September 16, 2011

The Ontology of a Used Blouse

Outfit Deconstruction: Part 1

A categorical "real" or "fake" is an impossible distinction when it comes to clothing. Forget what the design council of whatever says about copyright and intellectual property and ownership and loss of profits. Set those well-worn point/counterpoint crossfire-style argumentation strategies aside.

Consider instead: The silk worm whose purpose from birth to death is to feed on mulberry leaves and emit the raw material for luxury garments, the technology of digital printing, the forever nameless and faceless garment worker covering tiny buttons in fabric, the physical space of a pattern archive and of endless reference libraries and visits to vintage showrooms for "inspiration." Consider the limitations: shirt, dress, pant, shoe, the body. But from these constraints the Great and Notable Designers of All Times provide infinite beauty through creation and creativity.

It's no secret that one designer I consider worthy of the title is Dries Van Noten. So you can imagine my excitement to stumble across a blouse "by" Mr. Van Noten on humble

The label sewn into the neck is akin to a signature, a form of authorship. At a vintage store, a dress might be labeled "handmade by [insert your grandma's name here]." This seems special to many of us. Likewise, a "designer" garment. We feel connected the the cult of the designer, her or his brand, often closely linked to a persona. But what of the garment itself? What makes it real?

This is a question I asked myself about this blouse.
photo via etsy listing

Scenario: A box arrives, taped in hot pink and filled with more than enough tissue paper, a handwritten thank you note. She opens the box, promptly tries on blouse, feels excitement over the intricacies of a print, unlike anything she's theretofore possessed. Marveling at its feather-like weight, she is content.

She inspects the inside of the blouse, out of habit. All seams are covered and finished, the construction a wonder for a shirt made out of fabric like a summer scarf. She checks the care tag. And there it is, the inscription, "Made in China." Further, a minor misspelling in the detailed message about not wearing jewelry so as not to snag the delicate fabric. And then the contradictory instruction to wash, rather than dry clean, the delicate silk blouse. She feels a sinking feeling.

China, where silk was perfected. China, where cheap clothes come from. China, a complication. I thought this was a Belgian designer?

Scenario: She now spends hours searching for more information. She is perfectly aware of the small likelihood that anyone would go through the trouble of creating a knockoff of an obscure designer's blouse line. And yet. Google is there with image searches and shopping search results, and she scans for those words, "Made in..." Where does Dries Van Noten manufacture clothing? Seems like Eastern Europe, sometimes Belgium, sometimes not Belgium. She knows enough to know that all the designers have things made in China. Why would her beloved be any different? And why, she wonders to herself DOES IT EVEN MATTER?

Real or fake? Keep or sell? How did I feel before? Maybe the fit is not so good around my hips. Do I want things because of who they are made by? Maybe I need to further reevaluate residual issues with class, ascendency, and ownership.

I decide: I have minor issues with the fit. It gathers on my hips where i wish it draped loose. This can be altered easily by adding vertical slits. I put on an outfit. Yet another pair of new pants. These make me happy. They are vintage, no tags. Selected solely for cut, fit, fabric, style. Easy.

Vintage pants from Reliquary boutique in Hayes Valley, San Francisco

Final Scenario: Etsy email exchange. She kindly asks for more information, no intention to leave negative feedback, no intention to return, no complaining whatsoever. Just a request for more background, if possible. Response: The blouse is from an estate sale in Colorado. It's been worn and dry cleaned. Seller never went this level of nutso over the details of information that will never be available, simply wore it and enjoyed it.

Searching for information about a thing to determine its realness is futile. The blouse is as real as the photo of it that I posted to the internet to show you that I bought a Dries Van Noten blouse. Tags or no tags, it's as real as the silk thread that gives it shape. There is a blouse. I typed a 16 digit code plus some personal identification information, and days later a package arrived and in it, something resembling some digital images upon which I based my transfer of Magic Money from a place that may not exist to a place where it can again be used in much the same way.

Deep Soul Search Results
I think that I just wanted my first time* to be more special. But isn't that how it always goes.

*buying Dries Van Noten

Outfit Deconstruction: Part 2


September 12, 2011

Maximal Pant-age for a Minimal Life

I think it's safe to say that I've developed a full-blow pants problem. As in, I keep buying new pants. Enough is enough! I have enough pants. I need to stop. I don't even have that many good shirts to go with this plenitude o' pants.

This pair comes from my St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles thrift store haul, from back in July. Actually, they came to me from my bff's findings, made mine in a generous thrift hand-down. Here, you can witness my first time wearing them out of the house. Or really, on my body at all since trying them on. So much hot pink fabric. Blah blah spring summer Jil Sander blah blah blah...

And so this was yesterday. This is not at all how I intended to capture these pants in photos to show to you guys. I meant to do some sleek n' chic minimal wall-standing, looking regal a la Brook and Lyn or some shit. I considered shirt tucked (pants are very high-waisted, as in there is about 5 more inches of rise covered by my shirt, below) but in the end, this is how I actually wore my clothes. So, realness.

Anyhow, I went off to find some perfectly lit wall in the harsh mid-day sun. (I was reminded how I didn't do so well in photo class.) I also wanted to show you the pants in motion, somehow. Billowing in the wind like they do. Something where you could almost hear the swish swish sound they make through the screen.

But, I got distracted. By this sign.

And then, further derailed by these beekeepers who we at first took to be a hilltop cult gathering for cultish activities, which IMO urban beekeeping might as well describe.

The real reason I can't be bothered to tuck in this shirt, even if it looked better from the front (ie gave me a waist, ie made me look thinner in photos), is this amazing back vent. I've sung the praises of this linen t-shirt before, but it is truly a fine garment. Goes well with many a crazy pant, and should last forever. I hope. I find the peek of back a sort of sexy that I can deal with, and I don't evoke the term "sexy" too often to describe my dress.

There is so much more fabric than you can even imagine. And if the pants weren't enough on their own, just think, they were originally part of a 2 piece pant suit, with matching jacket.

Some beautiful pleating, and my olive colored bag. Here, post-soy latte and blueberry muffin.

So there you have it. I went out one morning in hot pink enormé pants, posed in front of an aggressive spray painted message, then underneath some hilltop beekeepers, and then stopped for a latte and muffin. I'll have you know that after that outing, it was time to go home right back home.

September 1, 2011

Great Recommendations

It is only through the generosity of others that this lil ole blog has grown. Many new visitors are graced with my ramblings when sweet ladies like Miss Woo of Cheapskate Chic explicitly tell her readers to come pay me a visit. Enough of you have decided to stick around that I thought I might pass along a few of my very favorite current reads of the style blog variety.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!


sink then swim // Claudette
Claudette and I met briefly and crossed paths a few times while I was living in the Twin Cities. Yet we never exchanged more than a few niceties. I'll spare you my Craigslist Missed Connections lamentation on what our relationship could have been. What you should know is that the woman has impeccable taste and enviable style. Her blog contains a perfect balance of insightful text and striking imagery. I regularly learn about new people, places, and things from her.

For instance, did you know that seen from their peaks all mountains, regardless of shape or size, cast triangular shadows?

And it was her post on this Tilda Swinton editorial following a staff change at W and that led me to pick up a copy at the airport. I am seriously kicking myself for leaving it on the plane.

Claudette features some things fashion, but just as often posts concern photographers, artists, natural phenomena, or writers. I always look forward to her posts. Ok that last one goes for the other two ladies listed below as well.


the animal orchestra // Nadia
Nadia's blog is another source of enviable imagery. But this isn't just fancy photographs of myriad goods. She features sparse and carefully selected pieces of a cohesive aesthetic environment. Often, images focus on the details in close-up, highlighting an interest in textures, colors, plays of light. I very much enjoy this sense of the materiality of her objects. When she chooses to share her things, it's clear they are special.

I tried to "sum up" what I want to say to you about Nadia with some eloquence beyond just "go read her blog now," but all I can think about is how fucking rad that skirt and ring look. Damn.


I like Ally's blog for a couple of reasons. One, she is open about her life process as a young woman moving through the world. I enjoy her honesty and voice. But what caught my attention initially were her collages of awesome shit I would either want to wear or love to see people wearing, and her photos of her surroundings in Glasgow (though she has since moved to London).

I particularly enjoyed these scenes from her old neighborhood. 

And I specifically remember this collage. It piqued my interest and led to a deep perusal of her archives, because I'm an internet creep like that. I fell in love with that wooden platform sandal and the rest is RSS feed subscription history.


Each of these blogs delivers quality over quantity, and each of these ladies has a keen eye for what suits their taste. What comes across to me, despite stylistic differences, is the sense that behind the intriguing pictures these are all young women trying to make something of themselves.

Reading these, I feel connected to others working to create a space and a mode of being that suits particular sensibilities. As a place to play with the malleable ideas of images, blogs encourage growth and change, not only in outward appearances. They allow, at times demand, deepening one's consciousness. As far as I can tell, working such things out via style in a public forum is as good a place as any to move through this process.