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

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

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

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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