Category Archives: personal

We don’t want your summer music festival fashion tips

I like music. I enjoy live music. I go to see concerts. I’ve been to more than a few music festivals over the years.

I’m also pretty stylish and interested in fashion.

So why is it that every music festival related fashion story makes my blood boil? Why are they all so soaked in vacuous sexist assumptions? Why does every “festival fashion round-up” present a very limited spectrum of body types, and tend to be overwhelmingly female?

I’m thinking about this now because it’s the summer and it is everywhere. Osheaga is kicking off this weekend in Montreal, and here’s just a sampling of headlines:

Link after link, are we really encouraging women and girls to think more about what they look like than about the experience of enjoying music performed live? For real? I’m not surprised by fashion brands hopping on the “female music fan” bandwagon when festival season comes around, but I am dismayed by the tone employed by so many fashion writers.

This isn’t even about telling women how to dress – I really could go on and on about how impractical many of the suggested “looks” are, but that’s not what this is about. For years, I’ve been ranting about the ridiculousness of white girls wearing headdresses (from Halloween costumes to music festival “accessory”) and more recently bindis. But now that it seems we’re slowly starting to be on the same page (see link above) about how shitty those “music festival fashion choices” are, now I’m reminded of the bullshit female music fans have to put up with any time they decide to go to shell out hard-earned cash to go to a music festival.

First things first: you do not have to gender this shit.

If you’re hell-bent on taking photographs of fans at music festivals, include dudes. Better yet, try and reflect the crowd in your selection of 5-10 outfit photos. Are fashion writers, photographers, even considering about how they are representing communities by only highlighting a handful of conventionally attractive tall skinny white girls in their round-ups? The ever-amazing Jes Skolnik mentionned how fat people are rarely ever featured earlier this summer, and it has really stayed with me.

Yearly reminder to festival fashion photographers to include some fatties in your roundups. We, too, look cute as shit (and we have to work harder at it because of how society views chubby/fat bodies as inherently slobby). modernistwitch

But there’s something more that gets under my skin about these “festival fashion round-ups”: it’s one of the exceedingly rare mainstream moments where I see women represented as music fans, included as part of the conversation as music lovers. Why does it have to be all flower crowns and denim cut-offs?

Perhaps it’s because I feel these issues are so conflated with other sexist bullshit that permeates the music industry. Underscored by experiences I’ve had as a teenager who started going to punk rock shows at 15, 16, and never really wondering why I wanted to dress like the boys, meld in with the boys, to be seen as anything other than a girl. Because I knew what being seen as a girl could mean. Maybe it’s because I’ve been, and I’ve known many other young women, who have been sexually harassed at shows. Maybe it’s because I took to wearing steel-toed boots, not because of how they looked, but because it made me feel like I had a weapon on my feet if the wrong guy decided to touch me the wrong way, again and again, in the mosh pit. Maybe it’s because I’ve overheard one too many bro dudes tell me how the band on stage is “pretty good… for a girl band.” Maybe it’s because I’ve read one too many concert review which spilled far more ink on how a female performer was dressed rather than how she played her instrument, how she sang her songs, how she connected with the crowd.

Now that I’m older I care less. I care less about what people might assume about me, about my knowledge of bands because I don’t wear band t-shirts, because I don’t look like I would have band x in my record collection. I care less, mainly because of the people I surround myself with. I’ve made really great friends – hell, I even met the love of my life in line for a concert I impulsively went to by myself. Because it’s easy to make friends when you’re there because you genuinely want to be there. I don’t go to music festivals to socialize, to impress strangers, I go to enjoy live music, to support the artists who tour their butts off, and to have fun.

A selfie of the writer, garconniere, on her way to see Sylvan Esso in Montreal on June 18, 2014

Just last month, I ended up at the wrong venue in a city I still manage to get lost in even though I’ve visited more than a dozen times. Instead of at La Tulipe to go see Sylvan Esso and tUnE-yArDs, I ended up faced by a long line of mostly tall lanky long-haired white dudes dressed in all black. The clock was ticking and I realized I was at the wrong venue, but briefly debated going to see Xiu Xiu and Swans instead. As I was getting my bearings, I overheard one of the men in the crowd say “Someone’s lost.” It might have had nothing to do with how I was dressed. It probably had more to do with the bewildered, slightly frantic look on my face as the feeling of being lost sunk in. But it felt like a jab. It felt like a judgement, an assumption about what kind of music I would go to see live… because I was a girl in a dress.

It was a reminder, though, that even though I don’t particularly care, I’m lucky because I don’t have to care. I’m privileged not just because of my size and gender, my confidence and my friends, but because of where I live. Because the music scene I’m a part of in Quebec City is really exceptional. Because the music scene I used to be a part of in Peterborough was pretty awesome too. Because I don’t have to worry about being harassed or touched without permission in a concert crowd. Because there are festivals and off-shoots run by badass people who think about gender diversity in their programming, on their stages, and in their crowds. Because my record store is co-owned by a cool couple who never make me feel like they are judging me when I go up to the cash register with my choices.

Photograph of crowd at Festival OFF

Photograph by Maryon Desjardins

I found myself reflecting on that privilege I have after I saw this photograph Maryon Desjardins took of me, as Viet Cong wrapped up their set at Festival OFF. I didn’t know there was a camera there. I didn’t know someone had taken a photograph. And when I saw it, I loved seeing the look on my face. Remembering the feeling of that long drawn out song, the jangling guitars, the intensity of the room. Remembering that I went to this show by myself, who cares, because I wanted to see good live music and it was so fucking good and you can see how good I thought it was because I’m there, in the moment. And it was a reminder that I live in a place where I’m lucky enough to do that without worrying about what people might think of what I’m wearing, or far more importantly, worrying about my physical safety.

It strikes me more when I’m online, when I see these click-bait garbage lists over and over. It makes me worry about the young girl I used to be, the young people not entirely unlike the person I used to be, insecure and thirsting for community, for something to give them a sense of purpose, peppered in small towns around the world. It makes me worry about the young people whose access to music and the communities that build around them are limited or filtered by what they can find online. I worry they might think there’s only one way of looking like a music fan, and it involves wasting your money on destructive fast fashion.

Can we stop this ridiculously reductive way of speaking to young female music fans? I want to be part of a music scene that fosters, encourages, and creates spaces for young women, for diversity, for accessibility, for safe spaces. No one should be left feeling like they have something to prove. I shouldn’t envy the experiences of so many of my straight male friends who get to go to shows, be as enthused or unenthused as they want to be, without wondering if people are making assumptions about their knowledge or taste in music based solely on their gender or race or size or style.

Why waste our time with these stupid lists every festival season; let’s invest our time in more worthwhile battles. What are some of the festivals with the highest rates of gender diversity on stages and in the crowds? How do we create cultures at music festivals where we are working to prevent harassment, rape, and offering resources and support to people who find themselves in unsafe situations? What are some of the music festivals that make diversity part of their mandate? What are some of the most wheelchair accessible outdoor music festivals in the world? Who are the singers, the activists, the guitarists pushing for fostering creative spaces for growth and expression through music, like rock camp for girls? How do we empower young music fans to create the kind of music scenes they want to be a part of, instead of encouraging them to spend money on clothes for a 3-day music festival that will hopefully be more memorable because of the amazing music you got to hear?

So thank you to the people who smash this shit down on the daily. Thanks to the people writing about the latent sexism present in a plethora of music scenes. Fuck your condescending capitalist bullshit disguised as festival fashion tips. I’ll save my money for the merch table instead of your shitty magazine.

RECOMMENDED READING:

RECOMMENDED WATCHING:

5 Comments

Filed under music, personal

Bad Dancer/Good Living

I’ve been in a rut. A style rut, a blog rut. I feel like everything I have to say has been said by someone else, better, more quickly. Daunted by all of the things that should be written about, that deserve to be written about, yet never finding the (quality) time to actually put pen to paper (but I’ve tried to articulate this dilemma before).

To top that off, my sartorial documentation skills have fallen to the wayside… it is hard to believe there was a time, not so long ago, where I could be bothered to take decent photographs of my outfit for one hundred days straight (!). I still having been able to put my finger on why it feels… almost boring to take photos of myself now.

But messages from long-time readers and friends have reminded me: I didn’t carve out this online space for anyone but myself, and that’s part of what makes it special, and why it keeps drawing new readers month after month. A space to share my ideas, whether they be half-baked or fully sussed out. A place to share photos of myself, my outfits, my ideas about our relationship to fashion. Every post doesn’t need to be me slamming my fist on a pulpit, perfectly articulating complicated debates and issues. Shaking off the feeling of never being quite up to snuff is something I try to do in my day-to-day life, but it’s been challenging in a different way when it comes to applying the same ethic to à l’allure garçonnière.

Accept this post as a long-winded apology for my absence, and take away this token of my own way of motivating myself. Lately I’ve been trying to kick myself in the butt (not literally, because that would be far too complicated) to at least share something in this space.

And who better to inspire than Yoko Ono?

I watched this video probably 10 times the first day it was released.

The same week, on a Friday night, my friend Annemarie and I decided we needed to kick our less than great feelings to the curb, get decked out to the nines, and go out dancing. Can you tell who inspired my outfit?

Julia dancing with Annemarie and Yoko

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Also, Annemarie wrote a great review of the bands we saw that night. Follow her blog A house down the road for wonderful music reviews.

Oh, and of course, I can’t leave you without a photo of the shoes I topped this outfit off with. What are short shorts without a pair of silver glittery tights and shoes to accompany it?

baddancer05

Treat yourself to a living room dance party, would ya? The world needs all the levity it can get these days.

8 Comments

Filed under music, personal, quebec city, Uncategorized, what i wore today

Bending gender rules with black & white bobs

Bijou Karman

Bijou Karman

I’ve been wearing the bob for almost a decade now (with a handful of interludes and infidelities). Originally, the printed out images I would bring to the hairdresser would be those of flappers and silent film stars I had seen dancing the screen and longed to emulate. Lately, however, I’ve been finding myself captivated by the 1960s bob. Ironic, in a sense, since a large part of the resurgence of women wearing their hair in short, cropped bobs in the 1960s was a new spin inspired by those very same newly liberated young garçonnes of the 1920s, four decades prior.

When it comes to haircuts, I’m not only lazy but a cheapskate. The idea of shelling out 40 or 50 bucks every six-to-eight weeks for “upkeep” is laughable to me and my budget, as much as I enjoy getting my hair cut. When I lived in bigger (read: queer-er) cities, it was also much easier to rope friends into trimming my bangs, or even getting them to cut my hair in exchange for a case of beer. Low-maintenance is the name of the game for me, and I often let my haircuts grow out longer than I like or ever intended to. In 2011, when I donated 12 inches of my hair, so many people asked me how I did it – how I grew my hair out that long. A simple combination of moving to a new city and not having a hairstylist, being broke, and indecisively lazy. Huzzah! Three years later, 12-14 inches of hair to donate.

But I’m not interested in having hair past my shoulders any time again soon. My last haircut was this past December, and as I have for the past few years, I brought in a photo of Louise Brooks to show the hairdresser.

dec2012

December 2012

Fast-forward two months, and we’re here:

self-portrait in the bathroom - mod 1960s black and white dress and earrings

February 2013

A slightly overgrown bob. Now that I’m getting into “bangs over my eyes” territory, and pondering making an appointment with the hairdresser, I can’t help but wonder… is it time for me to go full-on 1960s?

Nancy Kwan with her famous Sassoon haircut. Pic by Terence Donovan

Am I patient enough to let it grow out a bit more, and go for Nancy Kwan’s gorgeous bob circa 1963? Or finally give in to my affection for Mary Quant’s 5-point bob? Or Peggy Moffitt’s iconic close-crop?

Mary Quant, designer, wearing Vidal Sassoon's 5-point bob in the early 1960s

Mary Quant

Sassoon’s 5 Point Bob by Eric Swayne, modeled by Grace Coddington

Grace Coddington

Film still from William Klein's 1966 satirical art film, "Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?"

Film still from William Klein’s 1966 satirical art film, “Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?”

The films I’ve been watching these days are partly to blame for all of these haircuts dancing in my head. All of these visual references are namely from having recently re-watched Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo ? (1966, William Klein) and a perennial favourite/criminally underrated Québécois film, Le Chat dans le Sac (1964, Gilles Groulx). Both thrilled me, and reminded me why I have such affection for style and art from this period – so much was new, so much was made possible in such a short period of time, the radical potential for renewal was everything.

I also finally bit the bullet this past February and watched the documentary on Vidal Sassoon. Fastforward about 30 minutes in, watch the bit with Mary Quant, and at about 46 minutes listen to this bit by Professor Caroline Cox (one of the very few female voices in the documentary):

When you saw somebody dressed in a Quant outfit with a 5-point Sassoon haircut, you didn’t know if they were a countess, you didn’t know if they were someone who worked in a shop. That really dramatically changed how people thought about Britain. It was no longer this hide-bound, class-oriented society and also it really changed how women thought about themselves, because women weren’t only liberated socially and sexually in the 1960s, they were also liberated through their clothes and very particularly their haircuts. They were no longer having to go to the salons every week to have their hair permed and set, tweaked and backcombed… they could have a haircut that they could go out, wash once or twice a week, do it all at home, and it would look fantastic!

This is the parallel I find striking between the 1920s and 1960s bobs: how something as simple as a haircut can change the way we think about things we often see as set in stone, like class and gender. The immediate post-war years, following both the Great War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945), lead to stricter moral gender codes. During the wars, women often had no choice but to find work to support their families, whether they wanted to or not. But when men returned home from the war, women were simply expected to go quietly back to their previous roles as mothers, wives, and sisters. The way that resistance to these ideas presented itself could sometimes be in the subtle form of slowly shortening hemlines, more comfortable clothing (re: clothing one could move, work, and exhert oneself whilst wearing) and simpler hairstyles.

And by “simpler,” I mean hairstyles that did not require the assistance of someone else, with the use of products and tools only in the possession of the live-in hired help or the professional barber. The gender and class dynamics that could change partly as a result of this were astounding.

While researching hairstyles of the mid-1960s, I couldn’t help but be reminded of those from the mid-1920s. The moral outcry about an attack on femininity, the fashion designers who collaborated with hairstylists to push an androgynous agenda forward, is equal parts laughable and terrifying. All because of a snip of the scissors…

But back to the movie the quote came from: I must emphasize – this is pretty much the only part of the Vidal Sassoon documentary I found refreshing or interesting. Watch it at your own peril. I would summarize it succinctly as a myth-making circle jerk of a bunch of old white guys putting Vidal on a pedestal shortly before his death. So many choices struck me as so wrong! Using Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959) to illustrate how modern and cutting edge Peggy Moffitt’s fashion poses in the mid-1960s were? I’m a fan of both, but no. Not to mention my distaste for using faux-vintage footage in something presented as a documentary. Bad. Poor form. And how many times do we have to counter the myth that Sassoon was responsible for Mia Farrow’s pixie cut? Listen to the woman herself!

Glad that’s out of my system.

After looking up all these images of 1960s models, I couldn’t help but give in to the urge to strike a pose of my own.

mod-bw-2

I leave you with some recommended watching:

Recommend Reading:

Wish me luck in my quest for the perfect bob…

4 Comments

Filed under hair, personal, Uncategorized

2012 in review

forlorn flapper
january

  • looking like a forlorn flapper
  • adjusting to the fact that all of my very close friends had moved away
  • enjoying the harsh cold québécois winter

recommended reading

  1. Instead of an interview with Xtra by Rae Spoon (Jan 3, 2012)
  2. They is me by Ivan Coyote (Jan 10, 2012)
  3. If the Clothes Fit: A Feminist Takes on Fashion by (January 17, 2012)
  4. Homai Vyarawalla, Pioneering Indian Photojournalist, Dies at 98 by Haresh Pandya (January 28, 2012)
  5. If the clothes fit by Arabelle Sicardi (January 31, 2012)

soundtrack:

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february

  • mastering the art of looking – and being – surly
  • went to a phenomenal exhibition on fashion in Québécois art, did a short radio report on it

recommended reading

  1. The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League by Lawrence Lai (February 2, 2012)
  2. Islamophobia in Canada: A Primer By Fathima Cader and Sumayya Kassamali (February 2, 2012)
  3. Honor Codes and Dress Codes by Sharday Mosurinjohn (February 10, 2012)
  4. Better Homes & Bloggers: Are lifestyle blogs a new way for women to compare themselves and come up short? by Holly Hilgenberg (February 18, 2012)
  5. When Anger is all I have and why anger is my feminist stand by Flavia Dozan (February 22, 2012)
  6. The Artists: Notes on a lost style of acting by (February 27, 2012)

soundtrack:

none of dem (robyn) covered by austra

mars
march

recommended reading

soundtrack:

julia and iris

april

  • went out west for the very very first time to visit my best friend morgan
  • visited toronto!
  • celebrated james & rachel‘s wedding
  • aforementioned radio documentary was rebroadcast nationally! on one of my favourite shows!
  • read an awful lot, as proven below:

recommended reading:

  1. She Told Us So: Nafissatou Diallo and Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s New Case by Valerie Jean-Charles (April 3, 2012)
  2. Interview with Jenny Zhang at Chictopia (April 4, 2012)
  3. Trying to understand a tragedy by Mary Burnet (April 23, 2012)
  4. The Colour of the Student Movement – “Maîtres Chez Nous”  by Lee Way (April 23, 2012)
  5. The changing face of beauty: the rise of make-up for darker skin by Anita Bhagwandas (April 24, 2012)
  6. Carmen Miranda’s Ethnic Masquerade in The Gang’s All Here by ShienLee (Apr 25, 2012)
  7. Femme Post III on [real] Cuntext (April 26, 2012)
  8. Resistance is not violence: Putting property damage and economic disruption in perspective by Mona Luxion (April 28, 2012)

soundtrack:

may

may

recommended reading

  1. Femme: In Praise of Higher Expectations by Zoe Whittall (May 5, 2012)
  2. What Fashion’s “Ethnic” Prints Are Really Called by (May 19, 2012)
  3. Women Are Heroes: A Global Portrait of Strength in Hardship by French Guerrilla Artist-Activist JR by (May 24, 2012)

soundtrack

june

justyne, jasmine, julia and myriam. best wedding party ever.

justyne, jasmine, julia and myriam. best wedding party ever.

  • chopped off my hair for the 1st time in ages, felt (and looked!) so good.
  • went to europe for the 1st time as an adult, since i lived there as a kid
  • met amazing people in pamplona, wasted hours in bookstores and art galleries and wandering along cobblestone streets
  • rented a scooter and rode along the atlantic coast in france…
  • headed back to canada in time to be a bridesmaid for the very first time, for my little sister jasmine!

recommended reading:

  1. Une autre raison de s’indigner by Sophie Le-Phat Ho, Kevin Lo, Faiz Abhuani, Amber Berson, Dominique Desjardins, Gwenaëlle Denis, Farha Najah (June 1, 2012)
  2. How To Be A Reverse-Racist: An Actual Step by Step List For Oppressing White People by A.D Song and Mia McKenzie (June 27, 2012)
  3. Life, death and the meaning of a wedding dress by Laura Snelgrove (June 15, 2012)

soundtrack:

july 14

july

recommended reading

  1. Field Notes on Fashion and Occupy by (July 9, 2012)
  2. Turbans on the Runway: What does it mean for Sikhs? by Sonny Singh Brooklynwala (July 10, 2012)
  3. Be a fan, not a jerk at Untitled Teen Mag (July 17, 2012)
  4. Doing Femme: Fiona Apple by iris (July 16, 2012)
  5. Make up, my bane and saviour by Teresa (July 25, 2012)

soundtrack:

self-portrait

august

  • celebrated my 5-year anniversary with simon
  • covered an election campaign as a journalist for the first time ever (was particularly amused by this story)
  • had a nice visit with carmelle
  • did not spend enough time in the sun, did not spend enough time outdoors
  • spent far too much time thinking about/working on election coverage
  • struggled with how to deal with that stress, and how my body was manifesting it…

recommended reading:

  1. How To Talk to People Who Are In Wheelchairs by Monica (August 2, 2012)
  2. Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings by Harsha Walia (August 6, 2012)
  3. At Least Pussy Riot Won the West by Kriston Capps (August 16, 2012)
  4. Manic Pixie Dream Dissidents: How the World Misunderstands Pussy Riot by Sarah Kendzior (August 20, 2012)

sept-1

september

  • went to visit my family in ottawa
  • thought i was going to have some time off, struggled with the ups and downs of being a freelancer
  • worked on some pitches and ideas

recommended reading

  1. «Nous sommes tous responsables» de l’attentat du Métropolis par Catherine Lalonde (8 septembre 2012)
  2. What can’t be published by Stacey May Fowles (September 14, 2012)
  3. Special Victims by (September 14, 2012)
  4. Accessibility to fashion and the visibility of bloggers by GraceLizaBetty (September 18, 2012)
  5. The Good Girls Revolt: The Untold Story of the 1970 Lawsuit That Changed the Modern Workplace by Maria Popova (September 19, 2012)
  6. Ariel Pink And Beta Male Misogyny by Joe Kennedy (September 24, 2012)
  7. I wrote this thing about Grimes’ “Genesis” and it never ran so here you go by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (September 28, 2012)

soundtrack:

october2

october

  • got sick
  • went for a hike in the woods
  • thought/wrote a lot about feminism…

recommended reading

  1. What the Girls spat on Twitter tells us about feminism by Bim Adewunmi at The Guardian (October 8th, 2012)
  2. A problem that stubbornly refuses to budge by Reni Eddo-Lodge (October 8th, 2012)
  3. Bullying: It’s not just for kids (October 6, 2012) sidenote: this was also the most popular thing i shared on tumblr this year, with over 7000 notes
  4. Her Body Is Not Your Playground: Why the Photoshopped Frida Nudes Are Not Okay by Mia McKenzie (October 25, 2012)
  5. Trolls and the spaces created by trolling by Nora Loreto (October 24, 2012)
  6. Real Talk: Am I living radically? by Katie West (October 26th, 2012)

soundtrack:

november

  • followed the american elections a bit too closely
  • went to the vintage clothing fair in ottawa with steph
  • spent some quality time with my sisters
  • started working on a big project…
  • took a week off and went on a mini road trip with simon

recommended reading:

  1. Die Antwoord’s revival of blackface does South Africa no favours by Adam Haupt (November 2, 2012)
  2. An Open Letter to the AGO About Frida Kahlo’s Unibrow by Sarah Mortimer at Shameless Magazine (November 6, 2012)
  3. An Unedited Rant About Looking Into Fatshion’s Navel by Natalie (November 11, 2012)
  4. Doing Antiracism Wrong at Jezebel at Postbourgie (November 12, 2012)
  5. Are we becoming cyborgs?

soundtrack:

dec2012

december

  • visited and interviewed my grandparents in valleyfield
  • caught up with karina
  • put together Threads: Fur, fabric and fashion in Quebec for CBC Radio
  • celebrated my 27th birthday!
  • got a really fucking good haircut, as pictured above

recommended reading:

  1. The Natives are restless: Wondering why? by âpihtawikosisân (December 11, 2012)
  2. For the last time, stop conflating violence & mental illness by (Dec 17, 2012)
  3. Foreign Tokens: The Blackamoor Brooch by Rama Musa (Dec 17, 2012)
  4. Parsing the online comments on #IdleNoMore: How Canadians are failing a tolerance test by David Newland (December 20, 2012)
  5. White Men are Not in Decline by Sarah Jane Glynn (December 20, 2012)

soundtrack:

all in all, not too shabby!

8 Comments

Filed under currently, digital/online culture, links, personal, Uncategorized

SUMMER OUTFITS: june

to say this summer went by quickly would be the understatement of the century. you see, i’m still recovering from my post-student days, where things would slow down in the summer rather than speed up. yes, i’ve been working full-time most summers (with one exception) for nearly a decade now, but never as intensely as this year. in june, it really didn’t look like it would be that way… but hey! a summer election campaign and your colleagues taking their summer vacations will give you a lot more to do!

i know, i know, everyone finds the summer goes by too fast. i just wanted to give you a bit of context for these very belated outfit posts. spending far more time at the office did not mean i toned down my warddrobe or forgot to take outfit photos! it simply meant it wasn’t until now that i found the time to share them with you.

let’s begin with june.

as i mentionned earlier, i started the summer with a haircut and a trip overseas. before hopping on a plane, i checked out the

i had the chance to have a sneak peek back in may, but was so excited to see it when it officially opened in june. in the end i visited the museum three times this summer to try and take it all in, and am very glad i did. you can listen to my radio report on it if you missed it.

wearing: thrifted dress from value village, 10$
sandals: hush puppies on sale

the summer also means high-time for yard sales, flea markets and church basement bargains. while riding my bike one sunday i came across a particularly awesome yard sale and picked up this stunning 1960s wiggle dress for a whopping 6 dollars. it is a wee bit snug for me (but aren’t all wiggle dresses?) but i simply could not resist for that price. one of my smaller-hipped vintage-loving friends might be able to give it a good home if i don’t end up wearing it enough.

dress: vintage, thrifted shoes: thrifted ages ago photobooth bag from meags fitzgerald

dress: vintage, thrifted
shoes: thrifted ages ago
photobooth bag from meags fitzgerald

simon and i in his favourite colours: black and white

simon and i in his favourite colours: black and white

even though we live together, simon and i try to make date nights a priority. not just hanging out, but getting decked out to the nines for no particular reason at all and enjoying the sights and sounds of our gorgeous city. i didn’t get the best photos of my outfit, but believe me we turned heads that night.

dress, vintage 1960s from courage my love in toronto. 1960s handbag thrifted.

so there’s june: i’ll be sharing photos from july and august shortly. thanks for looking!

2 Comments

Filed under fashion, personal, vintage, what i wore today

Une garçonne sur la Garonne

photo by pierre planchenault at festival chahuts

photo by pierre planchenault at festival chahuts, bordeaux. june 18th, 2012.

obligatory blogger apologizing for not blogging intro phrase.

just kidding! i earned some well-deserved time off this month. time off from my job, from my beautiful neighbourhood that is populated with one too many jackhammers, time off from “the real world.”

june has been good to me. i hopped across the atlantic into the arms of my love who was all the way in bordeaux, france. simon was presenting some of productions rhizome‘s work at festival chahuts, and we decided to take time for some adventures of our own, too. we met some amazing people while admiring the sights in pamplona, bilbao & la baie d’archachon. i impressed people with my comfort in french and english, prompting many people to make all kinds of wrong guesses on where i’m from. spanish? italian? cosmopolitan globetrotter? one french parent and one canadian parent? nah, just your regular québécois-abénaki-military brat mess of a person with francophile leanings.

photo of simon and julia by annie lafleur

photo of simon and julia in bordeaux by annie lafleur

little snapshots of my daily life here were captured on film, by new friends digital cameras and scribbled handwriting onpostcards. i’ve been letting the digital aspects of my life fall more and more to the wayside these days, and i must admit it’s been doing me some good. this is due, in part, to the death of my laptop (ironically timed just after i wrote the line “i’ve had this image saved on the three computers i’ve owned over the course of the past decade” in my last post) but also to the fun of getting wrapped up in the real world. i’m not yet a member of the constantly-connected cell phone brigade, but just the feeling of being disconnected from my cumbersome laptop has changed the way i spend my days. [sidenote: back in may i even made a tiny zine about attempting to change my internet habits, so it was nice to put those things into practice in a more concrete way.]

a photograph of some postcards

some of the postcards i sent off to friends and family while in bordeaux.

that said, i was still constantly thinking about the stories and ideas i wanted to share with my readers. scrawled in my tiny travel notebook are notes like, “how wierd is it to fit in, style wise, in a city i’ve never been to before, thousands of miles from where i was born and raised?” it’s funny how, with the exact same wardrobe, haircut, and body one can stand out so much in your hometown and blend in in a city you’ve never been to before. another note, scrawled in all caps was “interview old french men about why they are so much more dapper and stylish than north american men!!!” unfortunately i didn’t interview anyone (journalist on vacation!),  but i did admire men in tweed biking around the cobblestone streets of bordeaux. i’d be lying if i said i didn’t find it tempting to make sweeping generalizations about French people based on my ten days in Europe, though.

my vacation wasn’t entirely spent people watching and idea percolating – i did end up reading for pleasure more than i have in years. while waiting in airport lounges, i read my fair share of tattered copies of french newspapers but was also quite happy to have good books and magazines with me along the way.

recommended reading:

Mythologies by Roland Barthes, specifically “The Writer on Holiday” essay:

What proves the wonderful singularity of the writer, is that during the holiday in question, which he takes alongside factory workers and shop assistants, he unlike them does not stop, if not actually working, at least producing. So that he is a false worker, and a false holiday-maker as well. One is writing his memoris, another is correcting proofs, yet another is preparing his next book. And he who does nothing confesses it as truly paradoxical behaviour, an avant-garde exploit, which only someone of exceptional independence can afford to flaunt. One then realizes, thanks to this kind of boast, that it is quite ‘natural’ that the writer should write all the time and in all sorts of situations. First, this treats literary production as a sort of involuntary secretion, which is taboo, since it escapes human determinations: to speak more decorously, the writer is the prey of an inner god who speaks at all times, without bothering, tyrant that he is, with the holidays of his medium. Writers are on holiday, but their Muse is awake, and gives birth non-stop.

Causette – a sassy French magazine that’s similar to Bitch Magazine here in North America. i had to buy it after browsing it at a friend’s house and reading a shocking article about how France has repealed sexual harrassment laws. terrifying to say the least. on a nicer note, how refreshing it to buy a magazine that says “le poids des femmes” (the weight of women) but isn’t talking about pounds or fat, but instead political clout? can i get a fuck yeah?

i also finished a few fiction books i had on the go, namely oryx & crake by margaret atwood. if you’re interested in what i’ve been reading, i’ve been sharing a lot on goodreads these days. i’ve also spent the last week catching up on great articles published during my downtime. if you’ve seen (or written) anything you think is up my alley, please leave links in the comments.

i’ve got lots of other stories and suggestions to share from my time overseas, but i hope that satiates your appetites for now!

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a tale of tattoos, zebras, and the importance of context

i’ve had this image saved on the three computers i’ve owned over the course of the past decade. i’ve posted it to livejournal communities, shown it to hairdressers before i knew what “fingerwaves” were, invented stories and lifetimes for her, imagined the details of her tattoos. in the end, all i really knew about her is what my (very tattooed) friend ursula told me in a livejournal comment:

the first pic with the zebra, that girl is a circus freak show girl haha, back in the 20’s and 30’s girls with tattoos were pretty rare…

i always admired this mystery zebra-loving stranger for that, and wouldn’t have thought of it that way if someone had not pointed it out to me. sometimes i daydream of having a tattoo of a tattooed lady on me, and when i do, i still see her face, her cupid’s bows lips. to put it succinctly, this image has been pretty fundamental in helping shape my aesthetics and my imagination from the time i was in my late teens until today.

something that has struck me more recently, however, is how despite the fact that i am seemingly obsessed with this image, it’s ultimately one i know nothing about. absolutely nothing factual, or true, or verifiable – vague inclinations and assumptions at best. does that intrigue me somewhat more than if i knew her name, or at least had a better idea of where and when the photograph was taken?  more than anything, though, it frustrates me. it frustrates me because it’s hardly the only image i’ve had these questions about. it frustrates me because it is indicative of an online culture of circulating and re-circulating images, and stripping them of their original context.

screencap of a tineye.com search

while i’m critical of it, i’m part of that very same system. i’ve been using the internet, creating and taking content, for more than a decade. i saw this image for the first time probably about 7 or 8 years ago… but where? i saw it somewhere online and “right clicked, save as” to my desktop. of course, we’ve all done that far too many times over the years to possibly remember where we saved it from, even if there was information about the photographer/photographed.

who is she? who took the photo? is it a closeup of a larger photograph? who scanned it and shared it online? these are just some of the questions that are increasingly difficult to answer in the digital age. it’s not as though i came across the photo while browsing in an art book, and could easily solve these riddles by reading a caption or the anotated bibliography.

screencap of the weheartit front page and pinterest front page on may 5th, 2012

the propagation of visual “pinboards” and “inspiration sites” make it effortless for images to be stripped of their context, history, and original sources. never mind crediting the person who originally shared the image online; we can’t even find the person who created the image to begin with. i’ve spent far too much time thinking about how my post-secondary education (especially as a history student) emphasized not only the importance but the necessity of citing your sources, ensuring the people who made those statements or created those images were credited in as much detail as possible. professors and academic advisors drilled it into my brain that one could not simply use an image without ensuring you listed the date, artist, format, etc. they even explained the importance of why: ensuring artists or authors were recognized or even paid for their work, to share knowledge not just images, and so on and so forth.

but with more people using the internet more often than ever before, online culture moving increasingly away from a model which centers images in relation to their creator, towards an orgiastic internet free-for-all.

this all comes back to my tattooed zebra-friendly lady. when this image came across my tumblr dashboard via tangledupinlace in february 2012, i reblogged it saying pretty much what i’ve just told you: “i love this image, i wish i could find out more.” moments after i lamented this, k (lookuplookup on tumblr, who runs a great music blog side ponytail) sent me a message with a guess of who my mystery lady might be. could it be?

May Vandermark (Ada Mae Vandermark Patton) was a tattooed lady from Scranton, Pennsylvania. She came to New York in 1924 to work as a stenographer. It is rumored that she saw a person with a tattoo of a butterfly on their shoulder while swimming and decided she had to have one as well. She got a tattoo of a butterfly on both shoulders. She met Miss Pictoria, or Victoria James, who convinced Vandermark to become a tattooed lady. Vandermark began getting tattooed by Charles Wagner, who gave her a special price of $150 for a full body suit. She started doing Coney Island shows with the name Miss Artorio and eventually worked with the Ringling show in the 1920s

the satisfaction! after years of wondering, finally i have some answers! ironically, the very same internet tools that stripped this image of its original context made it possible for me to plea with the many internet friends i have to work together and share our knowledge. huzzah! the only other photo i’ve been able to find of her was found via bme zine, shown above. since then, i’ve come across a handful of other vague stories regarding may vandermark, including the two or three names she used. i’ve added amelia klem osterud’s book, the tattooed lady: a history to my must-read list.

The Tattooed Lady: A History

i’ve also spent a bit of time thinking about my fascination with circus babes. part of what i’ve always loved about that first photograph, without a name or history attached at all, was how she was stepping outside the boundaries of what was deemed beautiful or socially acceptable at the time – at least visually. to put it succinctly, i have a very special place in my heart for those who presented an alternative version of femininity at a time when women were trying to find not only visual but material ways to reject the prescriptive gender, class, and sexuality boundaries imposed on them. that said, it’s absolutely essential to look at these things aspects critically (many people – especially people of colour and people with disabilities- were forced into almost endentured slavery type situations in circuses and sideshows like the ones may vandermark was featured in) and not simply romanticize the beautiful parts.

an illustration of may vandermark stylized with more tattoos by nicoz balboa

Tattooed Lady by Nicoz Balboa

unsurprisingly, i’m far from the only person to have been inspired by this image of may vandermark. many artists, like nicoz balboa, have paid homage to this woman who seems so strong, so compelling simply based on the one photograph we’ve seen of her and her zebra friend. as much as i feel disappointed that it took me so many years to try and find out more about this image and this woman, it is wonderful that my internet friends were able to help me find her name.

really, the best thing you can do if you find yourself in similar situations is prevent these problems from happening in the first place. nip it in the bud. when you sign up for the latest greatest image sharing service, get informed. learn how to use it. post images or quotes linking back to the original source where you found them. add simple captions with the name of the photographer, the year, and the medium if possible. when you come across images that don’t have any credit, you can ask your fellow internauts to help you find out. ask, who made this?

some of the most often referred tips i get when lamenting how difficult it is to find credit or sources for random images is to use this website. tineye reverse image search is designed to deal with this specific conundrum, and is pretty trusty. it’s how i found the highest-quality version of this may vandermark, in fact.

but what is most important is to keep this in mind: let’s make an effort to be informed of the narratives surrounding the images we put out there. here’s how Hila Shachar puts it in this interesting post:

Maybe it’s a good idea to start approaching images from a photo-journalism perspective where images form a significant part of a wider narrative, and where there is a distinct relationship between images and words, history and the present. I’m afraid that if we don’t do this, all these “inspiration” pin-boards and blogs will just end up being one big vacuum of nothingness.

yes, my story with may vandermark is specifically talking about context and credit in regards to an older photograph. but as shachar points out, it happens even with the most famous of historical figures and can be a great disservice not only to the consumer of the image, but to the person in it.

as our internet culture rapidly changes and we hop on the bandwagon of the next great image sharing website, let us temper our enthusiasm with a smidge of responsibility. let’s foster an internet space where facts and information remain key, not optional. where independent artists are recognized and rewarded for their work. where the hard work librarians and archivists have been doing for decades is not undone in a single click.

Knock Out (flapper boxer tattoo design) by Quyen Dinh

Knock Out (flapper boxer tattoo design) by Quyen Dinh

recommended reading about credit/sourcing online:

recommended reading about tattooed ladies:

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Filed under digital/online culture, personal, politics