Wife beater

Being taught British English in school, I sometimes get confused with American expressions. One quite funny situation occurred a few weeks ago when a friend of mine during a dinner said that he had to leave early to go and buy a wife beater. Since I know this person quite well, or at least thought I did, I got shocked and didn't really know what to say. Furthermore, I also found it strange that none of the others around the table said anything.

When I heard the word "wife beater", I thought it was a tool to hit people with. Luckily one of my friends had heard the expression before and asked the American students around the table why they called it a wife beater. It was explained to me that a wife beater is another word for a sleeveless shirt, and that the expression probably came from wife abusers in movies who often wore those kind of shirts. Personally, I think it is a very strange name and I believe that there are more people like me who get confused when hearing it.


Does the dress reveal its price?

This summer, I worked as a reporter for the Swedish TV-program Girlylicious (TV3), covering Stockholm Fashion Week. Almost all the big Swedish designers were represented at the runway, and all the important people from the Swedish fashion world were there. The journalists were running around asking questions about what clothes you MUST have in your closet for spring and summer 2008. My TV-team decided to do something different. Since we found the price tags for the creations shown at the fashion week a little overpriced, we decided to investigate if people could really see a difference between a cheap mass-produced dress and a fashionable designer one. So when Stockholm Fashion Week started I arrived in a flower patterned summer dress I had bought on sale for about $7.

Firstly, I felt a little bit misplaced since all the other fashion reporters were wearing outfits classified as the hottest fashion at that time. However, as soon as I started to conduct the interviews I felt much better. Even before I had asked for a comment about my dress, one of the most famous Swedish designers, Lars Wallin, said that he thought my dress was really cute. The designer who created the Swedish queen’s wedding dress thought my cheap dress was cute! Surprisingly, no one said anything negative about my dress, although I provoked them to do so. Even Miss Jay Alexander, the fashion guru from America's Next Top Model, said it was sweet. Most of the people I interviewed told me that I should keep it in my wardrobe for next summer since it would never go out of fashion.
It is unfair to compare a mass-produced garment with a designer garment. Without the talented designers, there would be no fashion style at all and the cheap brands wouldn’t have anything to copy. However, I find it interesting that it is so difficult to see the difference between a dress for $7 and a dress for $700. As I have written before, being fashionably dressed doesn’t have to be expensive.

Miss Jay Alexander, from America's Next Top Model, and I.

This particular show hasn’t been aired yet but you can see another clip from Stockholm Fashion Week at Girlylicious web-TV. Choose “Girlylicious” and then “Fashion week”.


Don't forget your hospital gown

Some people have a tough time remembering to bring their insurance card when rushing to the hospital. Others are fully prepared, with special designed gowns in their wardrobe.

Most people think that hospital clothes are boring and unfashionable, and they usually are. I am not so superficial that I highly prioritize my outfit when being hospitalized; however, I don’t think it would do any harm if the hospital clothes were pimped up a little bit. Obviously, the focus of the design is that the clothes should be practical and serve their purpose, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be boring. When researching this topic, I found that there was already a market out there for designed hospital gowns. Several companies provide a big range of stylish hospital clothes in different colors and designs. But for who? People who live in hospices and nursing homes are apparently one of the main target groups, but according to the information on their web pages and in articles, the companies also turn to people who believe it is important to be fashionably dressed in every possible occasion. It might seem quite strange to buy clothes for such a distressing situation, as being hospitalized, but apparently there are people who do. Rumors say that some celebrities have designed hospital gowns in their wardrobes. I don’t know if this is true, but I would probably also consider having one if I was chased by paparazzi. I mean, I would not like the whole world to see photos of me in an unflattering gown.

Those who are interested in preparing for being fancily dressed, if the worst occurs, can order their favorite hospital outfit online. The gowns costs $30-$50 and the ordering procedure is the same as for any other online shopping. The web pages offer many different styles of gowns and some of them have beautiful details such as appliquéd rosettes and embroidered roses. Most of the gowns are designed for women but there are some pieces of clothes for men too. What kind of hospital gown do you prefer? My favorite is this pink one:

Web pages you can check out if you are interested are:

Scrubies Wear
Hospice Gowns
Nursinghome apparel


International Education Week

During the next few days, I will post a podcast about a cultural fashion show at Central Connecticut State University. My plan was to post it earlier this week, but since I spent the last hours before Thanksgiving exploring the unfashionable hospital clothes at the ER, I wasn't able to. Until then, you can enjoy a video I have produced about International Education Week, where you can see some video clips from the fashion show.


Cheap Fashion Design

Now you can wear clothes by the same designers as Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez without paying a fortune. Three years ago the Swedish low budget brand H&M started to invite popular fashion designers to create special collections in their name. The concept was a big success and Karl Lagerfeldt, Stella McCartney and Madonna are some of the designer logos you've seen among the other clothes in the stores... or maybe haven't seen, since everything is usually sold out after just a few hours. Robert Cavalli is the latest designer creating garments for the Swedish giant, his collection was released in 200 shops around the world last Thursday with almost everything being sold out within an hour. The clothes were obviously hot stuff, and at the end of the day a lot of garments were on sale on Ebay for more than three times the price as in the stores. Personally, I didn't find the collection that special....even though leopard pattern is one of the typical characteristics in the collection (readers who are unfamiliar with my relationship to leopard patterns can get an update by the post Creating trends).

Last year Viktor and Rolf made an amazing collection à la Haute couture...and I was actually one of the crazy people skipping work and waiting outside for hours to get a head start. I wanted almost everything in the collection, but had picked two favorites I intended to fight for. Obviously I wasn't as desperate (or as good at track) as the other people in the store and didn’t manage to get to the finish line in time. When I did finally make it to the end, my sizes were all gone. I grabbed the garments in another size and tried to convince myself that they would look great even if they were a little bit oversized. However, a few minutes later a woman came up to me and wanted to trade her size small with my size large. Yey! So I ended up getting exactly what I wanted, or at least everything that I could afford. So honestly, I must say, that it was definitely worth it. The jacket and the sweater are still the two favorite items in my wardrobe and I feel happy each time I put them on.

If after reading this post, you want to experience an intense shopping moment, take a look at this video:

This video is from Robert Cavalli's opening in Amsterdam. If you want to read more about the collaboration between Robert Cavalli and H&M, take a look at this site.


A fashion abroad experience

One year ago I was supposed to study abroad in Egypt. The moment I found out I was accepted into the exchange program, my preferences when clothes-spotting changed a lot. I studied the photos my future classmates had uploaded to Facebook and tried to copy their style. For the first time in my life I craved for loose fitted long sleeved tops with high necklines. My goal was to melt into Egyptian society and dress like the students there. Unfortunately, my exchange program was cancelled two months before I was supposed to go and at the time, my wardrobe was fully updated with clothes I have never worn.

Six months later I got the opportunity to attend an exchange program at CCSU in the United States. Since I thought the American culture was much more similar to the Swedish, I didn’t think so much about what clothes to bring. Having grown up watching Grease and other college movies I thought I had a good idea about how the American students dress. But no, the first day of school I found out how much it actually differs. I felt totally overdressed when I walked into the classroom, wearing the clothes I usually wear at the university in Sweden. The student fashion at CCSU is much more casual than I am used to and there are for example a lot of students wearing sweatpants for class. I soon realized that I had brought way too much formal clothing and that I wouldn’t walk around in my high heels for long.

Talking to the other international students I found out that they have had a similar experience. One thing that surprised them the most is that some American students show up for class wearing pyjamas. That is something you would never do in our home countries. On the other hand, many of us international students are not used to living on campus. For example, most international students would have to travel by metro, bus or car to get to university and so wearing pyjamas to university would seem much more strange. Even though I would personally never consider walking around campus in my pyjamas, I must admit that it is quite nice to dress down. I have gone to class wearing my dance clothes a few times, which felt a bit weird but quite comfortable.


Student fashion around the globe

I am one of four hundred international students at Central Connecticut State University. We are all facing different issues trying to adapt to American college life. One of these, which at first sight may not be considered as so important, is the difference in fashion and clothing. Talking to some of the international students, I have learnt that the student fashion is very different around the globe. All the students I have spoken to agree that the American students dress quite differently from how they do in their home countries. But, what are the main differences?


National costumes

There is going to be an International Education Week at my University next week and we international students were asked to participate in some of the activities. One of them is an international fashion show. I got excited when I first heard about it and did immediately raise my hand to participate. As you might already have figured out by now, I am really interested in international fashion style. However, I got quite confused when a girl came up to me and said that she was looking forward to seeing the Swedish national costume. What? Swedish? Was I supposed to show the Swedish national costume? Well, of course I was since I am an international student from Sweden.

During the last years I have got so used to representing The Middle Eastern culture that I didn't even take into consideration that they expected me to show the Swedish national costume. Who has got a Swedish national costume anyway? The Swedish queen and princesses usually wear it for the National day and our holiday Midsummer Eve, but that's it. To be honest, the Swedish national costume is not that fancy and I think most of us Swedish people feel quite embarrassed by it when represented internationally. I mean, we look like peasants! Every time I work at cultural festivals and see girls walking around in these costumes I am so grateful that I chose to work with Middle Eastern culture, it is so much fancier and bling bling.

Honestly, what national costume would you chose?


Wanna buy a monster outfit?

This Halloween-thing is really big here in the US…bigger than I thought it would be. During the last week I’ve been sitting next to one monster after the other at lectures and having lunch with a lot of scary looking people. However, it has made my everyday life a little more exciting and I kind of wish that we celebrated it in Sweden too. Some of the costumes I have seen have been amazing!

Before this whole Halloween-thing started, a friend of mine took me and another international student to this huge shop called Halloween Express. It is basically what it sounds like, a shop that only sells Halloween stuff. Both my friend and I were quite impressed by the assortment of costumes and accessories, but did wonder how the shop was able to run a business during the 51 non-Halloween weeks. The answer I got when I asked was that Americans in general like to have costume parties and get dressed up. However, I have my own personal explanation for why the business keeps running: the unreasonable high prices. I completely agree that it is fun dressing up like a Green Nymph (what’s scary with that by the way?), but not fun enough for paying $42. It is especially not worth it if you’re only planning to wear it once. According to some of my friends, it is the standard here in the US to show up with a new costume every time. Obviously, I’m not really in to this whole Halloween-thing but I didn’t think it was worth the money to buy a fancy outfit either. As my friend said, think about all the fun stuff you can do with the money saved. Anyway, what happens to all these costumes when Halloween is over? One of my friends bought a monster outfit and asked me if I possibly knew of anyone who wanted to buy it. If any of you readers are interested in investing in it (and I truly understand you if you're not)… just send me an email.

Well, I went to my first Halloween-party (ever!) the Friday before the actual Halloween date. The party was arranged by the International Relations Club at my university, CCSU, and most of the people that attended were international students, like me, who had never celebrated Halloween before. Nevertheless, we were all dressed up and ready to experience something that we had only seen on the TV before. Firstly, we were all informed about what Halloween was all about, and then we started to eat cakes and take funny photos. It was fun, even though at the end of the night I still really didn’t understand what the whole celebration was about. However, from my point of view, every reason to party is a good reason….!


Traditional Gambian Fashion

Fashion styles differ from country to country and you can usually tell by a person’s clothes as to which part of the world they come from. However, a lot of people cross these cultural borders and choose to wear the style they like the best. Ritva Lundberg, from Sweden, is a non-conformist when it comes to Swedish fashion, since she usually dresses in West African clothes. She loves tie-dye fabrics and knows a lot about the way they are produced. During the hippie-era in the 1970’s, when batik clothes were trendy in Sweden and other parts of the western world, Ritva made her own batik fabrics, however, today she usually buys her fabrics from Gambia.

The first time I met Ritva Lundberg was in Bakau in Gambia in 2002. I was there as a tourist and Ritva, who had been living there periodically for three years, became my guide to the country and introduced me to her friends. It was the interest in West African music that drew Ritva and her husband to Gambia in 1999 and they immediately fell in love with the culture. They spend a few months in Gambia every year, bringing its culture and way of life back to Sweden when they return, for example, Ritva often dresses in African fabrics in Sweden but in clothes made with western designs. It is still quite unusual in Sweden to wear this kind of fabric and it is easy to spot Ritva in a crowd. It is always exciting to see her choice of clothing, as she is literally wearing a piece of beautiful art.
“I always receive compliments on my style of clothing and my colleagues say that it is fun, as I add a splash of colour to the workplace, since the Swedish people usually dress so colourless”. The clothes in Gambia, on the other hand, are known for being very colourful and they are often made through tie-dye.


Ritva Lundberg at one of her art vernissages in Sweden.

“Cuub” is the word for tie-dyed clothes in Wolof, one of the main tribe languages in Gambia. Ritva tells me that cuub is the traditional way to decorate clothes and when you walk the streets of Gambia you see a lot of people wearing those patterns. Originally the Gambian people used plant colours to create the batik and the patterns were usually quite small. Nowadays, the colours are synthetic and patterns, colours and techniques are numerous, but the old patterns are still used and popular, beside the new ones.

This is three examples of Gambian tie-dye fabrics

Ritva Lundberg loves the colourfulness and the diversity in the Gambian fabrics and explains that there are thousands of colour combinations and patterns. When I visited a market in Banjul with her, it was the colours of clothing that made the greatest impression on me. Ritva usually buys her printed cotton fabrics at the big markets in Banjul or in the markets of Serrekunda since they have the largest assortment. However, the batik clothes she prefers to buy are from a batik maker named Fatou Sanneh.”I happened to get a good price from her once at the market in Serrekunda, where I gradually became her regular customer and started to visit her home to do my shopping”. Fatou also makes batik on order so you can get exactly the colours and patterns you want. “However, her prices for the special ordered batik patterns are not as low, but on the other hand, her fabrics are of extremely high quality”.

Fatou Sanneh is one of many batik makers in Gambia. Here she and her brother is showing one of her fabrics.

I have learnt that the pattern of the fabric is very important and Ritva says that there are new imaginative patterns invented all the time. There is also a trend in patterns and every year there is a pattern that is the “it” thing. “Every fabric manufacturer produces the pattern and all fashion conscious women wear it. If they don’t they are not ‘in’. You can not go to a party wearing last year’s batik pattern. That is unthinkable.” Ritva Lundberg says that trends are very important in Gambia and that the Gambian women love vanity and new clothes. “It should always be the latest trends, sewed by the favourite tailor”. At the moment however, the batik patterned clothes are starting to be pushed out by a new “in” thing. “Today the latest fashion is sparkling synthetic fabrics, often with lace and inventive embroiders.”

Another interesting thing about the clothing in Gambia is that the women usually dress in the same patterns for big family feasts. “The women wear something called ‘asobi’, a kind of uniform, where the clothes are made out of the same patterned fabric, however, the design can vary. Sometimes even the men get an asobi in the same pattern, but this is not that common”. It is custom that the family who hosts the party buys all the fabric for the guests’ clothes. The choice of the fabric indicate the level of wealth of the family.

At Gambian family feasts the women usually dress in 'asobi', clothes made out of the same patterned fabric.
For all of you who don’t have the opportunity to go to West Africa to buy these beautiful fabrics, it is possible to buy it online from stores such as Indigo Arts and Saramani Tissus.

A big thanks to Ritva Lundberg for the information and the photos used in this post.


Creating trends

I have always wondered who or what it is that decides what is trendy. When I was younger, I thought it was the girly magazines that made this important decision. My friends and I used to read the top ten lists of what is in and what is not to make sure we didn’t show up with something that was totally out of fashion. At that time, following trends were looked upon as very important, at least among my friends and classmates, but it wasn’t just us that had to follow these trend rules, it was our parents too.

I bet you all have old photos of your parents that you at some point in life have felt quite embarrassed about. For me, one of those is a photo of my mom in a fake leopard coat, shot in the 1970’s. I found that coat in our basement store when I was in high school and stuffed it into a black plastic bag, hiding it well just to make sure she wouldn’t wear it in public again. At that time leopard patterned fabrics was looked upon as “a big no no” and it was always mentioned in the magazine articles as “Trends we never want to see again”. Finally, that leopard coat was given away to charity when we cleaned our basement store and I made it clear that I absolutely didn’t want to inherit it.

When I was nineteen I started to dance Arabic dance and made a lot of new friends from the Middle East. In this dance culture, trends were totally different from the common trends in the Swedish society, for example, leopard patterns were looked upon as really cool. The first time, I saw one of my friends arrive to a party in a leopard patterned cat suit and I was quite shocked about her choice of clothing. Soon I realized that she wasn’t the only one wearing that pattern, almost everyone in the group did. A few weeks later when I went out shopping with one of my friends, who wasn’t in the dance group, I spotted a leopard top that I really liked. I showed it to my friend and she asked me if I was insane. However, I decided to buy it because I liked it and in my opinion it was trendy. At that time I had stopped slaving under the fashion magazines and wore what I liked. According to the fashion magazines my friends and I were totally untrendy, but we didn’t care.

I really like leopard patterns...but sometimes it can be a little bit too much.
Last weekend I attended a concert to see my idol Tori Amos, where she wore a leopard cat suit. I have seen her wearing the outfit in photos before and I obviously wasn’t the only one who had. The audience was full of girls wearing leopard outfits. When Tori Amos sang the phrase “I'm boycotting trends, it's my new look this season”, from the track Girl Disappearing, it came clear to me what impact artists have in creating trends. Maybe she is totally untrendy according to the fashion magazines but her style was as trendy as could be for us. Trends are not only created by designers or fashion magazines. It is also created by communities, idols and a lot of other factors. Referring to my last blog post, Emmelie answers my question about what fashion is: “It's a shallow way to show off who I am”. If I could turn back the time, I would never have given away my mom’s leopard coat. It would have been so cool to wear it this autumn, not because it’s the ‘in’ thing according to the fashion magazines, but because I really like it.
Tori Amos in a leopard catsuit at the concert in Madison Square Garden.


What is fashion?

I found this video at YouTube and it presents some interesting answers to the question I have been thinking about all week: What is fashion? I haven’t figured out my answer to that question yet. Instead, I will share some of my favorite explanations from the video with you:

“Fashion is having fun with clothes”
“Fashion is your own style”

“Fashion is art you wear”
“Fashion anticipates, and elegance is a state of mind… a mirror of the time in which we live, a translation of the future, and should never be static.” / Oleg Cassini

And of course I found some explanations that I don’t agree with. Two of them are:

“If you are not in fashion, you are nobody” / Lord Chesterfield
“We live not according to reason, but according to fashion” / Seneca

So my question to all of you is: What is fashion to you?

One more fashion blog?

The fashion blogs first appeared in the blogosphere in 2002 and the phenomenon has grown considerably since then. Today, the Internet is crowded with people from around the world writing about fashion, but what are they really reporting about? According to Wikipedia, the fashion bloggers usually cover things such as runway trends, fashion items, celebrity fashion and street style. However, my personal opinion is that many of those blogs appear to exist primarily to satisfy the bloggers narcissistic needs, rather than to share thoughts and knowledge about fashion. At least most of the Swedish blogs mainly consist of posts with photos in which the bloggers show their outfits of the day and let the readers know which fancy stores they have bought the clothes from. To me these bloggers seem to be attention-seeking people with an extreme need of encouragement from other people…and they get it. It is almost as if the fashion bloggers have gathered together in a big “complementing each other” group. Furthermore, my observation is that you often don’t get comments about your posts because you have written something interesting, but because you have made a lot of comments in other people’s blogs. It is kind of an elementary school mentality; if you write a comment to me telling that I have nice clothes, I will write a comment to you telling the same. I know that making comments is a way of marketing yourself and your blog, but what do these bloggers really want to market?

As you might already have figured out, I don’t plan to be one of these fashion bloggers. So if you are here looking for tips about the absolute coolest trends and must-have accessories for this autumn I would advise you to look somewhere else. In this blog I am going to cover fashion from all around the world. My intention is to write about different aspects of fashion and share my thoughts about the industry because fashion and clothes aren’t just about products, designs or shopping, it is about so much more.