Dirty Clothes: the Quest for Cheap Fashion

Last week it was reported that a fund is being set up to compensate victims and victims’ families of the Bangladesh garment factory collapse….but that some notable retailers whose garments were being made there were absent from the meeting.

Like Walmart, for example. But you already knew that Walmart is a giant dickhead among retailers, right? Low wages, union busting, decimating locally-owned businesses, obvious disregard for the well-being of the people manufacturing their products as long as they’re as cheap as possible. Even knowing all that, I was still a bit stunned to hear that they’re not at least playing the PR game and showing up at the table — you know, at least *feigning* that they care that people, who were forced to work in unsafe conditions to ensure Walmart’s clothes were being churned out as fast and cheaply as possible, actually died for this rather ignoble cause.

Ultimately, I think Walmart knows that there is only a tiny fraction of consumers who know — or care — that the demand for ever cheaper, faster, disposable goods is taking a toll on a lot of things we should value: the environment, human rights, worker safety, and a living wage, to name a few.

It was also widely reported that Canadian retailer Joe Fresh (parent company Loblaw) was among the clients of the collapsed garment factory. It’s not surprising, considering their extremely low prices.

People of a certain age will realize, when they stop to think about it, that the prices of clothes have dropped significantly over the last bunch of decades. Strange, isn’t it? Hasn’t the price of most things naturally gone up over the course of decades? I remember a sweater I coveted when I was a teenager in the 80s — black with a busy green & blue motif with gold threads and big shoulder pads — that I put on layaway. (For those born after 1985, layaway is a quaint practice whereby you would put a deposit down on something you wanted but didn’t have the money to pay for all at once, and you returned each week to pay more until you had it all paid off. No credit card debt incurred. Imagine that.)  The sweater was $60, which was a pretty hefty sum at the time. Nowadays that sweater would retail for probably $20.

The acrylic sweater in question. Yes, I paid $60 for it. And oh god, matching earrings.

The acrylic sweater in question. Yes, I paid $60 for it in 1987. And oh god, matching earrings.

My mother could tell you about how clothes were an even bigger investment when she was a young adult in the 50s. She saved up for clothes, and chose them very carefully, ensuring they were classic styles, well-made, and good-quality fabric so they would last a long time.

Anyway, back to that $20 sweater: how is that price possible? How can a whole garment be constructed, shipped, and sold, and all the people involved (designers, seamstresses, factory workers, shipping companies, retail workers, etc.) be paid, and a profit still be made for the parent company? The answers, I think, are obvious.

And now back to Joe Fresh. They did come to the table to meet about the compensation fund, and they did sign on to an international pact to improve conditions for garment workers since the Bangladesh factory collapse. Details of two such pacts, and which companies signed on to them, are outlined here and here.  But is this enough? Should a conscientious consumer feel alright about purchasing from such a company? I have to admit, I bought a shirt from Joe Fresh today. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I think it may feel like a dirty shirt even after it’s been laundered.

What about you? Are these issues on your mind when you shop? Can you afford to shop conscientiously? I mean, it costs a lot more for clothes that are sustainably and ethically produced. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Knitted Skirts for Fall

One of my favourite things to knit is a skirt. So easy: just knit a tube. Voilà. With Fall approaching, I thought I’d share with you the skirts I’ve knit, in case you’re looking for a little Fall-y skirt-y inspiration.

Many women worry about wearing knit skirts…will they stretch and sag? In my experience, no. But I have only ever made skirts with Cascade 220 yarn. I find it is such a great workhorse of a yarn. It’s plied (4 ply) which gives it a solid structure and helps prevents pilling and stretching. I would never knit a skirt with, say, alpaca, or silk, or some other fiber that would stretch a lot. And all of these skirts have an elastic waistband worked in one way or another which helps with fit…in most cases, it’s just a simple elastic string woven into the waistband.

Here is my version of the Seaport Skirt by Kristina McGowan. It looks fairly complex but really it is just a tube with cables done every few rows. It’s knit with Cascade 220 in colour #2448 Mallard.

Seaport Skirt

Please ignore the fact that I look like I’m about to keel over drunk in this photo. I’m pretty sure I was just trying to appear relaxed but maybe overdid it by a factor of about 100.

Can we talk about the shoes for a moment? They’re Hush Puppies. You read that right: Hush Puppies. A couple of years ago HP decided to make a groovier line of shoes, I guess, and this is what they came up with. I get a little catch in my breath every time I see them, they are so frickin cute. Look at those little two-tone curlicue decorations on the toes, and the matching t-straps. But there’s more: THEY SMELL LIKE CINNAMON. Yes! The rubber soles are somehow imbued with the scent of cinnamon. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Sign me UP for that. But alas, these shoes are not very comfortable on me…I can only wear them for maybe an hour at a time before my toes start to hurt. Which is why they spent the first 6 months of their lives with me up on my dresser, as art objects. C’mon, quit judging me. I know I’m not the only person who puts their shoes on display for daily admiration.

Ok, I just went to the Hush Puppy website to see if I could find a good close-up pic of these shoes for you, and holy shit, these are not your grandma’s Hush Puppies any more. Have a look at these, um, puppies in blue multi-colour snakeskin with bright yellow heels–squee! (Or actually maybe they are your grandma’s shoes; apparently these are part of their “1958 collection”. My grandmother would’ve been 53 then, but still might have rocked the snakeskin pumps.) Anyway, here’s my amateur photo of the shoes; couldn’t find one on their site.

Canela Shoes by Hush Puppies

Ok, back to the skirt! A-hem! I did not block this skirt after knitting it so you can see the hem is a bit wonky. But I decided at the time when I finished it that I actually liked the way the hem came out a bit ruffly…it seemed to go with the cable pattern. Looking back now, maybe I’ll go throw that thing in some water and get that hem straightened out. I wrote about the project on Ravelry here.

Seaport Skirt

Here’s my Chelsea skirt based on the pattern by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and detailed on Ravelry here. I absolutely adore this one. I love the dark eggplant colour (Cascade 220 Heathers colour #4006 Galaxy) paired with green sock-weight yarn for the lace trim. And I think the addition of a variety of buttons down the side was a stroke of genius if I do say so myself! Perhaps other knitters agree as this is my most-favourited project on Ravelry.


It’s worked in a herringbone stitch that I found slow-going…I hate having to count stitches and keep track of a pattern repeat forever. But I’m certainly proud of how this one came out and I wear it a lot.


Next is a lovely close-up shot of my ass (sorry, but it does show the skirt detail well) in my Bell Curve Skirt, based on the Bell Curve pattern by Kira Dulaney and detailed on Ravelry here. The pattern doesn’t include the ruffle at the bottom, but rather has a subtle flare all the way down into an A-line shape. I’m not too keen on A-lines so I took cues from a couple of other Ravelers who had added a ruffle, and, when I got to about 4 inches above the knee, I made an increase in every other stitch and continued knitting in seed stitch for a few more inches for the ruffle.

Bell Curve Skirt

Can we just talk for a moment about how the wind blew my hair at just the right moment in this next picture? Thanks, universe. Woot! I knit this skirt with, you guessed it, Cascade 220 yarn, color #9462. I made the necklace, too. It’s a blatant copy in another colourway of the necklace I’m wearing in the very first picture above, which I bought at a department store, and wore near constantly.

Bell Curve Skirt

Next is my Plum Heather Skirt, based on the pattern Olive Heather Skirt by Veronik Avery.  I think the direction of the lines on this skirt makes for a flattering fit. I knit it with Cascade 220 Heathers in colour #9441 and detailed it on Ravelry here.  Speaking of stretching and sagging, I knit the tank top I’m wearing with it with 100% silk yarn. It grew quite a lot after the first washing, as you may be able to tell from its lumpy/saggy appearance in this picture. Which is why everyone always says to wash your gauge swatch, blah blah blah. And they’re RIGHT. But I still don’t wash my gauge swatches. I’m all maverick-y like that (which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a word until Sarah Palin awkwardly coined it during her VP campaign…she’s a goldmine that way).

Plum Heather Skirt

You can also see in the pic above that the waistband is a little loose on this (that’s the waistband, not muffin top, I swear!). Later I added an elastic cord so I could draw the waist in a bit tighter.

Plum Heather Skirt

My advice for you if you’re going to try knitting skirts is: go for it! Choose a yarn with good structure that won’t stretch or sag. Check your gauge to see if the knitted fabric will be too see-through and adjust accordingly. Even if you wanted to wear a slip with your skirt I find it’s nearly impossible to even find slips these days…they’re like a relic from the 50s now. Choose a pattern that includes an elastic waistband or add one yourself by weaving in some elastic cord. Wool skirts are very forgiving and flattering and will never let you down with VPLs (visible panty lines) — unless you’re wearing underwear that’s 2 sizes too small in which case I can’t help you anyway. 🙂

Back to School in 80s Style

On Saturday night I was hanging out with my nephew who was discovering vinyl records for the first time, so we were going through some dusty crates of records in the basement, trotting out some weird old stuff like Bauhaus, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Nina Hagen. What’s a kid’s musical education without a little Nina Hagen? LOL. Anyway, it seems fitting that I suddenly had a whim to sew up this Vogue pattern, V1337, complete with oversized 80s batwing styling.

Vogue 1337 Dress

I started cutting it out while we were listening to music on Saturday night and I finished it up yesterday, Labour Day Monday. Which means I have a cool new back-to-school outfit to wear today.

Vogue 1337 Dress

You can see the pleats on the shoulders (and there are pleats at the top of the skirt and the bottom of the front bodice), which were a little tricky to do. The bodice is meant to have an oversized, blouson kind of effect, but honestly that just looks weird if I wear this without a belt. So belt it is — much better.

Vogue 1337 Dress

The other difficult part of sewing this was adding a 1/4″ clear elastic to the seam allowance where the skirt and bodice are sewn together. The elastic is smaller than the actual circumference of this seam, so it’s hard to sew it in while ensuring the dress fabric gathers up evenly all around the waist.  Did I mention I will only ever wear this with a wide belt covering up the waist seam? The pattern comes with pieces to sew a self-tie belt, but I haven’t sewn that up yet.

Vogue 1337 Dress

Cute shoes, no? Fluevogs. I hope they aren’t the death of me as I run around studios today checking on students learning how to edit sound.

Anyhow, Happy New Year to you! Because back-to-school is truly the new year, even if it’s been years since you went to school. There’s a real change at this time of year, more significant than that arbitrary date in early winter that someone at some point decided marked the new year. I hope September brings new beginnings and there’s happiness in the new year ahead for you.

Vogue 1337 Dress

How about you? Does back-to-school time feel like a new year for you, too? Do you still spend a lot of time thinking about your ‘first day back’ outfit?

I’m a Shoes of Prey Evangelist (sorry)

Ok, this is gonna sound like one long infomercial, but seriously, I can’t help myself. I am in love with custom designing my own shoes from Shoes of Prey and I’m going to tell you why. They haven’t paid me or otherwise compensated me to do this, but they have given me a link to share with you so you can get $20 off, and I will, too, if you buy. And fair warning: their site is addictive — you may find yourself buying shoes!

It was inevitable. I finally ordered shoes from Shoes of Prey, which I designed myself, and I just LOVE them. Here’s the green, black and gold high-heeled oxfords that I think are the most unique shoes I’ve ever owned (and I do have some pretty special shoes).

Shoes of Prey green, gold, black high-heeled oxfords

I spent more time than I care to admit on Shoes of Prey’s website designing shoes and saving them to “My Shoes” list, just having fun trying different styles and materials. I was even trying my hand at creating my own version of more expensive styles by Chie Mihara and Fluevog, to great effect.

For example, here’s my version of these Chie Mihara “Tamero” shoes…not bad, eh?

Chie Mihara-inspired design

And here’s my design inspired by Fluevog’s Wonders K2 shoes:

Inspired by Fluevog

Eventually, it was the reasonable price (I mean for custom-designed shoes, prices from $129 seem like a steal), as well as the fact that all shipping costs, taxes, and duties were included in the price that reeled me in and made me click ‘buy’.

I got those oxfords pictured above as well as a pair of black fishskin ballet flats, both size 38. While the oxfords fit like a glove, alas, the flats were very tight, and had to be returned. But returning was easy–I did have to pay for return shipping but Shoes of Prey credited my account for the shipping cost right away (not waiting until they received the returned package) which I can use against my next purchase. I had a choice of returning the ballet flats for a refund or having them remade in a larger size, and I chose the latter.

Shoes of Prey is having a promotion right now for $20 off…if you use this link to visit their site, you’ll get $20 off your order, and so will I! As long as the promotion lasts, you can share a link with your friends to get $20 off your next order, too. It’s shoe happiness all around.

I’m thinking maybe one of these gorgeous pairs might be my next purchase…but it’s so hard to choose.

Red, yellow & floral mary-jane pump design from Shoes of Prey

Snakeskin & pink patent ballet flats with bow - designed on Shoes of Prey website