Friday, 27 September 2013

Illness and Dressing

A Collection of 9 Anecdotes, Old Wive's Tales, Good & Misguided Advice, Stories and Experiences

I have been ill in September - strep throat gone wrong. After 10 days of thinking that I should be able to overcome this myself, I went to see a doctor here in France. I have just completed a couple of potent medications right now but this health related lead-in has a purpose. When one is feverish, one loses all personal inhibitions and what one is wearing is of no consequence. 

I began thinking about the stories, old wives' tales, good and misguided advice and other anecdotes I have encountered about clothing and illness - the following post is a hodge podge related to illness and clothing choices.

1 Did your mother tell you to wear clean underwear, in case you were in an accident? This advice should be: if you have to wear dirty underwear, you might as well, especially if you are in an accident. This is not the place to describe the details of what happens when the body is hit with force but clean underwear is not even a consideration.

For the female gender, if you are prone to yeast infections tight pants and synthetic underwear are two things to be avoided since the two provide the perfect environment for a yeast infection to develop or if you already have one, the environment that needs to be avoided. As for men and this piece of advice - not wearing tight pants - I can imagine that there are health consequences, I just don't know what they are.

Continuous wearing of tight neckties and shirt collars are an issue for men who are genetically pre-disposed to stroke concerns.

When going out for dinner, where you expect to indulge, leave the spanx and tight clothing in the closet. Acid reflux can be the least of the negative consequences.

If you are a chronic wearer of spandex for the torso and thighs, you need to know that compression clothing worn habitually can lead to nerve damage and pain.

Many with sensitive skin or eczema, are often irritated by wool products. However a friend with eczema told me that she's not affected by cashmere.  

A woman I know in Switzerland was angry with her mother for a long time after her mother's death. Her mother was dying of cancer and apparently in Switzerland one can make a choice for euthanasia. The mother awoke one morning, went to get her hair and nails done, put on her favourite suit, went out for lunch with her daughter and told her about her decision. That afternoon she returned to the hospital.

I worked in an upper end dress shop while in high school and the most memorable sale I ever made left me slightly appalled and amazed at the same time. A young woman, who looked very pale, very ill came into the shop with her parents, who in turn looked distraught and overcome with fear. They asked to see bridal gowns. I informed them that I had to get my supervisor because I was not part of the bridal sales team. The young woman, who looked about the same age as me, said she would like me to help her and so it was arranged. Apparently in her heritage, a young woman who dies before marriage is buried in a wedding gown. This young woman and her parents were shopping for her wedding gown, which was not going to be used in a marriage ceremony. I still get goose bumps when I think of it.

The classic hospital gown or "johnny" gown is not an example of warmth, modesty or dignity yet it is endured by most just because the last thing we are thinking about while hospitalized is what we are wearing. Yet between the pain killers and being lofted from bed to gurney and being rolled through public access places in hospitals, we see patients conscious of their gowns as they tug and pull so that their bottoms are not exposed to passersby. Short of bringing your own, which may or may not be tolerated by the hospital, cost and the idea that this is trivial when you are ill, will keep the "johnny" gown the mode in the majority of hospitals.

Culturally there must be many more stories and anecdotes about what people wear during illness and beyond. Your comments in response to this post may just be the place for this "odd" collection of stories.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Embellished Scarves

Re-Usable Choices
The purpose - where I start - is the idea of use. It's not recycling, it's re-use.
- Issey Miyake
Closet Content Analysis:
Embellished Scarves

NICE          NOTE-WORTHY            NEED

NICE: With the cool fall evenings encroaching, it's NICE to have a great shawl or oversize scarf to throw over your shoulders. I have my favourite (Holt Renfrew cashmere winter beige shawl); it's become like a child's blanket for me. 

NOTE-WORTHY: However, I was quite taken by the embellished scarves designed by Caterina Quartana, who studied textiles and design in Florence and now works out of Sardinia, Italy. She weaves her own textiles and hand-finishes each, whether with vintage lace or hand-painted details. I found her work on Boticca.

I had one of those, "I can do that!" moments. Not the weaving of the fabric from scratch part, but the embellishing process. Since I already make jewellery, or rather compile component parts into jewellery, I am up for another challenge. Embellished scarves just might be the that challenge.

If you are a sewer and handy with a needle and thread, there are many how-to videos and sites to lead you. suggests upgrading an old scarf by adding favourite trimmings. Try it for the most basic of scarf embellishments. But what takes it to a new level are the trimmings and their positioning.

My Shirley Lamp. Photo by JoyD, France, September, 2013.
More inspiration came from my friend ShirleyB, while she visited Port Ste. Foy at the beginning of September, 2013. She found a piece of heavily embroidered "lace" and bought it for €1 at a vide grenier (empty attic sale). At the time, it caught her eye and appealed to her but she had no preconceived notion of what would become of it. Back at my place, we investigated the attic and the shed and found an abandoned lampshade. She had an idea. If I lost you with the lampshade, stay with me and you'll soon see the associations. She cut, attached, extended and embellished the "lace" with her own embroidery and used existing features of the lampshade until it suited her. Again she had no preconceived notion of the design, she just cut where it seemed right to cut, sewed and embroidered to accommodate the empty spaces. (I wish I had taken photographs of the process.) Now substitute scarf for lampshade. Here's the point, there are so many beautiful laces and trims, both old and new, out there that one has to look "outside the box" in order to make something unique by simulating a loveliness from times past.

Back to my embellished scarves . . . I have purchased several ancient linens at the brocantes and vides greniers while in France. Some of those old linens are worn beyond use in some places but soft and supple in others, a touch that only age can bring. The linen might be patterned, like jacquard, and there are often monograms and other embroidery that can be incorporated into a new piece.

NEED:  Now what I NEED more of are laces and trims. Here we go . . . I have a new search goal which legitimizes more visits to the brocantes and vides greniers in the district.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Nouveau Look

 Closet Content Analysis: Re-Inventing Yourself 

NICE         NO THANKS        NOTE-WORTHY        NEED         NEW      NECESSARY

I was watching television on a Saturday night and happened to come upon "Nouveau Look Pour Une Nouvelle Vie" which is essentially a makeover show - a new look for a new life. In the episode I was watching one of the candidates was a 54 year old woman whose wardrobe was comprised of cartoon character sneakers and t-shirts with skinny jeans. Just to confirm: Yes, I am in France.

Cristina Cordula, host of Nouveay Look Pour Une Nouvelle Vie.
Photo Source: M6 Publicité
Cristina Cordula, the Brazilian-born stylist of the show, has the "look" I love. For the show, she prepares clothing choices of different looks and the candidate tries the ensembles on until she agrees to one of the "looks". 

Then it is off to hair and make-up and any other requirements. My husband, who was patiently watching along with me, described her "before look" as "scritchy". Her long frizzy hair, which was tied into a side ponytail, was eventually cut and coloured into a medium length bob. She already looked transformed! I must admit the make-up application on this show looked far too complicated. Whereas in North America, we are looking for quick application, the French are looking for perfection. In this particular episode, the candidate was also taken to a dentist for veneers. The smiles at the "reveals" at the end of the show do not need translation - a smile means the same thing in every language. In the case of the 54 year old, her husband's look of pleasure and astonishment was quite endearing. You just knew he loved her just as she was, but now . . . wa-oo!

Lida Baday suit, 2011.
Photo Source: Toronto Life
As for my own transformation . . . through my career I had a reputation for the variety of heels I owned and for always dressing "business appropriate". My Lida Baday suit was one of my favourites and it was the last suit I purchased in my former career. But now since I live in France, I feel as if I need a makeover and the television show's name, "a new look for a new life" is exactly where I am insofar as transitions go. Slowly I am transforming my French closet but in fact I still like the business look even in a more casual lifestyle. I'm not so much giving myself a "new" look, as re-inventing and adapting the look I still love.


I still wear the jackets/blazers but now it is more with jeans and linen pants than with skirts. 

I still wear my button-down white and black shirts.


A variety of heels in different colours are no longer needed. 

Skirted suits - although I still love the look of them, I truly have nowhere to wear them.


A pair of tall black flat heeled boots that will help elongate my look.

I am in transition, have been for two years now and I found a quote by a mom that says what I am feeling about my closet. I never have been a mom but it fits where I am in my life right now . . .

I'm a mom, so I have to be comfortable. Jeans are a staple . . . But I also love getting dressed up!
- Candace Cameron Bure

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Biker Chic . . . Again . . .

How many times can one live through the style description, "biker chic" or is that "chick"? In my fashion-conscious lifetime and hey, I'm not that old (relatively speaking), it has recurred at least every three years. So here we go again . . .

With its history, I believe the leather motorcycle/aviator jacket could be considered a classic since it has recurred every three years or so over the past 30. It's 2013 and Holt Renfrew in Canada has illustrated "the fall's hottest trend, a leather motorcycle inspired jacket". I saw it through the 70s in high school, the 80s in university, the 90s while I was developing a career and now, that I am officially "retired", it is 2013 and the "leather motorcycle inspired jacket" is still here and there. That smacks of being a classic. 
Of the jackets featured on the Holt Renfrew site, the Rag & Bone and the Helmut Helmut Lang are my favourites.

Helmut Lang. Photo Source: Holt Renfrew
Rag & Bone. Photo Source: Holt Renfrew 

I have never owned a leather jacket of this style. I guess I always thought that they were too trendy and so opted for a more classic cut. I also preferred longer jackets and so although I have tried on a few, I have never purchased one. As I study the Helmut Lang jacket, I think to myself that perhaps it's time - this would be a NICE one for me.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Do Not Bleach!

Grey & white striped Armor Lux top. Photo by JoyD.
After Bleaching - grey is now pinky beige. Photo by JoyD

So what part of "do not bleach" did I not understand? I noticed a black smudge on my Amor-Lux grey and white striped long-sleeved top. I decided that I would use one of those bleach pens to just dab it lightly and if the grey bleached out white a bit, I could live with that. Trouble is the bleach turned the grey to a pinky beige colour. So then there was a pinky beige splotch on the grey and white stripes - actually worse that the black smudge that was there in the first place. So what did I do? Bleached the whole thing of course. Now instead of grey stripes, I have pinky beige stripes. I can live with that but I am annoyed with myself for not heeding the manufacturer's washing instructions.

Funny thing is, and it must be my personality type, I began looking for an explanation online after I created the problem instead of looking for a solution for the black smudge in the first place. I do like understanding why something happened.

So now after the fact I found out from Yahoo Answers that the fabric, when you use bleach, "won't turn white. It will only bring it back to the original fabric colour before . . . dyed grey in the factory". Is that a fact? I read about a guy who put bleach into his wash of grey sweats and they all came out pink. Now I know and so does he.

Now we know! Here are a few other things I already knew and a couple I learned about bleach, after the fact:
Bleach takes out stains from certain fabrics, it should not be used as a dye (for a lighter colour). 
If you are trying to get "white" by bleaching dark clothing, it probably won't happen. They will lighten but never become truly white. And of course, there's the other explanation of bleaching bringing fabric back to the original colour in the factory.
Always dilute bleach. Straight bleach can damage clothing. 
Wear gloves in a well ventilated area when working with bleach. 
As far as clothing goes, linen and cotton stand up best to bleaching. However, rayon and some polyesters also can stand up to bleach.
To work effectively, bleach needs to be mixed with warm or hot water. 
Never mix vinegar with bleach - the two create a toxic gas. Just click if you need the scientific explanation. 
Wool and silk are far too delicate to bleach. It may in fact weaken the fibers to the point of disintegration.
There are plenty of sites giving good advice when working with bleach. I'm old enough to have known better. Sigh.