Blogging fashion.

7 Jan

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.

Homoween, 2009.

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.

–JB

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8 Responses to “Blogging fashion.”

  1. jessiedress January 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    This post is fucking inspirational. As a bearded femme, who is fat, and works in an office environment which she dresses inappropriately for, I am hearing you totally.

    I’ve been thinking about fa(t)shion blogging being inaccessible for awhile. As much as I love the bloggers I read, they are getting sent shit for free. They live in huge cities with Faith 21 resources I don’t have, and they are not sized out of the fucking fat girl store like I often am. AND I feel like they dress to document their outfits, instead of documenting what is really happening sometimes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I fucking love every single one of them (I even love Tavi, and I mean, that’s complicated for me, but I still admire her instincts).

    THE POINT, and BOY DO I HAVE ONE: In february, I will be blogging my outfit every single day on Tumblr. Sometimes twice a day, if I wear two outfits. I want other people to do this too. I’m calling it like: “Femme & Friends Fa(t)shion February”, or something catchier that I think of between now and then. I want to see people wearing work clothes, or house clothes, or going out to dance clothes. I want to know where you got what you’re wearing, and what you did to make it fit your body and your life.

    I’ve posted briefly about this on my tumblr, but its mostly a picture of my boobs. More info will be coming shortly, but I mean, let’s make this shit huge. Let’s make fashion what we want to see! Its going to be super rad and hot. I can feel it.

    xoxo

    JessieDress
    jessiedress.tumblr.com

    • sassyfrasscircus January 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

      Hell yeah! I am allll about this comment/ your project. Also, it’s super-nice to “meet” you, I’ve heard only great things. 🙂

      Following on tumblr….

  2. RK January 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Wow, thanks for this kick-ass post. I’m so glad to have found this post because I was just debating the question of why I like fashion so much even though I identify as a feminist. I also find myself browsing fashion blogs of women whose politics would NOT mesh with mine – but I find myself just scrolling through photos without really reading the texts of fashion blogs (though I would not tolerate fashion blogs that appropriate things like a headdress). I used to read Academichic pretty religiously until I felt the same frustration you did – especially the emphasis on “what is appropriate for teaching” that seemed to veer heavily towards enforcing femininity but making sure that stereotypical feminine look wasn’t sexualized. I definitely fall more into the stereotypical “feminine” look when I dress as well, but I want to start exploring more – and at the very least, start questioning why I like wearing certain things a little more critically.

    Sorry that rant was so long. But it’s great to find another feminist/genderqueer voice on here!

  3. Caitlin January 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    This post is totally rad! I loved reading it! I am not exactly the most fashion-conscious lady – I tend to stick to tomboyish basics and then I dress them up with cute shoes, dangly earrings and strange colors of nail polish – but I am very aware of the way the office I work in tries to squish every sign of flamboyance out of us as employees, particularly because I have visible tattoos with plans to get more visible tattoos that are even bigger. I think about how it’s not enough that we spend such huge chunks of our life in this role, as Employee, but that it also exerts control over the way we live our lives outside of the office, and how refusing to adhere to those sartorial standards can be a tiny act of resistance.

    BTW Heather of Dig Deep gave me a bunch of your zines a couple of months ago, and I love them! I am especially into Femme a Barbe, and the way it makes me think differently about my facial hair (which has been a pox on my existence since I was 11 and the neighborhood kids used to tease me about my mustache). Thanks for editing such an important and thought-provoking zine.

  4. Bevin January 9, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    I love this post. I also love your glitter eyebrows (!), your prom dress and your ideal fashion blog. I’ve heard a lot of shout outs lately looking for queer (especially femme) facial hair resources and I hope that people create some community around that and then tell me about it so I can let other folks know. Rock your orange/lime/turquoise life. I languished for a long time in a career where my flamboyance was always bubbling under the surface and I am proud and happy to say I only have to dress like a muggle 6-8 hours a month now. Live the dream.

  5. Bevin January 9, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    Also my BFF Zoe is a grad student in sociology and has pink hair and dresses in fat girl vintage slutty clothes 90% of the time. Grad school is beautiful for that.

  6. ocean January 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    yaaay! i love this post too. i don’t really consider myself a fashionista but i’m a queerdo working in a desk job & i’m tired of people not taking me seriously because of how i look/dress, tired of clients making fun of my outfits on the elevator (this only happened twice, but it still sucks). my mantra to myself, every day, is “just because i have a 9 to 5 job doesn’t mean i have to dress like i’m attending my own fucking funeral!” if you wrote that fashion blog i would totally read and love it.

  7. alagarconniere January 18, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    I JUST WANTED TO EXPRESS HOW AWESOME YOU ARE.
    i am really glad you exist, j. bee, and that i am lucky enough to get to know you zine by zine, blog post by blog post. you are an inspiration.

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