Tag Archives: fashion

Sometimes, a gal has a bit of a wardrobe malfunction and her tit slips out of her shirt. The media, or certain sectors of the media, being full of mature, sexually liberated people, can’t stop giggling, seeing that that is what mature, sexually liberated people do when they see an unexpected tit or two. They can’t wait to share this giggly goodness with all the world, so they print the picture accompanied by mature, non-judgmental headlines like, “Hey, Everyone! Look, Tits!” Below this calm measured headline is a pixelated photo. Now, one can presume that the performer whose top accidentally slipped did not intend for her tits to be displayed on every celebrity website and it’s only reasonable that a responsible, mature gossip rag would pixelate the photos. After all, that celebrity could probably get cold hard cash for intentionally displaying her breasts and, one day, when a movie flops or a song doesn’t sell, will certainly avail herself of that bill bridging bonanza. Of course, the rarity of seeing the aforementioned tits will directly affect the size of that bonanza, and it is only reasonable that the kind gossips at the gossip rag would want to preserve those assets by a bit of protective pixelation.

Today, however, I saw something truly strange. A fashion designer I’ve never heard of before, Rick Owens is making headlines with some innovative and new clothing styles. Good for Rick! Being a responsible blogger, I’ve been buffing up my knowledge of Rick Owens. I will assume (…and please do not feel slighted by this – I assure you it’s not personal) that you too are new to Rick. How should I describe his clothes? Well, should I fall madly in love with a stylish vampire I expect he will have a lot of Rick Owens in his closet. Lots of loose black clothes, occasionally livened up with a punchy gray piece. Lots of skirts for men and tunics. The tunics are why Rick Owens has now grabbed everyone’s attention. He has designed a line of penis revealing, indeed, penis highlighting, tunics for men.

Ugly men with gorgeous penises – this is your moment! Really, my ex-husband is, or so all my friends delighted in telling me, one of the less attractive men I’ve known. Whenever a friend used to tell me how ugly my husband was (’cause that stuff about women being catty is just so made-up) I used to think to myself, and occasionally tell them, that they hadn’t seen his best feature. Really, he had a gorgeous cock. The rest of him, well, he kind of looked like Rick Owens, actually. But he had a gorgeous cock. I presume he will be running out to by a new Rick Owens tunic, or maybe five. I think women know how happy we get when a new trend actually flatters our figures. In my case, when a see that the new clothes are all a-line, just above the knee dresses in beige, I get so disappointed and can’t wait until day-glo assless chaps come back into style, because my knees are not my best feature.

All fine and good, except it’s difficult for me to properly assess the aesthetic virtues of Rick Owens’ new line because websites have seen fit to pixelate the penises. It is really quite distracting. This brings me to ask the question, “Why are the penises pixelated.” The models knew their penises would be exposed, and one would assume that they were comfortable with their penises being viewed all over the world. So, it is not consideration of the modesty of the men. These are not pornographic, or even especially sexy, photos. What is the point of the pixelation? Are their penises in the witness protection program? When the FBI got them some plastic surgery they didn’t think to bother with the cock? Is there a mobster out there somewhere checking out catwalks waiting to spot someone who looks familiar? Exactly what does anyone think will happen if we see flaccid penises swinging down the runway?

Happily, the Guardian has seen fit to publish unpixelated photos. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that the fringe on the side works for me.

(Note to the Guardian: That’s not “full” frontal.)

There was a post recently on the Huffington Post website by Alexis Jane Torre titled “I’m ‘Not Like Most Girls’.”

You probably know those movies and books where there’s a female protagonist who is apparently “not like most girls.” She actually likes sports and isn’t catty. She doesn’t cause drama or stress over her appearance. She is unlike every other female character, and she is unable to befriend most girls.

Her basic point, that this trope serves to discourage women from female friendships and encourages them to not trust one another seems to be valid enough. However, I’m not so sure that many women, at least women I know, actually believe that most girls conform to those negative stereotypes.

And, this then teaches young women that they should strive to be “not like most girls.”

Trying to avoid being like the negative stereotype has inhibiting effects. I had one friend who had no problem asking men out on dates and initiating sexual contact, but once a relationship became serious she couldn’t discuss the future because she was afraid of acting like a “typical” woman who was just angling for a wedding ring. I’ve felt similar pressures. You want to ask a man, “Where do you think this is going,” but you don’t dare because you’re afraid of it being misinterpreted.

For me, talking about my appearance has always been a forbidden topic. People whose main way of knowing me is off-line would probably be shocked by the things I wrote yesterday. I almost never discuss clothes or hair and I’m known for actually scolding other women if they start saying negative things about their bodies. One of the biggest fights I’ve gotten into with my mother occurred following a dance performance. The entire time my mother whispered in my ear about my sister’s roommate, someone we both knew, “She’s gained so much weight. How could she wear those tights. I wouldn’t get on stage if I looked like that.” This was about a dancer! She was energetically jumping about on stage. We’re not talking about weight as health, we’re talking about weight as part of society’s standards of beauty.

I started this blog in part to express things that I normally don’t express, and I’ve never sat around with other women and talked about how I hate my thighs or my neck or whatever. Of course, I don’t actually hate my thighs. The truth of the matter is that I’m painfully aware that my thighs do not conform to current ideal of female beauty, but it’s no less painful for that. I’m not ashamed of my body so much as I am ashamed of my inability to live up to society’s standards. Intellectually, I understand that those standards and the pressure to conform to them are not healthy, but that only leaves me feeling ashamed of my shame. I’ve never really discussed this, not even with my therapists. It seems so superficial, so trivial. How ridiculous that some days I don’t want to leave the house because I don’t look the way society tells me I should look. Does it interfere with my life? Well, I’ve never missed anything like school or work for that reason. On the other hand, I’ve avoided social events. Maybe it’s one of the things that makes it difficult for me to make new friends when I move to a new town. It adds to my social anxiety.

Then I say to myself, “There are so many more important things in the world than this. Starving children, real injustices.” Then I feel like a self-absorbed vain asshole and I shove it all down. However, it doesn’t solve the problem and I still won’t go to that meeting to practice French or join that organization for artists. Telling myself it’s foolish solves nothing and makes me feel like a fool.

This feeling has gotten worse over the years, and I don’t think it’s simply weight and age. It seems to me that there is more pressure for women to be beautiful than there was when I was younger. We used to have pubic hair! We didn’t even know to feel funny about it. It was as normal as having hair on your head. Vagina facials? May I say that that’s just fucking nuts? (May I also so say that vagina is not the correct term, unless they’re stuffing the exfoliating cream inside you. And who the hell has enough money for this crap? Who are you? I would love just to get my gray hair professionally dyed to its old color so I don’t have to make a mess in my bathroom, but I have a hard time swallowing the cost. A facial for my vulva? P. T. Barnum would be proud.) These currents are so strong in the society that they have made their way into my subconscious despite the fact that I don’t own a television, read neither celebrity nor fashion magazines and am generally a high brow snob. Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself how I even know about them. In fact, it’s part of the reason I’ve stopped reading garbage like Salon, the Huffington Post and Alternet. I became tired of getting a dose of body shaming in with my politics.

I’ve said it before, and here I am saying it again, I feel very fortunate to have come of age in the wake of two things, second wave feminism and punk. In terms of fashion, the new wave era was great for young women because there was really no pressure whatsoever to look pretty. In fact, I would say it was quite the opposite. There was an impulse to thumb one’s nose at society’s expectations, and that most certainly included society’s expectations of beauty.

When I told my parents I wanted to attend a different college, I considered myself a radical feminist, was openly dating a woman, wore repurposed thrift store clothes and had my hair cut to the length of a crew cut on one side and shoulder length on the other. They sent me to a psychiatrist. I walked into the office to see a painfully thin woman with carefully highlighted hair and an obvious nose job. She wanted to send me to a residential drug rehab program despite the fact that I told her repeatedly that I didn’t even smoke pot. Ironically, in terms of drugs I was one of the straightest people I knew. I didn’t even drink that much.

At that time, I actually needed a lot of guidance in terms of a career and academic programs, but I wasn’t getting any because everyone was focused on my hair and my clothes. Around that time, some of the styles associated with new wave were rapidly being absorbed into mainstream fashion and women started worrying about being pretty again. I dropped out of school, went to work and started conforming.

What many people might not know is a few years ago I went on something called a beauty strike. I’ve been meaning to write about it, but since it started before I began blogging it didn’t seem pressing at any given moment. The essential point is that after having one man after another tell me how I should look I began feeling as if I didn’t know how I wanted to look. It was part of my depression, but I wasn’t looking bad because I was depressed, I was depressed because I couldn’t live up to how other people wanted me to look.

When I was in Paris, I broke my strike. Now, you all may be thinking, “Ah, well, Paris, of course,” and I’m sure it was a contributing factor. However, as I’ve said before, I’m not a fashion hound and that’s not the main reason I like Paris. I’ve actually never paid much attention to the way I looked on previous visits, and didn’t for the first half of that one. What I began realizing was that it had to do with the fact that Paris has a street life. Prior to my beauty strike, I’d been living in New York, then I moved to Baltimore. In Paris, I became aware that the way you look is not only about trying to look pretty. It’s your public face. It’s how you present yourself to the world, a visual calling card so to speak.

I knew that when I lived in New York, but I forgot it in Baltimore, because Baltimore doesn’t have the same sort of street life. I don’t interact with strangers on a daily basis here the way I do in either Paris or New York. This doesn’t mean that in New York I was walking around looking dressy every day. It just means that you’re a little less likely to say to yourself, “Oh, fuck it. That’ll do.” It’s not just that I don’t have a motivation to put on pumps and a full face of make-up. I wouldn’t have a reason to dye my hair pink and shave off half my head either.

So, when I was in Paris, I went on a little shopping spree. A little one. Or maybe a big one for little things. I bought lingerie. Now, maybe I’m crazy, but I dress from the bottom up. When I was young and was planning on being with a man, I’d actually think about what I’d look like at each stage of undress. “How will this outfit look if my pants are still on by my top is off?” Then there’s the matter of sensuality. I never wore hairstyles that required a ton of product because the tactile sense is as important as the visual one. I don’t really go to that extreme any more. Perhaps because I don’t currently have a boyfriend. However, I still like to think that if the opportunity arose I wouldn’t be worrying about wearing ragged, stained underpants with holes in them.

So, when I say that I have a lingerie fetish, but I’m not talking Agent Provocateur playsuits with protruding bows that you can’t wear under clothing. I’m talking about pretty things that you can actually wear under clothes. I never understood how the playsuit things work. Do you make an appointment to have sex? I like to think that I’m ready to take off my clothes at anytime.

Okay, so, I broke my beauty strike. I got my hair cut and dyed, bought some boots and a shirt and a lot of underwear. Pretty underwear, in matching sets, with a garter belt. Technically it’s a “waist cincher” with garters. I believe that’s “suspenders” if you’re British.

However, I got home to realize that I don’t have any clothes that I can wear over it. One thing men don’t realize is that we don’t wear those incredibly ugly, substantial beige or brown things, those tee-shirt bras, old lady underpants and pantyhose to spite them. We wear them because they’re the only things that don’t look awful under certain types of outfits: miniskirts, thin clingy fabric, any kind of stretch fabric. Some of the sexiest clothes can’t be worn with the sexiest underwear. I know, it makes me unhappy too, boys. Now, I realize going to the store and trying to find a dress that I can wear over this is going to be hell.

So, I come up with the brilliant idea of sewing a dress myself. Please, go ahead and read that word “brilliant” as sarcastically as you like. Furthermore, I get the even more brilliant idea of involving my mother in this project. I wanted to do it over the weekend, so I look through a pile of patterns that I bought last year and never made. One of them is a fairly simple dress. It has darts, so it’s fitted, but it’s not tight and it’s not designed to be made with stretch fabric. It looks a little business-like in the picture, but that’s one of the great aspects of making it yourself. I was thinking if I make the neckline a little deeper and make it in a different fabric, it could be exactly the sort of thing I need.

I go over to my mother’s and I show her the pattern. “You don’t think your hips are a little too big for that.” I felt like I wanted to cry. The steam has been taken out of my sails. I want to put on a sweat suit and sit home.

We go to the fabric store anyway and she’s sneering at everything. Everything I pull out, she rolls her eyes at. I don’t see anything I like either, but my eagerness has been so deflated it’s hard to know if there really isn’t anything suitable in the store or I’m just feeling depressed. I start thinking that maybe I could just get some white cotton and some fabric paint and do something creative, but I don’t dare mention that idea to my mother.

If fashion isn’t fun, I want no part of it. I hate what I think of as the fashion of fear. Are my hips too big, is my bust too small, how do I disguise my thighs. It’s just so damned negative. It’s not about aesthetics. It’s not about craft.

Sometimes I think that for just one week I’d like to be the person I wish I could be.

This past week, the theme of WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge was nostalgia. Fittingly, while looking at some other people’s photos I was reminded of an evening when I was younger, an evening I might have otherwise forgotten.

I have mentioned before that my mother had several close friends all of whom had children born within a few years of one another, all girls except one. My mother met these friends during her early years teaching, when she and the others were young women with no children and their first jobs. For years, they all lived in our suburb, one within walking distance even for a toddler. Three of them, including my mother, continued to inhabit the same lower middle class suburban world throughout my childhood.

The movie The Ice Storm fascinated me because it so accurately captured the details of the early nineteen seventies, at least as they played out in the East Coast suburbs, that I found myself watching it with intense feelings of nostalgia. On the one hand, it felt so accurate. On the other, my own experiences of the same cultural changes were so very different. Perhaps there was some odd fortune to being lower middle class rather than being like the rich people in Connecticut who inhabit the film. My mother and her friends were never as self-indulgent at those fictional parents. Maybe, they couldn’t afford to be. The cultural changes documented in that film, did indeed mean liberation for us rather than disintegration. Except, perhaps, for one.

We’ll call her the Beauty Queen because that’s what she had been. Her husband had his own business which did well and by the time my own recollections kick in, they inhabited a step above us on the socioeconomic ladder. But the Beauty Queen became disenchanted with the boring suburban life. In keeping with the “me decade,” she would go looking for herself, which would eventually lead to a divorce and a sprawling apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. New York City was at its nadir, and that apartment didn’t imply the level of wealth it would today, but it housed the Beauty Queen and her two children, Kitty and Puppy, in comfort. Later, I would find that she would come to regret the divorce, though I strongly suspect she would have regretted staying had she stayed. With the bill being foot by the ex, Kitty and Puppy were sent to a Hoity-Toity Academy, a private, pretentious “prep” school in Manhattan.

Puppy was a few months older than I and the first boy I kissed. The less said about that ill-advised idea the better. Kitty, was tall and, as you might expect as the daughter of the Beauty Queen, beautiful. However, she was far too intellectual to consider her beauty of any real interest. She would eventually grow up to be very sophisticated as well, a writer with a degree from a top college, a graduate education in Europe, work experience in Latin America and Africa, but that lay in the future. As a teenager, Kitty was very close to Hera, the daughter of another of my mother’s friends. Although close to neither, I was friendly with both. Kitty would invite both of us, sometimes alone, sometimes together, to stay with her in New York City for the weekend. It was in the company of Kitty that I would first go to a discothèque. Studio 54 was a year or two past its prime, but still fun, and others were soon to follow. She was a good companion since neither of us drank or took drugs and we were only interested in dancing. Typically, she had a pile of free passes that people promoting various nightclubs would distribute at Hoity-Toity Academy. Looking back, I wonder about the prevalence of these cards at a high school where almost all the students were certainly underage.

Kitty’s birthday fell in the fall and for her sixteenth birthday, her family threw her a big bash on the Binghamton. The Binghamton was a former ferry that had been turned into a fancy restaurant. Parked on the New Jersey side of the Hudson river, it had enviable views of Manhattan. I do not know how her Hoity-Toity friends got there, but get there they did, as did relatives and family friends from the ‘burbs. I came home from college for the weekend to attend.

College girls only look good in movies. As I recall from my own days in school, if I managed to take a shower and run a comb through my hair before grabbing a bagel at the cafeteria on my way to class, that was a lot of primping. I’d only been away for a couple of months, but my mother was already aghast at how I’d let myself “go to pot.” A little make-over would be the perfect mother daughter bonding experience. She made an appointment for me at a moderately fancy salon in town where, for the first time, I got my hair cut short, really short, parted on the side and frankly boyish. When it was done my mother was surprised. “I wouldn’t have expected it,” she said, “but short hair suits you.”

Off we went to the shopping mall to get a dress and shoes for the occasion. The dress was a knee-length knit with long sleeves that skimmed my body from my shoulders to about mid-thigh, body revealing without being tight. The maroon and black vertical stripes outlined every curve. It was probably this dress that made me fall in love with stripes, graphic, severe, sexy, hard and feminine all at once. Another item I’d wear for the first time that night which would become another staple, was a pair of shoes with a spool heel. The social pressure to wear high heels can be intense. However, I had decided that no matter what I did, I would always draw the line regarding clothes and fashion at anything that injured my health. If a man would prefer watching a woman fully dressed, with a full face of makeup, a helmet of sticky hairspray and stiletto heels on the other side of a crowded room to rolling around with a sweaty naked one in bed, then he’s not the man for me. The spool heel was a revelation, high enough to quiet society, low enough to walk without pain. I bought a patent leather pair with a t-strap in a dark red. My mother insisted with my new boyish haircut, I had to wear big, big earrings. With the shape of my ass, the likelihood that I would be mistaken for a boy was about nil. Her concern speaks volumes about gender expectations. She thrust one pair of big, jangly pieces of costume jewelry at me after another. Finally, I went for another severe, geometrical item, a pair of big, perfectly circular hoops. A pair of dark tights and a wide black belt and I was ready to go to the party.

Sweet sixteens and proms are funny things. They’re like nights to play dress up, practice for being an adult, and I felt very womanly, balancing on my dainty heels in dress that emphasized my waist and hips. I was beginning to understand what was flattering and what wasn’t. The restaurant where the party was held was far fancier than I was used to and I spent the evening dancing and flirting and generally having a good time.