I know, it’s 2 weeks in. But I was traveling on the first, and didn’t have a chance to do a recap/plan for my blog this upcoming year. I feel like I’m supposed to do some kind of announcement with a megaphone or something.
THIS YEAR on THE FIVE Fs! sort of thing.
I have lots of projects and explorations coming up — 2013 wasn’t such a good year for me, being a little bit stagnant and a little bit lost. But 2014 is kicking off with some new clients, some new goals and a ton of ideas for sewing, cooking and pondering life in an anti-craftian sort of way.
-Some self-drafted skirt tutorials in the vein of updated hobble skirts
-Some pants tutorials based on styles I saw in San Juan and Berkeley the past few months
-Burning Man/festival costumes galore; now that I’ve been once, I have some great ideas about costumes for myself and the Compatriot
-Leaf/dragonscale cutout jackets. When I wrap my head around how to accomplish this, you’ll see what I mean.
-A foray into shoemaking, with tutorials
-Some ambitious knitting projects; my attention span is short (so short that I originally posted this without finishing this sentence! Oh man.) but I really want to get into some more detail-oriented, delicate work like shawls. Well, shawl. If I finish one, I’ll be hugely impressed with myself.
-Putting together a steampunk costume from sketch concept to finish: I have an Alice’s Tea Party-themed wedding to attend in March of this year, so I’ll be documenting the whole process from sketch to finished project as a sort of project journal for anyone interested in creating elaborate costumes but not sure how. As an added bonus, the venue of a wedding gives me the opportunity for a more modest costume than my usual style.
-Speaking of weddings, I got engaged this past week. This doesn’t mean the blog will turn into Brides-R-Us. Quite the contrary; I hope that documenting our planning process will provide a DIY-centered, thoughtful contrast to the Disney-princess-fueled insane wedding bullcrap that dominates Pinterest boards and Netflix suggested lists. A wedding is a celebration and a formalization, a ritual to enter into a new stage of life, not spend-a-thon fuel for a money-hungry industry. All that being said, I’m super excited to design and draft my own dress, and probably something for the Compatriot-fiance as well.
-I also want to start drafting patterns, and offering a freemium plan: download the pattern/use the tutorial for free or a voluntary donation, or buy handmade from me. We’ll see about this, as I am notoriously bad at keeping a tight schedule, and most of my focus has to be on my freelancing clients in 2014.
What do you have on tap for 2014?
Recently, a group of friends were sitting around idly looking up silly things on the internet, like you do, and the topic ofMr. Shaquille O’Neil’s girlfriend (current? Ex? Not sure)came up. More specifically, her (notable lack of) height. This took us to all sorts of unfortunate places on the internet (Like celebrity news sites. Hisss.) and led to borderline creepy scrutiny of a couple none of us know personally. Such is the burden of celebrity.
Suddenly, my 6-foot girl friend blurted, “I kind of hate when that happens. It just seems like such a waste of a tall guy.”
But before I could even process that, a guy friend chimed in to agree. “Yeah, it’s hard. Because you can’t date someone the same size as you.”
“Yeah, your dating pool is fairly small, being six feet tall, huh,” came a third opinion.
Soon, the general consensus was reached that women overwhelmingly prefer much taller guys, and guys prefer much smaller women. Not being one to sit in awkward silence (it’s great to have friends you can disagree with), I responded that I like being almost the same size as my Male Compatriot, we had a brief conversation about personal preferences, and turned to other matters without a fuss. But it stuck with me.
If you’ve read any of this blog, you know I’m a huge fan of personal expression and choice. Around this time of year, out come the claws regarding womens’ Halloween costumes. The sheer amount of vitriol is amazing.
I truly appreciate projects like Take Back Halloween. If you haven’t heard of them, seriously check them out. They’re full of awesome costume ideas and patterns that differ from the “sexy watermelon” trope. I am so happy that this dialogue can happen, and that there’s pushback against the mass-produced polyester monstrosities of lazy costuming. I get that there’s pressure to be a sexualized being on Halloween, and I’m happy that there’s a refuge for those who prefer more modesty.
But I don’t think that revealing costumes are really the problem. The problem is choice. And I think the biggest problem with the current status quo is that gender-specific versions of the same costume are so wildly different, not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Leg Avenue.
Please, bear with me. What, exactly, is wrong with slutty costumes? Is it that there is exposed skin? If you’re against that, please never go to the beach or a swimming pool ever again. Sincerely, non-hypocrites.
Is it the appropriation of things that were never intended to be sexual and sexualizing them, particularly since one gender is overwhelmingly expected to engage in this appropriation? Hmmm, I think we’re closer to the mark.
What kind of fashion/feminism/philosophy crossover blogger would I be if I didn’t write about the “controversy” around Abercrombie and Fitch? Of course, there’s the whole “all publicity is good publicity” risk, but I feel like most of the attention they’re getting at this point falls into the “actually damaging” category. And Michael Jefferies is single-handedly to blame for this.
By now you’ve probably heard that the CEO went on record saying that he only wants people of a certain size, shape, and level of perceived coolness shopping at his stores.
And while I freely admit that I shopped there once or twice when I was a teenager — I did, and do, fall into their “acceptable size, coloring and level of fitness” range — I decided that I don’t really like wearing a label on my chest that proclaims a company allegiance. Besides, while I wear size 0-3, even in Hollister sizing, I need some ass room. And Hollister jeans are very much against trunk junk. (Seriously, if you’re not designing for women size 0-12, and you’re not designing for women size 13 and up, who the hell are you designing for? Exclusively preteens? Probably.)
All that being said, I get the company model. It’s a self-reinforcing thing. Make brand appeal to “cool” kids. Splash brand name on everything so there’s no doubt about who’s wearing your clothes. Kids then buy said clothes because other cool kids are wearing them, and they think that will make them cool, too. The kids make the brand cool, and the brand makes the kids cool. And the cycle goes on.
It’s not a bad business model for a culture where youth fetish reigns supreme and name-dropping brands and liquor in music fulfills the same cyclical reinforcing function as slapping a name on your clothes. And they’re far from the only ones; it almost seems a shame to punish someone for being up front about how awful they are, while continuing to support other companies that obviously hold the same views but dance around openly stating them.
I said at the top that Mr. Jefferies is single-handedly to blame for the fact that all this publicity is damaging instead of boosting. What I mean is this: Would people be as upset if he were a younger, suaver, cooler-looking guy instead of the undeniably unattractive mess he is? I can’t help but feel that if he were an attractive man, most people who do fit the Abercrombie & Fitch model would roll their eyes and shrug, or even tacitly support his statements. There would still be outrage from the people who have been insulted, but I doubt the backlash would be nearly so universal. Such a controversial statement, coming from a beautiful man, would probably even boost company allegiance in the target audience.
And that’s where the pity comes in. I believe that Mr. Jefferies has made a huge error. It seems like he was going for a charmingly arrogant beautiful person promoting the kind of club mentality that packs Vegas nightclubs night after night. Instead, he came across like a bridge-dwelling troll casting aspersions on people who he has no right to judge. (Of course, that in itself implies that if he were good looking he would have some kind of right to judge, which I in no way believe.) Sadly, that error lies in his own appearance. The poor guy is getting screwed over by the very culture that he is trying to push and be a part of.
I commented about this on Harsh Reality, which inspired this post, and I have to repeat part of my comment here, because it does sum up how I feel.
“He looks like someone who may have once been one of the cool kids, is getting older, and is trying desperately through plastic surgery to hold on to that fleeting impression of “cool” because to him that’s the only valuable thing.
I guess what I’m saying is that I suspect people are outraged because the whole thing is a highly-visible microcosm of exactly how toxic certain segments of our society are, and how it screws with both the customer and the pusher of that society. It’s easy to get upset by blatant, easy-to-pinpoint examples of what’s wrong with certain aspects of wealthy youth culture.”
Ultimately, I just can’t work up the feminist/humanist outrage to get angry at this guy. I wonder how it feels to realize that you have been betrayed by the very culture you want so badly to be part of and to help shape. It can’t be a good feeling, even if you’re making millions.
On a different note, of course I’m upset by their environmentally unsustainable practices. Burning clothes instead of donating them is horrifyingly wasteful, even if it makes sense from a warped business perspective. And I’m glad that the internet has the power to let people know about things like this. Hopefully there will be a huge backlash on that point alone.
But as for the rest… I can’t help but feel more pity than anger.
I feel rather vindicated about some of the troubles women have with clothes. I mean seriously. At my least athletic/curviest, I was a solid 36 C cup heading toward a D cup… I thought. Now I’m a solid 32 B cup heading toward an A cup… I thought. But apparently, that’s not the whole story. The whole story is… I don’t even really have words for the convoluted complication that is the bra sizing system.
Everyone tells you to take a soft tape measure and measure your band size. (Who the hell has a “soft tape measure” anyway? I only have one because I sew sometimes.) Then, you should take the tape measure and put it over your nipples, but not make it too snug. What? What’s snug? Should you be inhaling or exhaling? Does “snug” mean “if it’s a cold room, your nipples will be smushed”? Or do you leave room for the nipples (how many times can I say this in one post)? I don’t even know, and I’ve been making shirts for myself for like six months now. I don’t even dare make a bra. Which reminds me, I got to thinking about this because of A Very Purple Person’s post today about making bras. According to the bra calculator that she mentioned, my cup size is HUGE! At a 28-31 inch band size (depending on if I’m exhaling or inhaling) and a 33-36 apex bust size (apex = over the nipples, again whether I’m exhaling or inhaling), and a moderately snug band, I should be an E! An E? Oh, and that’s with not a lot of room for said nipples. It’s really hard to tell if you’re giving them enough room. Hm. But even so, I was optimistic with a B, especially recently.
So what gives?
Women kind of have it rough, don’t they?
To start off, let me say that women in other cultures have things much much worse than we in the Western World. I know that. And I know men have a whole slew of their own problems and pressures. I know that, too. But for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on the particular paradox of the pretty vs practical girl. So let’s set everything else aside for the moment.
Women who don’t care about clothes are often called butch, or seen as dirty, undesirable, or unfeminine. And that sucks, because no one should have to primp and preen if they don’t want to.
On the other hand, women who DO dress and primp and preen are seen as vain, high-maintenance and air-headed. They just can’t win! It’s a veritable mire of social tripwires that often leaves someone insulting someone else out of a bizarre mixture of self defense and self superiority, no matter which side a given woman is inhabiting on a given day.
I’ve definitely been on both ends of that spectrum, and it is with some chagrin that I recall myself shrugging and sticking my hands in the pockets of my cargo pants. “I just dress for practicality,” I’d say, half defensive, half derisive. “I’m just not that kind of girl. I don’t know about all that girly stuff.”
There’s an element of pride to that ignorance, mixed with a kind of awe. I can’t say that I speak for everyone, but I’ve seen it in others just as I’ve seen it in myself: I don’t know how to dress up and be cute. But then again, I don’t really want to, do I? Or maybe I do, secretly. But it’s all frippery. Why aspire to shallowness? I’m not trying to impress anyone.
It. Shouldn’t. Be. That. Complicated.
But it is.
Biology being what it is (sexual dimorphism’s a bitch), and the human desire for approval and acceptance, mixed with our drive to form groups defined as much by who isn’t like us as by who is like us all conspire to make the basic activity of putting on clothes incredibly complicated. And it probably always will be, especially since our identities are inextricably tied to our image. Even the most self-sufficient and self-contained person cares a little bit about what others think about them, whether in the context of clothes or not.
For a while in college, like most people, I was trying to find some kind of identity. Unconsciously, of course, but definitely trying. And I went through a series of friend groups until I met people who (among many other things!) called me beautiful. And that was a good feeling. I’m not trying to suggest that my identity came from other people, of course: but it was a neat idea, a novel idea, something that I hadn’t thought about before, and something that I rejected at first. I’m not pretty, I’m smart! I’m not pretty, I’m strong. I’m not pretty, I’m useful.
Why are these generally considered to be so mutually exclusive in our society? There’s a growing collection of voices that don’t think this should be the case, but it’s still such a mainstay in our lives. I think, ironically, that “nerd” literature and visual media are partially to blame: authors and scripwriters have spent a great deal of time and effort promoting the “plain innocent virginal girl next door” as the highest virtue. On the one hand, it’s supposed to be looking past outward beauty. On the other hand, I know plenty of amazing, beautiful and intelligent women that are insecure in themselves, and are actively waiting for someone else to swoop down and doll them up, like always happens in those stories. It’s like they can’t be an active part of their own image — that would be too shallow — but still want to dress up now and again.
I spent a really long time rejecting the entire idea of beauty, and that’s no good: because I was so aggressive about my lack of makeup, lack of fancy things, lack of whatever, I ended up feeling like that if I wore makeup or shaved my legs or even washed my hair, I’d somehow be betraying the strong, independent woman I wanted to be, and would end up being a hypocrite for not practicing what I preach.
I also swung too far the other way for a while, chasing some stupid ideal while being unwilling to actually spend the money and time it takes to chase it properly. My halfhearted attempts at being beautiful at all times just felt unfulfilling, and set up this expectation of being the prettiest girl in the room. Which, news flash, there’s no such thing. It’s a matter of taste, attitude, and momentary group perception, and if you depend on that positive feedback you’ll just end up a wreck.
Ultimately, natural is beautiful — I haven’t given up on that ideal in the slightest — but sometimes it’s fun to play pretend.
At this point, I think I’m pretty good at just being myself for myself. I dress up when I feel like, I wear makeup when I feel like, I skip showers when I feel like and I stay in my pajamas all day when I feel like. And I know that there are people who think of me as pretty shallow, and there’s people that think of me as pretty lazy and even dirty. And I suspect there’s even more people who think of me as a dumb pseudo-hippie trend chaser. And sometimes I get really down about my appearance. But I’m working on it, and most days I think I can truly say “screw you, I’m being pretty today,” or “screw you, I’m not being pretty today.”
It’s a good feeling.