Surprising use of men’s suits, and how shoes can signal divorce


Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design fall hatBy Elle

I picked up this delightful fall hat, crafted from a man’s suit, at the Textile Arts Alliance Wearable Art Market in Cleveland recently.  Designer Julie Cognata (jacbydesign@aol.com) repurposes clothing and fabric to create these affordable hats (mine cost $38), some of which are cleverly embellished with a man’s necktie around the brim. Because I’m more of a girly-girl, I chose a hat with a trio of knit flowers and some bling.

It may be funny to imagine this bold plaid pattern as a man’s suit today, but I’m a child of the 60s and I do recall men romping about in lively patterned knit suits. In fact, one of those men was the father of my good friend Lindy (not her real name).

Lindy’s parents were divorced, which, at the time, was unheard of, at least in our circles. Lindy’s mom, whom I rarely saw — I suspect now she was out working three jobs — had sole custody of their seven children.  For as long as I knew them, their house was a wreck, the refrigerator bare and the children unruly. Still, I loved spending the weekends there because the experience was so dramatically different from what my home life was like (thank you, Mom and Dad!).

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New! Ruby Shoos and life for old underwear


Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design Ruby ShooBy Elle

I generally don’t pay much for my clothing, opting to thrift most everything I buy, for several reasons (in no particular order):

  • I like a closet full of choices
  • Recycling and reusing clothing is crucial for the environment
  • There’s no shortage of magnificent fashion finds when thrifting
  • I can buy expensive shoes without guilt

According to Elizabeth Cline, who wrote Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, “most of our donated clothing doesn’t end up in vintage shops, as car-seat stuffing, or as an industrial wiping rag. It is sold overseas….And by one estimate, used clothing is now the United States’ number one export by volume, with the overwhelming majority sent to ports in sub-Saharan Africa.”

While that seems like a charitable deed, turns out the world has changed, and many people in developing countries are able to now afford fast fashion and super-cheap clothing from China. We can (and should) no longer use Africa as our dumping ground for unwanted textiles. In fact, there is at least talk in Eastern Africa to ban all imported used clothing by 2019.

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Fabulous hats, and a trick, for tea


Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design spring hatsBy Elle

Hat shopping ranks close to the top as a delightful distraction in my book, especially when life feels too fast-paced, which is almost always. So a couple of weekends ago, two of my friends, Sultana and Amy, and I spent a recent morning at my favorite millinery, Studio St. Marie in Rocky River, to find spring hats for a tea party.

We had the best time trying on all the latest creations along with some vintage beauties (folks of yore had smaller heads, and, without fail, those hats fit my tiny skull just right). We each found a hat or headpiece to take home, and soon we’ll be making plans for a tea party. Continue reading

And then she fell in love with shoes


By Elle

When I was a kid, during those freewheeling ’70s, our family — mom, dad and younger brother — would spend at least one summer day at a local amusement park, called Geauga Lake.  The park began as a quaint picnic spot and swimming hole in the late 1800s and slowly grew into a full-fledged amusement park. In its later years, Geauga Lake changed hands several times, and its future appeared uncertain, until it closed, sadly, a decade ago.

Going to Geauga Lake was a treat, the highlight of the summer. My favorite rides weren’t the roller coasters (though I liked them well enough), but rather the antique motorcars, Ferris wheel at night and, always, the carousel and its old-timey organ music. I loved the history of the park and imagined myself there at the turn of the century, flitting about in a lavish skirt, frilly blouse and Gibson-girl hairdo.

Geauga Lake was relatively close, about a 45-minute trip from our house, so we could decide spontaneously to spend the day there, which is precisely what happened one summer morning when I was about 8. I recall that my brother, who was about 5 at the time, and I were playing outside (as usual) when Mom called us to get ready because we were going to … Geauga Lake! Woo hoo! While Mom packed a picnic basket — way too expensive to buy food at the park — my brother and I packed ourselves into the family sedan, a goldenrod Pontiac Catalina. Continue reading

Mid-winter shimmer and shine


By Elle

My granddaughters who are between 3 and 5 years old love Shimmer and Shine, two spunky cartoon genies, one of whom has a particular penchant for glitter.  (That’s Shimmer, and she’s my favorite.)

Those two genies came to mind a few weeks back when I pulled out my fiber shawl, by MZ Beads, to wear to the art museum . I love how the metallic fibers shimmer in the light and give my spirit a lift during these mid-winter days.
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Best gift idea for Valentine’s Day. Ever.


By Elle

How over-the-moon would you be if your partner/spouse presented you with a journal that contained a year’s worth of reasons why he/she loves you?

This idea emerged several years ago during one of the communication courses that I teach. A course participant told the group that he created a journal for his wife, essentially titled 365 Reasons Why I Love You. Every day he would pen an entry, describing to his wife why he loves her.

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