Monday, March 31, 2008

Goodbye March; spring break

I am off to class again after a week off. This is my last quarter before graduation! I am excited for my first class on the Modern Balkans. I am a sucker for Eastern Europe...

The temperature is in the 40s, it is rainy and foggy and I am not searching too hard for a trench coat yet because I still have time left in my winter coat. If March really does come in like a lion and out like a lamb, I have a newfound fear of farms.

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That said, I am all cozied up for class today.

RIP, spring break

Beret: thrifted
Scarf: Oscar de la Renta, from Grandma
Sweater: from a clothing swap hosted by Painfully Hip...more on this later!
Snakeskin belt: thrifted
Skirt: thrifted
Tights: H&M
Metallic booties: also from the swap!

To tell you the truth, I am actually really excited to go back to class. I love school, and sometimes breaks can be dull. Especially when you live alone!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Knock (it) off?

This post on Liebemarlene Vintage got me thinking about knock offs in the fashion industry. The blog's author, Rhiannon, was happy to find a dress at Forever21 which strongly resembled an item by Marc by Marc Jacobs. She was a bit torn about how she should feel about knock-offs...should we be upset or excited about the opportunity to own an affordable copy of a designer item? I got to thinking about the morality behind inexpensive knock-offs.

Indeed, it is hardly news that Forever21 has a penchant for aping catwalk looks and turning them around fast by creating almost indistinguishable pieces for a much, much lower price. Legal action has been taken against them by several designers, including Gwen Stefani and Diane von Furstenberg. (DVF has since settled with the chain.) It is true that the similarities are striking. Behold:

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Left: DVF, Right: F21

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Stefani's "Harajuku" logo

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Print on a handbag sold at F21

Clearly, these designers have a point. It is more than obvious that the resemblance the Forever21 items bear to the high-end originals cannot be written off as sheer coincidence. And yet, I can hardly believe that the Forever21 copies are eating into the profits of the high end designs. The idea that a woman used to shopping at Neiman Marcus or Barney's is about to ditch those stores in favor of Forever21 is almost laughable. For her, the special part about owning an original DVF isn't only about the cut, pattern and color of the dress. Thus, in some way, I think that the concern over lower-end retailers getting their mitts on coveted exclusive designs has something to do with the elitist idea that an item is only special if it is kept away from the bargain shoppers. How else could a $30-something dollar DVF copy be threatening? If it is not deterring customers from the original, it must be because the "wrong kind of customers" now have access to a similar product. Am I being unfair, or could Diane von Furstenburg possibly have a vested interest in making sure that middle America doesn't end up looking like her richer clients?

Don't get me wrong, I drool over designer duds. Someday, I can definitely see myself shelling out for an item I really love that will last me forever. Likewise, I know that not everyone who owns designer items are status-conscious bourgeois pinheads. The message sent by a designer piece is instead determined by the attitude and intent of the person wearing it. If a woman falls for a Zac Posen dress because it fits her beautifully, is exactly her style and makes her feel like Miss America, then I will be the first to high-five her and tell her it was worth the money spent. If, however, a woman buys a handbag littered with Chanel logos in order to prove to her next-door neighbor that she is a.) fabulous and b.) isn't at all jealous of the neighbor's new poolhouse and nose, then we are in different territory all together. The effort to equate fashion with status is bogus to me. I consider style to be a very positive thing - it is a way to have fun with what we wear and express who we are. Using fashion as a status symbol turns it into a very negative thing. Instead of making a comment about you as an individual, it makes a comment about you as a social class. Not very fabulous.

Thus, I can't condemn knock-offs because I think in a small way they erode the line between the haves and have nots. Still, buying a knock-off for the sense of status isn't too commendable either. A fake Chanel handbag masquerading as a real one still feeds into a culture that celebrates the value of a label and logo. It makes me sad that women who cannot afford the original want convincing knock-offs to validate themselves.

This post by the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review discusses the issue of fashion knock-offs from a legal standpoint and raises some fascinating points. As it stands now, the foundation upon which legal action can be taken against copyright violation in fashion is flimsy at best - though logos and very distinguished elements are protected, more subtle things like cut, color and usually pattern are not. Furthermore, the development of trends (ie, the entire essence of the fashion industry,) are based on lower-end replicas of designer items. Without lower-end retail aping the designs of the higher-end designers, the cycles and motion within the fashion industry would be severely disturbed. Ultimately, the article argues that knock-offs feed hunger for the originals and not the other way around, by creating a younger market excited to eventually own the "real deal."

Thus, I am all for buying knock-offs if you love the item. It is a victimless pleasure, and it allows women with thinner wallets to own pretty things they love within their budgets.

What do you think? How should knock-offs be considered or dealt with? Are they a moral outrage or commendable fashion strategy?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fashionably modest: modern Islamic style

I am quite fascinated by women's issues in Islamic contexts. Recently I have read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and Kabul Beauty School: an American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez. Each book provided an interesting perspective on the experience womanhood in Islamic societies. These are strong and admirable women.

Thus, I was quite intrigued to come across a few articles discussing modern Islamic fashion. Though the amount of Islamic women who dress modestly is not enough to constitute a majority of the female Muslim population, those who do are showing an increasing demand for clothing that allows them to be both stylish and modest.

According to this article from the International Herald Tribune, traditional Muslimahs represent a widely untapped market of women who value conventional Muslim dress but wish to showcase their personal styles as well. One woman interviewed said that she knows of many Muslim girls who shop at national brand stores and "creatively fill in the gaps-" ie, layering to conform to cultural standards of modesty. Muslim women are also experimenting with accessories and calling for more comfort and practicality from the items in their wardrobes. While many of these fashion-conscious women are hesitant to dress in such a way as to stand out in a crowd, they feel as if modesty and beauty can peacefully coexist in their closets.

This article in The Christian Science Monitor also comments that designers are beginning to take note of the increasing demand for stylish hijabs. Not only do many Muslim women want more ornate and fashionable options, they are also seeking out new ways to tie and wear their scarves. To feed this need, designers in Canada are producing Islamic clothing that allows women to express themselves while remaining true to their beliefs.

I thought these articles were interesting because they support what I have always felt about fashion - that what we wear is a way to assert ourselves as individuals. Even while operating in a context of more aesthetic constraint, women still have a natural desire to tell a story with their outfits and let their clothing speak for them. Here are a few examples of pieces for these modern Islamic fashionistas:

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A little bit spring-er

I am on spring break, but I still have tons of things to do! I had a relaxing morning reading and watching TV, and now I am off to campus to do some research. I have a few errands to run too...I think I may walk as much as I can today, I want to suck this weather in.

spring break pleasantness

Beret: shop in San Francisco
Scarf: gift from Grandma, tied in a bow
Blouse: old-school Gap, thrifted
Belt: thrifted
Skirt: thrifted Topshop
Yellow socks: H&M
Mary jane pumps: Payless

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I am kind of in the mood for some mischief, but I have no idea where I'd find any.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Classy apparel?

Being a student, sometimes I do exactly what is expected of me and waste valuable time on facebook. I like going through different groups and reading the descriptions. This description of a group called "Are You a Model? No Wait, You're an Idiot Who Got Dressed Up To Go To Class" caught my eye:

I wasn't aware that lectures were the best place to get dates. I could have sworn that it was a big room full of 500 college students so tired and/or hungover that they can't stay awake, let alone notice how you perfectly gelled your hair and got the collar popped at just the right angle, or how shiny your new heels are and how they perfectly match your stupid $100 wool poncho made from real llama hair. If getting ready for class involves more than zipping up the jeans you slept in, putting on the stained sweatshirt that was on the floor, and putting on a hat to cover your greasy and unkempt hair, please move back to Abercrombie Land with all the beautiful people. Let us uglies wallow in our filth without interruption.

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Ouch. I am apt to show up for class in something largely similar to what I'd wear to do most other things - in my case, a skirt or dress. I don't wear heels every day to class, simply because my book bag can be heavy. Still, my outfits at the university are pretty darn similar to my ordinary life outfits. I am not trying to impress people or flaunt myself in any way, I just don't see a reason to dress in something I ordinarily wouldn't to go to class. In my case, dressing down in a hoodie and sweatpants would be completely out of character and I'd feel uncomfortable. As a student and a fashion freak, I can't help but see most life situations as opportunities to dress up. I also think there is something to be said for the fact that school is, for all intents and purposes, my job right now. I take my classes very seriously (I do not, like the writer above, attend class hungover or barely awake) and I somehow feel that I would have trouble focusing and working hard in clothes that remind me of bedtime.

I know that the vast majority of college students attend class in hoodies or t-shirts. I don't mind, and I would never talk badly about or judge someone for wearing something casual to class. Judging from the positivity of the blogosphere, I doubt many girls who love style and clothes would bash others for not sharing their passion. Why, then, is there negativity the other way around? I can't say that anyone in my class has ever been rude about my outfits, but I have definitely gotten comments like, "you always make me feel underdressed" or, "do you go to work after this class?"

For those of you who are students, how do you dress for class? Have you noticed a particular attitude regarding your clothes among other students? What do you think in general about clothing choices at school?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Snowy afternoons

It is so typically Chicago to give us another blizzard two days before Easter. I wanted to do something fun indoors, so I hopped on down to the Art Institute to see their special exhibit on Edward Hopper.

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I adore Hopper's work, and Nighthawks has always been one of my favorite paintings. I love the way he portrays people and isolation in the city. The small plaques next to each work were also informative. I learned, for instance, that Hopper is heralded for paying such detailed attention to the clothing of his subjects, particularly his women. I love the women he paints...they are sophisticated, stylish, but complex. I also love their make-up and hats.

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As for today, snow and ice are all over the place but nothing is actually falling from the sky. I went out to lunch earlier, and I think I'll kill the afternoon with some grocery shopping and reading.

sunny n' snowy

Beret: shop in San Francisco
Sweater: thrifted
Corduroy jumper: thrifted
Cat Brooch: thrifted
Tights: Target
Blue socks: H&M
Pewter pumps: Target

...and, a contemplative hipster-esque shot in which I am literally gazing into your soul.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

A Hairy Situation

Right now, my hair is the longest it's been in ages. I love short hair - it is sassy and fun, and you spend less money on hair products. Here are two photos of me from about 1.5 years ago:

chin length

pixie

(Note: I really loved my pixie at first, but then when it was growing out I looked like Paul McCartney for four months.)

Anyhow, I am a sucker for change. My hair has been long for a while and I'm definitely getting the urge to spice things up. However, right now I am in the application process for the US Peace Corps and am growing my hair out so that I don't have to deal with flat irons and high-maintenance crops in what could very well be a hut in the third world. It will be much more convenient to throw it back in a braid or something and not be tied down by it.

Still, I am beginning to think that there are many lovely hairstyles I have admired before but was not able to do when my hair was shorter. I want to take advantage of my hair's length and try some new things. Specifically, I want to set out to achieve the dramatic, full waves reminiscent of Old Hollywood.

Top to bottom: Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Katherine Hepburn

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This post on The Glam Guide gives a step-by-step guide on how to achieve the 1940s 'do. It's right up there with rocket science, but I'm going to give it a shot sometime soon anyhow and make you privy to the results.

Not today though...can you believe it is blizzarding outside?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

(Fictional) fashion is cyclical

I have never actually seen an episode of Gossip Girl, but anyone who spends even a minimal amount of time reading fashion blogs must by now be familiar with the clothes on the show. Indeed, every photo I've seen does suggest that the fashion on the show is covet-worthy. Is it just me, though, or do the looks on Gossip Girl bear a disturbing amount of resemblance to the looks in the 1989 dark comedy Heathers (by far, the best high school movie ever made)?

The Gossip Girls definitely strike me as modern, re-cooked Veronica Sawyers and Heather Chandlers. Both casts are frequently outfitted in a business-meets-twee look, with plaids and blazers abound. Take a look for yourself! It was pretty tough to find Heathers movie stills, but hopefully you will get the idea. Or, better yet, maybe you've seen the movie!

Gossip Girl Photos:

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Heathers Photos:

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(these are the same outfits as those above, but in color)
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Do you see the similarities too? Or did I eat a brain tumor for breakfast?

Back to old habits

I have missed doing outfit posts and remixing. I am off to the library to finish a paper, and perhaps afterward go hunting for a bright spring trench.

finally!

Headband: Belt from a vintage dress
Earrings: thrifted
Cowl-neck tee: Target
Skirt: Urban Outfitters
Polka-dot tights: Target
Pumps: Forever21

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There was a weird looking truck on the street.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Steve Madness

Usually I really love Steve Madden shoes, so I was excited to receive an e-mail about their clearance items. Ordinarily, there are great deals and it is pretty much the only way I can afford their shoes in the first place. There was a reason, though, that they are trying to get rid of these:

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Somewhere, a life-sized Bratz doll is walking around with very cold toes.

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I can't help but feel that these were ripped at the seams, causing its innards to spill out.

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Don't get me wrong - I love the mary janes over knee socks look. But am I the only one who thinks these boots have the appearance of a severed leg?

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Nothing says "I hate my classmates even more than I hate my parents" quite like these boots.

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I don't even wear flip-flops, so can someone explain to me the ideology behind wearing something whose sole design component is underneath one's feet? Is the idea to be complimented on them when you aren't even wearing them?

Party foul, Steve Madden. Party foul.

Trench Warfare

With another long Chicago winter drawing to a close, I am excited by the mere fact that I can leave my apartment without seeing my breath every time I exhale. It is no longer absolutely frigid and most of the snow on the ground has melted, so I can't help but want the world to look like this:

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Still, the weather here is so unpredictable. It will still be moderately chilly for a while, and even when the temperature is mild the wind makes being outside in insufficient clothing uncomfortable. In the past I have favored classic beige or black trenches for this time of year, but now I am craving a candy-colored trench like the ones aptly modeled by these stylish ladies:

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(Photos courtesy of Hel-Looks, Reykjavik Looks, and Liebemarlene on Wardrobe_Remix.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Return, and Graffiti gets chic!

I am back. I finally have consistent access to the internet, which is a relief in so many ways. I missed the blogosphere and greater internet world, and never realized quite how dependent I am upon the internet until I was without it for over a week. Here are just a few examples of how crippled I was:

* I have no actual dictionary and instead use an online version, so without the internet I could not look up spelling or usage of various words

* I get the vast majority of my news online, and pretty much missed everything that happened over the course of the past several days. I think there could have been a coup d'etat and I wouldn't have known.

* I could not look up addresses, phone numbers or maps

* I could not look up assignments for my classes (this information is posted online,) and had to pester my classmates for the info

* I had to take the train to school simply to check my e-mail

So, basically I am glad to be back. This week has pretty much conformed to Murphy's Law, though, and I have a pretty wretched cold. Between feeling like crap and having my work piled up for me for the rest of my finals week, I haven't worn anything worth looking at for days. I should have outfit posts running soon, as soon as I pull myself out of my rut.

In other news, I am charmed by this article which chronicles the latest in what is apparently a string of incidents involving 'knitting graffiti.' This small-town Ohio tree is the latest target of the warm and fuzzy street art:

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In some cases, the article states, people travel from several towns away to add their mark to the piece. The tree's vibrant sweater is even speckled with good-luck charms and pockets that contain poetry, jokes and photos.

Isn't that just darling? I wish everyone would put down the spray paint and pick up a pair of knitting needles.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

We are experiencing technical difficulties.

My laptop had a long and fulfilling life before passing away a few days ago. I am grateful for your condolences.

I am posting from a school computer but will be unable to post anything with images or import my own photos for a few days until I have a new computer of my own. This grieves me. After a short withdrawal I'll have the internet running through my veins again and I'll be able to blog with diligence and give everyone else's sites the attention they deserve.

Sorry for being MIA! I'll hop back on the wagon as soon as I can.

Oh, also, it is my finals week. This could not have come at a less convenient time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hand painted accessories: a (brush)stroke of genius

I love browsing the products of indie crafters, because their creations are so unique and inspirational. These designers can easily generate great diy ideas, or just dazzle me with their talent. These pieces are accessories-turned-canvases. Wouldn't you love to push the fashion-is-art envelope into literal territory with these hand painted gems?

This beautiful vintage 1920s clutch is being sold at Candy Says. It seems ethnically inspired, as if it was purchased abroad before the days of air travel and mass international trade.

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I found this charming scarf whilst trolling Etsy, in a shop called crystal j. There are so many printed silk scarfs in the world, and they are so easy to find in thrift stores that seeing a quirkier take is rather refreshing.

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Hot Pink Pistol is a fantastic painter who sells her wares on her own site and The Naughty Secretary Club. I love the Warhol-esque pop art quality of these items:

This bag is so reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein's blown-up comic strip art, right down to the dots:

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This one is too chic. I love the smoking kitten on a 'sex kitten' (vampy, not trashy!) wiggle dress. And the kitten is blowing smoke hearts! It is so cute when baby animals smoke.

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...and this one is brilliant. I have not a single item in my closet with David Bowie's face on it. There is really no excuse for this.

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Let's dance.