Tag Archives: clothing

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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working clothes: how your job changes how you dress

earlier, when was at work, i was listening to some tape i gathered earlier this week of some sound art installations. “what is that sound?!” i ask myself as i hear a high pitched squeaking.

my colleague listens back and guesses, “was there a mouse around?”

“no,” i insist. “there weren’t any mice around. it’s a sound art installation! that’s not part of it… it distracts your ear too much though.”

my colleague agrees, “yeah, you can’t use that.”

i know it’s not useable. but if only that squeaking weren’t there it would be great! disappointed, i think back… was i holding my microphone correctly? which one was i using? where was i aiming? what was that squeak?!

then, it hits me.

my shoes.

my awesome black and white dapper shoes i bought in mexico city two years ago.

they are the stylish source of the squeak.

black and white outfit worn by garconnierei’m practically kicking myself listening back to my tape. yes, those shoes looked good. yes, when i got dressed that morning i chose flats instead of heels, because i wouldn’t make too much noise walking around the gallery space. but i forgot that these shoes squeak, and didn’t even begin to think they’d ruin my sound.

it’s alright, though. i found sound from later on where they don’t interfere too much… but it was still a bit more work than it needed to be, simply because what i was wearing interfered with my job (which is often gathering sound and information).

this brings me to my next point: since i started working in radio more frequently, there have been a few very clear changes in what i wear. there are the more explicitly practical changes that have happened; i’m a big jewelry wearer, and i own more pairs of earrings than i can count. i feel like a beautiful locket or necklace can really make a boring outfit really bold, and i love when people ask me about them and i get to share the stories behind them.

when working in my daily life though, i’m often wearing headphones. listening back to tape, cutting it, recording. when i’m not, i’m often on the phone, making calls, trying to find stories or guests.

slowly but surely, earrings have migrated their way out of my daily wardrobe. i tried with all different pairs, studs, dangly ones, light-weight… but every time they interfered and made their way from my earlobes to my desk drawer. now, they feel like a “special occasion” type accessory… which is part of why i wore them everyday! to conquer that silly “daytime/evening” outfit crap! bummer.

necklaces? again, much like the squeaky shoes, they can make too much noise. bangles are out of the question.

nov 20thfunky pins on chunky old man cardigans? hrm. not sure. will people be more distracted by what i’m wearing, than what i’m asking?

this brings me to my next point. it’s not so much just accessories that either prevent me from doing my job comfortably, or effectively… it’s also how my clothing choices have evolved. depending on what story i’m covering, i’m increasingly conscious of how i want to – or should – present myself.

february 24th - detailspress conference at city hall? let’s go for the tied and true black and white. yeah, sure it’s a white dress shirt i’ve worn since 7th grade with stains from high school art classrooms, but i look professional in it. part of this is obviously that i’m still kind of a rookie, and that i’m a young woman who wants to be taken seriously. a fun pair of tights can be my way of putting a little spin on what i would otherwise see as a boring conventional outfit.

reporting on the occupy quebec protest in november? get your slick looking coat out of the closet, some practical gloves, warm clothes. don’t forget, you don’t want to be mistaken for one of the prostestors, you slightly reformed hippie activist! but OH SHIT. but you get assigned randomly very early one morning, because there’s a big change all of the sudden and you need to go RIGHT NOW? forget one glove, wear your ridiculously over the top fur trimmed coat, look kind of ridiculous. get photographed and be in the background of all the newscasts. feel awkward.

overall, it’s nothing to lose sleep over. but i’d be lying if i said it’s not something i think about before i get dressed in the morning to go to work. everyone does it to some extent, but i’m more interested in tackling the shift of someone who plays with fashion and how it relates to their (gender, sexual, class or political) identity, and how they feel they should dress depending on their line of work.

four panels from jenna b.'s interview clothes strip. click the image for the rest.

some of these are ideas that j. bee and i touched on earlier this summer, when talking about why we looked “good,” and the frustrations of dressing for job interviews. dressing “professionally” for the first time can sometimes feel like you’re trying to fool people. if you’ve had a punk phase, or followed any sort of subversive community’s fashion decree, you might feel like you’re selling out to “the man” by dressing like the “suits.” i think i felt that a bit more when i had my very first “professional” job, but there is definitely a balance to be had of still feeling like you’re dressing in a way that is “you” all while still being taken seriously. sometimes, that means keeping my neon 1960s mod dresses, sexy lace shirts, sequined skirts, and funky tights at the back of the closet (or just until friday night).

of course, i’m not the only one who has wondered about these weighty questions. i shared this article on tumblr a while back, but it definitely deserves reposting here. Q & A with dean spade on Queer Couture is mainly a discussion about the ten years since spade’s influential essay “Dressed to Kill, Fight to Win” for an ANTI-FASHION SHOW zine in 2002. what really struck me about spade’s reflections was how his work life affected how he presented himself, and his own struggles with that. it’s something i’ve been increasingly conscious of in the past two years, as i made the shift from student, to unemployed, to working in a somewhat more conventional “career” driven environment. here’s some of what spade had to say:

A big influence on my day-to-day fashion experiences is my job as a law professor.  When I worked at SRLP, I had to go to court and deal with government agencies and officials, and I wore a suit for those things, but my working space at SRLP was an office full of trans and gender non-conforming people.  Even though we all looked different from each other, I still felt affirmed while in the office, like I was among people sharing an oppositional approach to many appearance norms and thinking politically about how we look.  It was a big shift to start working in such a straight, upper-class, gender normative environment. It’s a drag to manage my perceptions of other people’s perceptions of me.  It’s exhausting.   I think that is why reading the tone of this old essay feels good—its affirming and relieving.

Because I spend so much time now in a very professional, gender normative work environment, I have to remind myself that I love weird people, I am weird, I want to be weird, and being normal is truly horrifying.  I’m thinking of that experience of seeing someone on the street or on the bus who is working some kind of weird, non-normative look and feeling some delight and relief, like the person’s existence is making space for you. I have often felt that way when I see other visibly queer or visibly trans people, or other kinds of rule-breakers.  It’s beautiful to see people taking those risks and its wonderful to have those moments of mutual recognition with a stranger in the midst of a hostile world. I think I appreciate those moments now more than ever, as I wander the hallways confronted with the gray business suits of professors and the university sweatshirts and Uggs of students. Sometimes I’m just blown away when I look around a classroom of 80 students and almost all the women have long hair and almost all the men have short hair. The level of norm abiding and of standardization should shock us.  It suggests the significance of the processes people go through to decide to make major departures from those norms.

my relationship to fashion in the workplace is quite different from spade’s for a variety of reasons, but i can relate to the crux of the argument. once a wierdo, always a wierdo. and if fashion was the one way you feel like you can express that wierdness, it can feel wrong to have it taken away from you… even if you’re the person taking it away, to some extent. for the most part, i’m still able to dress however i choose, and have felt lucky enough to have not had any rude comments made about some of my funkier outfits. i’m also thinking back to the first time i had to wear work uniforms in my early, crappier jobs, and how it encouraged me to be more adventurous every hour i didn’t have to spend behind the counter. quit your rambling, julia! you know i could go on and on about this…

i’m curious to know of your own thoughts and feelings about this, and how this varies from field to field. i’m sure the opposite happens, as well – where more straight-laced folks might feel pressure to dress funkier, say, if you work in an organic health foods store but like to wear a suit and tie. what have your experiences been with your sartorial choices and your field of work?

let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.

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november: what i wore this month

nov  26thanyone in canada can tell you we’ve had a surprisingly mild winter so far. usually, in québec city, we can expect our first snowfall in early november. this year, however, we’ve been holding off the snow for the most part – in fact, i think i’ve only see three little snowfalls that have hardly lasted. so obviously this has had a huge impact on how i’ve been dressing! i’m always happy to stave off the winter boots a wee bit longer.

without further ado, here’s a selection of some of my favourite november outfits.

IMG_8128
on my way to see sandro perri & ryan driver at l’agitée, a really really fantastic show. impossible spaces is definitely one of my favourite albums of 2011!

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october: what i wore this month

making good on my promises to you, dear reader, this month. it’s november 1st, so that means i owe you an outfit post. one big honkin’ outfit post. here are some of my favourite outfits from the month of october. fair warning – lots of photos ahead. click the photos for larger images. comment if you have any questions about specifics!

let’s go in chronological order, shall we? october started with some dreary grey days… and then all of the sudden, a heat wave! just in time for a lovely visit to petawawa.

october 2nd

oct 7th outfitoct 7 th

visiting my sisters in ottawa, october 7th

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