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

Fashion Blogging Culture: Demanding Substance Over Style

Confession: I’ve stopped reading personal style blogs almost entirely. Not as rejection of the individual bloggers I spent years following… rather, more as a rejection of dominant fashion blogging culture, and how I kept seeing it repeated in the same derivative formula, over and over again.

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking pretty intensely about fashion blogging. I spent a fair bit of the early winter immersed in researching the fashion industry, specifically in a Canadian context, but it lead me in all kinds of directions… questions about consumption, production, ethics, design… none of which I saw explored in the conventional fashion blogging world. I began to wonder: what has made it so that the one most popular kind of fashion blog – the personal style blog – seems to be the only kind (especially with a subject as vast and rich as fashion)? Which fashion blogs get attention, and why? How is a fashion blog/ger deemed successful, and why do countless young people strive towards that singular version of “success?”

These kinds of frustrations came to light in a slightly different incarnation last week, when I came across a few tweets sharing links to Kelly Faircloth‘s article “Fatshion Police: How Plus-Size Blogging Left Its Radical Roots Behind.” The headline itself obviously drew me in, and it is definitely worth reading (RECOMMENDATION: Read the article before you read my disjointed ramblings). Erin over at Zero Style shared it on her Facebook page, leading to thoughtful debate and discussion amongst a few of her followers, including myself. Here’s my take on some of the issues raised in the article:

As someone who spent a fair bit of time lurking on the fatshionista Livejournal communities back in 2005-2007, I think this is an incredibly important conversation to be having. How can your anger and frustrations towards the fashion industry, when you are a fashion lover, be productive? Do the end goals have to be inherently capitalist? It speaks to larger conundrums facing fashion blog culture, which inevitably seems to favour the fluffy over more substantial content. Fatshion culture in particular, as noted in Faircloth’s article, started flourishing in the form of Livejournal communities, fostering discussions and sharing of knowledge and insights and opinions and styles… but now, the vast majority of fashion blogs (fatshion or otherwise) seem to adhere to more of a “LOOK AT THE PRETTY THINGS I WEAR- THE END” like! heart!

Browse the comments on the average popular fashion blog, and no one is surprised to find that a good 75% of the comments are left by new bloggers trying to bring traffic to their (own attempts at) blogs. It’s harsh, but true – it’s even lead to some of the most popular bloggers to close comments altogether. Whatever the reason behind their choice, the overall message is that even the most succesful fashion blogs can be a one-way street: Look at me, enjoy, keep your thoughts to yourself, shop where I shop. The radical potential that the web and social media originally seemed to have opened up now look about as radical as a herd of lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff…

Screencap of comments left on a popular personal style blog. Short repetitive comments are standard, with links to their own blogs becoming the focal point.

Screencap of comments left on a popular personal style blog. Short repetitive compliments are standard, with links to their own blogs becoming the focal point.

Where did the conversations go?

Moving away from discussions and conversations between the real people behind fashion blogs and their readership is just one incarnation of the middle-of-the-road mediocrity facing fashion blogging culture. Focusing on the capitalist-consumer side of fashion – what I often refer to as “shopping blogs,” not fashion blogs -  has brought us to the point where even a passing reference to the word politics seems to strike fear in the heart of bloggers and readers. Certain goals that fatshion lovers were pushing long and hard for have been, to some extent, accomplished: more brands offer clothing in a wider variety of sizes, some designers and magazines feel more comfortable showcasing “plus-size” models, there is more visibility to a certain extent… but where does that leave former followers and members who enjoy fashion from a more political perspective? Where are the dissenting voices, the concerns over the negative impact of fast fashion, the conversations about?

I’m more perturbed by the fact that the success of a fashion blog is deemed by the amount of traffic it gets, by brand sponsorships and affiliations, by numbers of Instagram followers, as opposed to the quality of conversations, the originality and strength of the content shared! This bothers me more than the tendency of being apolitical because you’re either

  1. apathetic or
  2. fearful of ruffling feathers or
  3. not getting brand sponsors.

I understand wanting to make money from your blog. I understand the importance of acknowledging that fashion blogging is work.  I understand some of those bloggers want careers in the fashion industry as it is, unchanged, without a need for upheaval – but that isn’t showcased when you are simply reproducing the status quo in incredible unoriginal ways.

A highly decorated colourful ampersand by Kirsten McCrea (2012) Ink on Paper

& by Kirsten McCrea (2012) Ink on Paper

I also think some of the criticisms and concerns raised by Faircloth could easily overlap with those who call themselves “feminist fashion bloggers” (but maybe that’s just because I call myself one). In reality, it may be more appropriate to describe the aforementioned as “feminists who have fashion blogs” – since they never ever write criticisms of fashion culture from a feminist perspective. Does wearing a barrette with a female power symbol really make you a “feminist fashion blogger” when you don’t care about what kind of labour was involved in making your H&M sweater available for 20 bucks? It’s awesome that you volunteer at a women’s shelter and go to rallies or whatever incarnation your feminism may take, but does that make your “what I wore” personal style blog inherently political? I’m not so sure…

But I digress – there’s nothing inherently wrong with just having a “what I wore” blog, but it is a bummer that some people feel stifled by the format to the point that they feel obliged to simply go with the pack/status quo. Like Erin and many others have stated, it’s fine to be a “fat fashion blogger” and not be a particularly politicized person yourself, but don’t purport to be part of a political movement like fatshion just for the sake of saying it – it takes balls, work, and action to be critical!

Another absolutely essential point raised by Rachel Kacenjar:

I think it’s hard for any intensely personal political movement to see its offspring reap capitalist “rewards.” This is supposed to be ours- we are supposed to harness the power- and then when we hand over that power for free clothing and publicity, we lose the original oomph. We also have lost vast representation. This movement was originally very queer, multi-sized, and from my standpoint, welcoming of POC, and now it seems that the most cherished bloggers are not representative of that. They tend to be on the smaller end of plus, and if not, they are of a mainstream desired shape and size, they tend to be upper middle class, and they tend to be white or light skinned as well as mainstream feminine presenting.

I’m down for all of us getting exposure for all of our passions and I think accepting compensation in all of its forms is a choice. But I totally understand where the vision of our origins and roots are being clouded here, and how that can totally feel disappointing.

After reading that I basically looked like this:

Animated gif of Orson Welles clapping

Animated gif of Orson Welles clapping emphatically

Phew! That covers the basics… and then some.

These aren’t new ideas. These are conversations I’ve been hearing and echoing and sharing for years. In January of last year, Eline shared her thoughts with me about why more radical and critical perspectives will always be pushed to the margins in fashion blogging culture.  Jenny Zhang addressed a lot of these questions in this great interview with Chictopia in April of 2012. Danielle Meder is one of the few bloggers that tackles issues as varied as different illustration styles to insightful analysis of fashion blogging culture without seeming muddled or aimless. Isabel Sloane’s now defunct Hipster Musings struck a nerve back in 2011 with “Why Fashion Blogging smells like raw fish,” the same year as Kat George’s article on the “Un-democracy of fashion blogging.”

These conversations are happening – we just have to look for them. It all comes down to why people started their own fashion blogs in the first place, and what the creators and readers hoped to get out of them. Do we make them because we think we have original ideas and thoughts and style we want to share with people? Or because we want our wardrobes subsidized by brands we couldn’t otherwise afford on our own? Is fashion blogging culture, dominated in large part by straight (in size and sexuality) middle-class females, helping young women develop their writing and photography skills? Are we any better off because of fashion blogs?

Those dissenting voices should show you it’s not hopeless. People like Eline and Natalie who speak not only about the important role fashion plays in their lives, but are open and candid about their struggles with depression and mental illness – not to mention, how that affects their chances to be deemed fashion blog “it girls” and showered with money and career possibilities. We shouldn’t ignore that bloggers with the most press and attention also tend to live in urban centres, in North America, and fit within certain acceptable parameters of what it means to be fashionable and feminine. In the end, the more we look at it, the formula for who is “most likely to succeed” in the fashion blogging world isn’t all that different from any other industry.

2010 Hand-embroidery on cotton by Lauren Dicioccio

50$ (2010) Hand-embroidery on cotton from Lauren Dicioccio’sCurrency” Series

The last elephant in the room I want to tackle is money. “Monetization” has a category all to itself on the Independent Fashion Blogger website. Years back it was, “how do we make money from our blogs?” Today, questions like “Do we disclose?” It seems every blogger either makes money from their hobby, or wants it to seem as though they do.  Do we brag? Do we pretend it’s something we don’t care about to create a nice illusion for our readers? Or do we reject it altogether? and look for alternatives?

In the end it all seems to come down to capitalism – which, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, is a political structure. Whether we be challenging fatshion bloggers, style bloggers, or lifestyle bloggers,  it is an overarching element we can’t take out of the picture. Are we selling ourselves? Are we – dare we even say the word – sell-outs? We want to be paid for our work, but when the only option are brands and companies who pay is in the form of clothes and accessories, it seems we either do it for free or not at all. This isn’t a problem unique to fashion bloggers, though: if you want to work as a freelance blogger, good luck finding regular well-paid work (and I say that from experience).

As I finished writing out these thoughts, I stumbled across this parody of the “carefree white girl” variety of online oversharer. It reads like a comedy skit, but it really is a commercial for a brand of clothing. Even if it’s nice to look at, makes you laugh with its incisive parodying of a pervasive online embodiment of femininity… in the end, it’s selling you something.

What an appropriate note to end on.

FASHION FILM from Matthew Frost on Vimeo.

31 Comments

Filed under digital/online culture, fashion blogs, Uncategorized

mysterious mannequins and abject objects

Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier Bresson,Paris-1933

Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier Bresson, Paris (1933)

Mannequins, E1 by John Claridge, 1968

Mannequins, E1 by John Claridge (1968)

There is something about undressed, outdated mannequins than renders them automatically unsettling. It’s not quite the same feeling as seeing someone undressed you shouldn’t be (and we all know I’m not that much of a prude). Rather, it’s the unnerving sentiment of witnessing an object rendered obsolete. Naked, a mannequin is stripped of its intented purpose – a plastic object whose sole purpose it is to mimic the human body, created for consumers.

Abandoned, unused, immobile – they also happen to make for fabulous photography subjects.

Oct. 16, 1970: The Times chronicled the sale of used display stock at a warehouse on Long Island, an event that the reporter said “would have made a swarm of locusts look like a bunch of lazy butterflies.” The complete dummies cost $10 and $20,  “but the parts were a bargain,” the caption said. “You could get a hand for five cents or buy an arm for a dime.”

José Alemany - Mannequin Head Studies, 1920s -1930s

José Alemany – Mannequin Head Studies, 1920s -1930s

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Maniquí tapado (Mannequin covered), 1931

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Maniquí tapado (Mannequin covered), 1931

Don’t these two next photos, by John Vachon and WeeGee respectively, look as though they could be the same mannequins?

Two female mannequins stand undressed in a windowshop front in the 1940s. Photographed by John Vachon

Department Store Models, Chicago, Illinois by John Vachon (July 1940)

Mannequins by Weegee (1942)

Mannequins by Weegee (1942)

Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Surrealist artist Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1933)

Last year marked the first time I had the pleasure of seeing some of Leonor Fini’s pieces when the exhibition In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States was in Quebec City. What a fabulous woman, what strange photos. If only I could have been a fly on the wall when Cartier-Bresson and Fini concocted these images…

Some of the more talented photographers took an interesting spin on the idea that mannequins were designed to be looked at. Designed to stand still, in glass in storefronts, to elicit curiosity, excitement, and desire – hopefully, the desire to be wearing the clothes they were modelling. But when these mannequins are in various states of undress, or better yet missing limbs and wigs, the visual impact packs an even bigger punch.

Being watched…

Hans Mauli

Hans Mauli

…or  watching.

Wilmington, North Carolina, 1950 by Elliot Erwitt

Wilmington, North Carolina, 1950 by Elliot Erwitt

Mannequins, Thieves Bazaar, Bombay by Ferenc Berko, 1938-47

Mannequins, Thieves Bazaar, Bombay by Ferenc Berko (1938-47)

As I researched some of these photographs, spanning fifty years and several countries, I wondered why mannequins are such a compelling subject. There is just so much to explore in the idea that an object, designed to mimic the human body, serving consumers. There is also the simple fact that one of the main reasons mannequins have been a popular subject for photographers and artists is that they are motionless, and hold their poses effortlessly – as opposed to their living, breathing counterparts.

We could easily get into some of the more controversial elements – how mannequins present an idealized version of the human body, how female mannequins are often sexualized, how they have evolved over the years, etc. I could also join the crowds of feminists who have ripped into famous fashion photographers, namely Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, for the visual ways in which they objectified women, and often involved pairing live models with dopplegänger plastic mannequins.

There’s also the curious fact that the word for model in French is, in fact, mannequin.

But really the main purpose me sharing these images with you is the fact that I find them beautiful and intriguing.

Recommended Reading:

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Filed under art, photography, Uncategorized

Hands off: Surrealist art and fashion

As of late, I’ve been thinking more and more about 1920s and 1930s design, and about the fact that many of my favourite fashion designers were the ones to blur the lines between art and fashion. Wearable art is a term that is often thrown around when writing about these people, and it’s one of my favourite ways of thinking about well-designed clothing and creative styling.

Elsa Schiaparelli in Elsa Schiaparelli, autumn 1931. Photograph by Man Ray

Elsa Schiaparelli in Elsa Schiaparelli, autumn 1931. Photograph by Man Ray

Elsa Schiaparelli is well known for having been influenced by surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Man Ray, among others. But I would take it even further than to simply state influenced or inspired by – the more I read about her, the more I find these so-called inspirations would more aptly be described as collaborations. The reason these aren’t credited as collaborations I suspect in part has to do with gender, but it is most likely largely due to how much respect fashion vs. art is accorded. Fashion then (and now) is still seen as a lesser  form of art, as a capitalist industry as opposed to one interested in symbolism, deconstruction or self-expression. While Man Ray and Dalí are both respected as some of the 20th century’s most important artistes, Schiaparelli remains a name known mostly in the realm of frivolity and fashion, associated with high society and the colour pink.

A perfect illustration of Schiaparelli’s artistic talents are some of the gloves she designed in the mid-1930s. In Schiaparelli’s collection for winter 1936–37, she produced suede gloves in both black and white, with red snakeskin fingernails to replicate human hands. The black gloves were worn with Surrealist suits with pockets that looked like miniature bureau drawers, designed in collaboration with Salvador Dalí (if you come across a photo of those suits, let me know! I’m dying to see what they look like).

Made in Paris, France, Europe. Winter 1936-37 Designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, French (born Italy), 1890 - 1973  Black suede, red snakeskin 9 3/8 x 3 3/8 inches (23.8 x 8.6 cm)

Gloves by Schiaparelli, Winter 1936-37 collection

These playful gloves were created around the same time as Picasso painted hands to look like gloves for a Man Ray photo. Rumour has it Schiaparelli was inspired to flip-flop the concept and create a pair of gloves to look like hands.

Man Ray, Hands painted by Picasso, 1935

Man Ray, Hands painted by Picasso, 1935

Man Ray,  »Study of Hands », (negative solarization) 1930

Man Ray, »Study of Hands », (negative solarization) 1930

gloves by elsa schiaparelli

A lambskin belt next to suede gloves with gold metal talons, both made by Schiaparelli around 1936

There’s something about these gold talon ones though that I love even more – isn’t there something about them that screams hard femme? “Look, admire, but I can fuck you up if you cross my boundaries?” Perhaps over seventy years later, I’m queering this a bit too much to my own fancy, though.

This was hardly the only time Schiaparelli incorporated hands into her designs: I’m absolutely enamored by this belt, from two years earlier.

Evening belt Elsa Schiaparelli  (Italian, 1890–1973)  Date:     fall 1934 Culture:     French Medium:     silk, plastic Dimensions:     Other: 29 in. (73.7 cm)

Evening belt by Schiaparelli, Fall 1934 (silk, plastic)

The Met describes it as follows:

An ultimate expression of Schiaparelli’s interest in Surrealism, this belt was shown in the fall 1934 collection along with other pieces featuring the hand motif, such as a jacket, cape and handbag with hand-shaped fasteners. The hand was seen in many Surrealist artworks, such as those by Man Ray, and Schiaparelli used it in remarkable ways to accent her clothing designs. The wearer is literally embraced around the waist by the belt, an image echoed in the well-known jacket from the fall 1937 collection, featuring a woman with her golden sequined hair draped down one arm and her arm and hand wrapped across the body and waist, again embracing the wearer. The design was inspired by a drawing by Jean Cocteau for Schiaparelli.

Glove Hat      Object:      Hat with gloves     Place of origin:      Paris, France (gloves, made)     Date:      1936 (made)

Glove Hat designed by Schiaparelli, 1936

Another artist who also happened to be photographed by Man Ray (Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller, Schiap – which badass creative women of the 20s and 30s weren’t?) played with gloves around the very same time is Meret Oppenheim.

Meret Oppenheim  "Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers" 1936

Meret Oppenheim “Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers” 1936

Meret Oppenheim Glove (1985) Silk-screen and handstitching on goat suede

Meret Oppenheim Glove (1985) Silk-screen and handstitching on goat suede

While these were created much later in her career, I find them no less interesting!

And since I am a fan of Man Ray’s portraits, here are some solarized portraits of Oppenheim for good measure.

Meret Oppenheim Man Ray (American, 1890–1976)  1932. Gelatin silver print (solarized)

Meret Oppenheim by Man Ray (American, 1890–1976) 1932. Gelatin silver print (solarized)

Now I’m off to daydream more about

recommended reading:

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Filed under art, fashion

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:

tumblr_lzm4ko6gPd1qzvsguo3_1280

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!

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apocalypse fashion: embodying our fashion ideals

sketch by olivia horvath

page 1 of olivia horvath’s “the 2012 year of apocalyptic fashion” short zine

what a week for oversaturation of supposedly witty statements about important dates and potential end of days (for the record, this did make me chuckle). first came 12/12/12, then 20/12/ of 2012, and today is of course the last day on the mayan calendar. instead of grumping about the massive amounts of factual inaccuracies and assumptions people have been making in light of this , i decided to celebrate a fabulous zine by olivia horvath, which i was lucky enough to snatch a copy of before it sold out.

olivia and i have been online friends since the days of friends-only posts on livejournal, and i’ve always admired their talent and art. 2012 year of apocalyptic fashion is up there as one of my all-time favourites, and fits perfectly with my mission here at my blog – to talk about what we choose to wear from a critical perspective. olivia was gracious enough to let me interview them about this project, and shared some great recommendations… now that the world has not ended. enjoy!

another page from olivia horvath's 2012 fashion apocalypse spread

another page from olivia horvath’s 2012 fashion apocalypse spread

what’s the inspiration behind fashion apocalypse?

I wrote the comic “2012 Year of Apocalypse Fashun” last January, a few months after the eviction of Witch Club- a dreamy, hectic, hyper-intimate, short-lived queer youth warehouse space I moved to Providence to be a part of. The space was not without its faults but I think at its best it gave us this drive to explore and express the fluctuating and impossible parts of identity that get covered up in more organized and straighter space. The eviction was stressful and alienating and left me with a lot of despair, but also a desire to keep that powerful queer infiniteness I experienced there alive in my life and work.

I ended up moving by myself into a dusty windowless loft full of fabric and fake flowers and ballgowns and was watching a lot of anime on a broken static-y computer screen and biking to a college I didn’t attend in the middle of the night to do weirdo radio stuff with Katrina and I was simultaneously heartbroken and feeling this utopic potential. I was at this intense emotional crossroads, feeling super inspired by both my old and new roommates and collaborators (among many others- Katrina’s queer protective magic, Mindy Stock’s “aggressive, intimate” project Virusse, Muffy Brandt‘s unsettling and joyful neons, Pippi Zornoza‘s dark intricacies) and I was trying to make work that both glimpsed queer utopia and acknowledged inevitable failure. So “apocalypse fashun” has less to do with dressing for an actual date and is more about body transcendence and transformation, manifestation of the facets of ones’ self that seem (or are) impossible to physically manifest or to make legible.

what kind of differences are there between how you actually dress, and how you would dress for the apocalypse?

A lot of the way I dress and conceive of myself in clothing is tied up in identity, either in trying to be read a certain way or to be confusing and illegible. It’s hard to imagine solely dressing for personal fulfillment and monumental occurrences rather than strangers’ gazes.

fabulous

Lately I’ve been wearing a lot of black and gold and listening to a lot of music with chimes and twinkling synths, thinking about light hitting reflective surfaces and sequins and armor and stars burning out. I love the way that light scatters and flares and the momentary gorgeous but also distracting and potentially dangerous illusions that result from light being refracted. I have a lot of doomsday ideation and none of it is pleasant and it all seems very real and slow and painful, so I don’t love speculating about the apocalypse. But I like the idea of dressing for some sort of sublime transcendence, full of and reflecting light. Also into the idea of dressing for some crazy revelry where systems of oppression are toppled, which should involve extreme bliss and head-to-toe sequin armor.

olivia

do you have any advice for people who don’t dress the way they would actually like to, for fear of any variety of reprisals?

There are lots of factors that keep people from dressing the way they want to – employment, passing, shame, dysphoria, not being able to afford or construct yr dream garment, the threat of street harassment or physical violence. Reprisals can be very, very real. There’s not an easy answer to this question.

I don’t have advice but I can share one of my coping mechanisms. I love creating characters (duh, comics) and when I’m most reticent to be seen and dressing feels impossible I try to put my gigantic, fragile Leo ego aside and attempt to play a character who embodies an extreme state (tight-sweater virginal, lesbian bed death, terrifying alien mother, boring ass str8 dude, actual baby???) That way, if I start to feel weird and looked at, it’s not about me, I’m not being scrutinized. I’m a vessel, I’m responsible for the delivery of this extremeness to the viewer.

most people have debunked the idea that the world will end on dec 21 2012. what are your thoughts on it, and do you have an outfit planned for that day?

My feelings on the actual apoc are best summed up by Ines Estrada’s comic about the apocalypse but the winter solstice is happening on the same day, so the date feels pretty important. A lot of my friends have told me they feel something stirring, some sort of change coming on, and maybe there’s something to it or maybe we all just agree that 2012 totally blew and are desperate for a new year. I don’t know what’s coming but I am certain it won’t be further stagnation.

Ines Estrada comic

Translated version of “Correcciones sobre el Apocalipsis”

In terms of an outfit… I work on the 21st and my job look is usually tender butch academic (black polo, black sweater, floral-faced watch, too-tight leather jacket, braids, babyface, crying to Rihanna in the parking lot) but I just got this black velvet dress at the thrift store and it literally hasn’t left my body since it came into my possession. It seems appropriate for the solstice, maybe I’ll fester in it a lil longer.
i hope you enjoyed reading these answers as much as i did! you can find out more about olivia’s art (and how to get your hands on it) here.  happy winter solstice!

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ottawa’s vintage clothing fair

many people ask me where my love and knowledge of vintage clothes began. for a while, i found it difficult to pinpoint. as long as i can remember, i’ve always been drawn to fashions from bygone eras, poring over the descriptions of decadent garments from the past in my favourite books, or oggling the outfits in old advertisements i found in tattered magazines or black and white films. it wasn’t until i began thrifting on my own as a teenager in small town ontario that i realized vintage clothes belonged in my closet, on my body – not just in storybooks and period pieces. but my knowledge of them? that has a very different starting point; not in books, but in very much in the flesh.

i first found out about ottawa’s vintage clothing fair from a little flyer in an antique shop in peterborough, back in 2005. i had seen a smattering of vintage clothes here and there in antique shops, or had stumbled across the rare find in thrift stores, but had never been to a vintage clothing store, let alone an entire bazaar or fair. i had some cursory knowledge thanks to helpful folks in livejournal communities, namely vintage_look and thriftwhore, where i learned things like how zippers or buttons could tell you what decade your find was most likely from, along with what was valuable and what was a dime a dozen.

but the stories behind the clothes, what decades they are from, the real nitty-gritty? those are the kind of things you learn about from meeting and talking to vintage sellers. and once a year, a great gang of canadian vintage sellers bring their best wares to the ottawa vintage clothing fair, ready for all the grubby hands and curious questions.

photo of the ottawa vintage clothing fair in 2005

now that my closet is pretty much full and my bank account still tight, the appeal of the vintage clothing fair for me now isn’t so much the shopping experience: it’s the people, the stories, and how much you can learn about vintage clothing. as much as i enjoy browsing gorgeous garments on etsy, it’s not quite the same as touching 1930s velvet, as seeing the vibrant colours of the prints, asking the seller the story behind the item.

not to mention the venue! this year i hear it has changed, but in years past it has been at the chateau laurier. absolutely gorgeous.

chateau laurier ottawa 2006

julia at the vintage clothing fair in 2007

this will be my fifth time attending the vintage clothing fair now, and i still vividly remember the stories behind most of the items i’ve purchased there over the years. here are most of them:

vintage clothing in julia's closet

a purse and a set of earrings i nabbed at the vintage clothing fair back in 2006.

a purse and a set of earrings i nabbed at the vintage clothing fair back in 2006.

this dress no longer fits me, but i think it is one of my all-time favourite finds. i think i paid something like 40 or 50 dollars for it, since it wasn’t in the best of condition. the last time i could squeeze into it was shortly after i had been very ill and lost a lot of weight, and luckily holly norris took these beautiful photographs of me in it then.


one of my favourite fall dresses!


the story behind this strange skirt is what really makes it.

the woman who sold it to me told me it belonged to her aunt. (background: usually, when you buy vintage, it is kind of standard to ask if it came from a smoke-free or pet-free home, but you usually don’t get this much detail) she went on to tell me her aunt was a devout jehovah’s witness, who never smoked, drank, or married. this seemed like a bit of a “wink wink nudge she died a virgin” type situation. all of these factors did not make the garment pristine, however. it has little stains around the waist, but that makes me love it even more (and made it affordable; it was originally priced at $40, then marked down to $30, then i snagged it for $15) and the story makes it all the more precious to me. it makes me want to be particularly debaucherous every time i wear it.

most of the other items i’ve purchased were earrings or small pieces of jewelry, some of which i’ve unfortunately lost, like this precious brooch:

another thing i thought about last time i went with annemarie back in 2010 was how the online market for vintage clothing in the last few years (or as i often refer to them, the “post mad men” years) had become slightly oversaturated, especially with lax rules about what constitutes “vintage” over at etsy. it’s not rare to see pieces from the 80s and 90s online listed as vintage, but you don’t really see that at the fair. it is not rare to come across top hats from the 20th century, or halloween costumes from the 30s! and even though that’s not what i go there to buy, it is fascinating to see such quality vintage goods all in one lovely place.

tips if you attend a fair like this one? i’ve told a lot of friends to go, so i’ve given these tips out before:

  • arrive on time, and with cash. there is an ATM on site but who likes to pay those overcharge fees anyway? i tend to be very strict with my budget, and only take out as much cash as i can spend. that way you can’t splurge on a 300$ gown you don’t need and will wear once just because you saw it and it fits you and it is beautiful.
  • dress for the occasion. now this doesn’t mean getting decked out to the nines, trying to impress fellow bargain hunters with your gorgeous duds. if you’re going here to buy things, you will be trying them on. so dress appropriately! wear something that’s easy to slip in and out of. i almost always wear a slip, so i can know how much wiggle room i have.
  • ask questions. as i said, i learned almost everything i know about vintage from asking sellers question after question. it can be short and sweet, just asking what decade a dress is from and how they know that, or you can go into detail.
  • be patient. give yourself a lot of time. in my experience there have always been large crowds, whether you show up at 10 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon. take your time, don’t let people push you, and be polite with others.
  • be gentle with the goods. most sellers will ask you to leave a piece of id behind when you head to the change room, but what they really want from you is to be gentle with their items. try on dresses by putting them over your head, not stepping into them. assess whether the garment has stretch to it or not before jerking at the seams. don’t force it. there are literally thousands of other items for you to try on, you’re sure to find at least something that suits you.
  • don’t take photos of yourself in the change room. or do. whatever. if you’re anything like me, however, these photos will lead to you kicking yourself five years later as to why you didn’t buy that gorgeous dress.

now you’ve got almost a week to prep – november 18th – off you go, and be sure to show me your fantastic finds after you’ve conquered the crowds! see you there.

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Filed under fashion, self-portraits, vintage