Saturday, March 15, 2014

Norwegian Office Lady

Sweater: vintage ; Skirt: Halogen ; Button down: J Crew ; Boots: Doc Marten ; Bag: vintage Sears

My aunt gave me this sweater a few months ago. It's some old 1970s ski sweater made of the scratchiest wool known to man and with sleeves stained with red dye from not being washed properly. Despite these flaws, I love the colors - bright yellow, red, and navy blue - and the reindeer remind me of Lutheran Swedes in Northern Minnesota. It's a great piece that reminds me of why Minnesota is home - plus it's the perfect length! Sweaters, and all tops for that matter, are so long in the torso these days. For a 5' tall girl with a short torso and a love for high-waisted clothes, modern, long-cut tops are the bane of my fashion existence. I don't know if this is related to the low-cut jeans trend or what, but it's like the most obnoxious thing in clothes these days. /end rant

I wear this sweater to the office on days when I want to cut all the formal crap and just be that intern who dresses like something out of Northern Exposure. I've worn it with heels, but the other day I just wanted to kick it in my Doc Martens and be that awkward mix between going hiking in the backwoods and fluttering around the mail room doing administrative work.

Can I stop to talk about this bag for a minute? It's a dream, lemme tell ya. I found it in a corner at the Mall of St. Paul two summers ago when I was searching for a type writer. I picked it up and immediately went into a heavy consulting session with my friend over how much I really needed this bag. It was something like $25 which, for me, is a lot to spend on a bag. It's a beautiful colour and has really nice texture to it. The massive front pocket is a perfect fit for my keys, phone, iPod, & wallet for easy access. The main pocket is monstrous and during school, I could easily fit my laptop, two textbooks, a few folders, & snacks, and for work I can fit necessary files, lunch, snacks, and heels (in the winter I wear boots to commute & swap them out for heels in the office). Obviously a dream bag. Plus I get loads of compliments on it and several of the ladies in my office have obvious envy over my beautiful bag, so that's always an achievement in my eyes.

This outfit is seriously reminding me of this old TV segment called "How to Talk Minnesotan" by Howard Mohr. It's from the early '90s and isn't on YouTube because of those darned copyright issues, but it's seriously amazing and spot on. He covers useful Minnesotan practices such as how to employ phrases like, "You bet", "Whatever", and "That's different" as well as how to wave from your car, including how to master the art of the one finger wave. Mohr also challenges the Minnesotan long goodbye, a social practice in which you take about 30 minutes to actually say goodbye and leave someplace. This is a real thing plaguing pretty much all Minnesotan social gatherings.

There's also a part about refusing something three times before accepting it, which I always thought was just a me thing until I say the TV spot. In Minnesota, when someone offers you something, you say no. So they offer it again, and you say no again. So they offer it a third time, at which point you finally accept it. This is seriously a thing, and all proper Minnesotans know to offer something three times. I've met out of staters who only offer me something once and take my first no as a finality. Trust me, I've totally missed out on a lot of things due to these people who just don't understand the Minnesotan way. (Side note: This "offering something three times" thing is a matter of politeness: you don't want someone to go out of their way to do something for you, even if you really want what they're offering, but if you don't take it at the third time, then you're the rude one - just like if you don't offer something three times, you're also rude. It's a vicious circle.)

The best part of the TV spot, a part where I actually spit my drink out of my mouth, is during the food segment when Mohr is offered Norwegian Taco Salad. Because yeah, that's totally the type of thing that you'd find at a Lutheran church pot luck, along with lutefisk, tater tot hotdish, and a number of other things created and cooked in a crock pot. Don't believe me when I say this is a thing? Senator Al Franken hosts an annual Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition in Washington D.C. The 4th annual competition just culminated with a first place win by Rep Tim Walz and you can find the winning recipes here, if you're really interested in whipping up a Minnesotan fine-dining specialty.

(Sorry, that was all completely a side note thing which may or may not have been interesting dependent upon how much you actually care about Minnesotan culture. And if that wasn't a flattering representation, just remember that Minnesota gave you Prince, Bob Dylan, Lucky Charms, Judy Garland, Scotch Tape, and the Coen Brothers...yeah, just read about all our achievements here.)

I guess that I knew that featuring this sweater on the blog would end in a big explanation of (and obvious pride in) Minnesota, so there you have it. Hopefully we'll never have to do that again.

What are you guys up to for the weekend? I'm watching more Gilmore Girls, sewing, painting, and drinking loads of tea. Oh, and celebrating the one-month anniversary of Of North! Thanks to all who have been following the new blog and so thoughtfully reading and commenting on my updates. I'm loving the fresh start and I hope you are, too xx


  1. Very cool, luv the sweater, esp the colour, outstanding!!
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  2. Firstly nothing can compare to high waisted items, everyone should wear them. Secondly, having the impression that Americans ignore cultural heritage in favour of something that is a confusing 'All American' meld of generality, I'm interested in hearing about the Scandinavian heritage of states like Wisconsin and Minnesota which is something I've been hearing a lot of lately. Do tell us more if you ever feel like it

    1. Yes, I think that's there's definitely a certain amount of very general "All American" type culture, but every state is so infused with their own customs and cultures that you cannot generalize them all as "All American". Besides having a lot of Scandinavian heritage, you'd be hard knocked to find a Caucasian in MN who wasn't part German, and then there's the fact that Minnesota has the largest population of Somalian people outside of Somalia, as well as large populations of Hmong and Hispanic peoples. I think I tend to see Minnesota as a melting pop of all those cultures, with Native & Scandinavian culture being what really built Minnesota at its roots. We don't have quite as much Native culture present as, say, some south west states, but we have enough for it to make a significant impact.

    2. Teehee! I am a caucasian in Minnesota that has no German! :) I am over 3/4 Norwegian, with the rest little bits of French AND (get this!) Dakota(Souix Indian, for those who don't know any better.). The reason we don't have First Nation peoples here (like they do in the states west of us, is because we drove them out. It's a sad and complicated story, even if it is not part of our culture, it is part of out heritage. We have as many Dakota named towns and rivers, if not more, than Scandinavian named towns - and do we have any rivers at all with Scandinavian names?

      I enjoyed reading this post! Family and work stories too. I was able to go see the How to speak Minnesotan Musical too! At the end of the run when they combined the summer and winter shows into one. I got their CD's at the concert (and signed). You can get them on Amazon, and Howard Mohr's book "How to speak Minnesotan?" Yes, I wish more people followed the three times thing!

    3. It seems like if someone isn't German, then they're French! I saw an exhibit about the Dakota population at the History Center last year and was completely shocked that I knew so little about that tragic piece of Minnesotan history. It's not something that you're ever taught in school, which is heartbreaking, and yet it reveals so much about Minnesota's past and aids in understanding why the Dakota (and other Native populations) are how they are today.

  3. I love hearing about the little quirks of where you live, like the 'offering three times'! I'm working on getting together my guest post for you and I hope I can make my area sound as appealing as yours.
    This sweater works really well on you; I can't wait to be old enough to wear outfits like this every day rather than a school uniform. Not long left now! I have the opposite problem with tops though - I'm 5'11 with a really long torso so cropped tops are more like bralets on me, annoyingly. Guess that's where it helps to be able to make clothes myself!
    lily x

    1. It's funny to hear you say that you can't wait to be old enough to wear outfits like this! I'm torn. On one end, it makes me feel so and put together. But then, part of me wants to be super grungey and then I fear what might happen if one of my co-workers ran into me on my day off, in cut offs and some awful old tee shirt. You definitely don't dress like that though, so you wouldn't need to worry about it! Dressing up professional is fun, but enjoy the more casual stuff while you can (:

  4. Interestingly, in Iran they have a word for that kind of "offering back and forth" thing you're talking about. Ta'arof. Careful though, in Iran people end up getting confused because this kind of cultural "word dance" if you will is done by shop keepers too. If you ask for the price of something they might tell you it's free expecting you to be like, "Oh no, I must pay for it, it is very well made". It is only acceptable on the third back and forth to "give in". The also have a built in way to "get out of the loop" if you find yourself stuck going back and forth with someone, "Ta'arof Nakonid" which essentially mean "lets stop Ta'arof-ing".

    1. Hi Scott, thanks for sharing! That's really interesting, I had no idea about that. I don't plan to find myself in Iran anytime soon, but if I'm there (and shopping), I'll keep in mind that not everything is free!


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