Category Archives: fashion

Developing a personal style

Today's laundry gave me an insight into what kinds of clothes I love and would like be part of my personal style. With limited space on my clothing rack and not enough time to handwash everything, I picked out just the pieces I love wearing. The clothes that made the cut today? All of my malongs, my Thai silk pants, and a couple of nicely textured tops. Jeans, t-shirts, stretch pants, buttoned blouses: all stayed in the laundry pile for another day. And there's the fact that I'm typing this blog entry while dressed in a black sari...

I don't think I'd be happy just shopping at Gap. Or at a Vera Wang boutique, for that matter. I like clothes with stories. I can get away with my ethnic clothes now because people give students a lot of latitude when it comes to outfits. If I can figure out a way to wear clothes with character throughout my life, that would be fantastic. I may have to be semi-conservative for a while if I work with IBM, but if I can find out how to get ethnic accents into business and business casual clothes, I'll be happy. =)

If money were no object, I'd probably be more likely to bring a wallet from Sagada than one from Louis Vuitton. If I could have anything I wanted, I'd rather bring to light an obscure designer than clothe myself in Armani. I'd rather have tailored clothing than designer ready-to-wear. I'd rather wear homespun cotton than crisp pinstripes. Clothes may make the man, but I make my clothes - that is, I can make my clothes special.

All of this is academic, of course, because I have other things to spend time and money on - particularly as a grad student! <grin> But I get the sense that this is probably one of those unchanging things, and I'd like to find role models who've gotten away with it. The woman from Sonja's Garden, for example - I remember really liking her outfit.

So here's the deal: I'll keep a few business-type suits around just in case I have to wear something conservative. I'll probably use those a lot if I work at IBM, anyway. But if people want me to wear anything fancy, they should give it to me. ;)

More thoughts on this eventually...

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Self-portrait with vintage hat

One of the things that surprises people is that as high-tech and plugged in as I am, I still have an appreciation for old ways. I send hand-written notes, write with a fountain pen in a little black notebook, hardly ever swear, and occasionally pick up quirky styles. Such as this hat, for example.

I've been told by quite a few people that I wear hats well. I picked up this vintage hat during the Cabbagetown festival. It was CAD 18 or so. I didn't know when I'd have an occasion to wear it, but I decided to get it anyway and find excuses to wear it whenever I could. It so happened that I was wearing flowing black plants and a black velvet top at the time that I bought the hat, so it fit perfectly, and a number of people stopped to compliment me on the ensemble. It made a few people wonder if I was in mourning, though.

Why should elegant hats be restricted to such occasions? Women of breeding used to never go out without something on their heads, and some cultures maintain this tradition to this day. I'll continue playing around with this idea, and perhaps I might fold it into my style.

I'm not used to thinking of myself as stylish, but I do like being distinctive. This isn't the harsh uniqueness of piercings or dye, but rather a hint of something old, something different.

(Look, dad! I'm also getting better at taking self-portraits. The cheap tripod I bought has been working out. Now all I need is a full-length mirror that I can use for clothing and that I can set up behind the camera...)

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Bought a sari

Toronto has all these wonderful little neighborhoods. I've been meaning to go to Little India to buy a sari for the longest time, so I finally decided to go and buy one today. It was so hard to choose - they were all so beautiful! I finally decided on a black sari with gold thread trim. If I like wearing it, I just might go back and get more.

Hmm. BarCampEarthToronto is this Saturday, so I'll probably go in a malong. Tomorrow I've got a fair bit of running around to do, and I'll be up at IBM for the rest of this week... Maybe next week, then! The 28th would be a good time to try it out.

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Whoa, maybe I’m onto something here

Lots of people commented on my entry about wanting to get into the clothing business. I've updated the entry with their comments. Maybe I'm onto something here. Is it something small that I can build and let loose?

In other news, yet another random stranger walked up to me yesterday and complimented me on the malong that I wore. And to think that I was just wearing it as a skirt...

Also, I'm planning to go to Little India and get myself one of their traditional outfits to see what that feels like.

I'm interested in traditional outfits from all cultures, not just the Philippines, although I must admit that I take a certain joy in telling people that my terno's from home... =)

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Looking for a malong supplier

I get complimented almost every time I walk out the door wearing one of the beautifully patterned malongs from the Philippines. The malong is also worn in several other Asian countries. I love the intricacy of the pattern, particularly when it's embroidered and not just printed. It's a terrific what's-it at parties, sparking plenty of interesting conversations. And yeah, it's hip enough to go casual and ethnic enough to go more formal: all I need are a few safety pins and a nice brooch.

When some friends and I were at the Taste of the Danforth (a Greek food festival), a shop owner asked me if she could buy the malong off me. She wasn't the first to ask me where to get these malongs. I wonder if I can start a little side business that'll also make it easier for me to get the malongs I like... <laugh>

Sourcing the cloth would probably be the hardest thing. Quality is so variable. One of my favorite malongs had a brilliantly coloured red, purple and gold pattern in the beginning. The dye runs each time I wash it, which is a pain. I have to wash it separately and make sure there's enough space between it and the other items on my clothes-drying rack.

I wonder where to find malong cloth: embroidered, printed, etc. I want quality malongs and accessories with the same patterns. Imagine wearing a matching scarf, or a cute bag, or even shoes...

Hmm. It would be a good excuse to learn how to build an e-commerce site, too. Also, I've been doing lots of strange things with wearing a malong that I haven't seen other people do yet, so that might be fun to pick up.

Something to look into. First thing I'd need to do is to find a source for ready-made high-quality malong cloth and make a few samples.

Hmm. I'd love to pass this idea to someone else. It's not part of my core competency (sewing bags? making shoes? I'd have to learn so much first!), but it's something I wouldn't mind taking a risk on to help make it happen...

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From Simon Ditner:

<rant> It kind of throws me for a loop that your blog doesn't have a display of user submitted feedback. It's very unsatisfying putting comments in this little box, and not seeing them go anywhere, like I'm pitching bits to the wind. It seems like the complete antithesis of your research.</rant>

On Queen St., between Spadina and Bathurst, you'll find yourself in the fashion design district with some of the best deals on fabric in town. I sent an email off to my friend Lyn, a local vietnamese fashion designer, to see if she knows of a local source of malongs.

From Charo Nuguid:

I have a friend who lives in Iligan City. He's a photojournalist, and being that your dad was formerly one, you'd know how small the pay is for this job. What he does to raise money for lenses and bodies is to buy and sell beautifully crafted native swords. He'd auction them off on eBay and have people send money to his brother's account in the States.

Selling Philippine-made malongs would be a great idea. It's just a matter of sourcing them out here in the Philippines. :)

From Kelly Drahzal:

I love the ideas of an e-commerce site making(?) and selling ethnic clothes of good quality. I'd be their best customer as well, I think.

I'm also into sewing and quilting. Have an old Bernina sewing machine that is my pride and joy, and have been dropping hints for months that I'd like a mannequin/dress form for birthday/christmas.

If you decide to seriously pursue something like this, let me know. I'd be interested in a joint venture. :-)

From Jay Goldman:

Some thoughts on your malong project:
  • Go for it! It may not be part of your core competency, but you might just surprise yourself. I just read Leila's post about Bob Parson's rules right before yours ( and was struck by the overlap. His rule #1? Get and stay out of your comfort zone. He's right you know.
  • There are some excellent fabric shops along Queen St. W., in the few blocks west of Spadina. I'm not sure if malongs require special fabric, but there's a good chance you'll find what you need in there (and, if not, some good leads on where to track it down). Take a malong with you when you go and you'll have much better luck explaining what you want.
  • Craislist is a great resource for finding things. A quick search for mannequin turns up a few that might work for you (like, though lacking legs). There's also a "wanted" section, so you could post a request for a proper one in there. You would likely also find people who could make malongs for you (i.e.: a "Production Team") if you wanted to focus on the design and order taking aspects.
  • The Shopify folks out in Ottawa (who are awesome and part of the barcamp crew out there), have a great solution for setting up a simple ecommerce store, which we're about to use it to sell torcamp t-shirts. Although it may offend your open source sensibilities, check it out as a possibility.
  • Last thought: this is a low risk opportunity with a potentially high reward. All you really have to do is set up a website, print some business cards, and see what happens. Your worst case is that no one is interested and you spent some time building a site, and your best case is that it takes off wildly and you end up enthroned on a global fashion empire :)

Good luck!

More malong pics

My mom sent two more malongs through Von Totanes. Slowly building a malong collection and coming up with different ways to wear it. When I go home, I should learn the kappa kappa malong dance... ;)

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