Friday, September 24, 2010

Messenger Bag, Take 2.

  Sorry to the few friends who read this for taking so long to post! It's been a busy few weeks - full time school and full time work have made my schedule tight! In any event, I thought I'd write a quick note on back to school supplies.
  A little bit ago I posted about a laptop bag I'd attempted to make. It turned out well but I wasn't a huge fan of the way it looked. It was a little too matchy-matchy for me. So I attempted a "new" bag, made out of cargo pants and some bizzaro space alien fabric I had on hand. Without making this an instructional post, I basically cut apart some cargo pants and sewed them so that I created a tube with a flap and lined the tube with the alien fabric. Then, I created a strap out of the top of some jeans. There's got to be an official, sewing name for the top of pants. Sadly, my knowledge of fancy sewing terms is limited to "placket". Regardless, it's the bit at the top where the buttons and belt loops are. It's really thick, reinforced material so I thought it would make a good strap. The bag is completed except for this one component that I'm having trouble finding - it's a metal piece that would make the straps adjustable. I have only had a chance to check one store, but if I don't find it, I'll settle on using some D rings I have kicking around. Here are a couple pics of the bag in various stages:

   This bag got me thinking a little bit about why exactly it was that I disliked the original messenger bag I'd made. I realized that I like for things to look homemade. I like the recycled/repurposed aesthetic. In the same way that I do not enjoy walking into Target or the mall and seeing 500 things that look the same, I don't like looking at my own work and thinking it looks like I could have bought it in the store. The vast majority of the time, this isn't a problem. I am horrible at sewing. I'm lazy with crafts. I am idea and not skill driven when it comes to making things and it shows in my end products. So this aesthetic problem isn't one I grapple with very often. I have to wonder - is this some sort of backwards elitism? Do I want to prove to myself and others that I'm not wearing something that came from a store? It could be, I wouldn't put it past me. I think I do genuinely like more thrown together looking items. Made with love but not necessarily with the latest issue of Vogue in mind. I'm sure that like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle. I am both being an elitist about craftivism and also honestly enjoy a certain type of style. I do think it warrants more reflection. I'm sure there's a sort of elitist component to my thinking/feeling on this and if that's indeed the case, I am compelled to root it out. I find elitism in myself, and the mental baggage that comes with it, far more distasteful than overpriced clothing articles. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Money Spent.

     Unfortunately, I feel this post may be a bit boring. It mostly has to do with what I've spent money on lately so if you're not into that sort of thing, I'd skip this. Ok, preface out of the way...
    The past two weeks my bank account has seen a lot of action. All the money I've thrown around lately has seemed both oddly necessary and profusely irritating.
     To begin with, I am starting the clinical portion of a nursing program this fall. Nevermind that this will be my second bachelor's degree (and the first was a double major), and that I also have a Master's degree. Let me put aside the enormity of money borrowed in my somewhat academically redundant “career” and whine here about the cost of books. This, I know, is a very tired complaint but holy canoli batman I have never spent this much on books before. Not to mention the other gear needed for nursing – stethoscope, scissors, etc. Typically, I beg, borrow, and stalk online book sellers for school books but for various reasons, these options were not available to me this semester so I am out a month and half's worth of rent. 
    The other major-ish purchase I've made recently was for a work related event. I work as a sociotherapist for Hillside Children's Center and this week I was assigned to be a staff member at some amusement park events. In order to hang out with the kids in the water park I needed a one piece bathing suit, which I didn't own. No one in my immediate vicinity seemed to have one so I purchased one from Dick's. This was after going to Target only to discover that they weren't selling one-pieces. While at Target I also picked up a new sports bra. I run a lot and consider this an essential part of my wardrobe. Wanting to avoid purchasing from a company that may or may not be using shady business practices, I grabbed a bra made by Champion. I felt fine about this because I knew that Champion products are made in the US and even better, close to Rochester. Nope! Wrong on both counts, I discovered while cutting tags at home. The Champion factory I was thinking of shut down ages ago and my new article was made in the Dominican Republic. Ok, it may not be a sweatshop situation in the DR – but it's definitely not local. This, combined with my arduously long process of trying and subsequently failing to find a bathing suit that was first made in America and secondly, if possible, affordable, left me wanting to spend some serious time searching around online to try to find places to buy both items in the future. I say wanting because I'm working a crazy amount currently (to pay for the above mentioned books) and haven't had much time to myself. I found some websites that list companies that are all American made but I'm not going to put up their web addresses until I'm sure they're not promoting distasteful things like vague xenophobia.
     I'm not sure to what extent I could have avoided these shopping pitfalls. If I had known farther in advance about the work trip I probably could have borrowed a bathing suit. I definitely could have avoided the sports bra issue if I had done some more research before buying it. While I really did think it was made somewhat locally, it was still a bit of an impulse buy – something I try to avoid.  
    The other small bit of reflection I was taking away from these purchases had to do with the shopping experience itself. I felt really uncomfortable being in Target. And because my brain is the victim of two double shifts and an overnight I will list these irritants without much eloquence or explanation: the lighting was bothersome, the popcorn smell made me want to buy their popcorn, I was surrounded by cute disposable clothing that I had trouble not wanting to buy, the selections are overwhelming, and their prices are cheap. I realize now that besides the lighting, my list has to do with my own annoyance at myself for wanting to buy all this "hot bright trash". But I don't know that my annoyance with myself is really worthwhile. I like fashion as it relates to art (whatever that means) and Target tries to make clothes that are fashionable. I don't like looking like everyone else, buying things I don't need, or purchasing from companies that make products in ethically dubious ways. So I can like the way some clothes look and not buy them. But I think when I'm actually in the situation - when I'm standing in that clothing bonanza in Target - the decision not to buy can feel hard. And I guess that's a little disappointing to me. I would love for it to always be easy. I intellectually want to not want overly salted popcorn strategically placed by an entryway and mass produced in Thailand cotton tees that will be ill fitting within a month. But I do sometimes and really, I think that's ok.