Bundle Up with Love

The first chill of winter wind cutting through my layers always takes me back to my childhood, when the bitter cold always evoked the same feeling of dread in my bones: the horror of the winter parka. I vividly remember trying to sneak out the back door into the rolling hills of the first snow; tiptoeing across the icy tile floor to slowly open the squeaky door, I almost expected my mother’s slightly annoyed voice to stop me in my tracks with, “Wait, wait, you forgot your winter coat!”

I can still feel the overwhelming entrapment puffy garments meant for me. Stuffed into those marshmallow-like neon jackets, I was sweaty and annoyed, completely paralyzed from moving my arms in any practical manner and certainly unable to maneuver through the snow at a reasonable speed.

Apparently my mom enjoyed this feeling. Every year she pulled out her very own puffer, an item we coined her “sleeping bag coat,” turning her into a small human taco in a black insulated tortilla.

I freed myself from the chains of the puffy winter coat as soon as I was old enough to reasonably make wardrobe decisions for myself. I use the term “reasonably” quite loosely. For years I waded through the North Vancouver snow in next to nothing, always near hypothermia but never quite humble enough to admit it, especially to my triple-layered-taco mom. By the time I realized I was sick of feeling hypothermic every winter, I was already off to university in Toronto, a land that all Vancouverites warned me was, “so cold you couldn’t even go outside in the winter.” My very stylish father was alarmed by this news, and in order to ensure my survival in the desolate artic tundra of Canada’s East, he vowed to buy me an impenetrable parka.

True to his word, on the first day we landed in Toronto, we went shopping to find the ideal warm winter wrapping; I ended up with a fantastic navy blue twill parka lined with light blue silk and layered with pockets of down insulating the inside, complete with an Eskimo-style fur hood and big shiny silver buttons.

Although my mother was a little disappointed I turned down the black shiny puffer-coat options she had presented, when she felt the weight of my new parka she was satisfied; I would be warm.

Over the years, having suffered through winters full of nagging and many claustrophobic moments of being buried under too many layers, I’ve come to realize my mom was just trying to teach me the most important survival skill in a Canadian winter: staying warm, inside and out. In retrospect, the donning of the winter coat was always linked with hugs and kisses, warm shortbread cookies, and homemade apple cider — all my mother’s ways of keeping her family as warm as possible. Now in my twenties, I am always eager to layer up each winter with my parka, sweet treats, and lots of love — proof that mothers always know best. My mother, to this day, still wears her sleeping bag coat, proudly donning it every holiday season.

Alyssa Garrison
Photography by Erika Neilly

An Oxford Education

I came across them two months after the deadline I had given myself. On the bottom shelf of a cluttered but charming vintage shop they sat in waiting. Gently used Nine West oxfords within my humble price range (a mere $28). Since then they have been my constant companions, taking me from crowded basement concerts to a recent 3 a.m. hospital visit for stitches. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when my boyfriend casually mentioned that it may be time for their retirement that I even considered parting with them. Although he may be right (the inside of the shoes are slowly shedding woodchips and transforming into a sawdust-like texture), I couldn’t possibly trash them without first paying my respects to where we have been together. Instead of providing a sappy list of our ten best moments, I have decided to pay tribute to my once lovely shoe’s casualties. Here then, is a list of events that have led to the unfortunate demise of my oxfords.

January, 2010: On an overnight bus trip to Montreal a can of hairspray exploded in my travel bag, leaving the left shoe a sticky mess which needed to be dissolved under the hotel hairdryer for about 45 minutes. This left permanent scarring in the form of a large dark strip near the outside heel.

March 2010:
Right shoe loses elastic fastener.

May 2010: A race down a flight of stairs to the bathroom at Czehoski’s ends in my roommate tripping both of us to ensure no one’s victory. Laughter ensues, but left shoe’s upper button is severed on impact and lost somewhere between the sink and stall.

June-September 2010: Late nights and rain drenched walking has led to some inner deterioration. When I remove my bare foot, little wood-like pieces stick to my toes.

Reflecting now, it does seem to be my own carelessness and neglect that has brought my beloved oxfords to this point. Perhaps not wearing them to an event where a kiddie pool in the middle of the dance floor is the main attraction, or even going out of my way to slip on socks before leaving the house, could have prevented this premature passing (or at least helped control odour). Despite their now shabby condition, I do still rotate them into my wardrobe, but I think this may be based on purely sentimental reasons; so they sit, in my foyer, waiting to be worn. Though I may gain the courage in the next few weeks to kick them to the curb (in the nicest way possible), I know that they will always be present in memory, as well as many, many photographs, anytime I reflect on the past year.

- Casie Brown

Crushing on Upside Dive

Sibling duo Mike and Angie Dalla-Giustina have turned their lifelong passion for thrifting into a well-loved business; the two collectively own Upside Dive, a hidden East-end gem in the Toronto vintage scene. Mike and Angie share their tales of rural Toronto, their childhood idols, and their love affair with well-crafted clothing.

How did you two dress in elementary school? How has your look changed?

Angie: When we moved from Toronto to a small rural community (in the 80s) I dressed in stacked bangles and dolman sleeve tops. Let’s just say it wasn’t well received.

Mike: I remember being briefly obsessed with Chucks, peace signs, and vests. I think both of us have forgotten a lot from those early years, probably due to living in a little town and never really feeling like we fit in.

From an early age we were thrifting, usually out of necessity, as money was tight for a single mother with four children. Most of all we never felt parental pressure to dress a certain way, so we experimented when we wanted to. We’ve become more comfortable with who we are (could be that age thing) and we’re less concerned with defining gender roles. We have more of an appreciation of the piece in its form – material, cut, shape, quality – while setting aside who the design was intended for. That said, the shop takes priority so we often wear practical, comfortable clothing, saving the exciting fashion for our customers.

Being siblings, do you often disagree when it comes to the business? How about clothes? Do you ever share clothes?

Mike: Actually, all the Dalla-Giustina siblings get along. An important part to the business succeeding is our shared mentality and keeping it all level. We occasionally butt heads over ideas, but it definitely helps to flesh out ideas with one another. We also discuss with Elisa and Natasha, who act as great exterior moderators. Sometimes Ang and I can get so focused we get a bit blind-sided.

We don’t often share clothes, maybe a scarf or two. We definitely share a love for well-crafted pieces, and a good backstory is an added delight.

How do you think the rise of vintage inspiration in the fashion world over the past decade has affected sales at vintage stores? Does it make selling real vintage easier or more difficult?

Vintage and second-hand clothing has definitely become a major commodity in the last 20-30 years, and with its rise in the mainstream once again it perpetuates more vintage sellers, more vintage buyers, more creative minds musing on it, and an established business format. I think the real issue lies with the lack of value put on vintage and second-hand clothing. Fast fashion has offered an alternative to buying vintage by creating newly made vintage-inspired pieces, but the real power lies in the hands of the consumer. It would be one thing if corporate clothing manufacturers were responsibly producing well-made pieces that would retain value, but they don’t. The bottom line for them is money, and the consumer is happy to have the 15-minute look. We have faith that there will continue to be customers who value vintage, but fear that well-kept vintage will become scarce and deplete cherished vintage shops.
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