do I need brains when I have THESE?” written across the chest. I couldn’t tell you where it originated, but it could honestly have come from any number of stores.

The T-Shirt Meme

It wasn’t until after WWII and into the the 1950’s that t-shirts as we know them really came onto the scene. Before that, the t-shirt was really nothing more than underwear. They started off rather plain and nondescript. While I don’t know exactly when, I can peg it to sometime in the 60’s when these simple pieces of clothing started to evolve into the forms of art and expression we know them to be. Tie-dye, the iconic Happy Face and a wide range of other designs were to be found.

”]Amid all this decoration and corporate advertising over the last half century, it’s really hard to truly pinpoint when we started designing these shirts more to be read than just gawked at. Some pages claim it was the 80’s, some the later part of the 90’s. Having been a child in the 80’s, I can remember wearing shirts and dresses with slogans on them, band tees and Disney characters with the occasional adorable caption. I also remember a lot of home-made fabric paint/ applique artwork as a child. Applique ::shudders::
I didn’t really start noticing t-shirts with no other designs aside from the one-liner until I was in High School (of course, I wasn’t yet working and thus able to actually shop for myself before then). Whenever they began, it seems to me that we are becoming increasingly hooked on all these encompassing one-liners (and the occasional paragraph). Our t-shirts are reflections of ourselves, our personalities, our beliefs and convictions. They make bold statements about political issues or just make us laugh with witty remarks on everyday miscellany.

What’s So Funny?

The biggest question that Mayim Bialik is trying to ask in her statement is why do we find this phrase to be humorous? Indeed, when we try to actually understand why we find a thing funny, we are learning about ourselves and our society. There was actually an entire section on this subject in one of my Linguistic Anthropology classes at UIUC, and I suddenly find myself wishing I had kept those textbooks. We use humor to make statements about our world and how we fit into it.  We use jokes to address difficult subject matter in a way that connects us to others and helps us cope. Comedians look to culture and society to find their material and similarly, we can turn the mirror around. So when we read the phrase, “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother does it for me”, why would we find this even remotely funny? Our cultural history has long placed women and girls as these creatures who are valued by their beauty.
You find it in artwork hundreds of years old, in the traditional archetypes. Women are glorified as chaste and beautiful goddesses or maidens, or chastised for their tempestuous sexuality, or mocked for their lack of physical beauty. It has only really been within the last 30-40 years that we’ve started to see women entering the workforce and daring to do jobs traditionally assigned to men. Before that, if a woman hoped for a relatively well to do life, she needed to find and charm a successful man to marry her. The idea being that if you’re attractive, you’re more likely to have a better life. For men, the jobs that brought about more prestige and more money were those jobs that utilized their brain-power more than their brawn. (Your classic blue-collar/ white-collar distinction). So, the successful man was intelligent and clever while the successful woman was physically appealing. Even once we started seeing more “smart women” archetypes, they tended to be dowdy or plain and usually single. (Note Daphne vs Velma from Scooby Doo)  The idea here is that, pretty women don’t have to resort to using their brains because they can find a successful man to provide for her. We still see this idea as a driving force in our popular culture today. (Hello, Desperate Housewives?)

Despite advances women have made in Western society to be considered equal to a man, we’re still living in a half-changed world. It is this tipping back into lingering archetypes and gender roles that makes the shirt both funny and offensive. Some would even argue that it’s funnier _because_ it’s offensive – a resistance to change and a satire of the recent cultural conscience and awakening.
While I am glad to see JC Penny has removed the shirts, I know that this is the tip of a large iceberg.

Some of my t-shirts

Fitting for the tone of this post...

Now 10 years old and falling apart, I bought this shirt with my first paycheck at age 16.

From CafePress.com, this is my first internet only tee.

Made by the artist, Mary Tumulty.

 

Emulation: Introduction

Last night, I was watching one of my favorite movies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. I always loved the Indiana Jones movies as a child.. indeed, Indy was a role model of sorts for me during my formative years, and is still very much a personal hero. (How else do you think I got interested in Anthropology? LOL)

My Hero, Indiana Jones

Anyhow, as I was watching Indy travel through the jungle and narrowly escape being crushed to death, I couldn’t help but think to myself: I want his outfit. This is not the first time I have thought this to myself..  in fact a few years back I spent hours looking into just where his outfit came from. What company made his jacket? Where can you get an authentic looking hat? What dye combination is needed to make a white button up shirt look that dingy tan/grey color?

Then my mind springboarded from that and I started asking myself why I wanted to dress like him.. Or why, for that matter, does anyone want to emulate someone or something else? We see it all the time in advertisements.. we use big name celebrities to market this product or that because we know that the fans will buy said product in order to emulate their hero. Indeed, the only time I have ever spent over $100 on a pair of shoes was for just such a reason – I bought a pair of Nike Shox because I was obsessed with House, and those are the shoes he wears. (They were actually very good shoes, and while my motivation for purchasing them may have been misguided, I don’t entirely regret the purchase.)

If you follow Japanese fashion (or even just contemporary Japanese culture) at all, you might be familiar with Cosplay: generally, dressing up as a character from an anime or manga. Perhaps you’ve even heard of furries – anthropomorphic animal cartoons/ a person incorporating an animal into his/her cosplay attire?  I’m willing to bet money, if you know what I’m talking about, this is all pretty normal to you.. you may even be a LARPer. If not, you’re going to learn all about it in upcoming blogs (Come to the Nerd Side!). You may even be shocked to learn (if you’re not already aware) that this strange practice is centuries old. Yes.. people have been dressing up as animals for hundreds of years. Yes, I’m talking about animism and shamans here folks – hard core anthropology fodder.  And it is with the shamans that I will begin my investigation into the significance of emulation in fashion and culture next week.