29 March 2010

Intimacy and Armor in Fashion

I buy lingerie when I am in love. I buy jewelry when I have been disappointed in love. I think it is a sort of armoring. It is a retreat inside of a fortress. It adds ostentatious value to me. I like feeling the weight around my neck, on my ears and wrists, and wrapped around my fingers. It sometimes invites, and sometimes prohibits. But it is always between--a layer of metal and stone between me and the world.

 The season six Project Runway winner, Irina Shabayeva, had an interesting take on women and their fashion armor in her winning collection. She dressed her models in close-fitting, leather/faux-leather black, donning them with helmets. Her philosophy behind the collection was that women in New York City are often, because they need to be, warriorlike.

When I am in love, my fashion thoughts turn to the underlayer--not necessarily in an overtly sexual way, but in an intimate, delicate and inviting way. I think, contra most popular belief, lingerie doesn't need to be a soft weapon, but rather a welcoming and beautiful repose. There is something about filigree, also, which visually imitates the complexity and nuances of intimacy. Most fashion works on broad, sweeping themes--smoothing curves, isolating a color palette and shapes almost like creating a brand. Lingerie, while it does adhere to these principles somewhat, allows the body to speak more for itself, and with a complexity and subtlety we rarely allow ourselves to share with other human beings.

The idea of refuge, whether alone or with others, is essential to a concept of "home." Where we draw boundaries, who we let in, and how we treat them once they are there is essential. A British lingerie company reported an increase in sales since the recession. This perhaps suggests a return to more fundamental things--the soft and the safe. There is something about softness and about creating safe spaces for ourselves and for others that is fundamental to our humanness and to our concept of home.

This beautiful piece is from Etsy shop SarafinaDreams.

22 March 2010

The Refuge of the Mind

Here's a secret which is known to housewives the ages old, to work-a-day farmers for centuries past, to weary sailors, to put-upon servants, and to students-at-desks. Your mind is a free place. All of the land, as far as your mind's eye can see, is yours--on which to build dreams, houses, and stories. You don't have to be wealthy to own a castle or a private island.

I've never really minded doing the dishes (with my new, wonderful Wonder Wand dish-scrubbing wand), or doing the laundry, because it affords an opportunity to think and dream. This phenomenon always makes me think of the Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella song "My Own Little Corner."

"In my own little corner in my own little chair; I can be whatever I want to be."

"Home" begins in the mind. May it always provide an unassailable refuge and repose for you.

Recycled Fashion

While having dinner with a friend the other night, I noticed, tucked into her purse, a wallet made out of aluminum can tabs. It is made by the Escama Studio, which makes wallets and purses out of recycled aluminum. The studio employs local residents at a living wage. The wallet was rigid yet stretchy and decorated with avocado green thread. That just got me thinking about other recycled fashion, a growing trend.

A resourceful patient's mother used to come in with a bright purse made from recycled Kool-aid drink pouches. She made them to sell, for about $15 each. It looks like many people are making them now. I think they're a great purse for summer, since they're bright and made from the containers of summery beverages.

There's something very self-aware about recognizing our role as consumers. Why not convert a little of the waste we use into beautiful and useful things? Even awareness of products like these make me more conscious of the amount of waste I am responsible for. Maybe you don't have time to build a kitchen table out of fallen branches or string your own bottle cap necklace, but please support the artists in your community--locally and globally--who do. There's nothing sexier than wearing what you believe in, with pride.

12 March 2010

Relapse Into Retail and Romanticism

So, I had a relapse today. My philosophy girl friend and I decided that before we studied for our comps., we needed to take a walk. A walk took us in the direction of shopping (because I needed toilet paper). In the same store as toilet paper, there were clearance racks of t-shirts and there was costume jewelry, which wasn't on clearance, but which was nevertheless very attractive. (It was at Target. How could it not be attractive?) I had mentioned to my friend that I liked T.J. Maxx. She asked me if I wanted to go. I said "yes." I said "yes" anyway, even though I knew what would happen.

I went straight to the dresses. The cut and the detail, exquisite. I piled them twenty high in my cart (with shirts and shorts, which I also bought, but this is about dresses). I am an efficient try-er-on-er. There is a "yes" pile. There is a "no" pile, and occasionally there is a "maybe" pile, although I'm trying to cut this out. Life is too short to wear "maybes." I fell in love with a couple of the dresses, and once I fall in love, that's it. It would hurt me too much to walk away. Once we've bonded, they become part of me forever... like my third grade piano recital ball gown, or the one that got away--the Anthropologie "Secret Joy Dress," where I waffled responsibly and in the process lost an important chance at happiness.

So, the dresses, I found two. One of them was expensive, expensive enough that I will be building my diet around ramen noodles for the next couple of months. It seemed like a good idea to only buy the dresses if I could find shoes that matched. (I didn't already have shoes that matched them and they couldn't share shoes.) I looked for a long time. My friend was incredibly long suffering, cheerily preferring anything to studying for the comps. And I, while feeling marginally guilty, was too much in thrall, too much in the grips of my shoe lust to walk away. I found them, of course. Lovely gray, jeweled heels to go with a knee-length, elbow-length, empire-waist, t-shirt-materialed, gray dress. It might sound conventional, but it has a very narrow hem at the knee, which gives it a lovely, close drape. Add to this an oversized medley of chains from Target, with tiny little circle window "beads," and it's magical. The expensive dress: taupe. Again, sounds boring, but with ruffles all the way down, complicated and carefree at the same time. The shoes: also taupe, with ruffles along the long part of the t-strap "T".

So then we walked blissfully home along the canal, on a windswept gray day. It was a moorish day too--moisture in the ground, moisture in the air. And I felt like Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, walking on the moors in rain, only with shopping bags (one of them with a twelve-pack of toilet paper), blissfully relapsed, thinking "Is there any felicity superior to this?" Cue triumphal, shoe-finding soundtrack.

01 March 2010

Viva la résistance contre l'hiver!

Kids, do not be cowed by winter, but march confidently in the direction of spring. Take up your purses, your strappy backpacks, your tangled iPods, and your cunning lances, and march with me into the sunshine and into the snow, into the month of March. Away we go. Today we shop. Today we go to work. Today we go to class. We show that snow we will not go! That snow will go! We show that snow!

We wear purple berets with flowers on them to summon spring. And we wear military topcoats, boots, giant black sunglasses, and black leather gloves, because we are serious. Because we are the army which welcomes spring. Because "we are the ones who come from the sun." Let us march into March. Viva le printempts!

(Credit here to Giorgio Armani's Fall 2o10 Menswear Collection and to Megapuss's "Lavender Blimp.")