As I (ostensibly) enter the world of adulthood I am more and more leaving the crop-tops and high waisted denim shorts of college behind me. Unfortunately I haven’t yet figured out my go-to stylish-yet-sophisticated-yet-still-displaying-the-requisite amount of personality outfits. After the cheeky way I was able to dress in a previous life, more grown up affairs continue to leave in me somewhat a sartorial quandary.
So, when my boss informed me we’d be heading over the headquarters of a think tank later on that evening for drinks I was at a loss. What does one wear to go talk about cybersecurity and hacktivism and be taken seriously as someone who would likely be the youngest and blondest in the room, while still conveying my interest in the topic? Can I dress in theme? What would one even wear to a cybersecurity themed party? Can I ever get my mind out of my sorority? Is this what adulthood is like?
My boss had sent me to change since our general office attire wasn’t suitable for such an occasion. Naturally I spent 45 minutes rummaging through my closet playing out all the eventualities in my head. I landed on this ensemble—the black definitely was intended to convey a degree of seriousness and maybe make me feel a bit like a spy, which felt oddly fitting. I tried my best to channel my inner-Audrey (a great departure from my now usual loose-fitting pants, crop top and slides). The top was one that I generally had not found occasions that warranted the beautiful vintage Chanel, but I felt this could be that time. The rather intense monochrome of the outfit i felt needed to be offset by some type of accessory—and when channeling old Hollywood heroines—why not add the scarf?
Over the course of the evening, I undoubtedly stood out, but with my age and distinct lack of initials after my name that was somewhat an inevitability, and as bold a choice as the scarf definitely added to it. The most important thing for me was that I felt like myself in the clothes and as such had the confidence to talk to the rather impressive array of individuals in the room. after all, that’s what an outfit is for isn’t it?
The latest offering by the Serbian-born London-based designer gave me life—and a new standard for how to dress for the office. Seriously that silk gold jacket with the office-ready one piece? How are you not going to listen to any suggestion an individual wearing that makes? I’d open up an ice cream parlor in Chicago in February if the idea came from someone cool enough to have that level of effortless cool in their rotation. If Jeremy Scott made me think about the industry as a whole, Roksanda made me think about my own sartorial choices, and how to incorporate that level of classic understatement into my own life. Let’s be real—subtlety is not my forte—but that’s why we have designers giving us something to strive for.
Maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed with old Hollywood at the moment thanks to the “You Must Remember This Podcast” (if you’ve never listened—do it. It tells the stories of so many Hollywood power players you’ve heard the names of from cinema snobs and nodded pretending you knew what they were talking about). Anyway, Moschino took what at first seems gimmicky with the trompe l’oeil evening dresses—but still managed to make those would-be cheesy garments seem glamorous. He gave us exciting clothes, made me smile a bit but still made me think about the superficiality of the very industry of which he is a part—keeping it meta and clever as always. Jeremy Scott has been doing this since he took over the brand, but I think this might be his best yet. And what with the same tromp l’oeil technique appearing at Thom Browne as well, I’m guessing this paper doll concept is going to percolate down into the shops soon enough and I’ll probably end up wearing a fake-body lingerie dress at some point. Cause why the hell not?
OK so I already mentioned this collection in connection to Moschino, but I have to give Thom Browne his due as well. The set (which sadly my only impression comes from obsessively clicking through the slideshows on Vogue.com—where’s my invite Thom?), was tiled tiled in a manner evocative of a pool gave the impression of the opulence of Cleopatra, though cleverly paired with some looks that reminded me of Cher Horowitz splashed with Easter. The elaborate sunglasses shielding the eyes of each model added to the inaccessibility of life of the woman wearing these and whatever kind of bacchanalian DAR meeting they were attending. It’s taking inspiration, and in the degree it’s taken literally, it’s truly saying something interesting. Rather than borrowing from other eras or kinds of people (lookin at you Jacobs) it’s stealing it, turning it around and repackaging it entirely.
This past weekend, I decided to show a friend who was new to LA the pristine joys of Manhattan Beach. We had made the plan before we had actually checked the forecast for the day (a habit that I know means I’ve been in the city too long). I had been hoping to take advantage of the last few weeks diving in without a wetsuit doesn’t remind me of the legendary Polar Bear swims of my good ole days of summer camp. Sadly, Southern California decided to deviate from the uniform of 75 and sunny. The overcast skies and slight breeze kept me on dry land, despite the surprisingly pleasant temperature of Pacific Ocean in September.
Needless to say, this was not the introduction to my favorite piece of coastline I had in mind. I may be a princess about the cold but I do really prefer leaving the beach smelling of salt and seaweed than seeing the sound of the waves lapping up against the shore as mere background noise. However, Angelinos are an entertaining lot and people-watching is undoubtedly a favorite past-time. I therefore wrapped myself tightly in my denim jacket and took in the cast of characters populating Manhattan that day.
There were six beefy men battling the waves atop a massive paddle board that kept our attention for a bit. They would use all their (rather impressive) arm muscle to maneuver the swells until nature inevitably won-out flipping over their absurdly large vessel. They all popped up afterwards looking like they’d just gotten off a rollercoaster and I definitely contemplated asking to hop on.
There were two children running around fully naked, though they had reached an age where the social acceptability of this was rather questionable. A group of beautiful thirty-somethings sat nearby, making sure the sand the children were flinging only hit each other. We amused ourselves trying to figure out whose children they were (none of the women looked like they could be the mother) or if group babysitting was what magazines would be calling a new brunch alternative in the coming months.
Next, my attention turned to the girl sitting eyes-closed and cross-legged by the base of the pier while someone moved around her snapping away on his iPhone. I pointed her out to my friend with a giggle with a derisive giggle.
Ok I’m a terrible person, I know, but God sometimes there is no greater joy than witnessing people fall into stereotypes as I look down from my imperious throne, judging what I see as their entirely unoriginal ways. There’s a satisfaction in watching people be sucked into the boxes I had already placed them in—a sort of sick pleasure that comes from feeling like you’ve figured out the people and the world around you. (Obviously I’m not immune to falling into boxes of my own—I have a Basic Bitch Jar on my kitchen table and an ounce of self-awareness. But I digress.)
But watching this girl gave the judgmental bitch in me an absurd pleasure. She simply checked the boxes I wanted for one of my favorite LA-staple boxes: the instagram yogi.
You’ll find this type of girl in various locales across the city that can look like you’re out in nature (without actually having to trek) when cropped to the square on your feed. She’ll contort herself into some kind of display of strength or flexibility and the resulting image seems to be intended to look as though some photographer happened to catch a majestic gumby-girl in her natural habitat and snapped a pic as she looks intently off into the distance, blissfully unaware of her audience.
Given where I was, and what was actually happening at the beach, I couldn’t help but find the whole display entirely ridiculous. The serene image that she would inevitably end up posting certainly didn’t encapsulate anything of what was actually going on. There was nothing serene about the dudes and their paddle boards or the uncomfortably naked children, all within 20 feet of her. With her placid expression and decided lack of a smile she just looked like she was taking herself so fuckin seriously.
So naturally, when the halcyon waves decided to come up and hit her in the back, I couldn’t help but bust a gut.
She was sitting in her placid posture, allowing the waves gently lap up against her lululemons—the picture of blissful meditation. But, the capricious ocean had other ideas and one particularly powerful wave came up and knocked the savasana right out of her. She jumped up, squealed, and checked out her now-soaking rear end. After a deep breath, she collected herself and sat resolutely back down, quickly resuming her meditative pose.
OK I’m not nice. I laughed. A lot. Basic yoga bitch gets hit by a wave—its classic comedy. And the fact that she didn’t laugh herself certainly convinced me she was taking herself waaaaay too seriously.
But, I am nothing if not prone to over-analysis and I did think about the girl later on. There was something about the resolute way in which she resumed her shoot—the single-minded-ness with which she approached getting the picture she had envisioned. The more I thought about it—the more I couldn’t help but admire it. That’s tenacity. Maybe she was too clueless to think about the people around her—unaware that I probably wasn’t the only person on the beach giggling at her misfortune. But more likely she just didn’t care. And I was jealous.
She had a goal. To many, it may have been a silly one, but she wanted that picture, and nature be damned she was getting it. Fuck the haters (me). She had a goal and she went after it, whether or not she looked utterly absurd in doing it. And she was going out and getting what she wanted. And of course the picture didn’t represent the beach as we were experiencing it. But she was showing her version of the truth. She was in charge. Creating her own reality to populate the feed of her followers.
So here comes the part where I learned something from yogi girl. Yeah, maybe she took herself a bit seriously (and maybe I’m taking her a bit too seriously with how dangerously close I came to calling her instagram ‘art’ back there—but that’s a debate for another post) Let’s be real, she was pretending to do Yoga at the beach. But nothing ever happened pretending you don’t care and waiting for opportunities to come to you.
It’s easy to sit on in judgement when you aren’t doing anything. When you’re sitting on the beach armed with a denim jacket and an I-don’t-care attitude shielding you it’s easy to judge. The yoga girl was ‘doing the most’ but she’s the one who will end up actually doing the most. But the fact is photographers aren’t wandering around looking for beautiful limber women who happen to be doing yoga, asking to take a picture of them then catapulting them to stardom. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that there’s going to be someone there trying to show the world how good you are. You have to do that yourself sometimes–create the opportunities yourself and show off your talents.
This might be the most millennial way humanly possible to come to the age-old realization you need to follow your dreams and forget what other people think—but I certainly can take a nod from the struggling yoga girl. If there’s something you want in life, whether it be a job, a relationship, a fit physique, a dope-looking instagram post, or a cookie you have to make it happen. Sometimes that requires having other people laugh at you and maybe getting your expensive athletic apparel a bit damp.
taking yourself too seriously is damaging, but not taking yourself seriously at all doesn’t do too much either. Yeah, I was able to laugh at her because she was putting herself out there, but putting yourself out there is the only way to get exactly what you want. By blocking myself off in an armor of denim and judgement, I get to laugh, but I also don’t get to do anything else. What the randoms on the beach think of you doesn’t really matter. My laughter doesn’t affect her daily existence whatsoever, but the fact that she can go take the pictures she wants? That does.
So I’ve decided to follow the wet-rat yogi’s example and start up the old blog again. Put myself out there. Risk getting my proverbial lulus wet. Gotta be the instagram yogi I wish to see in the world. Or something like that.
I clearly spend far too much of my time thinking about the way in which my appearance affects the way in which others see me. Given the fact I spend every other week writing about it, I probably should be master of my own first impression by now. But the fact of the matter is that despite my best efforts—all the careful consideration I put into every facet of the way I look—I’ve learned recently that these efforts have somewhat backfired. Apparently people have been getting a message from my clothing that I never meant it to send, namely that I’m a self-possessed bitch.
When discussing this newfound issue with a friend, she ascribed it society’s tendency towards a sort of tribe mentality based on ways of dressing. She claimed that, in the US especially, we use clothing as a way to identify a ‘tribe’, meaning people like us. As a society, we have decided that a similarity in the way we dress and carry ourselves hints at something more than a similar color palette or an affinity for a certain type of fabric. We look at someone and figure we have a pretty good shot at guessing what books they read, music they listen to, etc and whether or not we will be able to find something in common with this person. We use ways of dressing as a sort of tribal markings allowing them to tell us with whom we should and shouldn’t associate.
We often decide that musical preference can be guessed at by tribe membership, but people also seem to firmly believe they can guess at unexpected things based on this fact alone. The more immersed in fashion I’ve become, the more I’ve fallen into the tribe of girls who care about the way they dress. Little did I know that some people have decided that one of the fundamental attributes of the tribe of girls who care about the way they dress is that all they care about is the way they dress. If that is not one of your defining characteristics, then you aren’t worth talking to, according to this tribe. I had always thought that by not being a bitch people wouldn’t think you were a bitch, but apparently this impression is determined solely by tribe affiliation. Apparently society has decided that the tribeswomen are stupid shallow and only worth as much as their Daddy’s credit card, but this tribe considers themselves to be above everyone who doesn’t consider the mall their mother ship.
Friendship is clearly based in common-interest. Obviously I love to talk about clothes, and I do see a really fabulous watch as a potential basis for a conversation in a way people who don’t care if their watch is fabulous might find excessive. But that 1-doesn’t mean I think a conversation about watches is better than a conversation about anything else (though I suppose the glee with which I discuss something I consider a truly great purchase might tell you otherwise). 2- it doesn’t mean I, or anyone else belonging to such a tribe, can’t talk about things besides fabulous watches. I sat next to a girl on a bus and a friendship was quickly ignited. Clothing was never mentioned. We spent the entire bus ride discussing the fact that we were both harboring a secret obsession with Panic! At the Disco long past the point when such an obsession was socially acceptable. It took her looking through my ipod and seeing how extensive my collection was (I even had the Live! In Chicago album) and actually getting to know each other as human beings (or at least as Panic! fans) to mutually discover the depths of our mania. We all clearly ascribe to a certain mode of dressing, and that does give the world a message about who we are. But no one wants to think that they are nothing but their tribe, and don’t have little hidden attributes no one would expect. (I’m looking at you, condescending bitch of a saleswoman at Land’s End. Just because I don’t wear smartwool socks to the mall does not mean I’ve never been on a hike before.) I like to think everyone’s a little more complex than that.
Hate to do it, but I gotta bring it back to my Germans. As in the philosophers. Kant’s obviously my boy. And in the Critique of Pure Reason (Critique of Pure Fashion, get it? Haha?), he separates the world into what he calls the phenomenal and the noumenal worlds. We access the world through our senses, and this is the world he calls the phenomenal world. The noumenal world is the world as it really is. This is the world we can’t access through sight feel or smell, it is the world of the thing-in-itself. All we know is the phenomenal world we can’t access the thing-in-itself, as we only gain knowledge of the world around us through our senses. But that doesn’t mean that the noumenal world isn’t there.
Kant probably never meant for this to be applied to the world of fashion, but that’s how I think of it. Yes, we do have access to a surface view of any given person, and yes, this impression is valid. Appearance is a part of the limited access we have to a person. Sight is a fundamental way through which we gain knowledge of the world. However, I like to think we all are people beyond this—we all have the noumenal worlds of our own brains that no one else will have access to because they can’t get inside our heads. Fashion and appearance is a way of controlling the phenomenal world the rest of humanity has access to, and maybe give some type of insight into the noumenal.
Tribes are a natural way of seeing the world, and categories make life easier. People are so varied, we want to find something basic to cling to. Putting people into tribes or categories helps us make the world and social relationships a little easier to navigate. It’s a lot less scary to enter into a conversation with someone that we can reasonably anticipate finding things to talk about with, and we obviously make this judgment based on things we find at the surface. But we also have to be aware of the fact that the surface isn’t all that’s there, and our tribe categorization doesn’t give us a complete peek into someone else’s mind.