Organic Farming – in Ivey Abitz

The ivey abitz collection debuted right about when we moved from Alberta to a small mountain town in British Columbia, and the timing was perfect. I’d been purchasing pieces from the other designers’ collections that IA used to carry, and already loved the quirky, unusual, “boutique” items that I didn’t see on every other person on the street. But I was blown away by the exceptional quality, attention to detail and point of view of the ivey abitz pieces. They were so far above and beyond even the other lines represented at the gallery, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. I even look forward to receiving the swatch books, and have kept each one and engage in some tactile time now and then, enjoying their textures. 

Our beautiful little town in B.C. has been a culture shock, too. I keep describing it to friends as Green Acres revisited, and it’s no exaggeration. I’m playing the Eva Gabor role, wearing my beautiful clothes in a sea of casually clad retirees and far more polyester than is strictly necessary. I’m even Hungarian, just like Eva. We started an organic farm and now have cows, goats, chickens and ducks and are facing the usual challenges in taking care of them while still maintaining our sense of humour. My husband and I wanted out of the industrial food supply, and to become more self-sufficient in both the big and small things in our everyday lives. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I wouldn’t live in a big city again for any temptation.

The Birth of Discernment

My own group of artists, writers, and geeks was neither emaciated nor extraordinarily wealthy, so we ate with gusto, kept our food down and shopped on Melrose or Main Street to score cool vintage clothes that we’d mix up with more modern pieces and then swap among ourselves for greater variety. Even then, though there were occasional longings to have access to limitless finances, we knew deep down that budgets were more liberating than limiting; and that our resourcefulness and creativity muscles were getting exercised in ways that really opened our eyes to possibilities and unique combinations. Our templates weren’t models, which was liberating in itself. 

There was never any mention of the actual quality of the clothing, though; for the most part it was about the “look.” No one seemed to care about or notice the materials used (other than the fact that we all hated polyester and acrylic), the stitching, or anything as exotic as dressmaker details or handwork. With few exceptions, none of us was ready to recognize, appreciate or embrace the hallmarks of excellence that would later come to mean a great deal. But when the shift does take place, it’s mind-bending and extends into every other corner of your life. At that moment, discernment is born and your childhood is over. 

Fast forward a couple of decades. Something happens as you grow up. Cycles and trends become easy to predict, because we’ve finally lived through a few rounds of them and can see it all as a circle and not necessarily a linear progression. Trends are finally seen for what they are:  gimmicks to promote impulsive spending, and not benevolent offerings from exalted, over-hyped designers to enhance one’s personal style or uniqueness. But there are exceptions. 

to be continued in the next entry…

Fashion in minus 45 Farenheit

Moving to Canada was more than just a culture shock. It reminded me that there are millions of people in the world who actually experience all 4 seasons every year. Sounds simple, but up to that point, I’d never been one of them. From a sartorial perspective, it means that winter isn’t just a slightly cooler few months in which to toss a jacket over whatever you’re wearing. It means heavy coats, layering, clunky Herman Munster boots with real traction, and hats and gloves for warmth and not necessarily style. It was refreshing to see everyone dress for warmth, comfort, safety and snow-proofing instead of mere vanity. Soon I became one of them, in order to have a hope of enduring the Calgary winter that sometimes dipped as low as -45 with the wind chill. Stepping out of doors on those days felt just like razor blades scraping against my lungs. 

Needless to say, we planned our escape. 

to be continued in the next entry…

Beverly Hills Fashion Primer

When I lived in L.A., I always took it for granted that just about any article of clothing from every major designer was locally available and would probably be showing up on either a classmate or one of their mothers (I grew up in Beverly Hills). It was always fun to see how people interpreted fashion and what they would do to individualize it for themselves. But I noticed that what made the quirky vintage and more unusual pieces exciting to me and my outsider group of friends, just didn’t seem to exist in the high-fashion crowd. The established designer pieces that they wore as a trophy for purposes of exhibition, just didn’t require any personality or creativity. The goal was to look like the runway model or magazine ad. The only thing that was broadcast was the amount of money paid for the item, and the whole process was very outside-in and not inside-out. The hallways at school were miniature runways where most people looked exactly the same and were, for the most part, indistinguishable. A lot of the girls carefully maintained a perpetual state of bulimia in order to properly resemble the models in these clothes, and it was understood by everyone that it was just a normal part of that exclusive subculture, regardless of how screwed up it was in real life. 

to be continued in the next entry…

A Queen of All She Surveys in Ivey Abitz

Just last summer I was sitting all alone at the end of a pier, waiting for a boat to arrive. It was 9:30 in the morning. I was having a moment of quiet (in a Camilla Shirt, natural hemstitch striped cotton, and Baedeker Skirt in black premium irish linen) and I was appreciating the solitude and beauty of the landscape.  

Then I heard, “A queen of all she surveys.” Then this man waxed on about me being a queen sitting there overlooking my domain or something. I laughed and his wife and friends joined him, and on he went about their travels, language, love of fine food and cooking. By the time they boarded the boat, they had taught me how to make wine vinegar. Now, I wouldn’t want to read too much into my shirt and skirt, but I think if I had been sitting there in a sweatshirt, jeans, and loafers, the conversation would not have started in the same way. I, of course, didn’t feel like a queen, but I did have that relaxed sort of sophisticated feeling that I have come to like while wearing Ivey Abitz, and that feels quite age appropriate for me.  

At the same time, I do not feel conspicuous in Ivey Abitz clothing. I lose the self consciousness that comes with wearing something that isn’t quite right or is uncomfortable. I feel very comfortable in Ivey Abitz designs.

More Everyday Experiences in the Camilla Shirt

I have now worn the Camilla Shirt on many, many occasions. I wore it to the local Opera House for an evening fundraiser. I wore it to a huge brunch for 80 people. I wore it to a large cocktail party of 50 people. I’ve worn it to town, to church, and to dinner. I have catalogued many different comments and responses. I can usually count on the shirt getting noticed, so retiring, wallflower, introvert types should be forewarned. Although I have some social anxiety, I am an extrovert, so I like it. 

I wore the Camilla Shirt to a fundraiser at the Opera House. A friend’s sister exclaimed over and over how “gorgeous” the shirt was. I thanked her over and over and, as usual, shared with her the story of Ivey Abitz, the design elements, the antique buttons, etc. Then she asked how much the shirt was. Her face froze. She exclaimed, “Then it’s even more gorgeous.”

Camilla Shirt – The Everywoman Shirt

The Camilla Shirt is a wonder. Every woman should have one. It’s an Everywoman Shirt. As I have said before, slipping it over my head creates a change. On the outside, I look slimmer because of the long lines of the front of the shirt. My neck visually lengthens because of the tall collar. I don’t know if I am like other women, but a longer neck seems to improve my entire appearance. Next, the ties. When I tie the ties gently in back, it gives me a slightly curved shape. If I am feeling too curvy for my own good, I loosen the ties, let the material fall loosely, and I feel more comfortable. The other thing I notice is that I like the side view of myself in the Camilla. I usually do not like this view of myself at all. My posture is rounding and I always look a little fat or…just unappealing. But in this lovely shirt, it is different. I look nice! The lines are beautiful. The material poufs out a bit and then gently tucks in under the ties at the waist which gives some interest and shape to side view. At first I thought it was an optical illusion but now I know it is intentional, smart design for women.

Everyday Chores in Ivey Abitz

(you’ll notice Maeve mentions a lawn sprinkler – this was written in September. She is not watering her Minnesota lawn in February!)

Today I put on my favorite, a white hemstitch jacquard linen Eleanor Shirt. I paired it with a Baedeker Skirt in denim linen (from autumn 1). Then I put on a Camilla Vest and voila. It transformed the ensemble. I tied the vest in the back which pulled the waist in a bit. It gave a little more shape to the outfit and it looked a little more slimming. What I liked was the way Eleanor Shirt fell below the vest so there was a soft line of white that flowed with the line of the vest. The lines of the grey vest gave color contrast and shape to the top half of me. 

The Baedeker Trousers are another story. They fall to just the right lenth for me…..above the ankles. I love the tabs that cross over the 10 inch slits on the sides…just a little open. Best of all, of course, is the low rise in the trouser leg (waist sits at the natural waistline). It is a skirt and trouser in one. It falls like a skirt, feels like a skirt, but has the wearability of a trouser. I am finding them very versatile. It’s like having 2 items of clothing for the price of 1. I am currently sitting in a coffee shop at a round table typing this and I can sit any way I like because of the trouser feature. 

Before I left home, I stepped outside to turn on the sprinkler and met my neighbor, who has lovely taste in clothing. She raved about what I was wearing. Over and over, actually. Now this is a casual ensemble I’m wearing today, but it just has added interest beause even though each piece is designed separately, they work together so well. Then she said, “I’m going to have to order some things.”

I Love the Baedeker and the Baedeker Loves Me

A friend of mine is a no-nonsense tower of strength. She is a former police officer and now the director of a university criminal justice department specializing in human trafficking. We were talking about teaching our grandchildren lessons. I asked her what she teaches her granddaughters. I readied myself for a learning experience. She said, “I’ve taught them that a woman just can’t have too many shoes.”  

Well, it was a learning experience. It validated something that I believe to be true…a woman just can’t have too many Baedeker Shirts!  

This shirt has flattering lines. The collar is rather high at the back of the neck which gives the illusion of a longer, more graceful neck. The collar then rests lightly across the shoulders and comes to a point. The neckline drops to an attractive, shallow V in the front. I personally like the V in the front that does not dip too low.  

The back of the Baedeker Shirt is as beautiful as the front. I believe the least we can do for people behind us in grocery lines or in places of worship, is have something interesting or beautiful to look at. The Baedeker features a tall collar that drops to a point in the back. Along the waistline are little shiny buttons about 4 inches apart with a tab in the center. Each woman can button the tab to her preference. She can button it so that the shirt pulls in at the waist or she can button it so that the shirt falls loosely. Either way, the fabric in the back of the shirt poufs out gracefully above and below the tab. Beautiful. Cynthia Ivey Abitz designs clothing that it is flattering from every angle. 

The sleeves are designed with versatility in mind. They fall to graceful point just at the wrist. No worry about sleeves that are too short or too long. For added interest, one sleeve has a slit with a tab across it with points on each end of the tab. As you can see, the point as a design element is reapeated throughout the garment.  

I have often referred to the versatility of the Ivey Abitz designs. The following is an example of the widely (and wildly) disparate activities the Baedeker Shirt will accommodate.  

I wore a black and white cotton voile Baedeker Shirt, with antique silk woven buttons, circa early 1900’s from Paris recently to a funeral with black flared trousers. The Baedeker held its own as I paired it with a heavy, sterling silver, roped necklace with a monogrammed pendant that my grandmother made. I have had difficulty in the past finding something to wear with this beautiful piece of jewelry. The design and fabric of the shirt did not complete with this statement jewelry but provided just the right understated but beautiful background. 

Now, contrast that with wearing that same Baedeker Shirt with my jeans when my 7-year old grandson invited me to his school for lunch. This shirt was wonderful with my jeans. It took away that dungarees look.  Don’t ask me why but I felt a little French. I was oh, so comfortable but I retained a bit of élan while eating my corndog. Now, that’s versatility!  

That lovely garment retained its dignity even as it reached from the solemn formality of a funeral service to the boisterous cacophony of a kids’ cafeteria!  

What remained constant, however, was the way I feel when I wear Ivey Abitz designs. Wearable art helps me express parts of myself I like without having to say a word. 

Cynthia Ivey Abitz’s designs are original, imaginative, gracious, sophisticated yet firmly planted in comfort and practicality. Her wearable art always has that certain…..well, that signature penache..  

Just the qualities I want to nurture and express.

Finding Healing in Ivey Abitz Garments

Caution for sensitive readers: this entry mentions losing a loved one. 

So, I have been wearing Ivey Abitz designs for awhile now, and I have paid attention to more than the external factors of comfort, flow, fit, fabric, etc. I have noticed something internal; that is, how I feel inside when I wear a design, when I walk in it, when I relate to the world in it. I’ve given thought to something about identity and wearable art. I’ve given thought to healing and wearable art. 

I’ve learned that we gather different identities through our lives. These identities are heavily influenced by people around us, the culture we live in, and the circumstances of our lives. We sometimes get stuck in an identity when it no longer fits. The bad news is, identity is fluid. The good news is, identity is fluid. 

So, what does identity have to do with wearable art? What does wearable art have to do with healing? What is my own experience with all of this? 

Two experiences come to mind. 

My son died by his own hand at age 23. After a tumultuous adolescence, he had appeared to “settle down” and move forward. He was doing well in college, had an apartment, and our relationship was magnificently healed. The shock of his death changed all these perceptions of well being. 

As fluidity would have it, my identity also abruptly changed right after his death. I have since learned that after a significant loss or change, we have to rebuild our sense of identity. “Who am I now?”  Well, I figured that out pretty quickly. At that time, I was a bad mother and a failure.  

That sense of myself manifested in many ways. Mostly, I tried to overcompensate to prove to people I wasn’t a bad person. Among other things, I stopped wearing clothing that was expensive, beautiful, or attracted attention to myself. Instead of honoring my grief and expressing it with dignity through “mourning attire” as people have done throughout the ages, I instead turned into an invisible frump. If I had known Cynthia Ivey Abitz at that time, I know she would have listened to me, understood me, and helped me discover and express both the fragility and strength in my grief.  

The healing in all of this is the way in which I could have reframed that identity crisis; possibly from fracture to one of transformation. I know she would have worked with me to select designs, materials, fit, and embellishments so that what I wore on the outside reflected what I felt on the inside….in a loving way rather than the punishing way that I had been choosing.  

There are many healing practices. I believe that the Ivey Abitz processes of listening, understanding, validating, and finally creating wearable art for personal expression is truly one of the healing arts.