25 June 2010

Link-tastic! 25 June 2010

It looks like the quest for stylish shoes is nothing new. Since this link came to me by way of the Fluevog Twitter account, I wonder if we'll be seeing an updated version in an upcoming season?

Andrea from a cat of impossible colour writes about why she blogs. I'm immersed enough in modern academic thought patterns to be truly intrigued by metatextuality, the whys and wherefores of even our most basic actions. At some level, that's why I blog: to examine the reasons that I, and other people, wear what they do.

As ethical, sustainable production becomes more of a social issue, we'll hopefully start seeing more companies like Oliberté, a footwear company devoted to making shoes entirely in Africa - while providing their employees with fair working conditions. The shoes look like they're well-made and, while they're not my usual style, are definitely on the list to consider if I ever need a pair of casual athletic-type shoes.

In response to a New York Times article on the fashion demands of the plus-size market, The Waves wonders if getting swept into the fashion industry's current dynamic of overabundance of mediocre products is what any woman needs.

I've been expending a fair amount of brainpower trying to figure out if I can knit Nubby Twiglet's elegantly destroyed sweater.

S. from academichic recaps her year in Europe with a deliberately limited wardrobe. I particularly love her comments on choosing items that allow for the most versatility, even if they're not always "perfect." I think we get far too caught up in trying to find "the perfect..." (shoes, bag, jacket, whatever) and end up with burgeoning closets full of possibly redundant near-duplicates. Of course, I'm a big proponent of "buy what you wear" - there's a lot of sense in knowing your favorite items and sticking to them - but there has to be a happy medium somewhere.

Imogen from Inside Out Style suggests a packing list for a two-week, multi-function trip. I'm not sure I agree with all her choices - I'd choose a jersey dress for travel rather than yoga pants! - but it's a departure point.* What do you think?
* That was totally inadvertent. Sorry.

For those who sew, Gertie has some great tips for making comfortable, cool summer garments.

Megarita of Fashionable Academics discusses a way to examine summer clothing: the CAFTAN scale, ranging from "Heck, I might even be found in a closed-toe shoe in a snappy color" to "There is no hair style to be had. There is no shoe that will feel ok. There is no fabric that can stand this."

Super Kawaii Mama comes up with some outfits for spending time with her favorite musicians. I'm not as musically inspired or linked as some - I cannot write with music in the background, for one - so I love seeing how others are inspired by their favorite tunes.

Some musings on veils, modesty, and hot weather, from Worn Through. I'm not sure what I think about this, to be honest - is it possible to fully separate extreme modest dress (i.e., full-body veiling)  from the cultures of oppression, violence, and subjugation that often come with it? (And on a related note, has anyone ever looked into dress cultures and gender relations of the Tuareg, a nomadic group from Northern Africa whose traditional dress includes veils for men? Where does that fit in the current European/American dialect of the veiled woman as oppressed other?) Do the benefits of modest dress taken to extremis outweigh the possible health risks, i.e. heatstroke?

Audi discovers the secret to success, and it's thigh-high socks. I knew it!

Have a lovely weekend, Fabulous Readers!

24 June 2010

My Two Wardrobes

self-portrait of a redheaded blogger
Tie-dyed shirt, thrifted
Butterfly pendant, estate sale, remixed

I've been thinking a lot about this post recently, and the significance of editing - the self-editing just about every blogger does.

I don't show you all my clothes, Fabulous Readers. You don't see my gardening/scrubbing/home construction grubbies, the baggy board shorts I go kayaking in, my lounge-around-the-house-in-a-funk pajamas, my ad-hoc workout wear. You also don't see outfits on days, like today, where after half an hour with the camera I haven't been able to get a single photo that looks decent, that approximates what I see in the mirror.

Is that vain? Absolutely. But there are a lot of facets of me that I don't discuss on this blog: my politics, my religious views, my other areas of interest, what I had for dinner. That's not why you come here, which is also the reason I don't attempt to encyclopedically document every single thing that I put on my body, in some mad quest to be fashion blogging's answer to Samuel Pepys. You read my blog, I hope, to see and hear about my particular (peculiar?) perspective on fashion, its whys and wherefores - and hows.

Clothing might not shape our self-image in toto, but it does help define it to the world at large. I don't expect my clothes to express the sum of my personality to the world at large: instead, they present a carefully-edited version of myself, the parts of me I choose to show.
That process of editing, of choice, is what really fascinates me about fashion. Why do we make the choices we do? What determines why I find one shirt cute and another so unflattering as to only be suitable for the most menial of tasks? Why do we emphasize some parts of our bodies and desperately try to camouflage others?

It's easy to say "because of the dominant social paradigm" in response to all of these questions, but I think that's too simple an answer, and maybe even a bit of a cop-out. What are the forces that drive that paradigm? Where do they come from and what influences them? And what about the people who stray from that paradigm, by degrees minuscule or dramatic? What inspires them?

What do you think? Should style blogging be encyclopedic, a comprehensive catalog of what one person (or several) wears, or would you rather see a carefully thought-out selection of outfits a blogger thinks are interesting, inspiring, or attractive? What degree of (self-) editing is all right before a blogger loses authenticity and thus authority - some? None? Lots? No upper limit? Are style blogs more like diaries or one-person fashion magazines?

PS. Apologies to all you Fabulous Readers who subscribe via RSS: I don't know why this published while I was halfway through writing it!

22 June 2010

Reader Request:: Surviving Brutal Summers

Fabulous Reader Mindfulranter asks:

"Hey can you think of some looks for a seasoned (nearly 50) full figured woman who lives in Phoenix? Summers are brutal, would love to figure out simple, flattering, comfortable outfits to wear!"

I'm immensely flattered by this request! I've lived in the northeastern US all my life, where summers are a bit cooler and much more humid than the Southwest, so I'm working from theory rather than personal experience.

I don't know anything about Mindfulranter's figure type, complexion, or financial circumstances, so what follows are general ideas and suggestions, rather than specific recommendations for garments to buy.

lovely linen
Learn to love linen. Linen has a bad rep: people think that it's hard to care for, wrinkles easily, and needs to be dry cleaned. That's true if you expect linen to act like a suiting material and be crisp, shiny, and have a hard hand. Linen was the fabric of choice for undergarments in Europe for centuries for a reason, though, and not just because it grew easily all over the continent: when washed, linen becomes soft, drapey, and develops a gentle hammered texture. It's also one of the coolest fibers you can wear: unlike cotton, it doesn't "swamp" when it gets damp, and it's much more breathable than any synthetic. Look for linen garments that can be machine washed and dried, whether the tag says so or not: avoid acetate linings (which ruin the cool comfort, anyway), hand-wash-only trims, and structured garments like blazers. Other good fibers to look for are ramie, cotton, silk, bamboo, hemp, and rayon. Avoid polyester, nylon, and synthetic blends: they trap heat and moisture. Fabrics like seersucker, chambray, gauze and voile are all good choices: these are lighter, more open weaves that allow for more air flow. Lighter colors are generally more comfortable, but some dark hues in your summer wardrobe are just fine.

super sundresses
Fashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Dresses are the best. What could be better in the summer than a cool, breezy dress? Look for styles that skim the body rather than cling in lightweight fabrics. Don't fear maxi dresses whether you're full-figured or slender: just choose them carefully for your figure type. The extra length can provide a bit of shade and trap breezes. Keep accessories light and minimal: broad belts and giant statement necklaces can be oppressive in the summer heat. Skirts are great, too, when you want separates.

summer tunicsFashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Flowing tunics are great, too. Pair them with cropped leggings, harem pants, and knee-length or maxi skirts. Again, keep the fabrics light, and choose wovens over knits: knitted materials seem to absorb and retain more moisture, trapping heat with it. A super-light summer scarf, wrapped loosely, can add color and style without getting too schvitzy. Soak it in cool water, cowboy-style, to help cool off if the temperature's unbearable.

Outfits with hatsFashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Don't forget your hat. Broad-brimmed hats are ideal for sunny, hot climates: what's not to like about portable shade? Fuller-figured women often have the body scale to carry off broad brims with style. Look for straw or canvas styles, and pair them with just about anything in your wardrobe.

One thing I don't think works well for hot, dry climates are shorts. Those are better in hot humid weather, where excess fabric can cling and stick. However, when it's hot and dry, a loose, drapey longer garment can provide a bit of protection from the sun and trap stray breezes.

Any Fabulous Readers from desert climates have any suggestions or further ideas? I'd love some feedback!

19 June 2010

Link-tastic! 19 June 2010 (Better late than never)

I usually try to get the week's roundup of links posted by Friday night, but the last two days have been seriously discombobulated. My apologies, Fabulous Readers, and enjoy...

Two great theory-based posts from academichic: one from S. about the metatext of blogging in the context of creativity and a limited wardrobe, and one from E. about the intersection of style and functionality.

Speaking of limited wardrobes, Kasmira at What I Wore Today has some great tips for assembling a capsule wardrobe. While she places them within the context of capsule wardrobe challenges (I've never done one of those and am quite frankly a little intimidated by them!), the same process could easily be applied to selecting clothing for a trip or even, on a larger scale, to building a well-edited and compact wardrobe.

La Historidora de Moda is now Doctor La Historiadora de Moda (and she looked smashing when she defended her dissertation, too)!

Another set of posts on a theme: fashion, consumption, ethics, and sustainability, as seen by Sal at Already Pretty and Andrea at a cat of impossible colour.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

17 June 2010

Rock and Roll

Sometimes, I just want to feel tough. Don't-mess-with-me tough. Usually, when I do, I reach for a vintage military inspired look: laced boots, fatigues-inspired jackets. Sometime, however, I prefer to draw from the style vocabulary of classic, badass rock: jeans, leather, studs.

Ann Taylor Loft blouse, Ann Taylor Loft jeans, Sock Dreams socks, John Fluevog sandals
Sheer black blouse: Ann Taylor Loft
Jeans: Ann Taylor Loft "Curvy Boot"
Belt: Gap, thrifted, remixed
Socks: Sock Dreams, "O Chevrons"
Shoes: John Fluevog, "Summertime: Sunshine," remixed
Woven leather cuff: Urban Outfitters, remixed
Black headband: Sephora, remixed
Key necklace: Key from antique store

Of course I put my own twist on it: a sheer blouse with smocking details and lacy OTK socks.

cuffed jeans, blouse, studded sandals, headband

I like these jeans much better cuffed to capri length than unrolled: I have better-fitting full-length jeans aplenty, plus I'm not terribly into bootcut jeans right now. I may cut them down to mid-calf length: then I could wear them like this or cuffed further into Bermuda shorts.

rock and roll style, neutral color combination, black and brown

After last week's Black-Out, it feels refreshing and calming to wear this dark, neutral-heavy combination. I love black and brown together, and until recently felt very uncomfortable in bright colors, especially in combination. Eschewing black, a fashion baseline for me, really helped me refocus on its strength and simultaneous connotations of power and loss. I was feeling very distanced from the black items in my closet. Now, after a week of forcing myself to work with everything else, I can contemplate the dark half of my closet with clear eyes again.

under the bridge

What are the unsung workhorses of your closet? Have you ever identified - or had trouble identifying - with a certain color or style?

15 June 2010

Summertime, and the Living is Easy

On a technicality, it's not summer yet - not until the 20th. Long, warm, sunny days make it hard to remember that it's still spring by the calendar.

Even though I hate getting dressed in summery weather, every so often I hit a perfect, simple sweet spot. Some summer outfits are like gin and tonics, on-the-rare-side grilled steak, or a bowlful of sweet strawberries - ideal in their simplicity.

Brooklyn Industries dress, John Fluevog shoes
Dress: Brooklyn Industries "Kritti" (last summer's colorway)
Shoes: John Fluevog "Summertime: Haight," remixed
Oceanic necklace: gift
Silvertone and "pearl" cuff: antique store

Dress, sandals, statement-y accessories. Minimal makeup, air-dry hair. Done. I tend to over-think and over-do things, but this is just right in its simplicity, comfort, and ease.

simple summer outift

A big part of that's this dress. I love it: it's simple, comfy as all get-out, and cut just right for me. I'm so-so on a lot of Brooklyn Industries' stuff: for the most part, I think my body type is completely out of their designers' frame of reference.

favorite dress, statement necklace

I'm so fond of this one dress, though, that I'm thinking of getting this season's version - in a vivid turquoise!

easy summer dressing

Do you have a "perfect" piece of clothing?

11 June 2010

Link-tastic! 11 June 2010

Goodness gracious, Fabulous Readers, it's Friday again already!

I was featured, along with quite a few other fabulous bloggers, in the Fashionable Academics' Annotated Bibliography of Tattoos. I loved seeing the different styles of tattoos and reading the stories behind them!

I know that there are significant differences in clothing terms among American, British, and Australian English. Here's a guide to some Aussie terms for fashion and more.

Win a pair of covet-worthy Jeffrey Campbell sandals from Nubby Twiglet. I'd love to wear these with jeans or a floaty sundress!

If you're not comfortable with wearing patterns (and nobody says you have to be!), here are a few great suggestions for introducing them into your wardrobe.

The Waves examines fashion and identity, in two parts. I'm still mulling over my thoughts on this issue: they're deep and complex, and I want to give her the well-thought-out response she deserves for writing so intelligently on such a complex topic.

How much does your posture affect how your clothes look? After years of yoga and dance, and some time in the weight room (you get very aware of your posture when you've got an 85lb. barbell on your shoulders!), I've become much more aware of the alignment of my back, hips and shoulders. I don't have picture-perfect posture every moment of the day or anything, but I am more aware when I do start to slouch and quicker to correct it - and yes, it does make my clothing fit better!

Have a great weekend, Fabulous Readers!

Summer Black-Out, Day 5: Strawberry Fields Forever

Thank you for your wonderful comments on yesterday's post, Fabulous Readers! It was great to hear from several other people who feel the same way I do.

However, the Goth Without Black outfit got put on hold a bit. Today is Fabulous Husband's birthday, so we went out to get his favorite treat - fresh-picked strawberries. There's a pick-your-own farm right down the road from us.

box of strawberries, 10 lbs of berries, fresh local produce

There's nothing in this world quite as delicious as fresh-picked strawberries, still warm from the sun. They'll be transformed into daiquiris, strawberry shortcake, and preserves as well as eaten just the way they are. I'm a huge proponent of fresh, local food - in addition to being more ecologically responsible (those strawberries have traveled maybe 10 miles from where they were grown), it just tastes better!

I wanted something casual and comfy for kneeling on the ground while picking strawberries, so this is that super-rare outfit for me - jeans, a casual top and - can you believe it - sneakers!

today's outfit, Alternative Apparel tank, suede vest, Victoria's Secret jeans, Converse sneakers
Striped tank: Alternative Apparel, thrifted
Suede vest: thrifted
Brown braided belt: Gap, thrifted
Jeans: Victoria's Secret, remixed
Sneakers: Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars Hightops, TJMaxx
Scarf in hair: Mommed
Leather flower necklace: mall accessory store
Cream beaded necklace worn as bracelet, brown beaded mala bracelet: depths of the jewelry drawer
Macrame leather bracelet: gift from a friend

I usually like my vests buttoned up, fitted, and Victorianesque, and my original intent when I bought this vest was to alter it into something more... girl-shaped. I haven't gotten around to that yet, though - story of my life.

vest, tank top, flared jeans, tray of strawberries

Tossed over the striped top with flared jeans and a scarf in my hair, though, it had a kind of happy hippie-chic vibe to it. I might live less than an hour from Woodstock, but that's never really been my thing. I was not unhappy with the results, though. Even though this isn't a "me" look, it was perfect for the day's activities.

berry stains

Strawberry-stained hands - a sure sign of summer.

Do you ever wear looks that don't fit into your normal style vocabulary? Do you feel uncomfortable (or not) doing so?

Already Pretty Summer Black-Out 2010

10 June 2010

Summer Black-Out, Day 4: Oceanic

Tea with the ever-fabulous Jen Kiaba on a cool, rainy day meant a dress and heels for me today.

today's outfit, H&M dress, Ann Taylor Loft jacket, John Fluevog shoes
Aqua dress: H&M
Military-style jacket: Ann Taylor Loft, remixed
Green lace-up pumps: John Fluevog, "Teapots: Darjeeling," remixed
Larimar pendant, purchased from artist in St. Thomas
Orange bangle, thrifted, remixed

This dress, which I've had for ages, has always reminded me of the ocean. I picked up the olive tones in the pattern with the jacket and shoes, and the aqua ones with the pendant.

empire-waist dress, hip-length jacket

With the atmosphere so watery and dense, it felt a bit like we were underwater all day, so the oceanic theme was apropos, at least.

aqua and coral, accented analogic color scheme

Of course, what's the natural choice for a hit of contrasting color? A bright, coral-y red-orange in the bangle and my eyeshadow. The aqua and green are an analogous color combination, while the red-orange is the aqua's compliment, making this an accented analogic color scheme.

John Fluevog shoes, Teapots Darjeeling

I promise that I really didn't intentionally wear a pair of "Teapots" shoes to go out for tea! We had Lapsang Souchong, not Darjeeling...

pigtails, pigtails and bangs
photos: Fabulous Husband

My hair was terribly uncooperative after I washed it this morning. I do my best to only wash it twice a week or so, because it's really at its nicest two or three days after a shampoo - right after I wash it, no matter how aggressively I blow it out, it's far too feathery and poofy for my tastes. Years of having super-long hair taught me to go easy on heat styling and products, so I usually resort to some sort of updo on wash days.

I was going to go for double French braids, but I didn't like the effect with this dress. Instead, I went with one of my old Goth-girl standbys, high pigtails. I wonder, sometimes, if I'm too old for this style, but I'm still in love with the way it looks on me.

The hair made me think, though. I define myself as a Goth, at least in part, despite the fact that I wear bright colors and have been on a no-black shopping ban for months. For me, being Goth is more about a mindset - a darkly romantic sensibility, a somewhat morbid sense of humor, and a loving acceptance of death as a natural part of life - than it is about wearing any particular hue or style. I've had an idea in my head for a black-free Gothic bellydance ensemble for a while. Today, I'm wondering if I could come up with a street-style outfit in the same vein:* Gothic without black. I may try for it tomorrow.
* Vampire pun unintentional. Promise. Apparently that's just where my head is today. My deepest apologies.

Do you consider yourself part of a style-identified subculture? If so, do you always dress in that subculture's style? Do you think that style or philosophy is a more important factor in aligning one's self with a particular group?

Already Pretty Summer Black-Out 2010

09 June 2010

Summer Black-Out, Day 3: POetry

There's a poem entitled "Warning," by Jenny Joseph, that I'm sure you've heard. It begins:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
(full text here)

I've always kind of disliked it.

For one thing, why should we "wear things that [don't] suit [us]" just because we're no longer young, or that being younger means dressing with sobriety?

For another thing, it has effectively devalued the wonderful analogous combination of red and purple, making it the province of middle-age women who do... what, exactly? I'm not entirely sure. As far as I'm concerned, you don't need a uniform to be uninhibited and have fun.

Red and purple look do "go," anyway. Beautifully.

today's outfit, BCBG Max Azria dress, Design History cardigan, United Nude boots
Dress: BCBG Max Azria, TJMaxx
Cardigan: Design History, TJMaxx, remixed
Boots: United Nude "Pocket Hi," remixed
Sugar skull pendant, Jenn Feldman Glass, remixed

Although I didn't necessarily plan this outfit this way. Originally, I woke up to a chilly, rainy morning and wanted to wear my United Nude boots.

dress and cardigan, summer boots

I don't really have words to describe how much I love these boots, even if their narrow shaft means I can't pull them over my calf. They've got straps and D-rings and pockets and little tags that say "Remove Before Flight," just like an airplane:

United Nude boots, remove before flight tag, boots with pockets, military-inspired boots

I decided I'd highlight those tags by pairing them with the red dress. Which was fine, until I spent five minutes in the outfit - brr! It was too chilly today for a short-sleeved dress!

I've worn these boots with a grey wrap cardi, but I didn't think it would work with this dress: the dress's sleeves are too full and the cardi's too thin and tight. So my only other non-black cardigan was this one. Red and purple are a bit vivid, but on such a grey day, vivid sounded good.

dress, cardigan, compact, checking makeup
Purple crown compact, Papyrus, gift from my friend Emily

My beloved sugar skull necklace was the perfect highlight.

Jenn Feldman glass, sugar skull pendant, lampworked bead
photos: Fabulous Husband

Do you ever wear colors that "don't go?"

Already Pretty Summer Black-Out 2010

Summer Black-Out, Day 2: In the Garden

I'm sorry I'm posting this now, Fabulous Readers, instead of yesterday. Fabulous Husband and I went down to visit my parents and, of course, took advantage of their amazing garden as a photo location. Unfortunately, by the time we were done with photos, it was time to go out for sushi! I decided a slightly delayed blog post was the better part of valor.

today's outfit, Lucky Brand tee, ruffled skirt, John Fluevog boots
Bodhisattva tee: Lucky Brand, Marshall's
Brown belt: thrifted, remixed
Blue ruffled skirt: Marshall's, remixed
Boots: John Fluevog, "Bellevues: Libby Smith"
Art Nouveau necklace: depths of the jewelry box
Tiny mandala beaded earrings: self-made
Braided silver bracelet: Anima Perdita, remixed

Continuing with this week's ancillary theme of dredging my wardrobe for seldom-used items, I wore these boots. They're a bit of a challenge to work into an outfit: they're an odd height for such a fitted boot, and distressingly close in color to my legs. Given their Victorian styling, I keep wanting to wear them with floor-sweeping skirts. Pairing them with a knee-length skirt, especially without stockings to give some visual contrast between the boot top and my leg, was a bit of a stretch for me - but I think it worked.

Fluevog boots

The boots weren't the inspiration for this outfit, though. That honor goes to this pretty bodhisattva:

Lucky Brand top, graphic tee, Art Nouveau necklace, bead earrings

I'm not usually a graphic-tee kind of girl, but I fell in love with this top. The graphic reminds me of Yuan and Ming Dynasty ink paintings, with its calligraphic lines and washes of gentle color. I picked up the bluish-purples and the floral motif with the skirt, which resembles a folded lotus or peony bloom, and the necklace: the tiny mandala earrings were also a perfect match both in theme and in color. The red buttons on the boots would have been a bit jarring with the delicate pinks if they were in closer proximity, but distance - and the dominance of the cream color in both tee and boots - kept them from clashing excessively.

tee, skirt, belt, short waisted

I usually don't tuck-and-belt, and you can see why here. I am very short-waisted indeed! The belt, which narrows to about 2 1/2" on the sides, is hitting both the bottom of my ribs and the top of my hipbones. The proportions of this outfit ended up being a little strange as a result. Trust me, it looked even stranger with the tee untucked!

pink, blue, cream, decorative lantern, garden
photos: Fabulous Husband

Are you willing to surrender "normal" proportions to create an otherwise great outfit, or does proportion trump all for you?

Already Pretty Summer Black-Out 2010

07 June 2010

Summer Black-Out, Day 1: Fun With Sleeves

Thank you so much for all your sympathetic comments and helpful suggestions on my last post, Fabulous Readers. I'm still struggling to get my wardrobe mojo back in gear, though a break in the weather has helped a bit. So, too, has a style challenge: I often find that when free-form creativity lets me down, a bit of structure can help me direct my energies.

Therefore, I'm participating in the Already Pretty Summer Black-Out. Sal's going to try to not wear black until sometime in August. I recognize and respect my Gothy roots, so I'm taking the lesser form of the challenge: no black all this week. Workout clothes are excepted, as are accessories and black in patterns (as long as it doesn't dominate). I'm also going to give myself a free pass for any funerals, job interviews, and ninja expeditions* that may occur this week.
*None of which are all that likely, but I like to leave my options open.

Will this be a challenge? Oh yeah. With black skirts outnumbering all other colors two-to-one in my closet, a ratio that is pretty consistent across all my clothing categories, I'll be stretching the boundaries of my outfit-making skills and pulling out pieces that don't see the light of day that often.

Like this one:
today's outfit, Natori top, kimono top, suede skirt, Fluevog mary janes
Kimono-sleeve red top, Natori, TJMaxx
Orange scarf, TJMaxx, remixed
Webbing belt, thrifted
Suede skirt, Daisy Fuentes, thrifted
Socks: depths of the drawer, remixed
Shoes, John Fluevog, "Mini: Dollface," remixed

I love this top, with its sleeves cut like a traditional kimono's (including the opening under the arm!) Not only is it buttery soft, the sleeves are a lot of fun to wear...

kimono sleeves, hanging sleeve

...even if theyare prone to getting in the way whenever I try to do anything. Cooking becomes an adventure!
Fortunately, traditional Japanese clothing gives us an answer: a long cord called a tasuki can be tied across the shoulders, holding the sleeves back. The scarf I'm wearing is long enough for that, and also changes the shape of the top's boat neckline a bit into something a bit more flattering.

Up, up, and away!

I almost feel like I might take flight if I flap my arms hard enough!

Fluevog shoes, Mini Dollface, mary janes with socks

My cute Loli-ish Dollfaces continue the quasi-Japanese theme, picking up on an entirely different aspect of Japanese fashion culture. I love the aesthetics of Lolita fashion, with its over-the-top ruffles and bows, although I wonder about the psycho-sexual connotations of a movement named for a literary target of pedophilia that encourages young women to dress like little girls - or life-size dolls. Despite my fondness for frills, lace, and voluminous petticoats, I don't think I'll be sporting any full-on Loli looks any time soon...

Summer Black-Out 2010

02 June 2010

A Malaise of the Closet

I've been struggling with something recently, Fabulous Readers.

I've been struggling with getting dressed.

This morning, for example, I spent a hour trying to get dressed. An hour! And I ended up in.... jeans and a T-shirt.

today's outfit, jeans, tee, Fluevog sandals
Purple striped T-shirt, Martin + Osa, thrifted
Jeans, Victoria's Secret, remixed
Shoes, John Fluevog "Choice Hi," remixed

Cute jeans and a T-shirt, yes, and there's nothing wrong with jeans and a T-shirt, per se, but still - after an hour of effort, the best I could salvage from my (not unfull) closet was jeans and a bloody tee.

I don't know what happened to my fashion mojo, where it went, or how to get it back. Every single thing in my wardrobe seems unappealing, even though I know I picked each item with care and consideration.

Part of it's my body and my image of it. I've been slack about going to the gym, for no good reason at all. I know I should love my body Just The Way It Is - but I don't. It's not that I'm unhappy with my size, it's that I'm unhappy with my shape. And texture. A month or so away from the gym means a slightly broader waist, looser upper arms, and a general lack of nice, firm muscle tone. They're small differences, but they loom large.

Martin + Osa tee, Victoria's Secret jeans

Another part of it's summer. There are a lot of things I love about summer. I love the long, lazy evenings when the light never seems to fade. I love the heat that seeps into my bones and the bright sunlight. I love gardening (check out my spiffy new shade garden behind me! I put that in this past weekend). I love cooking dinner on the grill every night for a week straight. I love tall, fizzy cocktails. I love pies made from fruit that was on the tree that morning.

I don't love summer clothes. At all.

I can't layer in summer, for one. If you're lucky, you can get away with a camisole under a tank in summer, or a light jacket over a dress. Much more than that, and you braise gently in your own clothes (particularly if, like mine, your house isn't air conditioned). Yuck. I didn't realize how much I'd come to depend on the ability to stack layer upon layer of texture, color and pattern to create visual interest, until I couldn't do it without courting heatstroke.

I also just don't like summer clothing. Floaty, barely-there dresses don't flatter or even contain my figure. Light, unstructured fabrics are cool and comfortable, but usually make me look dumpy. Strapless dresses are a nightmare at my bra size. I love my curvy rear, but the pair of shorts that'll fit it gracefully, without gapping at the back waist, cutting in at the leg openings, or bunching up in the crotch has yet to be sewn.

silver necklaces, Jenn Feldman Glass pendant
 Tangle of silver necklaces, including a pendant from Jenn Feldman Glass (remixed), tiny crescent moon pendant Fabulous Husband bought me because it reminded him of my tattoo (remixed), and the amethyst ring I wore while he and I were engaged.
photos: Fabulous Husband

Am I whining a little (a lot)? You bet. Am I aware of how bratty, overprivileged, and ridiculous my complaint is - not even that I have no clothes to wear, but that I have a whole lot of clothes and simply don't want to wear them? Absolutely.

Does that in any way mitigate my frustration at my inability to present a coherent image with which I'm happy to the world, or my distress in finding no enjoyment in the process of getting dressed, only aggravation?

Not at all.

Have you ever gotten to a point where getting dressed felt like drudgery? How did you get through it? Better yet, how did you get out of it?

01 June 2010

Uniform chic

Last week, Worn Through featured an article by Tove Hermanson entitled "Festishizing Military Gear."  It's a great piece, and I can't fault Ms. Hermanson's conclusion that sexualizing the horrors of war is unacceptable. However, I'm not entirely certain that the prevalence of military gear in fashion is a result of the fetishizing of war, per se: rather, it represents an ongoing fascination with the uniformed body.

There's a lot of history behind militaria in fashion. Just about as soon as people started making armor, it became not only a statement of power, but one of style. Ancient Greek artifacts show arms and armor decorated with beautiful motifs: Roman senators and emperors were depicted in their armor on coinage and in statuary.

By the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance, it became the norm for men to combine pieces of their garnitures, or suits of armor, with their softer, fancier 'street' clothes for portraiture. Not surprisingly, the clothing worn by even unarmored men began to resemble the padded, segmented garments worn for protection under the heavy metal harnesses. So, to an extent, did those of women: some fashion historians theorize that the rise of the corseted female body, which began in this period, was an adaptation of the structured, armored male torso.

Borrowing from military styles has been an integral part of fashion ever since. In the late 1700s, women wore Spencer jackets, often decorated with epaulets, braid, and other ornaments of the era's military insignia, over their diaphanous Empire-waisted gowns. Cardigans were the innovation of a British commander during the Crimean War. Khakis, trench coats, duffel bags, Breton stripes, and other perennial fashion favorites are all of military origin.

Fashion has always had an uneasy attraction to the concept of uniform. Dress, in our society, is supposed to be a means of self-expression, which is an antithesis of the concept of the uniform. However, fashion itself represents a type of uniform: What's in style this season? What looks are the designers showing? Very few people dress with true individuality.

Uniform goes deeper still. All individuality is, in theory, subsumed into the uniformed whole. What this means in practice is that any expressions of individuality lie in two fields: the manner in which the uniform is worn and the body inside it.

It's the second factor, I think, that is one cause of fashion's ongoing fascination with uniforms and militaria. The only time a uniformed individual is able to show his or her individuality is when the uniform is removed. There's an inherent eroticism in the concept that, in order to have the freedom of expression that we consider a necessary component of personhood, the uniformed individual must be unclothed.

If the fetishizing of uniform was entirely about glorifying war, why would other uniform images - schoolgirls, nurses, even clergy - have such a strong presence in fashion and erotica both?

Another contributing factor is the growing casualness of dress in our society. Uniform, in many cases, indicates a more formal mode of dress, or at least the possibility of its existence. Even in work clothes, though, military clothing hints at the possibility of greater formality: the most tattered-looking soldier has a formal dress uniform somewhere.

A quote from a vintage pattern seller featured on Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing made me think about the power and authority of formal uniform: "The hat, the crisply starched white dresses, the white shoes that nurses used to wear commanded respect. The nurse's uniforms conveyed an authority that the sloppy scrubs with teddy bears that many nurses wear today do not." In many professions, the uniform is now a polo shirt in company colors: crisp shirts and ties have fallen by the wayside. That's not the case in the military, one of the few truly uniformed institutions remaining in our society. Adapting the trappings of the military allows the wearer to borrow a little bit of the perceived power and authority of the uniformed soldier - an interesting dichotomy, because in many situations, soldiers themselves have less say in their career paths, living arrangements, and, obviously, dress, than the non-military person adapting military imagery.

The dress regulations of the US Army fill a book of not inconsiderable size. In any circumstance, a soldier has guidance and direction as to what to wear and how. How many of us, when faced with the welter of choices presented by fashion's conflicting messages, haven't wished for that sort of guidance, even if just for a moment? The popularity of, and fascination with, capsule wardrobe challenges and The Uniform Project among style bloggers indicate that the concept of a limited, dictated wardrobe has appeal, even - perhaps especially - among people who are immersed in the culture of self-expression through fashion.

Separating the uniformed soldier from the war is a fine line: perhaps it's an imaginary one. My perspective on this matter is not unbiased - I'm married to a US Army veteran, which colors my understanding of the military. However, I think that saying that militaria in fashion is little more than a glorification of war sells both fashion and the military sadly short.