Friday, May 29, 2009

Quickie for the weekend

Apologies to you all, I know my blog looks like a mess lately but I'm done with classes and so trying to spice things up a bit internet-wise.

I've been working on an article about Czech consumption, not coming along so well but this gives me a lot of practice for future articles, about planning and editing and finding sources and such. I'll post it if anything comes about well enough.

Also, it's my birthday weekend. Don't hate, celebrate.

Some things to look forward to in the coming season:

-Comparisons of "Project Runway" versus "The Fashion Show" and "America's Next Top Model" vs "Make Me a Supermodel".

-Thought on "What Not to Wear" and how it diminishes personal identity.

-Review of Albertine designer and her methods.

-There's going to be a lot dealing with television's portrayal of fashion and how this affects us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review: Fashion, Culture and Identity - Davis.

Fred Davis' Fashion, Culture and Identity serves as a thorough introduction to the idea of fashion as a culture. His analysis of various topics under the fashion culture umbrella are mostly broad concepts, but they do give rise to ideas the reader might not have contemplated about the fashion world otherwise. Truth be told, Davis ambitiously crammed a lot of information into 210 pages but to reiterate, he covered a lot of ground and provided enough sources (the book is almost entirely cited from other theorists and historians) for the reader to take up further investigation on specific topics later.

The first two chapters are difficult to get through, as Davis provides an overdrawn, ambivalent introduction of fashion culture, but he makes the point that part of fashion's problem is its ambivalence, which is true in itself. But his emphasis on ambivalence and ambiguity, comparing at times using them interchangeably and then differentiating, is almost too ambivalent of a concept itself and causes the reader to lose interest.

But plowing through to the next chapter reveals more specific topics, such as reflections on gender specificity, androgyny, sex and erotica, fashion cycle analysis, and an in-depth look at the fashion process, something that few non-designers (and I could even include a few in that) never think about nor comprehend generally. These topics raise questions and are incredibly thought-provoking on a basic level. Davis does a good job to take the most specific and explainable pieces of a broad spectrum to help answer the question of what fashion says about its wearers.

Another problem however is Davis' inability to draw sufficient conclusions and answer his own question, however. This is a bit forgivable as his is an introductory book on a relatively nouveau topic and therefore, he is merely providing bulk theories that provide forthcoming theorists to build upon and come up with their own conclusions. He does well not to be biased when analyzing other theorists, by providing high and low points.

Fashion, Culture and Identity gives readers a fascinating view on the outer limits of fashion culture. I recommend this to any fashion student as an introduction and to provide a base from which to develop their own theories, ideas and specialties. Davis only touches on some of the things fashion culture encompasses. Everyone needs a place to start; Davis does just that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Every T-shirt has a History

I've been cleaning out my closets lately, preparing for the summer months and getting rid of, well, anything I'd never wear again. Surprisingly, my biggest accumulation of clothing lies with my pjs. I know, I was surprised too, especially since I really only wear the same thing to bed every night. I have a collection of shorts and baggy t-shirts, stuff you'd never be able wear on the street lest you should welcome cock-eyed glances and prejudgments as to the credibility of your wardrobe.

The weird thing is, I haven't been able to part with a single one of them.

Some of them I have gotten rid of, like from High School gigs that I really have no attachment to anymore. It's the most recent batch of tees that I can't seem to get rid of. This is going to result in an overflow of surplus sleepwear as I will no doubt collect more in the future.

Most of them have been free, which is the main problem. I've had to decline gifts from friends and family when they go on vacation because they bring me back shirts labeled with places I've never been. Or shirts handed out at college functions, mainly feminist related ones, shirts that have great messages and I'd hate to just send off because I believe in those messages.

I also know, I'm not alone. Go to any college, especially one with a sorority, and you'll see folks wearing event t-shirts like it's the latest trend. "I wear them because they are free," those people will say, but I know there has to be a deeper connection because if you're in a sorority, you're rich, and if you're rich, the combination of keeping up appearances plus affordability of clothing in the first place should not pose a problem. What it is most likely the case is that there is attachment to the event or place - you scuba dived for the first time in Puerto Rico, you met the celebrity of your dreams at the Cancer Run, you tried hard drugs for the first time in your college dorm or you kissed your first boy/girl that year at summer camp. I know I can't toss these shirts aside for certain reasons. I'd assume it's the same for others as well.

Every t-shirt has a story.

Here are some of my faves, and why I simply can't part with them at this time:

I got this for free from a Czech director when I was abroad. We were invited for a private screening and discussion with him and afterwards he gave us the shirts. The movie was actually really good but the shirt is huge. I should probably wear it as a dress.

I did some volunteer work in Ghana with a women's group, which was definitely a life-changing experience. On the back it says "SUPPORT WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT". How could I give something like that away?!!?!

While in Ghana, my parents decided to take a family trip to Puerto Rico sans moi. To compensate for the loss, they bought me this t-shirt. My mom always gives me a hard time about never wearing or using things she gives me so I reluctantly gave it a purpose. The best part is the two randomly places seashells on the upper shoulder and mid-back.

I used to volunteer for People Against Rape and we had to wear these t-shirts for the Take Back the Night event. Look at all those hideously placed sponsors! It's also like, mad huge.

I made this shirt in a small arts town in the Czech Republic. It was cool to actually make something in this famous textile shop and take it with me. I love when stuff like that happens, when you can be like "Look what I made, look what I brought back with me". But yeah, it's really ugly.

This also has a good message, I got it when I was working on the Vagina Monologues at Uni. It's supposed to support V-day, which is a day of Non-Violence. I want my kids to find this in the attic and ask questions. Or wear it because it'll be "vintage".

Totes my favorite, by far. I wear this like, everyday. The message makes a splash and is certainly an icebreaker, and my donation went to my Uni's NOW chapter. That logo is badass, how could I pass it up?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Clothing of Subcultures

I always seem to update this thing when I'm exhausted. And it's not just at night, either.

I've realized that the topics I enjoy discussing most pertain to the fashion of subcultures - nerds and geeks, laymen, indie/hipster, feminist, communist, etc. Pretty cool.

Whenever someone asks me what I study, they don't seem to understand exactly. "So are you like, a designer?" "No, not really." "What do you think of this spring's new lineup?" "I haven't even seen it, to be honest." "Oh my God, don't you love the new Dolce and Gabana JLo wore to that event?" "Doesn't Dolce and Gabana produce fashion ads that submissively advocate sexual abuse?" These are the things I contemplate on a daily basis.

Because to be honest, I'm not interested in couture. I'm not interested in design aesthetics, unless they pertain to the feelings of the viewer and why they feel that way. I think that the fashion collections of the rich and famous are pretty to look at, but really don't say much about fashion except for the fact that everyone tries to imitate certain looks because of what they deem is "in style" (why don't they just decide for themselves what they are doing to wear?).

"We have a lot of things like ball gowns and fancy clothing, because that is all that has survived," remarked Jan Hiester, curator of textiles at the Charleston Museum. "Old, rich people save their clothing. Regular people like us, don't."

But it's the clothing of regular people, and people who set themselves apart from the rest, that I really enjoy and think are interesting. How their individual style has shaped the way people think of them based on their clothing, this eternal identity, is really very cool. I think it's the clothing of the everyday wearer that expresses the most information about ourselves that is the kind of stuff people should be talking about.

Phrase association - Republican. Sportsfan. Toddler. White Trash. Valley Girl. Nerd. Maid.

We can all picture the kind of outfit associated with these stereotypes. What does that say about the message those kinds of people want to send out? And more importantly, what does it say about us as a society for making assumptions like those?

The gears are clicking...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brüno on Fashion

"Fashion is ze lifesavingest of all ze sciences. NOT 1 suicide bomber has ever blown zemselves up vearing Marc Jacobs. U do ze mathematischer."
You know, it's true. I don't really know what he means by the first part but I would agree that you won't find too many villains wearing designer clothing. You think Kim Jong-Il carries a Fendi wallet ? Does Osama Bin Laden
don Calvin Klein undies beneath his sheath? The suits of George W. Bush never made the catwalk. And Cruella DeVille only wore her own fashion line.

Good news, folks: there is no such thing as being "fashionably bad".

Monday, May 11, 2009

Let them wear pants.

We discussed significant female actresses in fashion history today, and their roles as trendsetters in American society. I never realized how many famous ladies enjoyed the look of men's clothing. Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrech, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford...all of which apparently have questionable sexual orientation but nonetheless, they wore pants. Even Audrey Hepburn is most noted for her khakis, turtle necks and loafers look.

Let's look at this contextually. The 30s, 40s and 50s were not the most masculine times as far as ladieswear is concerned. The 30s did not allow for creativity and sweeping trends to be economically benign (unless you were in Hollywood), the 40s went a bit more masculine because the boys were not home but hemlines were still in style, and forget about the 50s. These women were dressed glamorously all the time, when they were off the set they probably wanted to be comfortable, be anything BUT glamorous. We see that with celebrities even today. It takes a lot to look good, and when you work 10, 12 or 16 hour days even, who has the strength and the patience to put on makeup and a fancy dress?

Unlike celebrities of today, these women did not set out to be trend setters. In fact, I would say most of them had no impact on the fashion of the day at all; they are viewed as being polished and stylish in their own right but look at the photographs of normal people, none of them wore the wide-leg trousers of Hepburn or the tuxedo of Dietrech. If they did, it was a merely passing fad over all. This was a time when the celebrities looked incredibly good, but did not dictate fashion like they do today.

What does this say about our current fashion culture then? Are we so underdeveloped that we rely on a few key famous people to tell us what to wear? If Beyonce walked around with a pineapple on her head, would others follow suit? Were women back then so radically different in fashionable thought that they could think and wear for themselves? Or was it another source telling them what to wear? Perhaps the massive ready to wear lines displayed and accessible to the overall working class population?

It can be sure that women of the times wore clothing probably based off of costumes, not the everyday clothing choices of celebrities. So technically, film producers set the trends, not celebrities themselves.

More on this later.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I'm a terrible blogger with a good excuse.

I know, I've been super bad with updates. I'm in the middle of finals however and it's hard to have a life. I promise, I'll be better very soon.

Topics you should be excited to hear from me about:

-Trend analysis as seen in the movie "Clueless"

-Evolutions of summer fashion

-American Vintage: Our obsession with the old


Also, I have received my schedule for FIT:

Monday: History of Western Textiles 6-9pm.

Tuesday: Collection Management Skills 9am-12pm
Common Hour 1-2pm
Fiber and Fabric 2-6pm

Wednesday: History of Fashion through the 19th c. 12-3pm

I also apply for FWS so I'll have a job on campus (or at least relevant to something I'd like to do) and I also plan on getting my NY tour guide license. This schedule gives me a lot of free time to do just that.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Museum of Fashion, Closer than you Think

Interesting possible paper topic:

The Mall: Fashion's New Museum.

I was walking around the mall today and noticed how many storefronts are verging on theme park-esque displays. Some storefronts don't even look like stores displaying clothing anymore; Hollister, RULE and Anthropology all put up fronts that resemble houses or buildings, mysterious entries made to lure a customer in because they can't merely judge the product from the sidelines anymore. The mall is becoming its own version of Epcot, over-exaggerating details to make their store more than just a display, it's a whole other world.

I'd like to investigate company motives to understand why they would invest so much money into display. Have sales risen because of it? Are these kinds of displays difficult to manipulate otherwise? What have the responses been? What kinds of people do they hire to construct and conceptualize?

Too tired to really go into detail on this one. Be on the lookout though.