Exploring the History of Fashion through Bicycling

Tweed Run Helps Support A Thriving Community of Cyclists

Local bike ride modeled after rides across the pond, bring placemaking to the streets while raising funds and learning through the lens of history!

Typically, bicycling attire for a modern American involves flexible athletic clothing and sneakers. But at the beginning of cycling history, during the early 19th century, cyclists wore their typical, everyday clothing even when using bicycles for transport. In fact, women’s fashion of the time was a hindrance to their ability to ride, and this was a catalyst for change in women’s style of dress and in the design of the bicycle as manufactures began marketing towards women.  Read the rest of this entry »

Visible Mending Blends Fiber Arts with Sustainability

Visible Mending Activates Creativity and Gives New Life to Old Clothes

Favorite jeans are torn at the knees, treasured flannels have frayed at the elbows, the warmest of socks have split in the toes; what’s the fate of all of these once new, now well-loved garments? Rather than passing them on to a thrift store or adding them to a sewing scrap pile, families can give new life to their well-worn clothes by doing a bit of creative visible mending. Combining basic sewing skills, a bit of artistry, and the principles of leading a more sustainable lifestyle, visible mending is a perfect solution to the woes of well-worn clothing, and provides a simple means of upcycling goods. It’s even a great entry point for exploring sewing skills!

The concept of mending, of course, has been around for eons – dating back to a time when simply buying a replacement simply wasn’t an option. Today, mending remains important, and offers many a simple fix for the small tears and worn patches that clothes will inevitably experience. Visible mending, however, differs from regular mending in that it’s meant to be seen (hence its name), and gives new life to articles of clothing by not only fixing rips, tears, and the like, but by adding interesting (and perhaps artistic) details to clothing. Visible mending is not only practical, but can be exciting and engaging for creative folks. Read the rest of this entry »

Project 333 Challenges Consumerism While Supporting Style

Less is More: Minimize Your Fashion Footprint

Project 33

Project 333 encourages a minimalist approach that throws down the gauntlet challenging us to dress with 33 items for a period of 3 months. It slims down the closet and cuts back on consumerism while finding the essence of your style!

The teen- and tween-age years can often bring with them a deluge of clothing-driven creativity and expression of personality, often continuing with us into parenthood! In turning outward appearance into an accurate portrayal of the inner self, some teens and tweens may find themselves wanting to fill their closets with endless styles, patterns, and sizes. While fulfilling their desire to express themselves is important, there is also much to be learned from taking a more minimalist approach to fashion – one that requires fewer possessions, encourages less consumption, and poses an interesting challenge to clothing creativity.

To encourage a minimalistic approach to your wardrobe, teens and parents alike can take inspiration from Project 333, an initiative that supports people in scaling back their wardrobes so as to consume less and show off their own unique style even more! Project 333 challenges participants to create a capsule wardrobe – a collection of clothing that is small yet offers variety, and reflects the wearers favorite pieces and styles without closet crowding. In order to take on the project, participants choose 33 articles of clothing and accessories to get them through a 3-month period of time. Pairs of shoes, backpacks, and jewelry all count as items, aside from things that are never removed like piercings, wedding rings, sentimental necklaces, or certain earrings. Once 33 items are chosen, all other items are boxed up and put away until the three months have ended – the time when you’ll reassess and start over again.

While a Project 333-inspired wardrobe limits a fashion-conscious teen or tween’s clothing options, it also challenges them to really think about what items are important to them and how many items they really need. Instead of having many versions of the same few favorite items, choose one of each and save both closet space and clothing-selecting time. Look to Project 333’s Pinterest page for examples of capsule wardrobes that fit the project’s model, yet offer lots of variety and personality. There are endless graphics that detail how to be unique while sticking to a small number of items. Read the rest of this entry »

Textile Exhibit Celebrates Muslim Female Identity

Textile Exhibit Celebrates Muslim Female Identity
Westfield State University through April 5th, 2014

Westfield State University’s Arno Maris Gallery presents “Threads that Bind,” a Middle Eastern textile exhibit, which will be on display until April 5. A reception will be held on Thursday March 27 from 5:30-8 p.m. with exhibit curator Dr. Christina Swaidan, associate professor of art history at Westfield State. This exhibition inspires further discussion both about textile and fabric arts as well as Muslim culture and the representation and daily lives of Islamic women. See our discussion questions for ideas to spark conversation with your kids and/or students.

The Arno Maris Gallery at Westfield State University invites you and your family to its current exhibition, Threads that Bind. This display of Middle Eastern textiles highlights items of Muslim women’s clothing such as the abaya, an all-purpose robe-like dress that is worn both to Mosque and while entertaining family and friends at home, and the salwar kameez, which is comprised of a set of loose, pajama-like pants and a tunic top. Curator Dr. Christina Swaidan, an associate professor of art history at Westfield State, organized the exhibit with the intention of educating the college and local community about women in Islamic culture.

“When most people picture a Muslim woman, they imagine a shadow: a demure woman draped in all black,” says Swaidan. “She is viewed as devoid of personality or individuality.”

But the clothing and textiles in Threads that Bind are anything but demure or shadow-like: vibrant colors serve as the background for rich details like lace, embroidery, and other embellishments. And, according to Swaidan, the designs on the garments are often unique to the region in which they were produced, which could immediately signal the origin of a garment (or its wearer) to others familiar with the various patterns.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fashion from the Gilded Age: A Local History

The Kimball-Salisbury Women: Chicago to Tor Court
Local History & Fashion from the Gilded Age
Arrowhead in Pittsfield, MA

The Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead offers a glimpse of Pittsfield’s Gilded Age with an exhibit of exquisite fashions and photographs from Tor Court’s Kimball-Salisbury family. The exhibit highlights the gowns worn by four different Kimball women, all of whom spent summers at Tor Court, one of the Berkshire Cottages in Pittsfield. These “cottages” were actually mansions built by some of America’s wealthiest families in and around Lenox, Stockbridge and Pittsfield during the Gilded Age. These aristocratic manor houses came to be known as Berkshire Cottages.

Learn about the Gilded Age’s local influence at the Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead!  The historical society is hosting an exhibit of items and artifacts from the lavish time period, including exquisite gowns worn by and photographs of the Kimball-Salisbury family, owners of one of the many Gilded Age “cottages” found in the Berkshires.

Though called cottages, the homes were really anything but – they were colossal, exquisite mansions built as summer homes in the Berkshires for families who lived in the city.  The fashions included in the exhibition illustrate the changes in style that took place between 1910 and the mid-1920’s, as they change from beautiful gowns to sassy flapper dresses, illustrating the cultural changes that also took place at that time.

The exhibit illustrates history through fashion, and will help students learning about American history put their learning into a local context.

The Kimball-Salisbury Women: Chicago to Tor Court is open from Thursday-Sunday from 11am-3pm, from February 10th to March 31st, 2013.  Arrowhead is located at 780 Holmes Road in Pittsfield.  For more information call 413-442-1793 or visit www.mobydick.org.

Celebratory Opening Benefit Brunch happens on February 9, from 11am-1pm at Salisbury Estates Community House in Pittsfield, MA. Cost of brunch includes ticket to exhibit. For more information and to order your brunch tickets, call 413-442-1793 x10.

Hilltown Families Counteracts Commercialization via Creativity

Empowerment by Art: Hilltown Families Checks Commercial Fashion

“We had a great time! My son is wearing his shirt with pride right now at an evening event at his school,” texted Helen Kahn of Florence, MA.

In the wake of JCPenney’s “I’m too pretty to do homework” and Forever 21 “Allergic to Algebra” t-shirt debacle, this past Friday Western MA families came together to pushback against commercial fashion and corporate marketers in the Hilltown Families event, “I Am Not A Billboard!”

Presented by Hilltown Families and hosted by The Art Garden, a newly formed non-profit in Shelburne Falls, grandparents to toddlers came together from Charlemont to Northampton to make their own fashion statement by designing and decorating t-shirts with their own words and images. Slogans like “Science Rocks,” “Girls Rule,” and images of peace were drawn, sewn & painted in a successful intergenerational event!

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“With children’s clothes often donning corporate symbols and slogans, our kids are made into walking billboards for big corporations,” says Sienna Wildfield, Founding Director of Hilltown Families. “Fashion is just one of the many avenues corporate marketers utilize to market their brands to children, surprisingly, at a very young age.  Allowing children to embellish their own clothes with symbols and words that celebrate their individuality and intelligence is just one simple way families can counteract commercialization while fostering creativity and expressiveness.

“Messages that communicate values on physical appearance, consumerism and gender stereotypes to our children are pervasive,” says Jess Kuttner, LICSW, Psychotherapist and mother of two boys. “The recent news of t-shirts sold by JCPenny with the slogan, ‘I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me,’ is one example of how empty and degrading values are being marketed to our children.  Is it any wonder that there are epidemic numbers of kids and teens who bully each other and numb themselves with video games, TV, food and drugs? Giving children the opportunity to create their own t-shirts is a proactive way to counter corporate and negative messages while helping children focus on what is unique about themselves on a deeper level.

Big thank you to ❤ The Art Garden for hosting this event, to ❤ Country Pie Pizza of Ashfield for donating pizza for our pizza party, and to all the ❤ amazing families who came together to empower their kids and themselves through art!

Q&A: Newest Schoolyard Fad

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"...children don't seem to trade them, they GIVE them to each other, like friendship pins. Remember those?" - Shannon (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Kids (even adults) are going crazy over Silly Bandz! What are your thoughts on this new fad? What do your kids think about them?

  • Sandie DeLuca Richardson wrote: Over priced colorfully shaped rubber bands… seriously
  • Marianne Bullock wrote: Stupid.
  • Lisa Beskin wrote: If we ever passed them in the store we’ve never see the bag of stringy plastic. A few weeks after that I saw a story about them being banned from some middle school and about three weeks later now suddenly see them on kids everywhere. Nice of the news to bring the cruddy Chinese plastic bag o’ waste to everyone’s attention. I have since seen the item at Target in the pressure spots by the registers. Fortunately, my kids have accepted that plastic sucks. No new plastic in the house. However, we are struggling with whether or how much to keep of old toys/stuff already owned before our enlightenment.
  • Shannon Malone Kopacz wrote: Love ’em. Compared to Pokemon, Backugon, and name brand clothe$ these are a God Send. I have also seen children being incredibly generous with these. The children don’t seem to trade them, they GIVE them to each other, like friendship pins. Remember those?
  • Marianne Bullock wrote: KEEP drilling for oil so our kids can cover their bodies in it!!! Yippee!
  • Christa Pylant wrote: Fun! Strange in their success and definitely over-priced.
  • Brooke Norton wrote: Just a note – they are made of silicone, not a petroleum product.
  • Heather Richardson wrote: I don’t get them… luckily my kids are only 3 and 1 so they aren’t in the fad.
  • Kett Lawrence wrote: I remember loving bracelets similar to that in the 80’s. I don’t see the big deal, just kids having fun and getting into something. It’ll pass and there will be another fad soon after that. Also, they’re made of silicone, not petroleum. I think some parents just forget how much fun it is to be a kid and trade things, like little over priced bracelets. I mean, c’mon, are these really hurting anyone? Aren’t there bigger things in the world to worry about then colored silicone bracelets that kids are into? Who cares if kids want and have them! It’ll be something else next year. It’s all just part of being a kid and being silly. Loosen up folks!
  • Lisa Beskin wrote: Christa, how much are they?
  • Bridget Sweet wrote: My kid loves them. Her teacher banned them from her class though. Rite Aid sells them. Not interested. I wore the Madonna O-ring bracelets forever so not new to me.
  • Christa Pylant wrote: Lisa, we were vending them for $3 for a bag of maybe 10? In department stores they may be ~ $2. They’re kinda fun, all shaped liked different things. I like just trying to figure out what they’re s’posed to be!
  • Jen Smith wrote: Both my boys went crazy for them, especially my 4 yr old
  • Julie Gouldman Russell wrote: He’s not asking for them and I’m not pushing them. Glad they weren’t in his school before school let out for the summer. Just another fad. If he wants them, he can pay for them out of his own spending money – I don’t want to spend my $ on them.
  • Shoshona King wrote: I like watching kids trade them, it seems like a quality interaction.
  • April Butler Albrecht wrote: For me, it isn’t about the interaction, it’s about the idea of buying into every little fad that comes out. I don’t believe children should be encouraged to spend money on everything that society or their peers thinks is “cool.” However, as an adult I love my Iphone, certain brands of clothing, etc. I don’t encourage these fads, but if my kids have friends that trade them or wear them, I don’t tell them they can’t have one or play with them. I find them to be ridiculous, but I remember my interest in some pretty ridiculous, yet FUN things in my childhood.
  • Bessie Jones wrote: I was just introduced to these last week by my 4 and 6 year old. Two days ago they were included in a curriculum training at work. Now I’m reliving the 80’s with fluorescent band syndrome.

Share what you think too!

Dating in the Hilltowns

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Sex in the City Village

I was in New York City on Wednesday! They have lots of well-dressed people there and lots of windows for you to look into while you’re walking so you can see if what you put on that morning looks like what you thought it was going to. It doesn’t look as cool as you thought it was going to in the first window you pass, but they have all these other windows for you to look at yourself in and see if your outfit got any better!

You don’t get that so much in Ashfield. You’d have to jump up and down to see the reflection of your clothing in the windows of Country Pie or Elmer’s or the Hardware Store. You might be able to do it at Neighbors, but you probably don’t care as much about it as you would in New York.

One day we (at Elmer’s) were talking about what the Sex in the Village television show would be like. Three women would sit around at the Lakehouse and say to the fourth:

♦ You went out?
♦ Really?
♦ With a guy who wasn’t married or anything?
♦ Where did you find him?
♦ How old was he??
♦ Do I know him?
♦ Oh right. That guy.
♦ Yeah, I know him, too.
♦ Wait—which guy?
♦ You know, that one with the hair.
♦ Oh wait, with the—that guy? Yeah. I know him.
♦ Yeah, me too.
♦ Yeah, okay.
♦ So, we done here? Wanna go swimming?
♦ Naw, I’m gonna go take a nap.

And then the show would be over!


Nan Parati - Elmer's StoreNan Parati

Nan is the proprietor of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA. A New England transplant from the Deep South, Nan shares her southern wit, wisdom and charm in her column, “Notes from Nan.”  nanparati@aol.com

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