Not Just For Faire

Welcome back to the Mane Street Chronicles, and welcome to our last installment in our Slow Fashion series. We hope you’ve enjoyed it! I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it and I’m excited to launch into some new topics next week!

So. How to wrap up slow fashion? I think it is time to talk about a topic that is near and dear to us, and has been for several years. It isn’t the first time we’ve touched on it, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. 

What is the topic?

We call it “Not Just for Faire.” 

That sounds fun, but what do we mean?

We mean taking our favorite pieces of garb and breaking the “costume barrier” by incorporating them into our every day wardrobes.  This concept is particularly meaningful in the context of capsule collections and slow fashion, which is why we are touching on it today. We love our fluffy skirts, our lightweight cotton blouses, our cozy fleece wraps, and more. All of that can easily be worked into your daily wardrobe, with a few key accessories. And viola! Your sultry pirate queen has suddenly become a stylish boho chic socialite. I’ll go over some ideas here, but definitely check out the video on our YouTube Channel too, for some great examples on how to incorporate your garb into your every day style. 

1) Peasant Blouses

Our ladies blouses are always an easy go to for your ‘not just for faire’ looks.  Soft cotton, off the shoulder, loose fitting blouses were a staple of the 60’s hippie era.  They had a resurgence in the early 2000’s when the styles from the 60’s and 70’s circled back around.  And now again they’re gaining traction in mainstream fashion under the vintage and bohemian aesthetics.

Pair your Unicorn Clothing blouses with a chunky leather belt and your favorite jeans or leggings for an easy, breezy, comfortable look.  Or, if you want something a little more fitted, without the belt, our Carmelita blouse with elastic at the waist is just the thing. 

It’s easy to picture the beachy relaxed look of a peasant blouse in the summer. But they make a great cozy layer in the fall too, especially when paired with a chunky scarf. 

2) Rani Dress

Our Rani Dress is so cute it deserves its own category.  This dress can go so many different directions with the right accessories. Pair it with a leather belt and cowboy boots for a Southwest look.  Cavalier boots, some chunky jewelry and a cardigan make it more urban chic. A skinny patent leather belt, lacy tights and heels and you’ll give off some excellent witchy gothic vibes.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

3) Belts and Bodices

Our Artemis Belts and Princess or Courtier Bodices work great with your modern collection too.  These pieces are definitely a little more avant garde, but I know every one of you has the edge to pull it off. I believe in you! Pair these structured pieces with an oversized men’s button up shirt  or t-shirt for an urban artistic look.  The belts especially are a great way to add structure to any loose fitting modern dress. 

4) Fleece Outerwear

Cozy is always in style.  This winter, consider a stylish cape instead of a cumbersome coat. Fall 2020 Fashion Week showed many top designers showcasing an elegant cape on the runway. Add some oversized sunglasses and you’re ready for the day. 

5) Gauze Coat

Our gauze coat is a loose fitting robe that was designed as a part of our Moroccan Dreams collection. But as a casual oversized jacket it fits right in with edgy urban trends.  Pair it with a camisole and skinny jeans for a blaise boho look. Pair a black one with some flannel and combat boots to tap into the 90’s grunge chic that’s been having a resurgence in recent years. Yep, ‘grunge chic’. I said it. Street style is weird these days. But all I know is these maxi layers are hitting the runway hard right now with floor length, oversized trench coats showing up alongside capes and chunky jackets, and this season is a great time to add a gauze coat to your collection of favorites. 

6) Three Tiered Gypsy Skirts

This is an easy one. Who doesn’t love a flowy cotton skirt on those perfect spring days? Tap into your inner earth child with these tiered skirts. 

7) Harem Pants

Similar to the full length Gypsy Skirts, our Harem Pants make an easy relaxed layer for that hippie girl look. Pair with sandals and a camisole in the warmer weather, or a fitted long sleeved shirt with an oversized sweater in the fall. 

8) Avalon Overskirts 

As you can see, almost any of your favorite Unicorn Clothing pieces can be turned into a regular part of your every day wardrobe with the right accessories. It’s all about attitude and creativity! I could go on forever, but not to worry I’ll stop here. I’m sure before too long I’ll find some reason to create even more “Not Just For Faire” outfit ideas. For now though, we’ll wrap up with the Avalon Overskirt.  This asymmetrical handkerchief style skirt is great with leggings, sure, but did you know it can be worn as a top too? Wear the waist over one shoulder and belt the rest to your body for shape and suddenly this simple skirt is a stunning blouse. 

Ok. Ok. I’ll stop. Really. Now it’s your turn! What cute, clever, creative ways have you incorporated your Unicorn Clothing garb into your wardrobe?

Send us photos, videos, and suggestions! We can’t wait to hear from you.

-Erica 

Prefer to listen rather than read? Find our Podcast Mane Street Chronicles on Spotify and enjoy our articles audibly instead!

Slow Fashion Through The Ages

Welcome back to the Mane Street Chronicles! Today we are going to look at slow fashion throughout history. 

Though in that sense, perhaps slow fashion should just be called ‘traditional fashion.’ Or maybe ‘renaissance fashion.’ Not because it is mirroring cuts and styles from the Renaissance time period, but because a ‘renaissance’ is a renewed/revived interest in something, and the concept of slow fashion is certainly a renewed way of viewing and interacting with clothing that was once common place for most of history before being lost during the industrial revolution. 

I would say that the 1950’s was the turning point when fast fashion became the norm.  Around the 1950’s there was an explosion in marketing and a Consumer Culture was born.  Suddenly shoppers found themselves being egged-on by marketing agencies. Encouraged to try to keep up with their neighbors they constantly sought to display always newer, better, more stylish purchases- from clothes, to cars, to furniture and home decor. 

Looking earlier, there was certainly a period of overlap between slow and fast fashion.  The early 1900’s showed a transition to factory production brought on by the industrial revolution.  Suddenly clothing could be made in bulk and conformity at a price everyone could afford. For the first time the middle and lower class could have a say in deciding fashion trends, and they could have more than one or two sets of clothing. 

Before that fashion was dictated by the nobility and the wealthy elite. Were there a great many things wrong with this arrangement? Certainly, but that is not the focus of this article.  And in regards to slow fashion at least, times were better back then. 

We can pull examples of slow fashion pre-industrial revolution from both the realities and practicalities of time, and from laws enacted by the church and state. 

Practically speaking, all fabric and garment notions (buttons, lacings, thread, etc) were made by hand. Every aspect was hands on: growing the cotton or linen, raising the sheep for wool, processing, spinning, weaving, dyeing, sewing and more. This gave a much greater appreciation for the materials, and made the price of clothing much more expensive, comparatively, than modern day. For this reason, many things were done to preserve one’s garments. 

For example, many pieces of a lady’s dress were detachable and interchangeable.  Parts of a dress were all separate pieces: the bodice, skirts, overcoat, etc. Sleeves could be removed so a dress could be worn in all seasons.

Also, a lady always wore several skirts.  The nicest skirt was worn as the top layer, with the hem pinned or tied up to keep it clean and out of the mud.  Petticoats and older skirts were worn underneath so a lady’s modesty could be maintained.  But even these skirts often had an extra piece of fabric sewn to the bottom hem so that just that piece could be replaced as it became dirtied and worn out from constantly dragging through the mud and getting stepped on while she walked.  Women who had to work also wore an apron overtop their nicest skirt to keep it from getting dirtied during her chores. 

Young girls wore dresses with thick hems that could be let out for added length as they grew.  Alternatively, as a dress became too short for modesty, panels were sewn to the bottom hem to add length.  

Most ladies had a hand in making their own clothes, or had a personal tailor to do the sewing for them. For that reason dresses could often be modified as trends changed. While the basic silhouette may remain the same, perhaps the cut of a sleeve or neckline might change from one season to the next. Rather than purchase an entirely new dress, women would update their current wardrobe to reflect the new trends. Even once they were done with a dress it was not simply discarded.  If it had been adorned with real pearls or gem stones these would be carefully unstitched and saved for use on a future dress.  Then the dress could be sold, or gifted to a younger family member or on occasion even a servant. Gifts to servants tended to be smaller however: a pair of gloves, a handkerchief, or a fichus (the small thin piece of white cloth or lace worn around a lady’s neck acting as a bit of modesty necessary when bodice necklines were indecorously low). For the lower classes, how a belt was worn- at the waist or hips for example- was a simple way to keep up with current trends without needing to modify existing garments or buy new ones. 

Certain laws also leaned in favor of slow fashion. These Sumptuary Laws were most popular in England during the reigns of King Henry and Queen Elizabeth. They dictated what fabrics, colors, designs, and accessories the various classes were permitted to wear.  Though these laws were in place to maintain societal hierarchies and distinguish between the classes, they also had benefits to slow fashion.  For example, only certain nobility could wear certain furs- thus preventing the over hunting of those animals.  There were laws on the amount of fabric permitted to be used in particular garments. In a culture where your clothing said a lot about your wealth and status, people certainly would have been tempted to dress to excess if not restrained.  Often an overarching goal of the Sumptuary Laws was to encourage purchasing textiles and accessories made within the country, rather than importing foreign items, and supporting the local economies. That all sounds very slow fashion indeed. 

Special and ceremonial attire was often seen as antiquated or traditional when compared to current fashions. This was because these pieces were worn infrequently and therefore updated more slowly. 

The list goes on. But from these examples, as you can see, slow fashion was the norm up until the early 1900’s where it began picking up speed until it reached the break neck fast fashion culture we have today. There have always been outliers: the hippies of the 60’s and punks of the 80’s certainly didn’t conform to society’s fast fashion standards.  But it wasn’t until the early 90’s that slow fashion began reclaiming any noticeable share of the fashion marketplace. Even today it is far less well known than it should be. But hopefully as we move towards greener, more ethical, and environmentally sustainable choices overall, the fashion industry will be pulled along as well. 

Certainly 2020 has seen a break in the fast fashion carousel. Thanks to the global pandemic, fashion shows canceled around the world. Designers didn’t release collections. With no where to go and Be Seen, overall purchasing in the fashion markets dropped significantly. Perhaps this is the pause for breath we have needed. Perhaps this is the year to evaluate your closets and your habits. Build that capsule collection. Learn how to sew and start mending those worn out favorites before casting them aside. Decide what your style IS, not what you’re told it should be. And move forward into the future with new priorities and goals for a healthier slow fashion mentality. Just a thought.

Tune in next time while we explore the final piece in our Slow Fashion series: Not Just For Faire. We’ll show you how to use your Unicorn Clothing pieces all the time!

See you then!

Erica

Prefer to listen rather than read? Find our Podcast Mane Street Chronicles on Spotify and enjoy our articles audibly instead!

Style Versus Fashion, Trends, and Capsule Collections

Welcome back to the Mane Street Chronicles! Today we’re going to look at Slow Fashion in context of style, fashion, and trends. As a quick reminder, Slow Fashion is a way to approach clothing choices that is more sustainable for the environment, local economies, and communities. If you’re just tuning in, check out our first article “What is Slow Fashion?” and the follow up “Slow Fashion and Unicorn Clothing” to learn more. 

Slow Fashion is a way to build on your own independent personality and style. It has longevity and is filled with intentional choices. This is compared to fast fashion and the chasing of every latest trend, whether you even like it or not. Trends are shapes and cuts of clothing and accessories that become popular very quickly and fade into outdated obscurity just as quickly. Think cut out shoulders, wide belts, espadrilles, gaucho pants and skinny jeans. Fashion is an unbroken train of trends stacked one on the next backwards in time. It is also very culturally specific. Western fashion is very different from Southeast Asian fashion, for example, and though there is some overlap now with modern global connectivity, their histories and futures are still very different. 

So trends make up fashion. But what about style? What do we mean when we say style and fashion? Aren’t those the same thing? Not even close!

Style is personal and timeless. It is your way of presenting your personality and individuality through the art of dressing yourself.  Style is forever. It prioritizes the things that are important to you. It can be comfortable or well tailored, modesty or edgy, reflect a culture or era you find significant, or even just be about a particular color palette. Some style examples might be “classy” or “witchy” or “hippie” or “street.” You pick and choose the trends that work for you, your personal mission statement, and your body type; and you stick with them for as long as they make you happy. 

Fashion, on the other hand, is all about the present time. It looks at the most popular way of dressing in a certain era, and it is constantly on the move.  Fashion used to move more slowly.  The same trends stuck around for years with minor variations from one season to the next. Think, “Edwardian Era”, “Victorian Era”, “Mod” from the 60’s, or “Flapper” from the ‘20s. As the industrial age and mass production picked up speed, so did the world of fashion. Now, modern fashion is ravenously fast. Trends come and go in a matter of weeks.  If you’d like to explore the speed of fashion through history, tune in soon when we look at Slow Fashion Through the Ages in a future article. 

The speed of modern fast fashion is designed to be overwhelming.  The fashion industry wants the consumer to chase after every new trend, and feel a sense of inadequacy if they can’t keep up. Yuck!

That’s not to say as a slow fashion advocate you can’t ever enjoy a new trend or keep up with current fashions. The trick is to establish a versatile Capsule Collection as a base, and incorporate thoughtfully chosen current fashion pieces in from there. Capsule Collection is not a concept we created. It is a pretty popular term in the world of Slow Fashion used to mean a small, dense collection of your favorite pieces, chosen for their versatility and longevity. It is a few pieces that can be mixed-and-matched interchangeably to create completely different looks, maybe with the addition of a key accessory or two. 

At Unicorn Clothing it is easy to build a Capsule Collection. Many of our pieces are designed to be versatile. Our bodices and belts, for example, are all reversible so you have two fabric options in one garment.  They’re also so adjustable they can remain a useful part of your wardrobe even if your weight or body shape fluctuates frequently.  A couple of blouses, a bodice or two, a coat, and a handful of skirts and you can have an endless variety of outfits.  Check out our Youtube Channel where we have tons of useful videos, including one where we make a Capsule Collection and use the same seven pieces to create nine different outfits, with more possibilities not even explored!

Because all our pieces are separates that work best when layered, our pieces have the added benefit of being a useful part of your modern wardrobe as well, and “Not Just for Faire” as we like to say.  Stay tuned for a future article as we explore just a few of the ways you can incorporate our pieces into your everyday wear. Besides, if you love a thing and have a beautiful story behind why you bought it, there’s no reason it should be packed away and worn only once or twice a year! 

Thanks for reading. See you next time when we explore Slow Fashion in the Renaissance!

Bye-bye now. 

Erica

Prefer to listen rather than read? Find our Podcast Mane Street Chronicles on Spotify and enjoy our articles audibly instead!

Slow Fashion and Unicorn Clothing

Hi, Erica here again! Welcome back to Mane Street Chronicles! Today we’re going to continue our exploration of Slow Fashion by looking closely at Unicorn Clothing and placing our practices in the context of slow fashion.  To review, Slow Fashion is a way to approach to the fashion industry that values sustainability and responsibility for the environment, workers, and local community. Slow Fashion has a lot of aspects that cover the entire life cycle of a garment, but for simplification we broke them down into a couple of main areas: company structure, product design, production, sales, use, re-use, and retirement.

Let’s look a little more closely at each of those areas, using Unicorn Clothing as an example. 

Company Design: 

Slow Fashion focused companies are typically smaller businesses, locally or nationally based, with a cultural connection in their company mission. Unicorn Clothing is headquartered in Santa Barbara, California and has been since it was founded in 1973 by the original and current owner- Teri Evans. If you’d like to learn a little bit about our origin story, check out Teri’s Letter here.  

Unicorn Clothing is classified as a micro-business by today’s standards.  We have a core team of two in management: myself, Erica, the apprentice, and Teri Evans, the founder, mentor, and business owner extraordinaire. We also work with several small teams of seamstresses. Lastly, our seasonally recruited shop helpers, many of whom have also worked with us for years and years. We love our herd and can’t wait to showcase some of them in future posts! 

Our cultural connection is a community specific one rather than a traditionally cultural one, but I think it still counts. We find our community in the Renaissance festivals, historical reenactment groups, and most recently to the world of cosplay. This community connection allows us to make clothes that fit our niche and are protected from the buffeting winds of change that endlessly plague fast fashion in the modern day. 

Product Design:

All of our pieces are designed in-house by myself or by Teri. We try to release one new item each year, to keep the interest of our long time customers, but the nature of historical fashion means things rarely go ‘out of style.’ Sure there are some trends. Pirates may be “in” one year, steampunk the next, but the versatility of our pieces allows for a lot of creative play and a lot of overlap of styles and eras. 

We get really excited when we find new colors in our favorite high quality fabrics.  We work with high quality cotton gauze, cotton twill, and cotton tapestries for most of our pieces. Just this year we finally found silver, darker storm grey, and a light lilac in our cotton gauzes after years of searching.  

In the era of rampant production it may sound strange to be unable to find a specific…anything really. But part of our commitment to sustainable production means sourcing fabrics locally.  Aside from our own occasional forays into the city ourselves, we have a loyal fabric buyer that does most of our shopping in the Los Angeles Fabric District. He knows what we like and what works for us and is always on the hunt for new colors of gauze and twill.  Many of our tapestries are close-out bolts; fabric that won’t be made available for the bigger buyers any more, and often sits around at the back of warehouses until finally getting tossed in a dumpster on cleanup day. It means most of our bodices and belts are limited runs and once they’re gone they’re gone, but we like to think our customers enjoy seeing the new fabrics each year. We certainly love the excitement of delivery day at the workshop! 

We also aim for zero waste with our fabrics.  Even the tiniest pieces are saved in well organized boxes stashed in every corner of the workshop.  The girl’s Two-Tiered skirts, for example, are made from the narrow band of fabric left on the rolls after making a woman’s overskirt.  The belts are often cut from the “scraps” left over after cutting a run of bodices.  Since we still cut everything individually and by hand, we are able to save these scraps in ways that just aren’t feasible for larger companies with industrial cutting machines. Some of that is pure luck, but we definitely design new patterns intentionally to use the fabric as efficiently as possible. 

Production:

Did we mention everything was cut individually and by hand? That means we are able to operate on a very tight just-in-time inventory system.  We make things in batches of a dozen pieces or less, often on a weekly basis, to fill the needs of our festival shoppes, unlike mega companies that make thousands of each item at the beginning of a season and hope for the best. Do we miss calculate sometimes and run out of key items? Sure. Nobody’s perfect. But we like to think our customers are pretty understanding, and overall it is a very low waste way to operate. And in this modern age of online shopping, anything not readily available in one of our Renaissance festival shops that day can easily be ordered on our website at unicornclothing.com, slipped into the production queue and sent right to the customer’s home. 

Everything is made by hand at our workshop in Santa Barbara, California. 

Sales: 

Obviously our items have a much longer “season” than fast fashion or modern fashion.  We don’t chase trends, flood our sales floors with new items, and discount them before the weather even changes. You see this particularly frequently in modern shopping with bathing suits, winter coats, and spring sundresses. Many of our styles have been available for years. Though we introduce something new every year, we rarely retire anything, unless it gets a new and improved redesign like we saw when the Empress Vest was upgraded to become the Empress Half-Bodice

We also think very carefully about our prices.  We like to provide high quality historical fashion clothing at an affordable price. But we do provide clothing, not costuming. Our prices reflect the quality of the clothing and the responsibility we have to everyone on the Unicorn team. 

Wait what’s the difference between clothing and costuming, you may be wondering. Costumes are imitations of the thing they’re trying to mimic. They are designed to replicate rather than be something real in and of itself. Clothing, on the other hand, is the real deal. When you buy a skirt from us, that skirt can be whatever you want it to be. It can be part of your favorite summer time outfit. It can be mixed with other pieces to make any kind of outfit or costume you want, but by itself it’s just a skirt designed and inspired by the Renaissance or Victorian eras. And it’s a high quality skirt at that! 

Use:

What do we mean when we say high quality? It is made with valuable materials designed to age well and last a long time. The methods used to make it value durability and longevity over speed of production. We want our customers to get years of loving use out of our pieces. 

We want them to shop based on their interests and personalities. For that reason our pieces have great diversity and versatility of style. And we love the way our shoppers’ eyes light up when they find just the thing they were looking for. If you ask them later, many people have loving stories about every piece in their collection, things from us and things they found from all the other vendors at the festival as well. 

Sometimes things wear out. Especially things we love and use frequently.  But our slow fashion shoppers are loyal to their favorite garments and aren’t afraid to mend and repair their well loved pieces.

Re-Use and Retirement:

When our slow fashion customers are done with their pieces, they often find new homes for them. Some get passed down to younger family members and friends. Or to friends young and old who are just beginning their journey in historical fashion. Sometimes they resell their pieces at flea markets or in growing online communities like “Renaissance Faire & Festival Classifieds” and “RennShop and Exchange.” At the very least they get donated to thrift stores. We like to think. 

Wow. I guess we can wrap up there. Clearly I am very passionate about the lengths Unicorn Clothing goes to to be a sustainable fashion house. We wish more modern design houses would get on the slow fashion train. But maybe Unicorn Clothing just needs to make a bigger name for itself in the modern fashion world…

Tune in next time when we explore style versus fashion, trends, and capsule collections. 

Thanks for Reading!

Erica

Prefer to listen rather than read? Find our Podcast Mane Street Chronicles on Spotify and enjoy our articles audibly instead!