The Muses of Fashion and eating that Humble Pie.

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Christmas Hat-by Callie Losee.

Hello Everybody. I hope your holidays are moving right along and your Christmas season has been cozy and delightful. I don’t know if I would call my Christmas season your average “cocoa Christmas.” My husband and I have been remodeling. My Christmas plans for simplicity have gone out the window. I’ve got ripped out carpet, patches of paint on the wall, ladders in the family room, and grout that is currently drying on the tile. Ideally, we thought this room would be done by Christmas day and it’s not happening. The good news is…we will have a big empty room for family dining. It should be interesting.

In the midst of the remodeling chaos, I’ve written two final papers. One paper was on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, for a nature writer’s class. My other paper was called A Brief History of Tights. Okay, so I took a fashion history class as a free elective. I was getting a little burnt on all of my English Lit classes and thought I would take a little break. My reasoning for this was that I had sewn costumes for Shakespearean plays and medieval reenactment before so I thought this would be a fun exploration of a hobby I already had.

When I got into the course, it was nothing like I had expected. The class was was only covering fashion since the 1900s and was full of students who were majoring in fashion merchandising and design. I was feeling totally out of my element going from English Lit to couture fashion and learning about fashion houses and designers, but I decided to stick with it.

Things really got interesting when I started learning about Coco Chanel (I had no idea she had to go into hiding for having a relationship with a Nazi soldier). I also began to develop an intrigue for fashion as an innovative art form when we covered Madeleine Vionnet and her bias cut. By the time we got to the war years and  women dying their legs with homemade gravy I was really hooked.

I’d say the 1920s pulled me in with the art deco and checkered tights, grabbed me with the Zoot suit and mod fashion, and completely pulled me under when we studied Issey Miyake. Come on, the man survived the atomic bomb at the age of seven, and his APOC, pleats, and origami designs are pure genius. Never mind the collapsable dress! I read an interview with him and I was completely inspired. This man, and his type of thinking are really what the world needs right now.

My fashion course also taught me a lot about branding, mass merchandising, global society, and mass production. There’s a definitive timeline to when this all began. In a nutshell, we were on the road to becoming a throw away society in the 1950s and this is where we have been since. My course ended with some good conversation surrounding eco-fashion and fast fashion.

This is where I ate my humble pie. Initially I went into this with intrigue but reluctance. I came out of this course with greater knowledge. It turns out my fashion course lead me down the road to ecology while my nature writers course was well…another study in transcendentalism and literature. I regret neither.

I left the course with a greater appreciation for the “fashion muses” in my life who not only taught me the the “art” of sewing, but how to be resourceful. From my mother I learned to hoard fabric, (tee-hee) but to also go through everything you have before taking a trip to the store. She also taught me the secret to great sewing is to press the hell out of everything.

My mom has entered many quilt shows. She and my grandmother were quilt makers. I remember admiring an old quilt on a rope bed at some pioneer museum and hearing my mother say, “SEE…See how the the fabric is different over there? The woman who made this must have run out of fabric and had to use something else. I think it gives the quilt more character.” She was so right. It did have a lot of character, and it took another sewer to notice this.

My grandmother was the one who taught me to “cheat the system” by going to second hand stores and looking at the fabric potential. You could cut up and use anything. She’d sew quilts out of my grandpa’s pants and I recall a quilt she made me where I could point out fabrics from something someone had worn before. She’s used high quality sheets, old curtains,  and tablecloths for backing.

Patagonia ran an ad that was the equivalent of shooting themselves in the foot. The ad said, “Don’t buy this jacket unless you need it.” What could eco-conscious living possibly do to the economy, for businesses, industries, and for capitalism? These are deep questions and not ones that can easily be answered in one blog post. The issue here is that science is saying we’ve got twelve years to turn this thing around OR that it may already be too late.

I am not going to take a dive into this right now, but plan on blogging more about eco fashion and fast fashion in the future so consider yourselves fair-warned.  For now, I am going to post these pics of some Christmas hats my mother made. Many from buttons, rick-rack, yarns, and fabrics she already had. She is my creative muse, and although she always pushed for a Christ-driven Christmas she loved the holiday season and her home always reflected this. I’m going for a Holiday visit, so maybe I’ll post more of her creations in the future.

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Happy Holidays!


   Rachelle Whiting




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