Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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The small section of town known as Old Town Scottsdale includes a park, a history museum, and a performing arts center. The retail establishments are known for western art and Mexican imports. Native American jewelry and pottery can be purchased, as well as contemporary cowboy and cowgirl fashion. There is a popular farmers’ market on Saturday morning, and many bars and restaurants are scattered throughout the area. Many of the businesses have been in the same location for decades. It is a tourist destination for winter visitors, especially baseball fans who come for Spring Training.
I visited recently for a photo shoot capture some architectural and botanical images, and brunch. I stopped at the centrally located information booth run by Downtown Ambassadors to ask a few questions. I inquired about the Mexican food dining options within walking distance. Susan Sentner and her sidekick Joyce were on duty greeting visitors. They were a wealth of knowledge as well as welcoming, warm, and witty. They helped me locate the perfect brunch for me at the Mission, and furnished me with a list of all the public art in Old Town. I had fun swapping stories with these friendly ladies. They greatly enhanced my knowledge of Old Town as well as my enjoyment of it. After my delightful meal I had run out of time to photograph all the public art pieces. I have saved the list and map for a future project when I return for my next visit.
There are volunteer ambassadors to greet and guide visitors at information carts located at both Main St & Brown Avenue and at 5th Avenue and Stetson, seven days a week, from October through May. They are proud of their city and have valuable insights to share with guests. If you go to Old Town make sure you take advantage of their free services to make the most of your visit. They know everything.
The advertising industry fills the consumer’s mind with dreams of more consumption. That is the job of propaganda, to convince the public to buy more of everything. We now discard our clothing and buy more than ever at a faster rate. Disposable fashion is a good example of how we rape the earth’s resources without subtracting the loss from our ever expanding GDP. We buy the cheapest clothing with the plan of wearing it only a few times before moving on to more new outfits available at very low prices.
There are some of us who object to the whole trend because it results in poorly made garments. Locavores like me are bringing up the concept of sustainable chic as a fashion standard. The Primark Effect refers the growing danger of discarded fiber in the landfills around the world. We have begun to throw out clothes at a dangerous rate of speed. The handcrafted garments of the past are giving way to cheap, poorly made and designed goods produced with slave labor in the third world. Disposable fashion is a real and growing thing. The only real winners are the companies producing these cheap products and their retail outlets.
My first choice for wardrobe shopping is thrift shopping. It is a sport for me to find classic, well made garments for good prices. The older clothing can be exquisitely well made with fine tailoring that is not common these days. I like all kinds of finds, but the older the better if it is still in good shape to use. I still enjoy sewing from time to time because it is a pleasure to bring a garment to life from scratch. My fashion philosophy is to acquire and take care of unique, well-made goods that will last for a long time. I prefer that they be previously owned or come to me in the form of a piece of lovely fabric and some buttons. I like to feel that nobody else can ever show up dressed like I am. How do you shop for your clothing, gentle reader? Have you given any thought to the effects our cheap clothing has on the economy and the environment?
There is much to be said for having a signature style by which one is recognized. One leaves a lasting impression with costuming, intentional or not. I have spent more money and time in my life shopping for clothing and fashion accessories than I care to calculate. I think I am above average as a shopper in skill and bargain hunting. This is how I rationalize the obsession with owning too much clothing. Since discovering the tidy muse my struggle to release and repurpose much of my stuff has become obvious. I have gradually been thinning out the wardrobe, but have reached a basic truth about what I value. I like to be able to shape shift. It is not really disguise, per se, but it is costuming.
I always had at least two careers at the same time. I taught swimming and fitness and was also an outside sales travel agent. Outside sales means find your own business and split commission with the house. I did not dress up and spend the day at the agency answering calls. I came and went when I made sales. I often went during the night to run tickets at the travel agency just so I could have the whole place to myself. This strictly financial agreement came with no dress code, but I did feel the need to change into street clothing rather than show up at the office in a leotard and tights with a warm up suit if I went during office hours. Sometimes I came in the back door in my swim suit and did a quick change in the bathroom like superman. I also had two briefcases designated one for fitness and one for travel because we did all kinds of things on paper in those days. I used a black Swissair briefcase for travel and something southwestern with no travel company logos for the spa. I often provided travel services to my work colleagues at the spa, but I kept the whole filing system separate in those briefcases. They were looks, they were also personas. You are what you wear at least as much as you are what you eat. Costuming is everything.
Now that I never have to work at any office but my own at home I am trying to narrow down the broad range of costuming I have acquired. The Japanese tidy system demands that I decide why I want to keep my things, and why they make me happy. This whole process has brought me to an examination of my delight in shape shifting. I have always loved it. I had a giant dress up box as a child, and must have been influenced heavily to believe in the value of limitless wardrobe choices. A look into my closets confirms that I am still under that spell. I am going to eliminate more and scale down to ONLY the items that give me great joy. I am in the process of figuring out how to keep my options from up to down, mature to infantile, straight to hippie, athletic to hipster, and work to party. I do think I still need all that. I just don’t need so many items in each category. I don’t enjoy having just one signature look. I like to keep them guessing and myself amused. How do you dress, gentle reader? Do you dress to impress, for comfort, or for effect? I think I do all three.
There are not many stores that cater to sewing today because there are very few people who know how to sew. I always enjoyed the selection process as well as the craft and fitting. Now I feel like a kind of special agent of fashion because I know how to sew. You do reap what you sew. You also wear what you sew. It can be the best way to truly express unique fashion choices. I like to wear something that nobody else has, or even has seen. I also have a funny commemorative way of dressing that harkens back to days when I did long trips all over the place. I would assemble my trip wardrobe with great care and anticipation, thinking about weather and activities. Time permitting I would sew something for the trip that would make a debut on the road. I liked to associate certain clothing with certain places where I thought they looked their best. I no longer globe trot at such a pace, nor do I plan so many back to back obligations when I travel now. My wardrobe is casual like it is at home, with few exceptions.
Last year when I attended a reunion party at my old junior high I sewed a special skirt in honor of the home economics teacher who gave me a D on my apron in seventh grade. She was not in attendance, but I had something to prove when I went on a tour of my old school with my old classmates. The skirt turned out okay and I had my triumphant secret moment in the hallway where Mrs. G had been the hall monitor daily. I swished right by her imaginary self and let her know that I could sew. This year when I attended a reunion party in Austin with a group who lived in Venezuela in the 1960’s I made a signature pair of pants. I found some fabric with little skeleton cards portraying Day of the Dead figures. Tucson has a very big celebration of this holiday each year, so I decided to make a pair of pants as a conversation piece about my home town. The pants are fine, and on the first day in Texas I found a tee shirt that matched perfectly and had a purple longhorn, too. I was stylin’ and not too hot since the pants were loose fitting cotton. I received many compliments on them during my visit, and then wore them to the Venezuela reunion party. It was National Dance Day and I was ready. Here I am singing and dancing in my fancy pants, which I will forever associate with this party. While I don’t think it would be good to try to have your clothes match everything you do, sometimes it is fun. That is why I sew.
Fashion follows function. In the 1950’s a model had limited options. She could be a junior or a high fashion model, a field that was evolving. Jean Patchett was a Mad Man’s dream, a fashion model married to a New York banker. She set style, but was not drawing any revenue from the rip off of her iconic eye and mouth printed on pairs of pajamas. She was in the vanguard of personal branding, but not the beneficiary of it. This interview with Edward R Murrow is a trip to a more sexist time. Jean’s famous eye had become an icon, but she had no creative control over it. She was happy just to be an icon with a famous eye, and her banker husband is happy for the same reasons.
She left us with some stunning images of her beautiful self in some amazing fashion. We will never know how liberated she was. She was able to live a life full of more travel opportunities than many had in that time, and the photos reflect her world travel. Her decision to be serious rather than smile in her shots is what made her a “high fashion” model. She was a ground breaker. She perfected the genre.
I do not need to shop again for the rest of my life, but there are times that I am inspired to do so. While visiting my childhood home town of Oakmont, PA I found not only the inspiration, but also very high quality goods at rock bottom prices. Ambiance Boutique is run for the benefit of an organization called Bethlehem Haven. The upscale consignment retail store carefully selects and curates a collection of very high-end clothing and household goods. The system in place progressively discounts the item as it stays on the rack or shelf, so if it does not sell it becomes more affordable. I went in out of curiosity and was hooked. I scored such fabulous deals the first day, and was given a coupon for 10% off my next purchase. When I returned with the coupon and found the 75% off rack the next day, they almost paid me to take two stylin’ blouses off their hands. I thought I was done until I saw that black purse that was just too much of a bargain to leave on the mannequin.
If you live in Pittsburgh, and particularly if you have not been thrift shopping in the past, I urge you to go to Ambiance. The store is elegant, the staff is much more professional than the other retail stores I visited here. This is the kind of town where good customer service is reserved for people who live here, and the stranger is treated as an annoyance. This will NOT happen in Ambiance. You will be greeted and served as if you are the most important shopper on earth. Alexandra acts like a personal shopper at Nordstrom, but she is working for the betterment of homeless women in the Pittsburgh area. If I were ever going to use the phrase win-win, it would be to convince you to try Ambiance. Since I don’t use that phrase let me just encourage you to see if there might be something very special and very well priced in this store for you. Tell them Pam sent you and you want to see the 75% off rack.
For years I made most of my clothing and a lot of the items for my home, like curtains. I have always had very specific fashion requirements that were fostered by my sewing mother. She achieved greater skill and ability as a tailor, but I know I got the idea, and perhaps some talent, from her. My parents went to conventions with petroleum engineers all over the world. Months before the trip my mother would make outfits for the event that included matching hats and shoes. She often looked like QEII with all the matchy-matchy. She did have clothes from stores, but her best stuff in the 1950’s was made with her own hands.
Last year I started sewing again because I own a big stash of fabric and two machines. I found that creating with fabric makes me happier than ever. I used to sew because it was a cheap and easy way to create my clothing; ironically, now supplies are much more expensive, making it much less of a bargain. The satisfaction is in the choices at each step along the process. I do not need to buy any fabric, but rather need to use all the leftovers I have collected. This is like going through the fridge and deciding to make soup based on what you have. You decide what makes it delicious. It will be exactly to your taste.
Color and pattern work together in creating a design. My fabric stash offers many different weights and composition in fabric. I selected them because they fit into a color palette that matches other items in my wardrobe. I have both woven and knit to use in my fall collection. I will start by making a wrap skirt to keep it simple. I am not in the mood for zippers. I am seeking fairly instant gratification. I also want to use my stash without buying any more fabric or notions. I own some great buttons, and should get them out to see what they might enhance. The creativity of working with fabric, notions, and design is endless. Evolving hand made fashion is especially fulfilling to me. I may take apart some old garments and reuse my favorite parts of them too. I admire all the upcycled fashion I see being used in new ways. Even folks who don’t sew or have a machine can find really cool designs to create from knit fabric, like tee shirts. Join the fun for fashion that expresses the real you.
The merging of the senses is a process and a practice. To create an artist or inventor can call on all the senses and blend the associations into new meaning. You may be synesthetic in certain parts of you life, such as personal fashion or cuisine. I make an attempt to both try new experiences and blend all the sensory information into art. My artistic sense was inspired long ago by my design teacher, Max Gottschalk, who began the semester with a lecture about designing your life. I also hung out with Max later in his life and had the pleasure of doing some major synesthesia with him when he was 92 and pretty far out there. At that time he used to refer to “sonic water” when we were in the water. I questioned him thoroughly about this sonic water, but he provided little detail. I still wonder about that.
I went to Las Vegas to tour Zappos headquarters recently. My goals were entirely fulfilled on the tour. In order to get there I flew to Vegas, stayed at a big casino hotel, and coincidentally went to a fashion show. I flew home after a little more than 24 hours, but the tightly scheduled events, including the Mormons on the plane ride back, have all become one big circus in my mind. Without intending to do so, I created the circumstances that are perfect for synesthetic problem solving. I left with a design in my head for a very important event I had been planning for ages. The juxtaposition of over the top Bellagio surroundings, Zappo’s over the top customer service, and clothing designer Joey Galon’s over the top evening gowns have all merged in my creative process to outline the best little mermaid bat mitzvah after party ever attempted.
I am on a mission to create for my 13 year old friend Mollie a party that expresses her own creativity and that of a few of her close friends. With the date is closing in, and I had no real plan to pull this whole idea into shape. I have given her a sewing machine, a 20 minute sewing lesson, and some prom dresses. Thanks to the various senses that merged the Las Vegas experience for me, we now know what we are going to do!!! Mollie will assemble the girls and fit them into the dresses they like best. She will cut off the bottom of the dress and we will retrofit them all to be mermaid dresses. Some individual craft work on the bottom of each dress will make each an individual and unique piece of art. I always like to put lessons inside a fun project because that inspires me. I believe I can deliver sewing and fashion design lessons from the upcycle perspective to some unsuspecting young ladies.