I have been thinking a lot about fashion lately.
Not just in terms of how to most fabulously pair my gray quick-dry hiking shorts with my Americorps polo for jaunts to the gym with Foster, but rather in terms of the role fashion plays in my life, and how my politics, as well as my embodiment and identity influence what I wear (and how I wear it).
Nerd camp fashion with Logic TA Claire.
I have always thought that fashion is significant–I have argued fiercely and passionately (even sexily) with my anti-fashion boyfriend for the cause, and I think I have convinced him that even shopping exclusively at Cabela’s constitutes fashion. I still question how to be an anti-capitalist fashionista, how to wear clothes without buying them, how to make fashion political without making politics simply fashion (See: Thomas Frank, Why Johnny Can’t Dissent).
Last night: grandma's coat, bolo tie from New Mexico.
But as Dean Spade brilliantly explains in the LTTR article “Dress to Kill, Fight to Win”:
“…when we appeal to some notion of an unmodified or undecorated body, we participate in the adoption of a false neutrality. We pretend, in those moments, that there is a natural body or fashion, a way of dressing or wearing yourself that is not a product of culture. Norms always masquerade as non-choices, and when we suggest that for example, resisting sexism means everyone should look androgynous, or resisting racism means no one should modify the texture of their hair, we foreclose people’s abilities to expose the workings of fucked up systems on their bodies as they see fit.”
I occasionally (though not religiously) read fashion blogs. Most frequently, Threadbared and à l’allure garçonnière, both of which are incredibly thought provoking looks at fashion through a critical, feminist lens. Sometimes I check out Garbage Dress because I secretly aspire to be a fashion goth, and Style Rookie, because even though I find it to be uncritical and annoyingly focused on the 90s, it hearkens me back to the days in which I was a twelve year old who loved Hot Topic bondage pants and Nirvana, and didn’t realize that Kurt Cobain had been dead for a significant portion of my life. Sometimes I peak in on other fashion blogs, if I find ones that are feminist, fat, queer (recommendations?)…I used to post “What I Wore” posts on my livejournal and on a livejournal community called fatshionistas, which I eventually left after being told my clothes didn’t match, I looked like a clown or a circus freak, and the kicker: I was not fat enough. Maybe I am stating the obvious, pointing out a universal condition, but my relationship to fashion (even or especially “alternative” fashion) is vexed.
Senior Prom, 2006.
I am interested in fashion. I am not a fifteen year-old, waifish kid who gets sent Miu Miu in the mail, or a New York fashion designer, or a religious thrifter. Although I am from a privileged background, I live on an income that makes it difficult to buy groceries without EBT, much less shell out for pricey clothes. I wear a size 16 and glare-inducing glasses. I have a beard and acne, thanks to my dubiously polycystic ovaries. I can barely wear heels (thanks to a rock climbing injury my sophomore year of college) and make up tends to be at the bottom of my to-do list. On a regular day I wear Carhartts and plaid (or jeggings, my favorite fashion invention of all time), and growing up I tended towards the Star Wars t-shirts and horse sweaters. My mom bought me Husky jeans and pleated khaki pants (the horror). Am I even allowed to be interested in fashion? Can I afford to ignore fashion?
My three little sisters and I, probably circa 1999.
Thanks to a post on Threadbared, I recently read this anxiety-producing gem by Benjamin Lefebvre:
“If anything, including in a job application teaching and research credits that are provocative, tightly focused, esoteric, or just plain weird has a similar effect to showing up at a formal gathering dressed up to the nines in orange, turquoise, and lime–while such an outfit may display favourably an applicant’s individuality, such a statement may not be viewed well when the (unspoken) expectation is to wear black.”
Soon, I discovered a whole series of blogs by graduate students detailing the desperate tightrope walk between bland professionalism and colorful individuality–Don’t wear too much color! Maintain a boring haircut!–such as Academichic, helpful bastion of normative professional femininity for the modern PhD candidate. It reminded me of a meeting I had with a driven, super-successful graduate student who both said that I looked like a juvenile delinquent, and more or less suggested that I needed to pluck my eyebrows if I wanted to be taken seriously. Oh, the crushing anxiety. Here I am, 22 years old and hopefully about to matriculate into a grueling graduate program, and I don’t even own a khaki skirt or mules. I am, by academichic standard, and to use the academic jargon, royally fucked.
If I was to encounter a perfect fashion blog, I think it would be a fashion blog for bearded ladies, for genderqueer fat kids, for folks who desperately want shirts that don’t have darts and ALSO button over their hips. For recent college graduates who shop in their dad’s closet and wish they could wear men’s pants or women’s pants or for the love of god any pants. For cubicle-dwelling office employees who dress inappropriately for professional environments. For grad students who show up to monochrome university events in orange, turquoise and lime (and then feel awkward and anxious). For people who think about sweatshop labor and the environment and rampant consumerism when they buy clothes.
So maybe then, I will blog about fashion. Of course, this isn’t going to suddenly transform into a fashion blog. It will stay safely in the realm of themeless-amorphous-blob blog, in which I talk more about fashion. Huzzah.
Going to the MLA. Just kidding.