Tag Archives: fashion

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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new look at à l’allure garçonnière

guess who needed a change around here? i was getting a bit bored with my year-old layout, so i decided to jazz it up a bit. the header features a portrait of me taken by one of my best friends, salima punjani. we met in québec city back in 2009, and even though our lives have taken us in different directions (including some ups and downs) since then, we have always made our friendship a priority. from her traveling all the way from ethiopia to be at my wedding, to sending each other encouraging emails or letters whenever we can, we’ve kept the fire alive even when separated by oceans and borders.

a photograph i took of my friend salima pujani

salima in montreal, october 2012

not only is she a fantastic friend, but over the past few years she has been carving out her own space as a photographer. i’ve been lucky enough to see her talent grow firsthand, to receive cards featuring her latest vibrant photographs, and hang prints on the walls of my home. when we last saw each other this october, she asked if i was interested in participating in her portraits of potential series, since i had raved to her about what a great idea it was. of course, i jumped at the chance!

fueled by a desire to “help people realise their potential” through portrait photography, salima launched this project this summer:

These portraits are meant to reflect that what we desire already exists within, we are what we want to be. When I came back to Canada, I noticed people were feeling very disempowered by the economic crisis, giving up their highest goals out of fear.

My hope is that people will use these portraits as motivating factors, as reminders and reflections of their potential.

i do think they successfully accomplish that. while salima was taking these portraits of me in my walk-in closet, i was typing away on my typewriter in between trying on some of my favourite garments. why was i choosing to put on my very professional 1940s suit jacket, instead of a playful neon 1960s dress? how do the ways i choose to present myself relate to my goals and aspirations? which books did i want in the frame, explicitly feminist ones, or more fashion-oriented ones? the whole process really got me thinking about what i have achieved so far, what specifics are standing in my way, and how to overcome those roadblocks.  it didn’t feel staged, or posed: it felt like processing a lot of my conflicting feelings with a good friend.

portrait of julia in her walk-in closet/bedroom, taken by salima punjani as part of her portraits of potential series

in the end, this black and white one was salima’s favourite. some of the books stacked underneath my remington rand typewriter include:

shortly after our shoot, salima shared this image with me since i couldn’t make it to her opening in montreal. a huge blown up version of her favourite portrait from our shoot, alongside eight others. kind of surreal, to say the least!

Portraits of Potential by Salima Punjani on display at the launch of E-180 this October at La Cenne in Montreal. Photo credit Louis Lavoie

Portraits of Potential by Salima Punjani on display at the launch of E-180 this October at La Cenne in Montreal. Photo credit Louis Lavoie

all of this to say, i feel incredibly lucky to not only have people who support me no matter how lofty or unrealistic my goals are, but who will challenge and encourage me along the way. as lonely as i sometimes get now that a lot of my quebec city friends have moved away, it’s great to have moments like these where i remember how valuable they are, even if they don’t live down the street from me anymore.

check out her website for more of her great photography!

what do you think of the new design? check out the new links, tell me if you think i’m missing anything! love your feedback, as always.

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my favourite clothes are free clothes

may 1st julia

me in my neighbourhood on may 1st, 2012

it looks like i unceremoniously ended my commitment to share outfit photos with you guys on a regular basis here… partly because of the massive time commitment and work involved, but because i’ve been rethinking what it means to flood the internet with images of myself… but that’s topic for another post. right now, i feel pretty excited about my warddrobe. the changing of the seasons will do that to someone who lives in a climate of extremes! last week, a big part of my spring cleaning involved taking my summer dresses out of suitcases and putting my winter scarves, coats and woolly garments away. this ironically coincided with a heat wave! it feels like summer in may.

julia wearing her jean jacket

my new (free) jean jacket in my very pink and blue neighbourhood

i wasn’t the only one doing spring cleaning, though. coworkers of mine were clearing out the work closet and there were a few unclaimed stragglers. after a few days/emails, they were deemed officially up for grabs. most weren’t my style, but i tried some on anyway… and found the jean jacket i never knew i lusted for. it fits me like a glove and makes me feel super tough. i seriously own next to no denim (after having spent my teens basically living in jeans) so it’s a really nice change. great for spring evening bike rides!

julia wearing a green 1960s dress with a short beehive.

trying new things with my hair, as i’m way overdue for a trim

following the trend of free garments: i’ve had this dress for about two years, but have never worn it! when i volunteered at le vestiaire, a local thrift store, we were “paid” by basically having first dibs on the clothes we sold. for someone like myself who loves variety, it was ideal. i could take home a dress one day and if i didn’t absolutely love it, i could bring it back my next shift. my closet definitely expanded a bit too much during that time! i put this handmade vintage garment aside at some point, and must have lost sight of it in the shuffle. i don’t know why it took me so long to rock this dress because it’s definitely a new favourite. my necklace was a gift from my friend salima.

green dress and hair down

when i say “next to no demin” i literally mean you see all the denim i own in this post. that black denim pencil skirt was a gift from a friend, and this shirt is what i THOUGHT was denim… that is, until i read the latest issue of WORN, i realized it is in fact chambray. (i’ll be making a post about some of the best magazines i’ve read lately, and WORN is among them!)

blue dress and my little pony graffiti

posing with my favourite my little pony stencil

speaking of worn, this is one of my softest most worn-in dresses… so much so that i wear it quite rarely for fear it will soon end in tatters. i’ve shown it to you guys before, in april 2010! and that my little pony stencil at my feet? one of my favourite things about québec city is the abundant street art. these particular guys have been around for about a year now. i did a short radio piece on them last year, which you can listen to here.

last but not least, one little photo from april when i was visiting one of my best friends, morgan, in kelowna. it did my heart so much good to spend time with some of my favourite people when i had time off in april, and i’m so grateful to have such generous and loving people in my life.

i’m posting this on the train. i’m on my way to visit my sisters in ottawa, go to my younger sister’s bachelorette party and celebrate my older sister’s birthday! so expect a bid of radio silence. june holds many adventures for me, too!

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Filed under fashion, quebec city, self-portraits, what i wore today

knowledge, power and “feminist” fashion blogs

gloria swanson, photographed by edward steichen in 1924

Gloria Swanson photographed by Edward Steichen for Vanity Fair, 1924

these days i’ve been spending a lot of times with books. fiction, non-fiction, zines, and gorgeous picture books. re-reading ones that have been on my shelf for years, and starting ones i’ve been meaning to get to for longer than i’d like to admit. this weekend while visiting my friend marika‘s place, i poured over the copy of Objectif Mode, 1850 a nos jours she had taken out of the library. myself, ainslie, cat and simon turned the pages together, pointing out our favourites. the chapter for the 1920s began with a cropped version of one of my favourite photographs. i gasped, and said, “swanson! steichen! how glorious.” it didn’t have a caption on that page, so my friends were kind of surprised.

“how do you know that?” cat asked.

i laughed it off, mumbled something or other about how it’s just a random bit of knowledge tucked away in my brain somewhere… but how? and why?

i know it because i love it, is the short version.

i know it because i’ll always remember this image. because there’s something about early photography that pairs decadence, decay, the jazz age, art, fashion that will always be compelling to me.

i know it because i’ve seen many other photographers try to emulate what it is about this photograph that draws you in so much. is it steichen’s talent as a photographer? is it swanson’s gaze? is it both?

Gertrud Arndt, « Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 16 », 1930

Gertrud Arndt, « Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 16 », 1930

i also know these things because i am smart. because i am not just a passive consumer of photography, art, and fashion – i’m a fan. i take the time to inform myself, to remember details.

after finishing the book, i must admit i felt slightly disappointed. curious choices for images to define over a century of style. in the end, what i personally disliked about it was that it did not present the picture of fashion that i know and love. it presented the typical vision of fashion as one occupied by those who can afford to indulge in high-end couture, with more photos of runway models and movie stars than your average joe. a model can wear a dress, that is their job at the end of the day, but i’ve always been more interested in why someone might choose to wear certain garments, and how they wear them.

this reminded me yet again why i often feel alienated by the “fashion” world.

this leads to other things i’ve been asking myself about these days: what makes a fashion blog feminist. perhaps it’s because someone pointed out to me that when you google “feminist fashion blog,” my blog is on the first page of results. perhaps it’s because i’ve come across more than a few fashion blogs that describe themselves as feminist, yet i see very little/no explicit political content or discussion. or worse, a very second-wave version of what it means to be feminist.

a tweet posted on may 9th by julia that reads "if i could just have a feature that would let me read about fashion online without having to trudge through body hate bullshit, that'd be great."

one of the more specific reasons this question has been on my mind is because of last week’s extravagant fashion event. i wanted to see what people wore to the met ball last week. briefly: the met ball is when the top of the top get decked out to the nines in incredibly lavish clothing. here’s a more detailed description from the Atlantic‘s may 2007 article “Why Fashion Deserves its Place in Art Museums:”

Once inside, the 700 guests—actors and models, designers and socialites—will dine and dance and preview the museum’s newest exhibition. The occasion is the “party of the year,” the Met’s Costume Institute Benefit Gala. Co-chaired annually by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the party is not just a chance to wear and admire beautiful clothes; it’s a lavish and efficient fund-raising machine. Tickets start at $6,500 per person, with tables for 10 running as high as $100,000. Last year’s gala raised $4.5 million for the museum’s fashion department.

obviously, it’s one of my few typical “Fashion Elite” moments of awe. i generally click through a handful of fashion week shit, but it’s generally kinda low on my radar. the met ball, on the other hand? pure fantasy through and through, and i shamelessly love gawking at it. this year in particular featured an exhibition that is right up my alley: Schiaparelli & Prada (and wrote a bit about back in march). in my hunt for more photos of the dresses people wore, i visited sites i tend to avoid… and was reminded of why. i found myself rolling my eyes at the comments, and asking myself, really?

the comments on jezebel‘s “good/bad/ugly” met gala review are more about how skinny a model is, how much someone looks like a “drag queen” (as if that’s a bad thing?), and how slutty a woman’s dress is than about, say, whether or not it was an appropriate choice for a gala that lauds designer known for collaborations with surrealist artists, or how the theme of the gala this year was explicitly focused around conversations about feminist women.

the overall tone i got from the four or five websites i visited was one fraught with body policing (variations of the she’s too thin to show that much skin/she’s too fat to wear that dress/that colour/that style, usually coded in words like “flattering”) and left me headdesking. why so much vitriol when there were so many other potential things of substance to discuss? who chose to wear schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink? what worked, the over the top designs or the more demure ones? the hommages: well-done or too hokey?

i took to twitter and of course discovered i’m not alone in wanting to consume fashion (at least visually) without having to confront body hate and mean-spirited comments everywhere i turn. jenny zhang was briefly the fashion commentator at jezebel, and talked about her own struggles with facilitating that environment, as someone who identifies as feminist:

For a while, I was writing red carpet commentary for Jezebel, and I always felt too mean or not mean enough or not quippy enough or not discerning enough or too judgmental. It’s hard to write meaningfully about fashion! At least it is for me.

and i hear her. we fall into the trappings of “oh my god, she wore THAT?!” partly because it’s so effortless, but also because it’s so pervasive. it’s everywhere we turn. not only that, it’s ridiculous gendered, almost always heteronormative, often racist (if not completely whitewashed) – and overall unproductive and boring in my eyes. if you missed it, i wrote an article mapping out my feelings around those issues last year.

it’s so easy for me to feel as though i’m the one in the wrong, because i feel as though i’m in the minority. it’s easy to feel as though i should just accept that catty rude comments about people’s bodies are par for the course when it comes to talking about fashion. that i’ll always have to start conversations about my interest in fashion and art by defending that fashion can be art, since most people’s perception of the word “fashion” is a vacuous and mean-spirited one.

for me, framing my blog as a “critical take on fashion culture” is the most direct way i can challenge these notions. people know if they come to my blog they won’t see me writing about fashion in that way.

self-portrait by mccall johnson

i’m trying to remember why i write here. why i’ve been trying to create this space and foster dialogue around feminism and fashion for years. even though there are more and more of us these days, we still have to defend the very basic premise that you can be interested in fashion AND be a feminist. i’m really looking forward for the day we can put those conversations to bed, and move forward.

i should pride myself on my extensive knowledge of fashion and art, not laugh it off.  if i’m less worried that people will interpret my interest and affection for fashion as frivolous or anti-feminist, than maybe i can finally get to that point. let’s trade in shame for pride, stop being belittled and start being empowered. i’m done with the defenses. let’s keep talking about how to challenge oppressive ideologies we see operating in the fashion world we are already a part of.

recommended reading:

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currently: designer elsa schiaparelli

i’m often asked who my fashion “inspirations” are, but i’ve always been a bit hesitant for fear of falling into the traps of celebrity worship (as i explain in more detail here). but lately i’ve been seeing elsa schiaparelli’s designs and influences popping up all over the place, so i thought i’d share some of my affection for her work with my readers.

Elsa Schiaparelli, Paris, 1937 Photographer: Horst P. Horst

schiaparelli is one of those designers who has made such an important mark on our cultural aesthetics that we often don’t even notice it. she also happened to be awesome:

Schiaparelli was an ardent rebel and feminist who came of age at a moment of ferment in art and politics that ratified her disdain for conformity. Schiaparelli was involved with the Dada movement at its inception in Greenwich Village, after the First World War.

to top it off, she made gorgeous designs that even eighty years later, are astoundingly wearable and modern.

Plastic by Richard and Judith Long, 2011 which reminds me so much of Schiaparelli's 1938 design

who wouldn't want this as a compact mirror? hard to believe it was designed in 1935

Anna Batista does a great job pointing out how schiaparelli’s influence can be seen even in ready-to-wear collections from last season in her article about the evolution of vintage, Vintage Mutations. i think her point is best illustrated with these two pairs of sunglasses juxtaposed. which ones were made in 1937, and which in 2011?

perma-scowl often makes me half-laugh, half-cry in solidarity when she posts schiaparelli’s designs on her tumblr with comments like “crying over you” and “all of my sighs/crys.” some of her designs are just so astoundingly beautiful and you want them on your body so bad, it DOES feels tragic that you can’t. why yes, i am being a bit overdramatic, but drama is part of why i love her work! her collaborations with jean cocteau and salvador dali can attest to that.

Cocteau Jacket, 1937 by  Elsa Schiaparelli

Cocteau Jacket, 1937 collaboration with Elsa Schiaparelli

cocteau and schiaparelli collaboration

Photo of daring Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli modeling her Shoe Hat
Schiaparelli designed dress, Viscose-rayon and silk blend fabric printed with trompe l'oeil print

Tear Dress, collaboration with Dali

According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, “this dress was part of Schiaparelli’s famous ‘Circus Collection’ of 1938. It was a riotous, swaggering fashion show that attracted a great deal of publicity. Clothes were decorated with acrobats and performing animals. The models wore clown hats and carried balloon-shaped handbags. The Tears and Skeleton dresses must have been doubly shocking amongst all this madcap gaiety. Dali’s patron, Edward James, gave these dresses to Ruth Ford, the sister of the Surrealist poet Charles Henri Ford.” sounds like my kind of drama.

to top it off, recently my long-time internet friend ‘tine sent me this message along with a link:

Bonjour Julia-

I’m reading this fabulous article in the New Yorker about designers Shiaparelli and Prada. It references the politics of fashion, feminism, communism and thought of you.

Here’s the link: http://m.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/26/120326fa_fact_thurman/

Enjoy!
Christine

what a compliment! and what a great read. the article itself is more of a juxtaposition between Prada and Schiaparelli but still worth a read, regardless of your interest in either (or both) of those designers.

i could go on and on about how much i love her designs and her work and her collaborations with dali (which in my opinion are the best works dali produced) but instead i’ll just leave you with a bunch of photos of her gorgeous designs and some recommended reading. enjoy!

fall 1938

yes, the evening gowns are nice to look at for daydreaming purposes, but i can’t help but forever lust over her trompe l’oeil sweater designs from the 30s – which i could wear to work tomorrow.

Green, black and yellow wool Schiaparelli Sweater, 1930s

Wool Schiaparelli Sweater, 1930s

and last but not least, she is responsible for some awesome accessories – including these in your face frames.

Vintage Schiaparelli Cat Eye Eyeglasses Frame

Vintage Schiaparelli Cat Eye Eyeglasses Frames

in summary: someone please be my sugar mama/papa, buy me all of these things so i can drape myself in gorgeous art. please and thank you. i hope you enjoyed the eye candy.

RECOMMENDED READING:

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