Posts tagged ‘clothing’

January 14, 2014

A Year of Ethical Fashion

The brainchild of the famous Pip Lincolne of ‘Meet me at Mikes’, the Year of Ethical Fashion is a blogger challenge that I first came across when Ruthy of Minibreak Mummy wrote this post about Who Made Your Pants? – an ethical underwear company.

Pip’s challenge is for people to:

  • wear clothes you already own
  • buy from ethical companies
  • make your own clothing
  • buy second-hand and vintage
  • swap with other folk

This subject resonates heavily with me, as I have long raged about cheap fashion. The nasty truth is that if you’re paying very little for your clothing, the chances are that someone, somewhere is paying a far heftier price. A lack of regulated working conditions, no sick or maternity pay, no regular breaks for food or the toilet, not to mention horrific factory disasters such as the recent fire in Bangladesh; the worst disaster in the garment industry’s history. And this is even before we start talking about child labour.

My own rules for clothing purchases have long been this:

  • Only buy what you NEED – and then wear your clothes, don’t leave them languishing in a wardrobe with the tags still on because you’ve got so much stuff!
  • Only buy what you LOVE – that way you’re not wasting money, resources and someone’s work on something you’re ambivalent about. (I realise that necessary clothing might not fit into this – but I think that work clothes that make you feel good do actually make life better…)
  • Look after your clothes properly. Wash according to the instructions. Take proper care of your belongings. Realise that resources are not infinite and treat them accordingly.
  • Get stuff repaired – I had my beloved (only) pair of jeans repaired at the end of last year, and they have months of life in them now.

One final point. The campaigning group Labour Behind The Label, suggest that one thing we could all do, regardless of where we shop, is to write to clothing companies and ask them about their labour policies. The more pressure they receive, especially from their customers (because that’s where their profit lies!) the more likely they are to improve their supply chain and those people who are making our clothes for us will receive a fairer deal. Sounds like an excellent idea to me. Take a look HERE for their guidance on doing this. 

I’ll be following this challenge with interest this year (and wearing what I already own) and I’m really hoping to come across some new ethical companies in the process.

A Year of Ethical Fashion

June 27, 2013

Converse All Stars

I love my Converse. Apart from the occasional foray into my ‘grown-up’ shoes and summer sandals, I’m generally to be found in a pair of worn out All Stars. So, my birthday gift this year – a pair of bright red high tops – was perfect. I love them. And so does my daughter. She’s already decided that she needs a pair too, in pink and that my son needs a pair too, in blue. Though if he gets his own way, he’ll be in pink too, which is fair enough.

But her love for them has made me worry a little. Am I too old for Converse? I’m thirty seven now. Will I still be wearing them when I’m forty? Fifty, even? Longer? And is that a problem? Perhaps the day I become too old for Converse is the day my kids go from wanting to emulate my footwear to being embarrassed by it. I know that every parent reaches the day when they stop being Practically Perfect in Every Way (thanks Ms Poppins) to being Embarrassing Parent. I’m ready for that day. In fact, I’m going to embrace all aspects of being Embarrassing Mum when that day arrives. Might dye my hair blue. Or take up the robot dance.


I know that the physiotherapist chap I went to see about my poor knackered old feet wasn’t too thrilled when I told him that I mainly wear Converse, though he did say  ‘at least they’re not ballet flats’ which apparently, along with the dreaded Ugg boots, are worse in terms of support. So maybe the day I hang up my Converse is the day my feet are well and truly too rubbish to cope with the lack of support and I’ll move straight from my high-tops into the velcro-fastening things my beloved Grandma wears. But then she’s 90, so I reckon if I can still bend over to tie my laces by then, I’ll be happy enough.

After a long and hard (or, truthfully, short and flippant) think about it, I’ve decided to keep my Converse on for as long as I choose. To decide for myself whether I’m too old for them or not and not be bullied by anyone into changing into grown up shoes. Unless, I want grown up shoes, of course. But that’s another blog post entirely…

What do you think? Is there an age limit for wearing sneakers? Let me know in the comments!

September 14, 2012


So, I promised you a post about something other than gardening. This is very different. In fact, I’ve been deliberating about whether to write about it at all, because it feels a bit confessional. Deep breath. Here goes…

The other day, something happened by accident. I bought a doll. For myself.

It started when I was on Ebay looking for a toy ‘Mack’ truck from the Disney film ‘Cars’, which is somewhat elusive as its not available in shops now.  I’ve been battling with folk up and down the country bidding for one on Ebay. Thankfully, finally, I managed to acquire one. It was totally worth it to see the look on my little boy’s face. He’d been asking for one for a very long time! Anyway, while I was pootling around Ebay (in the toy section, obviously) I came across this doll. Now, I’ve loved Blythe dolls for ages – ever since I saw an article about them and realised that the dolls illustrating the article were wearing Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci and Vivienne Westwood. Westwood, for heaven’s sake…

But then, as usual, things and life took over and although I had a passing love for the dolls, I did nothing about it. Until a few weeks ago. Have you ever been on the internet and found yourself overtaken by events and somehow shopping for stuff you never intended to buy? Usually for me, it’s holidays. I get carried away booking holidays online and shrug my shoulders when I think about how on earth I might pay for them. It’s always worked out, more or less.

This time, I ended up buying a doll. Usually, the dolls are imported from Asia, in particular Japan, where the Junie Moon store lives. This doll was a mere hop over the Pennines. And she was customised. And that was it. I loved her straight away and, armed with money from my savings account ( so, please, don’t let the boiler blow up any time soon), I bought her.

The reaction is interesting. Half of the people I know, including my daughter, love her. The other half, including my husband, are less enamoured. She freaks them out. Its the eyes. My husband is convinced she’s going to kill him in his sleep, which obviously amuses me no end. I’m just waiting for the opportunity to somehow move her across the room in the night and then wake him up by clutching him, asking ‘Did you see that? She moved…’

What I’ve realised since immersing myself in the world of Blythe is that the dolls are merely a conduit to many other things. People customise them, make clothes, take photos. There are so many Flickr accounts for Blythe, they’re probably half the content! She’s the ideal model, given that she’s super photogenic and doesn’t pull faces, unlike my kids.

You may think I’m too old to play with dolls. Perhaps I am. I’m also too old to be bullied or ashamed for it too though. Play, in all forms, isn’t just for kids. From computer games to model railways, football to dance, many of us have hobbies that are ‘play’, and why shouldn’t we? How many of you have wrestled the Lego from your kids, going ‘ no, no, you’re doing it wrong, let’s do it like this‘? Most of us would admit, that to a greater or lesser degree, that we feel as though we’re faking this whole ‘adulthood’ thing anyway, so I say, lets all just admit it, and play a bit more.

My post the other day contained three things. A gas bill. A letter from the dentist. And a tiny,beautiful hand-sewn dress, bought from Etsy and sent all the way from Australia. I don’t care how old you are, post from abroad is exciting. In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with images of horrible happenings we can do nothing about, where we’re told there are no jobs, everything is doom and gloom and there is seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel, a little escapism in the form of play is exactly what is needed.

Play: not just for kids…

June 15, 2012

Red Trousers

I bought some red trousers recently. It’s not a big deal perhaps in the grand scheme of things, but for me it was a monumentous occasion. I’d had a yearning for a pair of coloured trousers for a while, they’re all over the High Street, so Hillary and I went to try some on just for fun. I don’t really wear the kind of clothes that might make me stand out. I’m more of a one-of-the-crowd kind of dresser. You know, safe colours, lots of black and denim. Nothing that shouts ‘look at ME”. So I thought we were really going to try them on for a bit of a giggle and that would be it.

However, after a few pretty ridiculous colours, I tried on the red ones and against all expectations, they looked ok. Good, in fact. So, urged on by my usual Twitter accomplices, I bought them. It took me a good few days to pluck up the courage to wear them but I did in the end. On the school run. Now, if you believe the press, the school run is a daily fashion parade. However, unless you’re the rich, yet unfortunate folk who have Claudia Schiffer or Elle MacPherson on your school run (in which case, you should accept graceful defeat) it’s not. It’s mostly just harrassed parents wearing whatever they happened to grab, or whatever they’re wearing to work. It’s not really a natural red trouser habitat.

As I’m always late on the school run, once the fatal decision was made, I just had to go with it. There is no time in my morning ‘schedule’ for spending ages in front of my tiny wardrobe making choices. First outfit I put on, I go with. Even if it’s red trousers.

And it was fine. Despite the fact that, accompanied by my beloved brown knee length boots, I was veering dangerously close to Dick Whittington territory. Or, as a work colleague put it, a cross between highway-woman and pirate. I quite like that though. One of my lovely Twitter friends said that red trousers make everyone smile at you. Or snigger behind your back, I suppose. I didn’t really notice too much sniggering, which I think is a good sign. That, and the fact that my daughter’s much younger and cooler teacher told me she liked them. Without laughing or any prompting on my part!

What I’ve realised about this experience is that if you wear something with confidence (even if that’s feigned to start with) people will accept it as being fine. The other thing is, that really, people don’t care. We all like to think we’re really important, but honestly, everyone is so worried about themselves and what is going on in their own life, they’re barely going to register you. And if, for the few seconds I walk past them, my red trousers make them smile, then that’s ok. It’s even ok if they tell their friends later and have a laugh at my expense. I don’t care. Life is too short to be scared of your trousers…

Sadly this post is something of a eulogy for my red trousers. Having got over my initial fear, I literally wore them out. The downside of buying cheap trousers because you don’t think you’ll ever dare wear them. So the hunt for a replacement pair begins. Now I’ve tasted the joy of being braver (even just a tiny bit) with my clothing, I am hooked.


February 24, 2012

In Bed is the New Front Row: London Fashion Week.

As I write this, London Fashion Week is just coming to a close.

Fashion is a subject that I return to time and time again. I love it. I used to work in fashion retail, in between veterinary nursing and my degree at agricultural college. An odd mix, I grant you, and one that probably ensures that I will never be on the Front Row at any catwalk show in the near future. That, and the fact that I’m a thirty-five year old woman with two small kids and a 9-5 job doing something completely different. Oh, and despite a wish list as long as my arm,  no money to spend.

But as luck would have it, I no longer have to sit on the Front Row to see some of the catwalk shows unfolding before my eyes, at the very same time as the people who were actually invited! The wonders of technology, together with some kind of democratisation of fashion and (whisper it) a desire to be profitable in uncertain economic times have led to live-streaming. Lovely live-streaming, which means that I can sit in bed with a cup of tea, and watch the fashion as it happens. In bed is the new Front Row, as the fabulous @Bettymagazine tweeted to me the other day ( I know, I’m name dropping, I might get a ticket one of these days…)

I’ve spoken before about the speed of the fashion industry being a bit of a pain – and at the moment, I’m still not yet wearing the spring and summer pastel frocks I was promised and I’m already thinking about the clothing I might be wearing in the bloody winter. This is because, despite my protestations that everything needs to just slow down a bit, I am still drawn like a moth to a flame, towards the whole thing.

So, what have I managed to see?

Mulberry: Emma Hill’s show, influenced, as far as I could tell, by ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ (although that might just an indicator of how far my life is removed from what is fashionable) was beautiful. Too much fur for my liking – I would never wear it – but the colours and textures of the tweed and lace pieces were stunning, and I am finding myself thinking even more about how the hell I could wear orange, a colour I love, but which does not love me. Most of the Twitter chat around this show was centred around the new Mulberry bag – the Del Rey – which, named after Lana, is a beautifully classic number which will be available in the Autumn. Seriously, Lana Del Rey has been around for about half an hour and she’s got a Vogue cover and a Mulberry bag? That’s some work…

McQ: Livestreamed via their Facebook page, this was a bit less successful, purely because of the way the formatting had been designed. Having said that, it was still easy enough to see that I want everything in this collection. Suiting reminiscent of the war years in olive green and burgundy, incredible petticoated dresses with floral applique and the most beautiful finale by the bride, Kristen McMenamy, it was shiver-down-the-spine wonderful and felt like Sarah Burton had returned to the McQueen archive, and brought the best of it, with her own twists, to the catwalk again.

Mary Katrantzou: One of my very favourite designers ( I wrote about her prints here) and  the toast of the fashion industry with collaborations with both Top Shop and one of my perennial favourites, Longchamp. Now, I’ll say here, that this live streaming was a bit of a nightmare to watch, clashing as it did with the school run (honestly, what were they thinking?)  Still, I kind of managed it. And, WOW, was it worth it. For the first time, the Parisian couture embroiderers, Lesage, have worked with a London designer and the addition of this incredible embroidery to the  intricate and unique digital prints brought a whole new dimension to her work. An amazing collection and one that cements her position at the very top of the fashion industry.

So, in bed is the new Front Row. It’s been a pleasure to see some of the the Autumn Winter 2012 collections on the catwalk. Now all I need to do is work out how I’m going to afford some of them…

January 6, 2012

Almost Haute Couture…

Those of you who have been here before will remember that I promised myself a blogging schedule that included a ‘Margot Friday’ post, about the rather more glamorous of my interests. So, what I am I doing talking about sewing then? Surely that is more of a Barbara kind of activity? When it is sewing up holes in old clothes and re-attaching buttons, that is.

When your sewing instructor asks you what, in your wildest dreams, would you like to create and you say ‘Haute Couture?’ it suddenly becomes a Margot activity. Even if I’m the one sewing it, there is nothing more luxurious than having something handmade and therefore unique.

On Wednesday I had the great pleasure to finally meet Abi Manifold from Sew You who designs and makes the most beautiful pieces – bunting, ipad cases, purses and all manner of pretty things. I highly recommend you take a look at what she has for sale here. She makes bespoke bunting too, which is my absolute favourite.

The other thing she does is teach people like me to sew. People who have never even sat in front of a sewing machine, let alone used one. I met Abi through the power of Twitter, which I am beginning to think has changed my life. The odd thing about Twitter is that we never get to meet many of the real people we chat to each and every day. I am lucky that I have already met two – and they’ve both been wonderful.

In her bright and colourful studio above the street in wet and windy Saltaire (where I’d appeared like the proverbial drowned rat, and been given restorative tea) she showed me everything I needed to know about a sewing machine, and let me loose. Despite my squeals, I did manage to keep in control of it, and had a great deal of fun in the process. Now my mind is spinning on all the things that apparently, I can make with my new skills. Not to mention what I will do with all the beautiful fabric that I’ve seen in the past and walked away from because I didn’t have a clue what I’d do with it. No more!

What it made me realise yet again, is that being unable to sew wasn’t due to my lack of innate ability, it was purely because no-one had ever taught me how. What I particularly liked about the session was that Abi asked me how I like to learn and then taught me in my preferred way. Her understanding of how we all like to learn in different ways makes her such a great, natural and empathetic teacher. Not to mention that she’s funny and warm so the conversation flowed really easily and I was stunned when the time was up. I hope to return to make a couple of pieces under her expert guidance, having come away from the session with a big smile, a sense of great optimism and lots of plans for clothing for myself and the kids.

‘Margot & Barbara Designs’…now there’s an idea!

Beautiful colours at Sew You

September 27, 2011

Fast Fashion.

Fashion designers used to produce two collections a year. Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. Plus sometimes a Cruise collection to appeal to those lucky folk who were escaping to the Caribbean during the European winter. These days, we have mainline collections, pre-collections, limited editions, diffusion lines, accessories, shoes, collaborations with the High Street. It feels relentless to me and I bet they’re exhausted!

The number of these collections has the effect of making everything feel as though we’re speeding up, although for what I’ve never been sure. Making more money, presumably. There is little time to appreciate the clothes of the season we are in, before thinking of the next. At the moment, my body is in need of a new winter coat, but my mind (having seen some of the collections) has already been thinking of what I’ll be wearing in Summer 2012. Which, for the record, will be florals. As I said in a previous post, it’s time for me to embrace some more colour and print.

One of the other things that has created the feel of speeding up is the way that we are now exposed to so much more of the fashion shows. Recent weeks have seen the major fashion cities of Paris, New York, London and Milan host their Spring/Summer 2012 catwalk shows and we have been lucky enough to see photographs, read reviews and in some cases watch live streaming as it is actually happening. Whilst I applaud the opening up and democratisation of this (and I was as excited as anyone to see some of the shows, especially Jonathan Saunders and Prada)  it does mean that there is less mystique and anticipation around what’s coming up. By the time we actually see the clothes in store to buy, they will feel like yesterday’s news as we will already have moved onto Autumn/Winter. I don’t want my new clothes to feel old before I’ve even got them on my back!

There has been something of a backlash against this. Tom Ford, always a leader, has closed his shows to wider publicity for the past few seasons. Clever marketing, but none-the-less, it has caused a huge buzz of anticipation. However, I do think that we have reached a point of no return, and that we will continue to see, via various media channels, many of the collections as they are being shown.

I just hope that we also take the chance to slow down and embrace the season we are actually in, and the clothes we are wearing in it.

A bad photo of a great winter coat!

(My winter coat is the London Coat, by French Connection)

September 5, 2011

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Leeds

This weekend Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair came to Leeds. As well as curating the vintage event of the year – Vintage at Southbank, Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fairs have heaps of events across the country. Join their mailing list or ‘like’ them on Facebook to find out if there is an event near you.

Based in the beautiful surroundings of the Corn Exchange, this was two days of great vintage clothing, accessories, books and homewares. I had rather a whistle-stop tour of the whole Fair, as I was accompanied by Eve, who at the age of four has the attention span of a flea, nonetheless I managed to have a good rummage around the stores and although I didn’t manage to buy anything this time, I didn’t quite go home empty-handed as I have details of some websites that I plan to visit in the near future for jewellery purchase. The store holders were a lovely bunch of people, very knowledgeable and passionate about vintage and happy to chat.

Outfit of the day.

Decided to wear my new Peter Pan collared shirt and 3.1 Phillip Lim sunnies, which hide a multitude of late nights and interrupted sleep!

There was plenty of stock to look through and some very stylish folk shopping, many of them wearing their vintage finest and beautiful hair and makeup to suit.

Colour blocking, vintage style

Stylish shoppers

We finished, as usual with a cake and a cup of tea – how very civilised!

Cupcakes for Eve