Sunday, 30 March 2014

Highland Games: a (mostly) Sunday Shoe Story

There are a lot of things that I love about being Scottish - tartans, topaz rings, the Scottish Play, shortbread, bagpipes, Robbie Burns to name a few - but I have never understood Scottish sports. Most people wouldn’t make the connection, but some of the world’s most popular sports have their roots in the Highlands. What intrigues me about Scotland’s most popular sports is that each has a rather unique fashion style associated with it. 

The point of golf has always eluded me. I can’t imagine that it’s any fun to hit a tiny ball with an oddly shaped stick across an entire field in the hopes of getting said tiny ball into a tiny hole. Even the traditional Scotch at the end isn’t enough to convince me that I should slog around an 18-hole course. Though I will admit to being intrigued by the idea of point-treaded shoes. Allegedly, they’re to stop the golfers from sliding around the mucky sod (golf happens regardless of rain or shine, and I can just imagine my ancestors uttering a hearty Scottish slur as they followed the mud down the side of a not-so-steep-seeming glen into a natural water trap between hills), but they seem altogether handy when considering my interest in warding off unwanted advances from odd men. Or kicking you opponent in the shins and running on ahead. What do you mean, golf isn’t supposed to be a contact sport? 

Golf definitely has a reputation for being a dapper sport.
Fore, old chap!

Curling, one of the many Scottish ice sports, has been in the news quite a bit lately due to the antics of the Norwegian Olympic team. These enterprising young guys were thrust into the sartorial spotlight seemingly by accident (the original funky-print pants were a result of mixed up shipping), but they kept up the theme to give themselves something to laugh at on the ice. Considering how intense some skips (the team captain) can get, I think that their joke is a good relaxation tactic as well as an ingenious marketing ploy!

Aren't they just adorable? (And ridiculous)

Now I wouldn’t be doing justice to my Scottish forebears if I didn’t mention the most ubiquitous of all Scottish sports: the caber toss. For those of you not in the know, it basically involves taking a giant tree trunk and tossing it so that it lands in a line directly forward of the thrower. The sport seems to be a test in accuracy, but it seems to me to be a test in ridiculosity. Did I mention that the traditional garb is the kilt? Clearly the Scots have their own idea of what makes a manly man, and it usually involves doing silly things in a skirt. Good on you, ancestors. 

Now bowling is a sport that I can get behind! It may have it’s modern roots from the Roman Empire, but the Scottish were the ones who standardised a lot of the rules, so I count it as an excellent example of Scottish sport. Like golf, curling, and the caber toss, bowling is a non-contact sport and basically involves throwing things at other things, so the destructive 2-year-old in all of us can get his/her satisfaction. Plus we get to wear ridiculous (often two-toned) shoes! My friends and I usually take this (as well as the oft-present disco theme and tacky/awesome 90s music) as our cue to concoct ridiculously themed group outfits. Glittery dresses, gangster wear, all white, and prom dresses have been some of our previous get-ups, and chances are we’ll continue to come up with even more themes as we go on. 

images from Tumblr and here

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Lady of the Dance: a (Confessions) Sunday Shoe Story

I have a confession to make. 

When I was a child I did Irish dance. Yes, that’s right, the stuff you heard about during the  Riverdance fad that swept the world in the mid- to late-90s. Ankle turning, toe-pointing, hard-stepping and all. 

It was shameful, but I went along with it at the time because I was a big fan of Riverdance (before the endless repetition of the music and my stage fright got to me) and my Irish roots urged me to dance. Thankfully I’ve been able to keep my toes in check in recent years, but I can still recognize a Riverdance song or a step a mile away. I wasn’t even surprised when we tuned in to a radio station with “traditional” Irish music on St. Patty’s Day at work and they were playing “Lord of the Dance.” Maybe Riverdance is just following me, since it was also a feature of the only Olympics clip I watched from the Sochi 2014 games (from a rather disappointing figure-skating routine). 

Apparently you can take the girl out of the ghillie shoes (that’s what Irish dancing shoes are called), but you can’t take the ghillie shoes out of the girl… And if I have to suffer with endless Irish dance music running through my head you do too! (muahahahaha, you’re welcome).

image from Tumblr

Friday, 21 March 2014

A New Quarter Springs

I've been so busy Spring cleaning all day that I almost forgot to write today's post... Good job self.

Going to keep it short and sweet, and give a shout out to the man who tops the world of millines, and who happens to be Irish (in keeping with this week's theme). I am terrible at collecting hats, but if I could afford to buy a few Philip Treacy creations I would definitely work them into my wardrobe on a regular basis. 

To me, it doesn't get any more Spring-inspired than this mask/fascinator.
The curling leafy tendrils remind me of the designs for the Green Man and of Cernunnos, one of the original Celtic gods, and would hope that anyone wearing it would pair it with a Fey-inspired counter gown.  

Anyone up for an old English hunting party? Who cares about catching the fox, as long as we get to ride around through the woods looking fabulous in our tweeds (with a dash of glamour of course). 

What's Spring without a few flowers? Treacy keeps the size of the rose from dominating the design by sticking to a neutral palette. Normally I don't go for taupes of any sort, but this hat could be mixed into almost any colour story, which makes it a good investment.

Images from the 2014 collection

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Breaking Irish

Being Irish means three things to most North American people who claim descent from the shores of Érie: being a red-head (or ginger-adjacent), being Catholic, and being on extremely good terms with alcohol. Yet, I am none of these things, and my family is most certainly of Gaelic descent.

Clearly I’m not a red-head - so far from it that a lot of people think that my dark brown hair is actually black. It’s not. It’s dark brown, and I’ve never dyed it, so there. The so-called Black Irish sect of the population is where this comes from, which has it’s own interesting backstory. This difference from the typical Irish hair and skin tone could have come about from a variety of places, but I chalk it up to the fact that Ireland got invaded by pretty much every race in Europe at some point in its early history and obviously population mixing occurred. 

The Steenson clan comes from the Northern part of Ireland (Warren Point & Newry), by way of the Viking invaders - Denmark specifically, hence the surname from the Danish given name “Steen” - and even from the early days we were not Catholics. Apparently we’re Presbyterians going back a bunch of generations, and besides the 3 years I spent attending the Catholic private school we haven’t had anything to do with the Catholic Church. In fact, my maternal Grandfather converted to Anglicanism, and years later when my mother heard that women were being ordained by the Anglican Church she went back to the church as well. So technically, I was raised and baptized as an Anglican, but I’ve never really had much use for any kind of organized religion besides as a social medium. And even that got old when I decided that being told that I had to live by someone else’s rules (rules created and perpetuated by a hetero-normal patriarchal organization) was not for me. 

And then comes the drinking… It’s a well-documented fact that alcohol and I have a tumultuous relationship. (Is that any different than any of my other relationships? Haha…) In the beginning I drank like a fish, walked off my hangovers, and never ever blacked out. Now that’s not so true, since the last time that I had 3 Cosmopolitans in a sitting I blacked out and ended up in the Emergency Room. I still have the occasional drink with dinner, but gone are the days when I spend St. Patrick’s Day running around town drinking green shots and then be functional the next day. Apparently we are getting old. 

So I’m raising a glass of Jameson’s to all the Irish-folk who don’t fit the mold - if you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough!

images from Tumblr

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Comfort vs. Style: a (German) Shoe Story

Why is it that when I Googled/Tumblred "German shoes" all I got was Birkenstocks & Croc look-a-likes at one end of the spectrum and dead animal carcases (Iris Schiefersein) at the other? I know that the Germans are endlessly practical, but the lack of interest (or far too macabré an interest) in style has gone a touch too far. Shoes are the best part  an outfit, and are often the place where we can get away with being a little weird, so why the heck is comfort completely dominating style?! 

The only brand that seems to be doing anything interesting in the footwear arena is Adidas, so I will temporarily lift my ban on anything sports related on this blog to laud the artisticly inclined runners. They even did a line of Star Wars inspired shoes. And you know how much I adore Star Wars :)

images from Tumblr

Friday, 14 March 2014

The German who Conquered Paris

When most people think of German fashion they probably think of Hugo Boss, minimalism, and sports logos (think Adidas). But I think immediately of Karl Lagerfeld, even though he hasn't practised "German" fashion since... well, since ever. He made his big splash alongside Yves Saint Laurent and has continued to rock the Paris fashion scene with stints at the helm of Chloé, Chanel, and his own line (which occasionally trades on space motifs that are reminiscent of Cold War-era East Germany) and most would consider him to be more French than German. In most cases I agree that his taste seems to recall an era of 1920s Coco glamour & menswear-for-women, but whatever he does he does so with style! 

a pre-occupation with the elegant Death perhaps?

oddly shaped shoes seem to be a very German invention

pretend recycled clothes reminisce of the post-war era of economic recovery, & the graffiti-ed Berlin Wall

these props from the runway show remind me so much of minimalist food packaging from the GDR (German Democratic Republic aka East Germany)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

I Got it From my Mother (and my Father)

Things I Blame my Mother For
My untame-able frizzy fluffy curls
My artistic nature
My addiction to books
My interest in alternate religions
My chocolate addiction
My height (both the good and the bad)
My inability to ever have a flat stomach
My short waist
My love of puppies
My poor eyesight
My teeth

Things I Blame my Father For
My vocabulary
My eye for composition
My thinning hair
My tech skillz
My knowledge (and love of) cars
My shopping problem
My diet (“see-food” & “light-out”)
My allergies to dust & cats
My eyebrow (which I force to be plural)
My stash of junk food
My need to have only the best
My "always right" attitude

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Orange Revolution: a Sunday Shoe Story

In my entire life, I've only ever owned ONE pair of orange shoes - a pair of Franco Sarto flats that are honestly more of an orange-tinged salmon than a true orange. I'm not a big fan of orange clothing for some reason, but shoes generally break all my style rules. I've owned shoes in baby pink & khaki green (in combination no less, which in all other places would horrify me), lusted over odd shades of chartreuse (a colour that decidedly does not work on me), and I still love my panda print Keds (even though I would never wear animal print anything else). 

After years and years of shoe hunting I have come to one conclusion: orange shoes in real life are harder to find than boys who meet my attractiveness standards. Yet I have no problem finding both on Tumblr (as evidenced by my continual collection of adorable Hiddleston pics - yes I know I have a problem), so they must be out there. 

So this year my shoe-hunting goal is thus: I must find myself an adorable pair of truly orange shoes. Be they Converse (that's the easy way out, since Converse come in every shade of the rainbow, and then some extras), Autumn-leaf-shaded flats, or dragon-scaled pumps, I shall prevail! I'm rather liking the idea of a pair of tangerine court shoes currently, since they would look rather fabulous for the office with darkwash jeans, a white shirt, and some silver bling jewelry. 

Are there any rainbow colours missing from your shoe collection? I'd be glad to hear and swap some hunting tips, if you share :)

images from Tumblr

Friday, 7 March 2014

Friday Night Lights

There's nothing I like more than spending Friday nights in, as long as I have something to occupy myself with. Thankfully, I'm always full of ideas of things to do - books to read, movies & tv to watch, cookies to bake - so I figured that I would share what my Friday "schedule" looks like this week. 

I had the day off work (whoever decided to give Government employees every other Friday off is a genius), so I spent the morning and afternoon running around doing errands. Out to the East End for shopping (don't worry mum I only bought sheets, pillows, and towels that I really needed), down to the South End for groceries (bought a huge box of penguin cheese crackers - the President's choice brand of Goldfish - yum), and then to the library for a stack of books. There are never enough books in my life. Clearly.

By the time that was all done I was pretty tired, so I threw a load of laundry in the machine and sat down to catch up on some tv episodes with dinner. I'm totally obsessed with Reign & Suits, so without giving away what happened on this week's episodes I'll just say that I was super stoked. 

To top it all off, I'm planning on spending the rest of the evening surfing the web - planning more books to read, researching some things, and checking out the best of the Ukrainian fashion scene to get inspired for a photo shoot tomorrow. Did you know that the Ukraine has their own Fashion Week? I sure didn't, but that's the website that I'm going to start my browsing on because it looks like it has a good showcase of old and new designers!

I'm really digging Svetlana Voziian and Zalevskiy, but from the looks of it there's a lot of talent in the Ukrainian fashion scene! If you want to surf along with me check out the website for Ukrainian Fashion Week, and let me know who you're feeling is a good prediction for Spring 2014!

Svetlana Voziian


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Cultural Vistas

March is always a challenging month to write for this blog. I’m always super busy and the tail end of Winter always leaves me feeling a lack of creative drive, so pulling together a month’s worth of topics is a struggle to say the least. Last year, in fact, I just took the whole month off. Though to be fair, I was finishing up my last year of grad school and trying to slog through that was trial enough.

But this year I have no handy excuse, so I thought to myself “What is going on during March?” Well, there’s the Ides of March, and St. Patrick’s Day, national tartan day, and the Spring Equinox. Two of those are a bit vague to spread into a whole month’s worth of ideas – especially since I highly doubt we’ll see proper Spring in Regina until sometime in May – but between tartans and good old St. Patrick I had my inspiration: we’ll talk about cultural heritage this month! (Thankfully I’m descended equally from four very different European nations, so it works out nicely to the four week plan).

So we’ll kick things off with the Ukraine, since it seems to be on everyone’s radar due to the events in Eastern Europe.

My Ukrainian heritage is probably the one which I draw on the most. It’s where my last name comes from (though arguably it could be considered Russian, since the parts of the Ukraine that my ancestor emigrated from in 1913 are now part of Russia), and I have a lot of memories that are tied up with Ukrainian traditions. Our big family history book – yes it is an actual published book, though in extremely limited edition – is all about the community of Willingdon, Alberta, where a large settlement of Ukrainian immigrants settled – and where my paternal Grandfather was raised.

People always said I got my bossiness from my paternal German Grandmother, but it’s pretty clear that my Grandfather got his way with some things. Holidays for example, were more often that not done in the Ukrainian style. Rather than just the typical turkey-potatoes-gravy fare of North American Thanksgiving and Christmas, we also got a healthy dose of perogies, cabbage rolls, and natchinka.

As an extremely picky eater, I’m still not sure how I was talked into eating cabbage rolls, but I did. And with gusto. In some cases I would go back for more helpings of just cabbage rolls and no perogies at the monthly Ukrainian hall-hosted dinners – much to the annoyance of the woman who my sister’s and I came to think of as the cabbage roll withholder. “Only two cabbage rolls, and only with a helping of perogies,” she would dictate, much to our annoyance. Apparently the “all you can eat” rule only applied to perogies…

To this day, I would never consider serving up anything but a cabbage roll and perogies feast for holidays – even though it inevitably means eating cabbage rolls for a week, since the recipe can’t really be halved or quartered. Oh well, the more cabbage rolls the better!