Sunday, May 6, 2018

Poor Western Men

Embed from Getty Images

Poor “western” men.  Their fashion used to be visually stimulating, but the arrival of the business suit in the last hundred plus years has greatly reduced the range of color, pattern and fabrics in their closets. Conventional menswear in western European and offshoot cultures is now very circumscribed. 

"Classic" men's suit by Burberry

No wonder the printed T-shirt has blazed such a wide swath.  It allows men to say something with color and graphic design.  I recently came across Indian designer Shravan Kummar Ramaswamy. What a fabulous array of sexy colorful menswear options!

Shravan Kummar is a big booster of India’s traditional weaving, natural fabrics and fine handwork, and he designs wonderful things to celebrate that tradition of craftsmanship. Many other runway designers of all backgrounds regularly show fashions that are well outside the box of conventional Western European menswear, but it seems to be only slowly expanding the edge of that box for many wearers.  The difference in the range of color and styles in a typical Target men’s department and its women’s department is remarkable.

In the United States, many African American male trendsetters have used color and pattern boldly.

Pharrell Williams 2015 CFDA Fashion Icon

And President Barack Obama skillfully introduced purple into the narrow red, white, blue and gray palette of the Washington, DC political establishment.

Likewise, thanks are due to so many members of the gay community for breaking down sartorial boundaries with joy and panache.

Pastor Rick Eisenlord who calls himself the “Gay Pastor of the San Gabriel Valle"

Hopefully as America continues to grow into its character as a diverse, global culture, more men will feel free to wear color and pattern more freely.  Certainly, climate change favors the adoption of the guayabera as work wear over the traditional Western suit jacket.  

That said, I love what Shravan Kummar  has done with the western jacket for wedding wear:

Speaking of wedding wear, what’s with the Western obsession with white for brides?  Doesn’t the Chinese red make much more sense?! Ciao, bellas/bellos.

From a monograph on the Chinese Wedding Dress on the Top China Travel website

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spoonflower: A Review!

By Guest Blogger Patsie Earle-Richardson

This week I wanted to do a reflection review on a website that I had some firsthand experience with. Spoonflower is a fun website that does custom fabric printing in many different fabrics and patterns, including some eco-fabrics that piqued my interest.

The Front Page! 

I was overjoyed at how many patterns there were to choose from. Most of the designs are independent-designer-made and submitted, adding a homemade Etsy-like feel to the website. 

Lots and lots and LOTS of patterns to choose from! 

I also got to please the inner nerd in me, by finding a pattern that was designed after my favorite TV show, Doctor Who! Any online store that has a "geek" section is a win in my book! 

The Pattern. 
I used the Dr. Who print in organic cotton sateen to make a skirt from a Simplicity pattern. The fabric's print is incredibly vivid and opaque (even after washing, which softened the fabric a little, but didn't soften the color at all!). The fabric is only printed on one side, so don't use these fabrics in a pattern without a lining or that shows the wrong side of the fabric; it wouldn't look very good. 

Another recommendation I would make is to place your order in advance. They take around 8-10 days normally to produce the fabric. I received my fabric in 3 days because I chose rush shipping due to timing issues, so it cost more. It's a very specialized product, so there's no instant gratification, but patience is worth the wait for this company. The skirt came out beautifully!

Me all happy this came out perfectly! 
All in all, a very good sustainable website to shop at. This unfortunately is my last blog post, as I am going back to school in Vermont this week. I say toodles to you all, and, as always, stay stylish! 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016


By Guest Blogger, Patsie Earle-Richardson

This week we are going online to one store that has knocked my socks off with it's sustainable practices: Po-Zu.

The front page of Po-Zu

The store, named after Japanese word for pause, is an online footwear brand that has sustainability written (or walked.. hehe) all over it. The website is very well designed and has a wealth of information on sustainability. On one page it shows from beginning to end how the coconut husk is harvested and made into the shoe padding. It reminds me of an episode of How It's Made!

While it has many styles for men and women, the main attraction here is the sustainable sole to their athletic footwear. Many athletic shoe companies turn away from sustainable practices, saying that plastic and rubber are the only things that can make a bottom to a real athletic shoe. Po-Zu has disproven that theory with their Brisk sneaker.
Brisk sneakers: $125 

The mattress cover can be either chrome-free suede for people who are pro leather, or eco microfibre for those who are vegan. The bottom is natural latex. Along with being very eco-friendly, the Brisk sneaker is also customizable with many different colors and laces to choose from.

Also, because I am not only an eco-fashionista, but also a HUGE nerd, I learned that their Piper V dark brown wool-lined boot has been used in the newest Star Wars film in Rey's costume.

Piper V boots in dark brown (currently sold out) 125 pounds
Rey, the badass protagonist of the new Star Wars
film, sporting eco fashion to boot... ha! 

It's currently on backorder because a ton of people are buying them for their Rey costumes, but you have to admit, that's pretty darn cool.

This is a great business to support, and also a great resource to learn more about one thoughtful approach to eco-fashion.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


By Guest Blogger, Patsie Earle-Richardson

Hello again! 
This week I had the privilege of going to visit Tranquil Space, a boutique and yoga studio off of Dupont Circle, founded by Kimberly Wilson in 1999. I was pleasantly surprised walking in to find a fireplace and tea kiosk that is stationed right inside the boutique; how wonderful!

The style of the boutique reminds me of a well-adorned scrapbook, with memorabilia and style filling the walls.

Talking with Kimberly about her business, it was apparent that she has put her heart and soul into every part. Originally from Oklahoma, Kimberly came to DC only to find that her work outfits were out of place: yoga pants amongst the sea of classic DC suits. "I was running around town teaching yoga [and working as a paralegal] in leggings, t-shirts, and tennies and felt silly downtown among people in business suits. So I'd add a skirt over my leggings or do various things to try not to look like I was constantly going to the gym."
This new fashion idea inspired her to make a clothing line that was yoga and business friendly named TranquiliT.

The line takes after "Units and Multiples," a fashion trend from the '80s. The idea is to have a single base layer (a tank top and leggings, lets say) that allows you to add single additions to your outfit to completely change the look. "I'll transform by swapping my professional wrap dress to lounge shorts for yoga, then a vintage organza skirt for a party," says Kimberly; great for a woman on the go!

The clothing, while a little pricey, ($68 for leggings and $98 for a dress) is made from bamboo fabric, a material that is incredibly soft, and soft on the environment. In addition, to reduce shipping and packaging waste, she uses materials that can be turned inside out to become a tote bag once its delivered! This I had never heard of any eco-business doing this before, what a wonderful idea!

All in all, I really felt like this was a Tranquil Space. Stop in sometime, either here or in her other Space in Arlington. More information here:

Stay Stylish!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fia's Fabulous Finds

by Guest Blogger, Patsie Earle Richardson
This week I got the chance to go and visit Fia’s Fabulous Finds secondhand store in Washington DC, just a short 10 minute walk away from the Georgia Avenue Metro stop on the Green line. The shop is run by Fia, (big surprise there) whose sustainable lifestyle extends beyond her clothing choices.

These photos do not show how cold it was outside. 20 degrees!! Yikes!
“…I bike everywhere; our house is full of thrifted furniture, and even my kids have reused or refurbished clothing..” Her California family bought and re-sold storage containers full of all kinds of things as she was growing up, which is where she caught “the thrifting bug.” A scene straight out of Storage Wars! 

Along with the thrifting bug, Fia has also caught an amazing sense of style. The mannequin displays in the store, which are styled by her and her husband, steal the show for this shop.

*sigh* You can never go wrong with Audrey Hepburn.

Brands like Banana Republic, Max Azria, and J. Crew are featured, but also the more formal options like Betsey Johnson, Juicy Couture, Valentino, and many, many others. Her prices are reasonable, with a nice, black dress from Banana Republic going for around $30. She also has a part of the shop called Fia’s basement, where pieces are marked down even further, if you are really strapped for cash. But one of the most alluring parts of the store was the shoes section.

I have a weakness personally for bright colored pumps. Fia had just about every size imaginable, featuring brands like Steve Madden, Nine West, MinneTonka, and Qupid.

These were a size 7. Too small. *cries*

I eventually found a beautiful pair of purple Qupid heels with pink glitter and blue iridescence, which I proceeded to wear around the house for hours, much to my grandparents' worry. These heels were high, and the temperature was low, but the price was just right, only $12. 


Paired with some dark wash jeans, I am ready to hit the town with these lovelies... at least, when this snowstorm is over. Sigh.

Check out Fia’s store sometime! Here is the address:
806 Upshur St NW
Washington, DC

Also, be sure to get on her list for notices about frequent Fill a Bag in Fia's Basement For $25 sales.

Stay Stylish!


Sunday, February 8, 2015


Dreaming of some high-performance base layers to keep your body warm?  Want to know what a base layer is?  Walk briskly to the Patagonia store in Georgetown. 

I finally made my way into their canal-side store.  There I was greeted by their Assistant Manager Mark Stevens who responded knowledgeably to my questions and helped me to understand  how thoroughly Patagonia has infused their entire profitable existence with care for people and the environment.  More on this below.  First pictures of clothes.  My son and I happily picked up a few things we needed:
Capilene® lightweight Men's Slim Fit Bottoms $49
For this item, the label (which was printed on 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper) assures me that the fabric meets bluesign® standards for consumer protection against harmful substances and for sustainable production.  Such bluesign® labels at Patagonia also include the assurance that the garment is made with either organically grown cotton, chlorine-free wool, hemp, recycled nylon, recycled polyester or Tencel® lyocell.  We got a few Capilene undergarments.  We also picked up a beanie hat.

(Caption) Merino wool Beanie Hat $39
The wool part of the hat is chlorine-free and sourced from flocks managed with sustainable grazing practices in the grasslands of Patagonia, don'tcha know.

Here are a few more items that really rock sustainability:

Reclaimed Wool Parka with Reclaimed Cotton Canvas and Recycled Polyester $299
Reclaimed Cotton Hoodie  $149
Undyed Cashmere Cardigan $299

The prices are higher than people are used to paying for fast fashion, but you can wear their garments with the warm assurance that they have put every care into thoughtful production and good labor practices.  Plus their garments are durable enough to justify the investment.  Other signs of Patagonia's broad commitment to sustainability:
  • Every cotton item has been organic since the mid 90's. 
  • Every store has an Environmental Grants Coordinator who manages the local component of Patagonia's 1% For the Planet program.  (They give back 1% of TOTAL SALES, not profits.)
  • Patagonia's making progress towards its goal of having all their clothing fair trade AND bluesign® certified (All base layer garments already are.)
  • Patagonia is a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which is working to develop a sustainability ranking system that is broader than bluesign's.

I admit that I am not a big outdoorswoman, nor do I find Patagonia's styles terribly exciting (What, no latex jabots?!), but I made a point of taking my son there and getting him a few basic warm layers because Patagonia operates as I hope all manufacturers someday will.  If you DO happen to be engaged in a lot of outdoor activities, you'll love their durable, well-engineered performance garments.  So many reasons to support Patagonia!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

It Happened in Washington....

                Hello, friends and friends of sustainable fashion!  I have been silent here for some time while I immersed myself in my studies at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore (fiber arts/costume design).  However a wonderful local product fell into my lap the other day.  Actually it fell into the seat next to me at Union Station.  I commented on a well-dressed gentleman's remarkable magenta socks, and I ended up learning about his remarkable cufflinks and other creations. 

                Paul Kerkhoven is a lobbyist for natural gas vehicles by day.  In his spare time he makes cufflinks and jewelry out of billiard balls he finds at flea markets.  These are really well-made, durable pieces crafted from re-purposed materials.  He also does pieces made from bowling balls, fossilized dinosaur dung and other intriguing, eye-catching materials.  This "bowlerite" ring is patterned after an ancient Egyptian one that pivots where the stone joins the band. 

                Frankly, I find "bowlerite" as visually interesting as any ruby.  And these are guilt-free, home-grown "gems."  You need never worry that some poor miner is being exploited in South Africa, or that your gems are "blood diamonds."  Instead these are gems mined from America's strange strata of engineered plastic detritus.  Paul's cufflink pieces retail for a little over $200.  They're available at Andrew's Ties in Union Station, at Scott Spahr's in Rehoboth Beach, DE, and at the Curtis Draper cigar stores downtown and in Bethesda.  You can also find his cufflinks on-line at Nanonut on Etsy.  You can even contact Paul at for a special order of particular numbers:

                These would make a great Father's Day gift or birthday gift for that special guy in your life.  Yay for men's jewelry!  Colorful socks are a great way to enjoy accessorizing too.  Go Paul!