22 January 2006

Soup Brothers

This past week I went to Soup Brothers in Walker's Point for a meeting. It was the second time I'd been there. Soup Brothers has heaps style. The guy who takes your order--whose name I didn't get a chance to get--is friendly. Their dishes are an assortment that look like they've been culled from years of savvy thrifting/estate sale-going. The bathroom is decorated with phones and call-related paraphenelia. The place is pretty small, with a huge main table bearing a display/installation of random objects like dried or fake flowers and the Dum Dum lollipops banks used to give out to kids in the 1970s and '80s. The linoleum is "delightfully" worn and the light fixtures are gorgeous. Random stuff graces the other tables--including the Answer Me Jesus doll at the table where I sat. I can't stop thinking about this place. It has oceans of style. It's a style palace. I would say it's like something you'd see in New York's East Village, but it's not. It's its own kind of place.

21 January 2006

Dress Reform

Dress Reform is a 19th-century concept aimed at getting women out of restrictive garments like corsets, crinolines and bustles. But I think Dress Reform is needed today in the form of people buying and wearing less clothes. I like the idea of a "uniform," of wearing the same thing every day of the week. Having acres and acres of clothes is really at 20th-century American concept. Even today, people in other countries just don't have the sheer number of clothes Americans have. French women buy fewer clothes than American women. Having endless outfits is obviously consumption driven. The fashion cycle is ludicrous. Fashions used to be in style for a decade or more (of course, this was in the 18th century and before.) In any aspect of life, I believe in getting something that's well made and expensive rather than overpriced crap you'll have to keep replacing. I realize, though, that if I were given the choice, I would have so many clothes that I would need an extra room to store them. But why is that? Maybe if I weren't so consumed with getting more an more clothes our outfits I would focus on other things. I think if the focus in clothing is on an item being well-made, there's more time for beauty rather than accumulation.

05 January 2006

Milwaukee Talk-y

I was first introduced to Milwaukee by way of Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books. I pored over these books for their descriptions of early 20th-century dresses. Check out this Maisonneuve piece about Milwaukee's music scene. I'm not a big music fan because I'm totally done inhaling second-hand smoke. When I lived in Madison I kept hearing about Black Elephant, which this article mentions.

03 January 2006

More handmade goodness...that's non-exploitative

Full disclosure: I used to work at SERRV International/A Greater Gift. But I'm not on their payroll anymore! From September 2004 through May 2005, I worked in the retail store of this Fair Trade non-profit in Madison. Yippee! Kathi Koppa was the greatest store manager possible. I cannot imagine a better retail job. The textiles there are incredible. There are beautiful silk scarves, hand-crocheted laces, rugs (!!) and baskets galore. Everything is handmade. While I was there, it made me realize that people in these Third World countries were making their living doing things like making pottery, dolls and glasses. How many people in the U.S. would give their eyeteeth to be able to support themselves making earrings?? The stores in Madison, WI, are at 122 State Street and at Knickerbocker Place on Monroe Street.

Project Alabama

I've been thinking about Project Alabama a lot lately. Project Alabama is a "label" sold at Barneys New York and boutiques like Ikram in Chicago; it is also a for-profit enterprise that employs women doing handwork in a desperately poor region of that state. Alabama native Natalie Chanin is the designer. I saw a photo of a Project Alabama piece in the January 2005 issue of Vogue. Woo hoo. What I find fascinating about Project Alabama is its use of hand-sewing. Of course, hand-sewing makes the line super expensive. But these poor women in Alabama are getting jobs and the world has time to enjoy something that was made by human hands. I was looking at the website and found a link to a non-profit called Planting Stitches. Their mission statement is: "to improve the lives of individuals, living in disadvantaged rural areas of the South, by providing sustainable economic development opportunities through cooperative ventures with national and international apparel companies."