Thursday, 23 February 2012
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
I decided to let go of the dress because:
I decided to let go of the shoes because:
1) they are horribly uncomfortable, and I can't change that.
2) and that's really all there is. Even if I still loved the design, there is no reason why I should hold onto shoes that I can't wear.
Monday, 20 February 2012
Pictures from a Montgomery Ward catalogue, 1950.
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Lucy Ann Lobdell: The Female Hunter, 1855.
Thursday, 16 February 2012
In the March issue of Elle, Daphne Merkin discusses the "New Prettiness" and the 1950s pretty housewife look of the current spring/summer season. She argues that women are drawn to traditionalism in these difficult economic times, that women are tired of identity building, and that the old roles and the old representations of being a woman feel safe. In this particular time and space, when our clothing and style choices are so closely linked to identity building, the idea of circle skirts, cat-eye sunglasses and pretty pastels makes me, indeed, think of where women once were, not where we are now or where we are headed. There is safety in that, but also a serious sense of regression. If the attempt is to mirror the post-World War II era and the way women went quietly back to their traditional roles as homemakers after having kept societies afloat during the war, I don't see what the significance of that is today. That type of regurgitation doesn't feel right to me.
I think that my discomfort rises from the new role of clothes as intentional identity-building-blocks. In a world where our style choices are increasingly considered personal narratives of some sort, the 1950s housewife looks and feels like a backlash, a submission to patriarchy and to the traditional understanding of what it means to be a woman. My discomfort comes from the fact that in shaky economic times, the role of women in society as equals is still not sturdy enough. After all of these decades of feminist thought and the fundamental changes that have taken place in the world of work, women still feel safer in submissive roles, or they feel safe being portrayed as such. The old stereotypes are alive and well, as is clearly visible from this very paragraph. In my head, at least, the 1950s housewife look is still symbolic of past times when women didn't have a voice, and when their identity was built for them. But now more than ever, clothes are not just clothes. Gone are the days when our clothing choices defined us because the society told us so. This time around, we are the culprits - we engage in costume-play and a form of dress-up in order to define ourselves willingly. Somewhere along the way we have bought into the idea that we must carefully build our styles to match whoever we think we are. Fashion and clothes are marketed and bought as identity-makers or -enhancers, and it is in this context that the housewife look becomes problematic to me. Whatever the stereotype, we actively pick and choose the elements that go with it, and think that it is safe, or forward-thinking, when in fact it is much more complicated than that. Personal style has become a costume of sorts, and I am not sure if that's right.
The idea that we can, or should, construct a style that matches our identity is fundamentally troubling to me. The above-mentioned Elle article discusses this a little bit, with the help of Caroline Herrera, who thinks that we essentially wear clothes to make ourselves look pretty. (I would add that whatever we consider pretty or attractive is not really the point - it is a process to beautify regardless of the standard of beauty.) Herrera thinks that identity-building with the help of our wardrobe is a little silly, and I think I agree with her. Fashion is fun and clothes are almost by definition a channel of self-expression (we choose what we wear), but I don't know how healthy it is in the long run. The links between fashion marketing, consumerism, and identity-building run deep, and I feel like in the current world of faster-and-faster fashion, we have blindly bought into the idea that we consume in order to define ourselves. Whether we actively play with multiple style identities or stick to one that seems to work for us, we almost seem to accept at face value that clothing as identity marker is a good thing, something to actively pursue. We all know the power of a new pair of killer heels, and what great-fitting jeans can do to our self-esteem at a given time, but I feel like we are past that point. We've gone further, and I don't know if it is the type of identity-building that could ever really last. Whatever it is that we are trying to find with the help of clothes, I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is confused by it.
Whatever the answer is, I seem to be on some kind of a journey to re-define what clothing really means to me, and I'm noticing that the less I focus on what I wear, the better I feel about myself. The less I focus on coming up with "interesting", "different", or even "like myself" type of outfits (isn't the term "outfit" a little troubling, too?), the less I feel like I am what I wear. Of course, there aren't any "truer" or "more authentic" style identities out there: we always pick and choose what we wear, so in a sense there is always going to be something constructed about the way we look, something false, something glued-on. I guess what I am trying to say here may sound like a minimalist-in-the-making, but here it goes anyway: the less I try, the more I feel like I achieve. More importantly, my choices are starting to make sense, and it is mostly because I have stopped trying to channel anything, because I have stopped preoccupying myself with narratives or identity-making, or with the way I might be perceived by others. I have started to wonder if it is, after all, possible to love clothes from the bottom of your heart but to simultaneously jump off the spinning wheel of the idea that our clothes tell a story of who we are, and that the story must evolve and change in order to be considered "personal".
Recently I've given a lot of thought to Eyeliah's bold transformation, where she culled her wardrobe to a handful of pieces. I've thought about making things simpler, about getting down to the basics, about enabling some inner force that is worn-out by all the effort that goes with managing a nonsensical wardrobe and thinking about the links between identity and style. It has served me well to have to look at my crazy, complicated, bulging, often ill-fitting wardrobe long and hard. I am close to claiming that if clothing has something to do with identity, perhaps that identity is not defined by what we own, but by what we choose not to own.
Friday, 10 February 2012
For the past couple of weeks I've been keeping an eye out for tailored clothing. I can't seem to shake the idea that I might want to invest in a nice blazer, a pair of well-cut, slim-fit trousers, or even a 3-piece suit. I think enough time has passed from my first suit-related experience. I might just as well give it another go. And this time, I won't settle.
Perhaps I was overly optimistic about being able to find a second hand blazer that would work. It seems that a lot of older tailored items of clothing look very dated. I have more or less resigned to the fact that I might have to buy my blazer new, and well-tailored blazers don't come cheap. I might have to consider having one made. I'll keep looking until the right one comes along. In the meantime, I'll just have to be happy with what I've got: I can always team up some of my nice trousers with man shoes and grandpa cardigans for that menswear-inspired feel.
I'm wearing a thrifted Marimekko tee and thrifted Ril's trousers with a super old cardigan and Fluevog Beat Cassadys.
Monday, 6 February 2012
I feel pretty good about having accumulated just one new thing so far. There are a few things I'm actively looking for currently - more about that another day - but so far I haven't been tempted to go thrifting too much. I am still savouring the idea of the twelve pieces, and I've been successfully shopping my own closet. Case in point: this blouse I am wearing today. It used to belong to my mother, and I saved it from her attic years ago. I came across the blouse last week while looking for a pair of trousers I had stored away in the basement. I had almost forgotten that I had it.
Friday, 3 February 2012
I'm wearing a thrifted men's sweater and a dress by Corey & Co. The necklace is thrifted also.
Thursday, 2 February 2012
Dressing to impress others, or dressing to conform to the needs of the societies we live in is the sort of thing that we don't admit to ourselves easily. We like to think that we dress for ourselves and our identities first, and whatever role the people around us play is always secondary. We like to think that in the free world we live in, we have the right to choose. I, too, like to think that I have always dressed according to my own likes and dislikes, but reality would suggest otherwise. I recognise that I no longer wear the types of clothes I used to wear all the time, and it's not because I no longer like my old clothes or because my style has changed dramatically. I still like my old clothes. I just choose to wear different types of things when I can do so freely.
Trends, societal norms, roles of women in society, and dress codes still have a huge impact on the way we dress in the Western world, and at the end of the day there isn't a whole lot of freedom in that. These days there is even pressure for women to systematically "find" or "develop" their personal style, as if we somehow need one to fit in. Perhaps that is why comfort-seekers are often found on the edges of any style- or fashion-related discourse. The sweatpants-wearing woman is the ultimate fashion faux-pas.