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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A poncho like no other, and the value of seeing things differently


By Elle

When I saw this curious combination of Burberry-style Scotch plaid tartan and diaphanous Indian-style veil, wedded to create a poncho, I was awestruck, and it got me thinking about perspective. Continue reading

Easy fall outfits and how to slow down time


Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design fall fashionBy Elle

Fall is the perfect season for styling outfits. The cooler temperatures allow you to play with different textures and weights, and layering offers the chance to create a variety of no-hassle looks.

This year, fall has me thinking less about chunky sweaters and cozy leggings and more about aging. I feel obsessed lately with time and the way the naughty clock is ticking my life away. Now it’s clear to me what it means to have a mid-life crisis — and to create a bucket list, which I haven’t done because I don’t have the time.

I’m trying to engage boredom and embrace quiet moments. I’m trying to quiet my mind. I’m trying to shake up the routine and predictable moments, like occasionally driving a different route to and from work — woo hoo, I know. Instead of checking my phone when I have a minute of down time, I pay attention to my surroundings in an attempt to notice something new. Novelty, as it turns out, allows our brains to perceive time as moving more slowly.  Continue reading

Two looks for fall paisley dress, and what’s in your pocket?


By Elle

This past weekend, I pulled out my fall raincoat, complete with lining, because it’s so dang chilly outside. Whenever I put something on for the coming season, I immediately check the pockets in hope of finding, of course, cold, hard cash. What I almost always find, however, are wads of Kleenex, sometimes new, sometimes used. This time, I found, yes, Kleenex, along with something new.

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The unsolved mystery behind my latest acquisition


Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design antique painted shade lampBy Elle

I work hard at not acquiring too much “stuff” — would you believe my beloved just laughed at that? — but every now and again something tugs at my sleeve and won’t let go. Case in point: this lovely antique brass table lamp with a parchment paper shade depicting four Parisian cityscapes that I found, naturally, at the Craft & Antique Co-op in Painesville.

My maternal grandparents were huge collectors of “stuff;” their basement was, quite literally, covered wall-to-wall (including ceiling!) with finds from “rummage” sales, and much of what they collected was high quality, thanks mostly to my grandmother, Rose. She had a good eye for quality glass; my grandfather, Wally, on the other hand, had a good eye for the ladies, and he liked to collect naughty things. I remember being horrified the first time I peered into one of his tiny handheld viewers and discovered a smiling topless woman. I vaguely recall asking my mother why Grandpa liked those things and getting a giant eye roll and sigh in return.  Continue reading

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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