Monthly Archives: December 2016

Channel Lauren Hutton’s Boyishly Elegant Denim Look

A REFERENCE TO THE 1970s is nothing novel in fashion. About five years ago, designers began to mine the bohemian and rock’n’roll elements of the decade, and even now, floaty maxi-dresses, cotton eyelet blouses and brown suede jackets continue to line store racks.

As far as denim goes, the era’s jeans (flares, high-waist straight legs) have gotten the lion’s share of attention, but now the spotlight is shifting to the denim skirt. As in this 1974 image of Lauren Hutton, shot in New York for the Daily News’s Sunday Magazine, the fabric, with its workwear roots, takes on feminine allure when draped around a woman’s waist.

This spring, denim and ready-to-wear brands alike are showing variations on Ms. Hutton’s cornflower-hued skirt. From Madewell’s button-fly pencil and Levi’s patch-pocket A-line to Chloé’s light wash, all share a hint of the denim-obsessed decade.

The lingering influence of the era is understandable. “The ’70s is one of the first times women wore T-shirts and trainers and denim and casual clothes,” said Jessica Lawrence, head of design and brand for M.i.h Jeans, a London-based denim brand. “Dressing was so formal up until the late ’60s.” Fittingly, the decade’s icons like Jane Birkin, Mariel Hemingway, Ali MacGraw and Lauren Hutton had the sort of breezily bewitching beauty that could make jeans and other casual kit as elegant as haute couture.

As for how to wear the skirt, Ms. Hutton as pictured here is an excellent starting point. “Who doesn’t want to look like Lauren Hutton,” said New York fashion consultant Gretchen Gunlocke Fenton. “That photo has a timeless look that’s cool and has a bit of sex appeal without being obvious.”

Ms. Gunlocke Fenton loves denim skirts for their combination dressy and casual sensibility. She wears them with a pressed men’s shirt and flat leather sandals from K. Jacques. “I like that look when it’s a little cleaned up but still has a thrown-on vibe.”

Simplicity rules, both when designing and wearing a jean skirt. “If you think of Lauren Hutton or Jane Birkin, you think of a denim skirt that sits at the waist with a simple A-line,” said M.i.h’s Ms. Lawrence, who always offers at least one denim skirt per season. This spring, however, M.i.h has three. None is overwrought.

Caroline Maguire, fashion director of e-commerce site Shopbop advocates the denim skirt’s ability to multitask for both work and weekend wardrobes. At the office, said Ms. Maguire, “you wear it with something a bit more understated. You switch it up on the weekend.” Come Saturday, Ms. Maguire wears her denim skirt with a hoodie and Golden Goose sneakers. “I still feel pulled-together because I’m not wearing a sweatsuit,” she said. “I’m wearing a denim skirt.”

Do You Know What Toxic Chemicals Lurk in Your Clothing?

You know that if you eat that sugar-filled cookie, it might spike your insulin, and if you put on cosmetics with chemicals in them, they will probably end up in your blood. But have you ever thought twice about putting on your favorite T-shirt, or snuggling into your cotton sheets?

A growing number of parents are demanding organic cotton clothing and diapers for their babies. Many don’t stop with clothing, but have furnished their homes with organic flooring or carpeting, organic mattresses, organic linens, organic window coverings etc. Are they fanatics or do they have scientific evidence to support their lifestyle changes?

Cotton has long been considered by consumers to be the most natural, healthy fabric and they have made it the most popular clothing material. It has been easy to forget that cotton is a crop and as such, it is subject to the same issues as other crops normally considered as food. The last time you drove by a cotton field, did you consider that many of the foods you eat contain a by-product of this very plant?

The cotton plant is comprised of 40% fiber and 60% seed by weight. Once separated in the gin, the fibers go to textile mills, while the seed and various ginning by-products are used for animal feed and human food. For humans this is in the form of cottonseed oil, a very common ingredient in processed foods. The cotton seeds are also used in grain for cattle, which indirectly does enter the food chain in meat and dairy products.

The concerns regarding health stem from the fact that though cotton uses only 2.4% of the world’s
agricultural acreage, its cultivation involves 25% of the world’s pesticide use, more than any other crop. Most of these are insecticides, but fungicide is another fraction of the total. Also, consider that it takes about one-third of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers to grow enough conventional cotton for just one T-shirt.

In many cases, these poisonous chemicals are applied by spraying from the air, which means they can be
carried and spread by the wind and breathed by people living nearby. It probably is no coincidence that Texans near Lubbock have a high cancer rate, while Lubbock happens to be the world’s largest area of cotton cultivation.

The chemicals used in cotton production don’t end with cultivation. As an aid in harvesting, herbicides are used to defoliate the plants, making picking easier. Producing a textile from the plants involves more chemicals in the process of bleaching, sizing, dying, straightening, shrink reduction, stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, mothproofing, and static- and wrinkle-reduction. Some of these chemicals are applied with heat, thus bonding them to the cotton fibers.

Several washings are done throughout the process, but some of the softeners and detergents leave a residue that will not totally be removed from the final product. Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines. Some imported clothes are now impregnated with long-lasting disinfectants which are very hard to remove, and whose smell gives them away.

These and the other chemical residues affect people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Also, people have developed allergic reactions, such as hives, to formaldehyde through skin contact with solutions on durable-press clothing containing formaldehyde. Allergic Contact Dermatitis develops after repeated allergen exposure to dyes and other chemicals and metals. According to a British allergy website, small amounts of perspiration can separate out allergens through several layers of clothing, and leather shoe dyes can leach through socks.

European researchers found antimony, a fire-retardant chemical used in some crib mattresses, leaches through the mattress; they connected this finding to SIDS deaths. The livers of autopsied infants were also found to contain high amounts of antimony. Europe is moving away from flame retardants and requires them to be proven safe before use. Yet US laws require flame retardants be applied to many kinds of children’s clothing.

One study, which included an 18-month old baby, found high levels of flame retardants in the subjects’ blood. The results were two to three times the levels that are known to cause neurological damage in rats.

Though many people believe that chemicals can leach from clothing into the body through the skin, there is no research to prove this. Sodium Tripolyphosphate, a chemical used in some laundry detergents, is claimed to be easily absorbed through the skin from clothes, but this was never proven.

A chemist will say that it is impossible for chemicals to transfer through the skin from dry clothing.
Chemicals enter the skin through the process of osmosis, which requires a moist medium in order for this to occur. Studies are needed to determine if sweat or urine in wet diapers constitute enough of that medium.

Possibly the mechanism by which the chemicals enter the body is through off-gassing of the chemical which is then breathed in. There have been no real studies proving this either. The baby in the previously-cited study crawled on a carpeted floor. Carpeting usually contains flame retardants.

One thing is clear though: organically produced cotton has few of the issues of conventional cotton. Not only are GMO seeds and chemical pesticides not used, but usually the picking is done by hand. Instead of using chemicals to defoliate for easier harvesting, the organic grower relies mostly on the seasonal freeze to defoliate the plants.

Synthetic fertilizers are not used, in favor of crop rotation, which increases the organic matter in the soil. Weeds are removed and controlled by hand and by hoeing. Pest control is achieved by bringing in natural predators, using beneficial insects and certain trap crops which lure insects away.

The processing of the organic fibers uses different procedures in milling and in the textile
manufacturing. Chemical finishes for shrink resistance, permanent press etc. are not applied or are minimal, and use of natural rather than synthetic dyes are encouraged by co-ops and trade organizations.

Therefore, at this time we cannot say that the non-organic cotton shirts and pajamas you wear and the non-organic sheets you sleep on are toxic. However, we do know that their cultivation is toxic to the field workers. They have a high rate of cancer and death from suicide.

We can state that the by-products of conventional cotton that appear in our food have been subjected to toxins in their production. We can say that their production pollutes rivers and soil and causes other environmental damage.

So you don’t have to throw away all of your conventional cotton clothing just yet, unless it causes an
allergic reaction. However, we all might do well to request that future clothing and linen purchases of cotton be of the organic variety. If the demand increases, more fields will be raised organically, resulting in health benefits for the environment and the workers and residents near the fields, as well as for all of us who consume cottonseed oil in foods.

Always wash new clothes before wearing

Several decades ago, the Dupont logo had the following text attached: “Better living through chemistry.” Since then, many of us have come to realize we are living worse in a toxic environment that includes chemically polluted air, water, food, so called “medicine,” and now even clothing.

Dupont had created Rayon, a synthetic fiber used for much of our clothing. So it made sense to team up with the timber industry to ensure hemp was banned in the late 1930s. Rayon and paper could continue to be made by chemically processing wood from trees without competition.

Clothing clings to skin, our largest organ. Toxic chemicals are used excessively for processing garment fibers and also for manufacturing clothes. Asian and third world countries manufacture most textiles and clothes.

But they supply American and other multinational brand name labels with those clothes to yield high profits based on cheap production in regions without even shoddy regulatory agency protection.

What’s in your new brand name clothing?

After clothes are made, they are often covered with formaldehyde to keep them from wrinkling or becoming mildewed during shipping. Formaldehyde as a preservative also adds to vaccines’ toxicity.

Several severe allergic reactions to formaldehyde have been reported. It’s no wonder. Investigations have discovered up to 500 times the safe level of formaldehyde in clothing shipped to brand name clothiers form factories in China and Southeast Asia.

There’s also the long term, negative, cumulative effect on health that is almost impossible to trace back to any source of clothing chemicals. Formaldehyde and othertoxic chemicals are used to create synthetic fibers for towels and bedding. Textile toxins are hard to avoid even when you’re out of your clothes.

Another commonly used clothing chemical is nonylphenol ehtoxylate (NPE). NPE use is restricted in most regions where the big name brand clothes are sold. But there are no restrictions where the clothing factories are located in China and Southeast Asia. 14 big name brands get their clothing from clothing factories using NPE.

Wrinkle free or no-iron should be considered a warning for carcinogenic perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Teflon for pans is a PFC. Petrochemical dyes are used for fibers in those Asian textile factories that profusely pollute nearby waterways.

Dr. Richard Dixon of the World Wildlife Federation warns about the ecological impact on wildlife: “Urgent action is needed to replace hazardous chemicals with safer alternativesespecially in clothing and other consumer products.” (Emphasis added).

Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are commonly used as detergents in textile industries abroad that are contracted by multi-national USA and EU-based clothing companies. NPEs break down to form nonylphenol, a toxin with hormone-disrupting properties similar to BPA.

Black clothing and dyes for leathers often contain p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), which can produce allergic reactions. Flame retardants can appear in bedding and nightwear. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and dioxin-producing bleach are used by textile industries. Athletic shoes that contain cloth contain some of these toxins.

How to protect yourself

Read clothing labels and try to avoid synthetic materials such as Rayon, Nylon, Polyester, Acrylic, Acetate or Triacetate as much as possible. Also avoid no-iron, wrinkle free and preshrunk items.

Whenever that’s impossible, wash and dry those clothes three times before wearing. Use only safe, organic detergents from health food stores. Also, avoid those dryer sheets to prevent clinging unless you can find them without toxic chemicals. (

Even used clothing purchased from thrift stores such as Goodwill may be sprayed with some skanky chemical before they’re put up for sale. Wash and dry them at least once. Stay away from dry cleaners that use perchloroethylene. There are some that don’t.

New ‘Stealth Wear’ clothing collection protects wearers from drone detection

It may look like something out of a cheap science fiction film, but a new line of clothing developed by a New York City-based fashion designer can reportedly protect you from prying electronic eyes.

The inspiration for the “Stealth Wear” collection of hoodies, burqas and hijabs lined with “metalized fibers that reflect heat, thus evading thermal imaging technology used by drones,” came from several sources, says creator Adam Harvey – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) research, a trip to Afghanistan and, according the Air Force Times, a “particular interest to challenge authoritarian surveillance.”

“It all came together last year after working with similar materials I use for the pieces now and experimenting with a thermal camera I have on hand,” he told AF Times, adding that inspiration coincided during a trip he took last year, in which he spoke with CBSreporter Mandy Clark about his research.

“She said to me, rather matter-of-factly, that averting surveillance like this is something that happens in the battlefield, that people were using space blankets in the desert to deflect detection,” he said.

‘Leader in privacy technology’

Harvey said he worked with designer Johanna Bloomfield on material that is flexible and metalized, in order to create “ready-to-wear counter-surveillance” clothing. He showcased his designs at the Primitive London event in January, AF Times said.

Much of Harvey’s development centers around what he believes is a growing feeling of vulnerability among the American people because of the government’s – as well as local police department’s – reliance on drones for surveillance.

“The U.S. is a leader in technology, but we can also be a leader in privacy technology,” he said.

Harvey said uniform companies that have U.S. military contracts are already expressing an interest in buying some of his clothing line. He now has to work on restructuring the way the garments are manufactured; on average it takes about two weeks to make one piece by hand.

“Out of the three main pieces, the most significant is the burqa,” – a traditional outer garment worn by Islamic women that covers their bodies in public, including an eye veil – he said.

The pieces of clothing will be made in New York City, but the line is not necessarily being catered to Americans. Rather, they will be applicable “anywhere where drones are being used.” For the record, increasingly that will be in the United States.

“Wearable technology” is nothing new to Harvey, 31. He’s responsible for “Camoflash,” which debuted in 2012 as an anti-paparazzi clutch that emits a “counter-flash” of light aimed at photographers’ cameras.

“He followed that up with ‘CV Dazzle,’ a camouflage technique that combines makeup and hairstyling in order to thwart facial recognition software,” AF Times said.

Not politically right or left

At what cost this clothing technology? It isn’t cheap, according to the Daily Beast. The hoodie will cost $487.45; the hijab $561.99; and the burqa an astounding $2,278.35. Perhaps the most affordable wear: anti-drone t-shirts at $45.58 each.

“Artistically I wanted it to be an appealing garment that made sense as something that could be worn,” he told the Beast. “It’s a future-ready type garment, but it does have a practical application today.”

Politically, Harvey says his clothing line should interest people on both sides of the U.S. political spectrum.

“People see it as technology they can use in their own way,” he said. “It interests people on the far right as much as it interests people on the far left. Ultra-conservatives see it as anti-government and ultra-liberals see it as anti-military.”

Either way, the most important thing about Harvey’s clothing line is that it is anti-drone.

“While I implemented this on a fashionable level, I think this is a good way to change people’s sentiments about [drones and surveillance] and why we need to consider it before it becomes a greater problem,” he said.