Tuesday, July 22, 2008

my next halloween costume...

...including looking like a little boy.

From: http://www.shorpy.com/node/3998?size=_original

Monday, July 7, 2008

you tell me.

What do you think about the role of function in clothing? What about when clothes become a tool? Should clothes be functional before they are nice to look at?

e.g. sportswear (Olympics), farmers, firefighters, sleepy University students

If clothes only serve a practical purpose, why wear them in the Bahamas, in a moviehouse, or in your livingroom?
If clothes are only meant to accentuate your looks, why not wear lingerie all day? Yes, a rather vulgar notion, but the point is, many sheep conform to society without knowing why, and your answers will help to jolt them out of their dull reverie.

Look here for even more spectacular Harper's Bazaar shots from the fifties.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My friend Valentina R.

Like all loving grandchildren, Val thanked her grandmother for the nice dress and then altered it severely. She is now putting off the day when she tells her grandmother. Photo on the left.

This outfit I like for its simplicity, and for the two details that you can't see very well--her red hair band and her necklace, which has nice designs. I also like the printed cloth on the wall but I can't give her credit for that.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Part Two: Red Lips and Big Shirts

The hub of inspirational street fashion, Hel Looks, has provided me with my first subject. Please remember, this is merely a casual analysis, not an informed opinion. Also, nothing I say is a comment on this person as a person, but only on the way she dressed herself. It will be a positive review, never fear.


a. Choose outfits according to context and relationship.

She is wearing a striped collared shirt that adds an air of formality and care to her clothes, indicating that she cares about her appearance, and therefore, for the people on the street who have to see her. Nothing about her outfit is offensive in the West, generally. Her glasses give me the impression that she can be serious and focused if she wants to be.

b. Be aware that clothes tell a story.

She is carrying a weathered (leather?) briefcase, obviously because she wants to, not because she can't afford a new one.

[Side note: This ties into our generation's palate, formed by a deep-rooted nostalgia for the past. I think the cause of our nostalgia is a lack of story and tradition in our own lives that we believe was present in the past.]

The briefcase may be important to her because of where it came from, or, she may just like things that do not look factory-made. The little belt also adds shape to the shirt, flattering her figure, which is more the fifties look - a time when convention was very important, for better or worse.

[Side note: It's true that one-dimensional (American?) consumerism loves products that are flat, clean, and shiny new. The irony is that we, nostalgic and environmentally friendly as we wish we were, spend just as much money on worn clothing and accessories, all so that we can feel down-to-earth. Our desire to be more simple by wearing anything that looks historic and therefore from a time of hand-made goods - as if it was bought from Mr. Degas next door in his little shop - requires us to live anything but simple lives. However, it's a good thing that we turn away from the anonymity of the suburban commuter's culture. Whether we will ever be more than fake versions of the past is the real concern.]

c. Be imaginative.

She isn't wearing completely matching colours. The sweater is bright and bolder than her shirt, but still informal enough for on the street. Her black flats and grey leggings take care of the cute factor. Her hair, in my eyes, is the most important part of her look, because it's a little wild in a playful way without being unattractively out of order.

[Side note: Our generation's obsession with cuteness seems to be connected to our desire to be simple. Being cute is a child-like characteristic, and childhood is often less stressful, because of one's ignorance of the complexity of reality.]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Part One: Rules for Taste?

In an effort to organize my thoughts, I will undertake a series of posts in which I explain why I like what I like. There may or may not be a climax or discernable theme, but hopefully by dividing my thoughts into parts I will be a little more comprehensible. Regardless, I cannot be less sensible than most television series, and masses of people waste their lives in front of those screens - perhaps a handful will choose to tickle their craniums here.

First, On Being Sexy.

I have been thinking about everything that is tied up in the word "sexy." Today, aloofness and ability to intimidate is associated with being sexy. I see this obsession with being sexy everywhere I go, but I'm not sure what purpose it serves, other than eyefood for men and women on the street.
The most obvious theory would be that the strength and power afforded those with status as "sexy beasts" is exhilirating. Perhaps there is a bias that only the sexy members of society are truly sophisticated. But sophistication is associated with being elite, and to be part of the elite, one must peer from the eaves of society with a cold expression of indifference. I don't think that being powerful is a bad thing, but when power's primary purpose is to disassociate the powerful from the rest of humanity, power can only serve to splinter communities and intimidate the powerless. This, I believe, is a bad thing. Achieving "class" without claiming superiority over other people is very difficult, although I would not claim that it is impossible. For example:

Skyy Vodka

Immediately, these keywords come to mind: wealth, pleasure, suntanning lotion, perfect blue skies, sunglasses and manicures, men's suits, shine, leisure, drinking, sex.

Nothing is wrong with any of those things when they're enjoyed in the appropriate contexts, but this picture is a world of exclusion, where nothing else is allowed in, not to mention that the relationship between the man and woman is very clear - there is no sense of trust, child-like wonder, knowing love, or anything that could allow for imperfection or human frailty. The man overcomes the woman, while she coldly glances up at him. They inhabit a harsh, unkind, gated community, and all of this is evident merely based on the way they have chosen to carry themselves and dress themselves.

Now, it is easy to point out wrong ways of structuring society, but it isn't easy to define what would be better. So, I will try to limit my criticism and advice to the way we dress. I will try to articulate why I like clothes that do not put sophistication as their first goal, but I will most likely fail to discover any absolute rules for dressing. Here are some Not Quite Rules for Dressing.

a. Choose outfits according to context and relationship. e.g. In the West, you do not wear white to a wedding, because, traditionally, the colour is reserved for the bride or her wedding party. As a witness to a ceremony that holds meaning for the bride and her surrounding community, to violate the order of a wedding would be to destroy the story that conventions seek to build around a marriage ceremony. Yes, traditions tell stories, and a wedding is a tradition. Without being part of a tradition, the purpose of a wedding is lost, which is why so few people bother to get married. It is no longer a story within a story - it's merely a fun thing to do. Unfortunately, along with the erosion of tradition, manners, and the order of society, civilization crumbles. And it isn't called a cradle for nothing. Humanity without civilization is like a baby without a bed.

b. Be aware that clothes tell a story. They say a lot about your background, whether it is one you chose for yourself or one you were given. They explain your relationship to the people you wear the clothing around. They often connect you to a subculture or a tradition or a style, which people assume means you are somehow connected to the people or the values of that subculture, tradition, or style. Choose carefully, because you are a member of society, if not in prison or a cave, and other people like to jump to conclusions about you.

Hiroji Kubota

c. Be imaginative. You are not a carbon copy of Paris Hilton, even if you wish you were, so use your imagination and do something that might relieve people on the street from the boredom of routine. All rules are only there to give you something to work with - as with being given a piece of paper, or a piece of land, what you make of the basics is the exciting part. There are so many ways to express and communicate through your clothing, whether you celebrate, mourn, flirt, dream, or work.

Michal Chelbin

I will try to use these rules to evaluate clothes, in a series of posts, so that I can test their relevance. If you, dear reader, have your own ideas about rules for dressing, please share them.