Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Fashion Revolution Week: An Act of Defiance

 This is Fashion Revolution Week, hosted by

"In an age of ugliness, a work of beauty is an act of defiance" – Sir Roger Scruton

The above quote was used in a video about the ugliness of contemporary buildings (such as monster apartment towers),  by Paul Joseph Watson. He said,

"We are witnessing the uglification of the world. The Globalist goal is to make the whole planet identical in its atomizing dreariness. By dulling our senses they hope to dull our very life essence. This is all inherently totalitarian, but in an age of ugliness, a work of beauty is an act of defiance.”

You can think anything you want about globalism and what "they" want, that's not the point here. Or, rather, that is the point, that no matter where we stand on the political spectrum, there is one common aim: to promote and celebrate a special kind of beauty:

  • the beauty of our world, when we haven't polluted it through the excesses of industry
  • the beauty of natural fabrics and dyes that lessen that pollution 
  • the beauty of colour, and not just the same few colours that a handful of marketers have decided to sell us this season
  • the beauty of human beings who are treated as such in their places of work
  • the beauty of clothes, shoes, and jewelry that are well made, not slapped together
  • the beauty of traditional arts, especially in fabric and jewelry design
  • the beauty of things thoughtfully designed, that don't "make the whole planet identical"
  • the beauty of things cherished and cared for.
We don't have to dress like teenagers or celebrities to promote this kind of beauty. We don't even have to dress in ways that stick out. We can find it in style that appeals to the more mature among us, to those who like things plain, and to those who love to shine. We can find it in imaginative application of colour, and creative uses of a small wardrobe. We can find it in designs that show the beauty of different shapes, sizes, and physical needs; and in clothes that will hold together and look good for a long time. 

Don't ask just "who made my clothes," but "who chose my clothes?" 

All this can be the work of beauty. It can also be our act of defiance.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Fashion Revolution Week: Siege Mentality

Back when her kids were young and she homeschooled them, she found out that she was good at two things: turning yard-saled books and random "stuff" into a coherent curriculum; and reading ancient history with them. Now that she's an empty-nester, she's turned her history lessons into a series of books that get other people's kids interested in the Peloponnesian Wars. And her gift for organized-randomness still gets her called on, now and then, to talk about "stuff." (It also helps her find interesting clothes in thrifty places.)

Recently she has been reading about a Spartan general named Gylippus, who was sent to help defend another city that was besieged by the Athenians. Why did the Spartans choose Gylippus? Because he had a knack for seeing potential in situations where others saw only problems. A kindred spirit, perhaps? Well, not entirely: after all his military success, Gylippus was run out of town for embezzlement. Nobody's perfect.

Still, she finds his attitude inspiring, and thinks about it as she contemplates her next closet cleanout and some plans for warmer weather (she's between writing projects at the moment). What did Gylippus actually do to break the siege? First of all, he stopped the Athenians from their usual routine of building a surrounding wall, by building his own wall to cross it. (Reminds her of some board games she used to play with the kids.) Instead of just breaking down the enemy's walls, he built his own, literally forcing things to move in a new direction.

His second strategy was to get all the help he could from neighbouring states.

Finally, Gylippus pulled out the big guns...well, spears and arrows and things like a major battle in the harbour. He used all the strategies, weapons and resources at his disposal, and defeated the Athenian fleet.

What does this have to do with  #fashionrevolution and her own clothes? Well, she's not quite sure where the next while is going to take her. As a matter of fact she's finding the world quite confusing right now, and clothes are no exception. What has happened to her favourite tunic tops and skinny pants? "Styles have changed a great deal in the past two years," says one article, pointing to trends like wider jeans, tucked-in sweaters,  and comfortable shoes. She's happy about the shoes, but iffy about the big jeans, and the current bra-as-top thing is definitely a no. Should she ignore the trends and keep wearing her skinnies, or stick to classic clothes and neutral colours? "I have a tiny wardrobe," says a well-dressed,  younger-than-her You-tuber, "but I don't bother with boring basics, just things I really like." 

She appreciates reversals like that: they're a reminder that, like Gylippus or a really good yard sale (whenever yard sales might reappear on the radar), it pays to look at things from unexpected angles.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Fashion Revolution Week: Mean Business, Make Waffles

This is Fashion Revolution Week, hosted by

First, a bit of an "imaginary heroine" story from The Vivienne Files:

"She returned [from her vacation] to a madhouse. Drinking at lunch, crying in the bathrooms, shouting in the halls – it had all of the elements of a bad soap opera, without the romance…

"So she decided that it was finally time to take over.  She’d considered it before, but wasn’t really all that interested in management. But when she saw how absolutely miserable her co-workers were, she started to plan."

Do you notice something that's not going on in that office?  The drinking, crying, shouting employees aren't doing anything to improve the situation, no matter what their qualifications or skills are supposed to be. As the story continues, the heroine assumes the role of ad-hoc manager by managing.

Here's an older story: the 1921 novel Re-Creations, by Grace Livingston Hill. During her senior year of college, Cornelia is called home due to family needs. At first she is annoyed, but then she realizes how desperate things have gotten and how badly the household needs someone to take on an adult role. (The mother has been hospitalized, apparently from overworking and undereating.)

"It was no use whatever to sit here and cry about it when such a mountain of work awaited her. The lady on the train had been right when she told her there would be plenty of chance for her talent...At least things could be clean and tidy. And there should be waffles!"

What needs to happen to make this family's world better can only be done by doing, and Cornelia has to be the one to get the ball rolling.

So what are we talking about here? Bossing people around? Washing sheets and making waffles? Not exactly...more like...if the mess is all around you, don't wait for somebody else to clean it up. If you have people around you, of any age or relationship, you're modelling behaviour for them, like it or not.  So start somewhere. Stay calm. Use your talents. Make a plan. 

Act (and, if necessary, dress) to show you mean it. In the case of the Vivienne Files heroine, getting people to take her seriously meant dressing up; but for Cornelia, who had a house to scrub down, dinner to cook, and curtains to stencil, it was the opposite.

Ask for help and co-operation, but make sure your helpers get waffles (or pizza, or whatever).

And what might this have to do with Fashion Revolution Week? Simply this: if you're troubled by little or big problems (like fast fashion), decide to be part of the solution; and then do something to show that you mean business. 

People will notice.

What happens when someone takes this advice to heart? Part Two will be posted on Tuesday..

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

From the archives: what we were doing ten years ago

First posted April 2011. Edited slightly.

The weather here is still on and off--mixed snow, rain and general gloom.  Sore throats and general malaise have several of the Squirrels not up to doing much this week. 

However:  so far we have managed to:

make a quart of yogurt (this is a good home ec lesson for days when you don't want people sneezing all over the ingredients--just one person has to actually handle the milk and starter)
make a pot of pepperoni-lentil-beef broth-carrot soup, good for what ails you
start a jar of lentil sprouts
make a big pan of orange-coconut-almond granola (we're short on boxed cereal)
bake gingerbread
wash a bunch of laundry
fold a bunch of laundry
iron some grab-bag fabric for sewing
read half of Plutarch's Life of Solon (that was Mama Squirrel)
listen to a good chunk of the audio book of Number the Stars (that was Ponytails)
read several fairy tales from The Fairy Ring (that was Crayons)
turn more plastic spoons into little people (Crayons)
keep reading The Book of Three (Mama Squirrel and Ponytails)
finish Daddy-Long-Legs (Mama Squirrel and Crayons)
"But there is a different kind of virtue, the kind that children know about, the feeling of self-worth and happiness that comes from purely personal achievement.  The kitchen is just about the only place in the house where a whole family can re-learn this kind of virtue, where there is comfort, joy and enormous pleasure in doing something simple together, and then enjoying it together."--James BarberThe Urban Peasant

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Killing it on the keyboard

 From this Side of the Pond


1. What is something you currently find 'taxing'?

Going to leave that one aside this time. The big things are the too-obvious ones, and the small ones are too personal. Or the other way around.

2. I've seen this question asked in various forms on several social media can only keep three-

coffee, jewelry, tacos, wine, books, dogs, chocolate, Netflix, make-up, leggings, cheese, cats

Which three do you keep and how easy or hard was it for you to decide? 

Would anybody not say "books?" I mean, over cheese and leggings?

Cats and dogs in general, those with whom I am acquainted, or those which I might host myself? Since I don't have any of the third group, and know very few of the second besides my daughter's chihuahua, I'd probably cross them off. I mean, if we're talking in terms of a "no pets" apartment or something.

I don't drink wine, and don't care especially about tacos. Netflix I can take or leave.

So I guess that leaves coffee, jewelry, and makeup! Coffee stays. And I'm getting should probably stick around. Apologies to my earrings.

P.S. Oh, I forgot about chocolate. I'm with Joyce on this one: it would be pretty hard to cross off the list of life's good things. Somebody invent a chocolate that doubles as lipstick, okay?

3. Tell us something you know or have learned about forgiveness? 

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
― Oscar Wilde

4. What's something you'd recommend that is often overlooked and under appreciated? 

Vanilla ice cream.

5. Give us a favorite word that starts with letter K and tell us why this is the one you chose. 

Keyboard, as in computer. Because you never appreciate one fully until you've had to do an entire blog post using a touchpad.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Paul Klee did a "priorities" game one time too. This was his conclusion:

"First of all, the art of living; then as my ideal profession, poetry and philosophy, and as my real profession, plastic arts; in the last resort, for lack of income, illustrations."   —Paul Klee.

(Gualtieri Di San Lazzaro, Klee. Praeger, New York, 1957

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.