Joyce Bryant

Last spring I was working on a school project that was partly inspired by 1950’s fashion. While doing research I came across these amazing black women in entertainment that I had never heard of before. Women who were being their awesome bad ass selves at a time when racism was the norm. One of those women is Joyce Bryant. My jaw dropped when I first saw images of her. From the fantastic Zelda Wynn Valdes gowns she was often wearing to her distinctive silver hair, she just oozes confidence and glamour. I could look at these images of her endlessly!

This project made me rethink about how I do research for my projects and which sources I use. I only came across Bryant after I refocused my research and started digging deeper. I got tired of coming across the same images over and over again when looking into 1950’s fashion. Images of the same white women I feel I’ve been seeing since vocational school a long time ago. For a moment I got sad and angry about it but then I figured it’s better to try and do something about it. For me, that means educating myself and being more critical when doing research but also spreading the word about awesome women like Joyce Bryant.



Copyright of images
Carl Van Vechten’s Trust

 


The joy of learning new things

I love learning new things, especially new ways to create. My curiosity and my love of learning are things I hope I will never loose sight of, no matter how old I get.

Last spring I got to try something I’ve been curious about for a while, jacquard weaving. Even though I struggled with understanding some the technical aspects of this method, it was still a lot of fun experimenting with different structures and yarns. I’m so happy that I can now design my own fabrics for a collection if I wanted to. Finding a weaving mill that would be willing to weave those designs however, is very difficult.

The images below are from my collection The Voyager’s Mementos. It was inspired by a a nomad traveling the world and all the marvelous sights and cultures they encounter. You can find more images of the collection under Works.


I’m wearing lab coats now

Ok, it’s one lab coat.

I’m always looking for a specific garment when I go to second hand stores but lately I’ve been increasingly trying out those odd garments that are never on my list. It’s part of my “embrace my weirdness” part of self acceptance but also because when I usually go in looking for coats, I end up finding skirts. The best finds usually happen when I’m looking for something else.

Last fall I did a little tour of the vintage and second hand stores in Kallio I had meaning to visit for a while. I was mostly looking for cardigans and bags but also just checking out the offering in the area. In one of the stores I picked up this lab coat. It was one of those “if it fits, I’m buying it” moments. I was surprised I picked it out because I only own one white garment and I’ve never worn it (it was a gift and has sentimental value). But I remember feeling excited when I walked home and giggling at the idea that I would soon be walking around Helsinki wearing a painted lab coat.

In the end I sprayed the coat instead of painting it, just felt more fun. At first I was gonna go with green but the shade I got when I mixed the dyes I had was too olivey for this purpose, so I went with yellow. So there you have it, yet another oddball garment added to my increasingly random collection of clothes that is my wardrobe.

By the way if anyone has any tips for household lamps that can be used for photography, let me know. Daylight is ideal but not always available or reliable.

 


2019 – The year of Action

2019 has gotten off to a rocky start but I’m determined not to let all these difficulties and insecurities crush me. Last year I didn’t make traditional new year’s resolutions, instead I choose to focus on gratitude. To have it be a guiding theme for the year. Practicing gratitude is not easy, especially in this fast paced world we live in and for a overthinking individual like myself. It’s something I’m going to have to keep working on because I honestly believe it’s the key to having a more positive outlook on life.
In 2019 my guiding theme is going to be ACTION! Not as in watch a new action movies every week but as in get shit done! I had a bit of an aha moment last fall when I realised that the self discipline I’ve been telling myself I need in order to start certain projects is not going to fall from the sky. I either have to start having self discipline or keep writing long list of things that never get done. So I looked into this mysterious thing called self discipline and it turns out it all comes down to habits and being consistent with those habits, at least according to some. Habits sound much more down to earth and doable than self discipline. Creating new habits is challenging but I believe I now have a good starting point.
My year of action means finishing projects that have been collecting dust and starting new scary projects I’ve wanted to do in a while. It means rethinking how how I choose projects, how I write to-do lists and how I use my time. It also means standing up for what I believe in, even when it’s uncomfortable and even scary. What are your themes or resolutions for 2019?



Belle

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the culture I consume. I’ve been for example asking myself why I like watching costume and period dramas so much and the problematic aspect of watching them as a black woman. There’s this interesting article by Monique Jones where she explains the many things she finds difficult watching what she calls problematic faves. I can really relate to her dilemma. Every time I’m watching shows like The Crown or Victoria, I start thinking about colonialism and all the horrible things that came with it. Do I stop watching them? No. Am I conflicted about it? Very much so.

When I was growing up and watching these costume and period dramas I wasn’t thinking so much about it. These rich white families from centuries ago felt so far removed from my own reality that I watched them with the same fascination as with sci-fi or fantasy movies. But over the years I’ve become more self conscious about it and started analysing them in a different way. Lately though I’ve become even more critical. There are plenty of these dramas being made every year and they often only feature white actors. The few roles there are for people of any other race is often slave or servant. Now some of you will say, well that’s how society looked back then but these depictions are being made in our time. I sometimes feel this is a part of the entertainment industry that can comfortably exclude people of colour without much effort because they can just cite historical accuracy as the reason. Am I saying that the Brits (’cause the make the best ones) should stop making costume dramas? No, this is far too complex but I think we need a wider variety of stories and creators in this genre.

This is why films like Belle are so important. The story about Dido, a daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. She’s biracial and in his absence she is raised by his aristocratic family. I saw this movie a few years ago and almost started crying because I couldn’t remember the last time I’ve seen a movie like this where a person of colour was the lead but not as a slave or a servant. I’ve seen it a couple times since and I’m still captivated by Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance. The fact that this movie is directed by Ama Asante, a black woman gives me hope that things might be changing. What’s also great about this move is that it’s so beautifully shot that  you can watch it just for the costumes (something I do quite often). There’s a few of Asante’s film I haven’t seen yet but I’m really looking forward to see what stories she chooses to tell in the future.



Winter is coming – So I made a Beanie

Ok, so winter is kind of here already but I’ve got Game of Thrones on my mind.

I’ve been doing serious closet cleanup sessions lately, taking out all those garment and accessories that no longer work for me for different reasons. That has also included letting go of pieces made from animal fibres. While layering is an alternative for wool, I’ve struggled to find replacements for some of my beanies. It seems that everything on the market is either wool or acrylic. The few beanies that are made from cotton are made for people with much smaller heads than mine. I’ve been reluctant to crochet a beanie since the last time I did it, I ended up with a heavy and weird shaped beanie that I rarely used. Tired of googling ethically produced cotton beanies I decided to give a crocheted version another go. This time I would try to find a pattern and make sure I got the fit right.

Thank goodness for Pinterest because it didn’t take long before I found this simple way of crocheting a beanie, that even beginners can do. You don’t have to worry about decreasing stitches, only how big of a fold (or is it a brim on beanies too?) you want or how loose you want the beanie to be. You basically crochet a rectangle that you then stitch or crochet the sides to make a tube and then you gather and stitch together one opening of that tube and you have a beanie! I made mine very big because I want to be able to wear it even when I have box braids. So the top of the beanie is maybe not the prettiest but I can always cover it with a pom pom or something else.

Because I was going to use cotton and not wool, I figured it would be good to use a thicker yarn. I was glad to finally have a use for the knitted tube yarn that I got from a friend a while back. I ran out of yarn half way through so I had to order more to finish the beanie.

I’m so happy with this beanie, that I’m probably going to crochet another one. I would like to try one with a different rib stitch and maybe with a heathered yarn.

 


Read This Book!

I had a class earlier this year where we had to read a chapter from Tansy E. Hoskins book Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion. Unlike many of the other readings we had to do for the course, I read the chapter really fast and immediately decided that I had to read the entire book.

I was already aware of many of the things Hoskins examines in this book but I had never had them all compiled on one plate and served to me with such razor sharp straightforwardness. This book has forced me to look long and hard at my own consumer habits and all the industry myths I buy into. After reading this book I can’t justify buying fast fashion anymore, even if I’m only buying those very basic staple garments that I know I will wear until they falls apart.

What’s so great about this book you ask? Chapter by chapter Hoskins examines the very many ways the fashion industry exploits and destroys people and nature. She debunks myths about high end fashion and exposes how most of the industry is ruled by a few conglomerates. At the same time she describes how all of it affects society, from status to body image.

Another great thing about the book is that Hoskins doesn’t just serve up depressing facts about the fashion industry but offers suggestions where to start changing the systems that enable all the exploitation. She encourages the reader to envision a future where we’ve torn down the current system and replaced it with something better.

I really encourage you all to read this book, whether you’re into fashion or not. I would go as far and say it should be recommended reading for all 8th graders.

Have you read Stitched Up? What was your take on it?


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