Patagonia’s Worn Wear Project

Yesterday the Patagonia Worn Wear rig made a stop at Warren Wilson College, which is located in nearby Swannanoa, NC, and I was able to drop in to see it in action.  The rig, seen above, is actually a mobile clothing repair shop, which is currently touring the country with stops at selected college campuses.  Tiny Warren Wilson was lucky to be chosen, as most of the schools on the tour are large universities.

The purpose of the tour is to raise awareness of how clothing repair is an important part of making the production of clothing more sustainable.  It seems like an oxymoron for a company like Patagonia, which is in the business of making and selling clothes, to advocate for people keeping their clothing longer.  But Patagonia is not the average clothing company.

Patagonia is a producer of outdoor clothing and supplies, and is not a “fashion” company.  But all clothing reflects to some degree what is in fashion, either through color, or the length of shorts, or the fit of a tee shirt.  As a maker of fleece jackets and down jackets, Patagonia does not rely so much on changing styles in order to sell their products.  Instead, they sell garments that are actually needed.  Even so, they are working toward educating people that need can be reduced through repairs.

I’ve written about Patagonia before as an example of a company that makes it easy for the consumer to know where and how its products are made.  If you go to their website, on the sales page of each product it shows the factories where the product was made, along with a description of the responsible practices of each.  It’s about as transparent as it gets in the clothing industry.

The Worn Wear team did on the spot repairs, but even more importantly, they wanted to talk with students (and even non-students like me) about the importance of taking care of one’s clothing to make it last longer.  They encouraged visitors to learn the skills necessary to make repairs to damaged clothes to extend their life.  And of course, behind the message is the starting point of buying good stuff to start with.

The rig itself is really interesting.  It’s made of completely recycled materials and it runs on biodiesel.  It’s beautifully constructed, and I imagine they get lots of attention on the highway.

This is Rudy, who guards the thread and keeps the staff on track.

There was even free swag.  Besides the organic fruit bar and a small guide to making repairs, there was a shelf of free books, all titles pertaining to environmental and human rights issues.  I picked up a copy of Patagonia’s latest report on these initiatives, and spent much of the evening reading about the many things that Patagonia is working toward.

Most interestingly, the book did not back away from the mistakes they have made in the past few years, and gave honest reports on two controversies, the use of down from force-fed geese, and the use of wool from a farm which PETA exposed as being inhumane.  In both cases Patagonia did their own investigations, and found they were in the wrong, and then took the necessary steps to correct the abuses.

It’s really refreshing when a group just owns its mistakes.   I can’t help but think that this would be a great policy for all.

Currently, a big issue is the discovery that microfibres that get into the water by way of laundry has become a major source of pollution in our oceans.  In order to better understand what effect Patagonia fleeces and other products have on this problem, the company conducted a research project in which all their projects were tested for microfibre shedding.  They are also funding continuing research in the area.

Cute dog mascots are always a plus!

The issue of sustainability is a tricky one.  Most of the programs by clothing companies I have read about are just green-washing, meant to look to be more environmentally friendly than they truly are.  Most, like turning in old clothes for a store credit, are just ways of getting one to shop more.  And as pointed out in an excellent article at Vestoj,  even the way sustainability issues are presented by the fashion press usually misses the point.

Thanks to Patagonia for hosting this tour of the traveling repair workshop.  If it happens to roll into a college near you, go and check it out.

 

 

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Vintage Miscellany – February 26, 2017

Earlier in the week it was 75* F here in the mountains, and so today the much more seasonable 50* seems like an icebox.  So, it’s a great day for sipping something warm and catching up on the latest fashion history stories.

 

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White Stag Tyrolean Style Jacket

This great jacket ticked off several boxes on my things to look for when adding to my collection list.  Vintage White Stag – check.  Tryolean inspired garment – check.  Great color combination – check.  Interesting historical detail – check.

It’s not often that I get such a solid confirmation of the date of a garment, but here it is.  And even more interesting is the ability to put this jacket in a specific time and place.  So many times the garments I find have been entirely divorced from their histories.  And while I don’t know the name of the woman who wore the jacket, I do know about its place attachment.

Wheaton College is in Illinois, and it has a long history of supporting social reform.  It was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and enrolled both black students and women in a time when such was rare.  Wheaton was established in a time when many schools of higher learning were founded by religious organizations, and Wheaton retains its Christian focus to this day.

I’ve written before about the interest in Germanic clothing styles in the years leading up to World War II.  I even have another piece from White Stag that shows this trend.

White Stag has its beginnings in a canvas tent company owned by Max and Leopold Hirsch and partner Harry Weis.  When Max’s son Harold Hirsch returned home from Dartmouth College, he brought back his love of skiing, which was just catching on as a recreational sport.  The company began producing ski clothing in 1929, and in 1931 the line was named White Stag, the English translation of Weis Hirsch .

The Germanic roots of this jacket are obvious.  One could wear it to Oktoberfest today and fit right in.

There are several questions I’d like to ask about this piece.  Did White Stag make the jackets specifically for Wheaton college, or was the discovery of the jacket by someone at the college a happy accident.  Are there others, or is this just one girl’s project?  Could these have been for a club?

Here’s one more little special detail.  The pockets are lined in red.  The label is from the United Garment Workers, which was the union for people making ready made tailored products like coats and suits.  I’ve got to wonder if that number can be traced in any way.

I found this great piece through the weekly VFG feature, Fresh Vintage, where members share their latest finds that are for sale.  This jacket came from Amy at Viva Vintage Clothing.

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Designed for Drama at Biltmore, Part II

Continuing on with my latest visit to Biltmore Estate, the next costume is from The House of Mirth.  It’s especially fitting that a film based on a work of novelist Edith Wharton be included, as Wharton was a friend of the Vanderbilts, and actually visited Biltmore in 1902 and again in 1905.  For Christmas in 1905, Wharton gave George Vanderbilt a signed copy of The House of Mirth.

The suit above was worn by Gillian Anderson in the 2000 film version of the book.  I like how the shoes are peeking out from the slightly shortened walking suit.  The view in the mirror is a nice touch as well.

I did not see Sleepy Hollow, mainly because I just could not imagine Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane.  His plain black suit is on the left, while the prosperous Baltus Van Tassel costume is on the right.

These two costumes were also worn in Sleepy Hollow, but not by a featured actress.  Background characters wore these, and my guess is that they were not originally made for Sleepy Hollow, but for another film.  Recycling of costumes saves time and money, and is still a common practice.

This tweed suit was worn by Jude Law in the role of Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

This ensemble was worn by Rachel McAdams in Sherlock Holmes.  It looks like a cape, but is actually a weirdly constructed coat-like garment with very deep sleeves.  It was much richer and more interesting in person.

George Vanderbilt was a great lover of books, and in his library are all the great books of his time.  Henry James was another favorite, and he too visited Biltmore in 1905.  The next few costumes are from the 1996 adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady.  Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer wore the above dress.

Another thing to notice about this exhibition is how well the garments coordinate with each room.  I’m sure a lot of time was put into the decision of where to place which garments, as the dresses seem to be made for their surroundings.

I have not seen the 2011 version of Jane Eyre, mainly because I’m not a fan of the story.  But, I thought the costumes were very well done.  Above is a dress worn by Mia Wasikowska who played Jane.

We expect to see costumes by the main characters, but those worn by the supporting cast are also interesting.  On the left is Judi Dench’s costume as Mrs. Fairfax, and on the right is what Sophie Ward wore to portray Lady Ingram.

The last film featured is the 2012 version of Anna Karinina starring Keira Knightly.  Of all the movies shown, I found these costumes to be the most confusing.   Someone might want to help me out with the timeline of the story, but I thought it was set in the 1870s, the period in which it was written.  But the clothes ranged from full out crinolines of the early 1860s to the bustled and trained dressed one might expect from a mid 1870s setting.

The white dress above was worn by Alicia Vikander as Kitty, and the suit and coat was worn by Matthew MacFadyen as Vronsky.

Sorry about the terrible quality of this photo, but I had to use it as example.  The crinoline has deflated, with the fullness of the dresses all at the back.  I just could not wrap my mind around the differences in styles represented.

I really enjoyed Designed for Drama.  The Biltmore Company really does work hard to make sure all the aesthetics are covered.  What you can’t see are all the terrific floral arrangements which add to the overall experience.  It’s such a grand house, and a glimpse into a lifestyle that most can’t even imagine.

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Designed for Drama at the Biltmore Estate

For the third spring in a row, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville is presenting a costume display in the Vanderbilt mansion.  As before, the exhibition is planned and presented by Cosprop, a British costume shop, well-known for their work in “costume dramas.”  And while this is not, strictly speaking, fashion history, it does give an excellent look at how fashions of the past are portrayed in film.

As before, I went to the Biltmore with friend Liza of Better Dresses Vintage, and this time we were joined by Suzanne of Vintage Runway, and Cornelia of Cornelia Powell Weddings.   I can’t say enough about how enlightening it is to attend events like this one with people who share an interest in fashion history.  I learn as much from my friends as I do from the exhibition.

We went on the opening day of the exhibition, and were happy that it was on a weekday, and not the more crowded weekend.  Before the show opened, Biltmore had placed five (that we located, at least) costumes in the public areas of the estate, not in the house proper.  I really do not know if they will be/have been moved into the house, so I’ll give a hint as where to find those not actually in the house.

The first costume was the one above, worn by Carey Mulligan in Far from the Madding Crowd. It is in the visitor’s center.  Like all the costumes not actually in Biltmore House, this one is encased in a protective glass cage.  That makes for very poor photo taking, but the actual viewing experience is much better than my photos might suggest.

One thing I wish the production would add to the information given is when the story was supposed to have taken place.  Of course, we can dig deep into that old literary education and come up with rough dates, and we can also use the styles of the clothing, but in order to check for authenticity of style, knowing exactly when would be a big help.

Far from the Madding Crowd was published in 1874, but that does not mean the movie was set in that year.  From looking at many historical drama costumes, I’ve learned that the late 19th century is often loosely interpreted as far as fashion goes.  Above, another costume worn by Mulligan in the role of Bathsheba Everdene.

These costumes are from Finding Neverland, the story of author Sir JM Barrie, played by Johnny Depp, and his relationship with a woman (Kate Winslet) whose children inspired his character Peter Pan.

The movie was set in the last days of the nineteenth century, and the early twentieth century.  This dress was worn by actress Radha Mitchell, who played Barrie’s wife in the film.

You’d never know, but these are costumes from an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  This 1996 version was set sometime in the late nineteenth century, but I just could not see these dresses as actually being the style of any particular era.  They were worn by Helena Bonham Carter and Imogen Stubbs.

There were several beautiful dresses designed by John Bright of Cosprop for the 2000 version of Henry James’ The Golden Bowl.

This story was set in the very early days of the twentieth century, and the gowns for it look the most at home within Biltmore House, which was finished in 1895.

This suit was worn by Kate Beckinsale in the role of Maggie Verver.

Well, this was a delightful moment!  Mr. Darcy meets Miss Elizabeth Bennett, not on the lawn, but in the library.  These costumes were from the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

This is from another Jane Austen story, Sense and Sensibility,  and was worn in a 1995 version starring Emma Thompson.  This dress was worn by her.

This costume is in the Biltmore Wine Shop, which seems a bit odd, but it was positioned such as to allow a really great look from all sides.

And finally for today, this costume was worn by Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane, a story not written by Austen, but rather, about her.  It was based on a book of the same title which speculated on a supposed romance that Austen had.  Anyway, this costume was one of my favorites.  All the decoration on the dress was embroidered (but impossible to photograph) and the fabric was the most scrumptious color (again, un-photograph-able).  This costume is on the second floor of the Village Hotel.

I loved how the plaques showed each costume as it was worn in the each film.  It really does help to see them in action.  Which leads to another observation:  I enjoyed the costumes of the films which I had seen better than the ones I had not seen and had no idea of how the actors portrayed the characters.  But now I’ll have the pleasure of catching up on films not seen.

Tomorrow:  the exciting conclusion of this tour.

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Bad History Is Now #fakehistory

I first posted this photo in August, 2015, but since then it, along with the erroneous caption, is once again making the rounds of “history” Twitter and Instagram accounts, I felt a bit of updating was in order.  You can click to the original post to read about all that is wrong with the caption.

I’m using the same photo as an example because of an experience I had on Twitter last week.  As the photo appeared in my feed yet again, I’d had enough, and posted to the effect that this was #fakehistory which should not be retweeted, and pointed out the errors.  Two people, both historians I respect, replied that it was all in the spirit of fun, and then one turned the tables to tell me I should not use the term suffragette, that the correct term is suffragist.  That hand-slapping came despite the fact I was quoting the original.

In a time when anything one does not agree becomes “fake news,” people who care about the truth need to be aware that not all that is fake is news.  Much of it is decades and centuries in the past.  Whereas two and a half years ago I was hesitant to correct fake history for fear of ruffling feathers, I’m afraid we have come to the place in time where making such corrections is necessary in order to keep false narratives from overtaking the truth.

But how does one read a photograph?  There was a great article on Quartz last week that gave some valuable hints for looking at photographs critically.  You might want to read the full article, but the author gave four main points.  Here I’ve applied each to the photo above.

  1. Consider the source – In this case the source was Twitter.  Anything posted to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, or any number of other social sites, should be viewed with a bit of skepticism.
  2. Pay attention to aesthetics – If the point of the photo was to show women annoying men, then why was the photo taken at such an angle that no men can be seen?
  3. Ask “What is the narrative of the photo”? – The narrative can come from a caption.  Does the content of the photo match that of the caption?  Again, where are the annoyed men?  Why are there groups of women spectators who are wearing bathing suits but are not eating?  And why is there food all over the faces of some of the eaters?
  4. Cross-check information – The facts presented in the caption are easily checked.  If the photo was made in the US, then women already had the right to vote.  If it came from the UK, all women did not get the right to vote until 1928, after a fight that had been going on for over seventy years.  At any rate, women in 1921 would not have been “early suffragettes.”  You can also cross-check a photo by right-clicking on it, and then clicking “Search Google for image.”  The first item in the list of links goes to Snopes.com, a fact-checking site.

On Sunday I posted something that is rarely seen here at The Vintage Traveler- a quotation.  The internet is full of quotes of all kinds, meant to uplift or to tear down, to justify or to destroy.  One thing is for sure, an internet “quote” often has nothing to do with the person who supposedly said or wrote it it.  The best kind of quote is one that makes us think, or that removes us a bit from our comfort zone.

But like the quote I chose to use this week, most of us use them to back up what we already believe.  Having a president’s opinion, even one from 125 years ago that most people can’t tell you a single fact about, might possibly carry more weight than ordinary Lizzie.  Or in the case of modern presidents, it might carry no weight at all, depending on which part of the political spectrum one falls.

What was incredibly easy about posting the President Harrison quote was how simple the internet made it to verify its authenticity.  There are now quote-checking websites that give detailed information about quotes and who did – and did not – say them.  Which makes me wonder why, given that it is so easy, that instead of double-checking their facts, the quote-spreaders continue to put words into the mouths of historical figures.

All this boils down to one thing:  In order to know the truth, one must look for it.  One of the skills I tried to teach my fifth graders was how to read critically, considering the source and the words carefully.  I can tell you that even a fifth grader can determine the reliability of a written passage when given the time and skills necessary for careful reading.

 

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Vintage Miscellany – February 12, 2017

I cannot always sympathize with that demand which we hear so frequently for cheap things. Things may be too cheap. They are too cheap when the man or woman who produces them upon the farm or the man or woman who produces them in the factory does not get out of them living wages with a margin for old age and for a dowry for the incidents that are to follow. I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process.

Those words have so much meaning today, but the truth is they were spoken by President Benjamin Harrison in a speech in August, 1891.  It’s important to keep this in mind when reading about the on-going abuses in the textile and clothing industries.  And thanks to Reba for sending the quote my way.

    •  Only a few months after President Harrison’s speech, the danger of working in a mill was punctuated with an explosion at the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH.
    •  It would have been a highly improbable thought to President Harrison, but the problems he addressed 126 years ago in the United States have merely been transferred to Bangladesh.
    • And also in Myanmar.  (Of course neither country even existed in 1891, but that’s beside the point.)
    • Here’s another article about the importance of home sewing.
    •  According to WWD there is a rising trend in the development of designer archives.
    • There is a new online catalog of original garments and textiles belonging to costume designer and clothing collector John Bright.
    • The Fashion Museum in Bath, UK, has put on display what might be a surviving dress belonging to Queen Charlotte.  For those of us in the parts of the world that don’t know all the kings and queens of England, Charlotte was the wife of George III, and the city of Charlotte, NC was named for her.  It is not certain that the dress was actually hers, though, as it looks to be a bit young in taste for Charlotte.  It also looks to be too small, but this is partly due to the way it was mounted.
    • The  Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes, or SAPE, is alive and well in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.
    • The Smithsonian website has a really interesting article called “The Invention of Vintage Clothing.”  It really wasn’t the beginning of people wearing old clothes, of course, but it is an early example of what we now recognize as the vintage clothing industry.
    • An heirloom wedding dress was lost from the dry cleaners, social media went to work, and the dress was located.
    • Ashley Biden (yes, the former VP’s daughter) has started a hoodie line called Livelihood.  The hooded sweatshirts are made in the USA, using materials sourced in the USA. Profits from sales will go to fund projects in two communities that suffer from a lack of financial resources (In other words, they are poor).  If you are thinking that the sweatshirts are too expensive,  I want to redirect you to President Harrison’s words at the top of this post.

I  first mentioned the Grab Your Wallet boycott back in November.  It appears that the boycott is having some effect, or maybe it is just that people are too embarrassed to be associated with the brands belonging to the First Family.  At any rate, sales are down, and the boycott has been in the news.  First, department store Nordstrom dropped the Ivanka brand due to poor sales.  Daddy-in-Chief then tweeted, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. ”  Statistics back up out Nordstrom’s claim that sales were the reason for the drop, not politics.  While sales were up overall at Nordstrom, the Ivanka products sales were down.  Then in the most unbelievable twist, presidential advisor Kellyann Conway urged the viewers of Fox News to buy Ivanka clothing.  Really.   It has since come out that other stores are either dropping, or making less visible, boycotted products.

And so now there are counter-boycotts  from people who claim the pulling of the products is politically motivated against the President.  And on and on…

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