Sunday, 9 December 2012

Primarily Merrily

Well, it's definitely time to brighten things up a bit around here. When I scored this blazer for $1, I hadn't a clue what I'd wear with it, but eventually remembered how much I dig "alternate primaries" - combining versions of red, yellow, and blue in the same outfit. See the fantastic Sally McGraw of Already Pretty do them up here (as well as here and here and here, I suspect she likes them too), and check out another FAVOURITE-favourite blogger, Gracey of Fashion for Giants as she rocks them with super-stylish nun shoes and polka dots. Read her comments for the best nun story ever. I mean it.

greeny-yellow shirt: Typhany, thrifted ($2), last worn here
awesome iridescent blue-yellow blazer: New Woman Design, 
thrifted ($1)
red tooled leather belt: Rodier Paris, thrifted, (<$4)
my favourite red skirt: Odille, thrifted (<$10), last worn here with same ring and shoes
shoes: Kenneth Cole Reaction, Winners ultra-clearance ($14) many moons ago, 
last worn here

necklace: thrifted beads ($ 0.75?), DIY re-strung, last worn here (better detail)
carnelian ring: El Disco Super Centre (Progreso, Mexico), last worn here

I love that this get-up is somehow reminiscent of my mother's style back in the early '80s, for all that we gave each other's outfits the side-eye at the time. My giant grey flower (to coordinate with my hose, natch) would make it full-on-80s-my-Mom, and you know I almost did it, but figured that All The Big Red Accessories would be sufficient. Just.

I don't usually post how much things cost unless there is something unusual about it, but this here is a particularly bargainous ensemble, especially for one so chock-full of colour happiness. (Lynn of Dylan's Dress recently thrifted an entire outfit for $1, how fabulous!)  It does not matter to me that the blazer is a Giant Tiger (Canadian discount store) label and so very likely wasn't expensive to begin with. I find the concept of caring greatly ("greatly" being the operative word) about brand / source / 'season' / trend just terribly limiting. 

In North American-centric mainstream culture, I'd hypothesize that for lots of people, branding has come to function as a substitute for internal worth and values. I'm talking prominent logos and layers of emotional meaning attached to consumer objects which the objects do not inherently have. This makes even less sense given economic realities as well as the declining quality of new clothing, most markedly women's clothing, over the past ~10 years, as recently discussed at Une femme d'un certain age, and again at Sally's in the comments below this post

Brand can provide some information about a garment, but over the years it's becoming a less reliable indicator. Like binary gendering, human values / worth-linked brand-consciousness - regardless of its ever-greater dissociation from quality - begins at infancy, and I see it in action most frequently in young people and those in their 20s and 30s. I personally find not-caring-where-something-comes-from (except of course where there are ethical concerns) and using excellence as a North Star (which I recognize as a privilege) to be marvellously freeing. The relief of being old enough, eh? I also acknowledge - and deeply appreciate even as I maximize wherever possible - the privilege of experiencing relatively few social sanctions arising from dressing expressively as I please.

Recognizing too that many or most of y'all likely also do not give a rat's posterior about brand-name wearables or much in the way of trendiness in your excellent personal stylins (and I love you madly for it), and are in the process of consciously negotiating your own relationships with consumerism as well, I ask: When would you estimate the major points of cultural shift towards substituting ownership of branded goods for self-worth / human value-qualities to have occurred? How similar or different is the situation outside of North America? I'd make googly eyes at comments involving industrialization and the history of advertising, the movie Back to the Future, and Naomi Klein's No Logo

Thanks for listening to me natter on! Also feel welcome to disregard the chit-chat entirely and stay for the outfits. Speaking of outfits, see you over at Patti's Not Dead Yet Style for Visible Monday!  


  1. The cultural shift likely occurred before my childhood/teen years, as I distinctly recall the anguish of not having the "right" brand jeans, shoes, et al. But how much before? Before there were ads, there probably was Tiffany's or its equivalent. I, too, am enjoying the freedom of wearing just that which I love. And you are right, to to that unmolested is a privilege as well.

    Thanks for sharing the beauty of your thoughts as well as these fabulous colorful pieces with Visible Monday!

  2. As a child growing up in a very small town, with clothes-shopping options limited to the occasional trip to the "Big City" or the Sears Catalogue, there wasn't a lot of choice. I remember seeing Candies shoes in an issue of 17 Magazine, and wanting a pair. Now the only reason I look at labels is to try to judge the age of a piece of clothing or to find out the fabric content. "Brand" seems to be of utmost importance to teenagers and 20-somethings these days, and is definitely tied into self-esteem and self-worth, and a feeling of "fitting in". I'm glad that after all those years of trying to fit in and fail, that I don't care anymore ;)

  3. I LOVE this colors in this outfit. I remember when you first got that jacket - the colors and pattern are so inviting. This whole look is a splash of color explosion.

    I know growing up "poor" - prominent branding was important. All the 'cool kids' wore JNCO and Abercrombie and American Eagle. Even going to schools with dresscode, the cool kids had the polo horse or eagle on their shirts - I didn't.

    Now I look at branding for certain styling or yes, quality, because when I spend my money I want things to last, to hold value. I won't wear anything emblazoned with logos these days, but I do tend to be a BIT snobby about my shoes, underthings, and hosiery. I can at least find some quality there.

    As for clothes, I'm more than happy trusting my hand and knowledge of construction and fibers while thrifting the $1 deals.

    I am a hyper sensitive person - I want my things to FEEL good. If it doesn't feel good touching my body, I don't want it. I want to be able to move, to wear things without pain or discomfort. I have very few things that don't fit that criteria, and they are seldom worn.

    Coming to terms with myself has led to a higher satisfaction with my wardrobe. Those $1 finds can be joyous, but the instant gratification can fade quickly. It's taken conscious thought to put a higher value back onto the clothes and keep them in my closet, not revolving back into the donation bin.

  4. Oh my dear how I love your blog.Your thoughtful opinions mixed with such style are so engaging and thought provoking. Being one who values personal creativity and style over any label, I find your commentary so on target. Thank you for adding such validity to not buying self worth as a commodity!

  5. First of all, what a pretty outfit! The colors work really well together, being of the same tone, and shape of the whole composition is so graceful.

    Secondly, I love your writing. This phrase "...the process of consciously negotiating your own relationships with consumerism..." is so apt and thoughtful.

    I think the shift occurred when people were able to buy more than they made for themselves. Goods as commodities have some kind of value, and some people put more emphasis on that value.

    The only logo that meant anything to me was the Levi's logo on 501 jeans!

  6. you've done it again! this is a woonderful combination and probably one of my favs! the idea of wearing branded clothes just for the sake of the branding is such a foreign idea to me. i have always been left of center so choosing my clothes has always been left of center too. i need to be able to just put my clothes on and not think about them again until i take them off atnight! hank u for this post.

  7. Mostest gorgeous blazer evah, regardless of where it was born :) Pairing it with red is such a marvelous idea. You are a treat for this insomniac's tired Monday a.m. eyes. You might even help me wake up.

    Hmmmmm, labels. I notice them mainly if I associate them with great quality, reliable sizing, and design elements that generally works for me. But I'm always happy to discover new ones, especially at the GW Boutique :) I do think younger women, such as my teen daughter and step-daughter and their friends, tend to care more about labels.

  8. I love the boracade jacket so much, dear Amber. You are such so unique, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  9. I couldn't agree more with your observations about the declining quality of women's clothing. I was just pondering an Equipment cashmere sweater that I purchased a while back, which I love, but when I held it next to one from Macy's that I got on Ebay, the quality of the cashmere just did not stack up. Funny, I think I paid about 30 bucks for the Ebay one, and much more for the trendy Equipment one. I paid for the brand. I suppose I knew that at the time, but I am constantly disappointed in what design houses think they can pass off to us little people.

  10. First--gorgeous outfit--the jacket is STUNNING!! I love that the primary is a tad "off"-to a more darker red, periwinkle/coblat blue and a citron yellow!

    Brands--as a kid growing up wearing hand-me-downs and such--I never knew what "brands" werre because we didn't get them. I'm not so brand -bothered now. As I'm thrifting I know certain brands will fit well and others to avoid--but it's more a fit thing then a quality thing. Ex: Basic Editions Tshirts by Kmartr fit better then the Croft&Barrow ones from Kohl's that are 3-4times the price new.
    Plus i hate labels in my clothing and cut them all out anyway!

  11. I agree with much of your accessment- branding is shortcut to a symbol of quality/value. A symbol, but not always inherent.

    Red skirt is gorgeous as are your take on "alternative primaries." I have discovered the magic of the red/yellow/blue combo. Everything seems to match garments that have all 3 primaries in them.

  12. huh? I like the colors! and patterns! and fabrics...

  13. This is a charming outfit on you. Personally, brand names have never been very important to me. I'm very tall, and have always been happy just to find something that fit properly!

  14. Wow you look gorgeous!
    only 1 dollar? That`s great, because the jacket looks amazing on you.

    Thanks for sharing Gracies blog with me about being tall and weiring heels.
    Love to read it. I need to build up some confidence.

    XO Arezu

  15. I love this outfit, the merry primaries work so well together and that jacket was a real find at $1. The shirt has some magical shape-shifting powers (or colour-shifting anyway) - first green, then chartreuse, then mustardy yellow, and back again.
    I can't add much other than personal anecdote to the debate, I'm afraid, but my sense is that high-end labels have always mattered to the rich, and brands got smart about marketing lower priced goods to poorer people. Still expensive but aspirational, and just within reach, in a way which couture or bespoke clothing is not. Is it a class thing? Probably - most things are. I would swoon over a piece of vintage couture, for sure, while I snobbishly ridicule logo emblazoned sportswear. There are some labels I would love to find (secondhand, of course) because of their iconic design status, not necessarily their quality. For example, Biba clothing was known to be quite shoddy, the fast fashion of its day, but is now highly desirable. Mostly I am interested in vintage, and I enjoy finding out more about the brands/labels I find. But I haven't bought those pieces because of the labels - I bought them because I like them.
    Thought-provoking, intelligent and articulate as ever, Amber! xxxx

  16. You write beautifully and create amazing outfits. I am in awe of your greatness!
    I remember in the late 60's that brands were important. My Mother made a lot of my clothes so it was rare that I had brand names until I started earning some money of my own. Now I look at the item not necessarily the brand. One of my favorite jackets is from Walmart. It is crafted better than many of the more expensive brands I see. Even very expensive brands now are sewn horribly. I am like Megan, I judge so much by the way it feels. It can be beautiful and well made but if it doesn't feel right it doesn't come home with me.

  17. I often wonder if it is humane to want to belong to a group. Sometimes how we dress identifies us as members of the sought after group. Branding plays to this need.
    I know when I sew my own clothes and use weird fabrics I look like I am trying to not belong. It is received as a mixed message by others. So buying clothing that is of a particular brand that is 'accepted' is saying I want to belong to your 'group'. Perhaps it is affirming for those looking at your clothing.
    I just buy what I like and know that some of it is brand named and other stuff is just off brand but charming never the less. What I like are the abundance of choices these days. I can wear so many different styles and still be current. In the 1950's the choices were so narrow. My nickel's worth.
    Oh I love the jacket the texture and colors are divine.

  18. If I saw you walking down the street, I'd give you a standing ovation! What a gorgeous color combination!

  19. There is no need for you to decorate for the holidays; all that needs to happen is for you to walk around your home in this festive ensemble and there it is! Gorgeous!

    Your writing is as heavenly as your outfits. When I was growing up, labels were not part of the picture. I also spent most of my life working in healthcare, so again, labels were seldom a priority. For me, creativity and self expression are not dependent on a brand. As you state, there are certain freedoms that come with aging, and reflecting my inner life outward is one of them.

  20. Amber, I love the jacket! SCORE! And I love, love the way you've paired it with the red. You go girl! Thanks so much for the mention! I am off to work, but will be back to visit Gracey's comments for the nun story! xoxo Lynn

  21. That's a beautiful jacket - and a brilliant colour combination.

  22. First: you're looking pretty, and frankly, party-ready in this outfit. A subtle salute to the red-green of the season.
    Second: your timeline question. During the late 60's, early 70's the advent Counter Culture Uniform (CCU) made us aware that whatever we wore, it was a statement. As the economy rises and falls over decades, it seems that the importance of branding goes up and down with it. So far as I remember, sustainable thrifting began a couple of major troughs ago, in yet another response to out of control consumerism.
    I sometimes so admire the aesthetic of a designer, I admit to lusting after an example of their work. I so admired Alexander McQueen's creations, but I'll never own any of what I so enjoyed about his ideas. Could I afford it, it would be a different story.

  23. That is a beautiful blazer that can be paired with so many pieces; dress, jeans, skirt. You scored buying for a dollar.

  24. In looooooove with that blazer. I want to touch it!

  25. I am enjoying seeing you rock some serious colour, and I LOVE this outfit!
    I also love Gracey's shoes,and told her so.Thanks for introducing me to another fabulous blogger!
    The branding passion has probably existed as long as there has been a class system, but I reckon the 80's would mark where we are today.

  26. A one-buck blazer?! THAT blazer? That's a miracle. I'm glad you found it. You look radiant, especially with that greenish-yellow blouse.
    I blame Hollywood for the brandname-reflects-personal worth/character trend, and maybe music videos which didn't emerge until the early/mid-'80s, and those high school Taming-of-the-Shrew movies in which the awkward geek girl becomes the IT girl but in the end tosses her old geek friends a bone. I'd rather send my kids to a monastery for education than into the brandname pit of public school - plus, it'd be cheaper. (Do you think it's a good thing I don't have kids...?)


Thank you for your comments!
- Amber