Fresh style insights, tips and commentary by Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee and Carrie Leilam Love.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

L.A. Redux!

Is this Lady Gaga? This is performance artist Annie Sprinkle, wearing a cosmic headpiece as she and her pARTner Beth Stephens prepare to marry the moon in an elaborate ceremony in Alta Dena Saturday night.

This is Los Angeles resident Ariel Schrag, creator of the graphic novels Potential, Awkward, Definition and Likewise, which track her misadventures being queer at Berkeley High School in the 90s (a film version of Potential is in the works at Killer Films). It should be noted that Ariel is dressed in purple because that's the dress code for the wedding to the moon: all purple. I don't know if Ariel would be wearing such a royal ensemble otherwise. I sort of think not. Ariel used to write for The L Word, and right now she's writing for the HBO show How to Make It In America, which is about a couple of dudes trying to break into the fashion industry with a Rag and Bone-ish denim line. She also does a comic with her BFF Kevin Seccia wherein the duo traipse hilariously around Los Angeles. It's called Ariel and Kevin Invade Everything. On top of all of this, she's got great style. Whilst touring with her on Sister Spit last year, I took envious note of her luggage full of perfectly tailored Brooks Brothers shirts. It's time to investigate . . .

Ariel's handsome coat distracted me from the action on the wedding stage - a dramatic rendition of Goodnight Moon that you sort of had to see to believe. The coat is by Gant Rugger. Here it is again:

It's the little things that make all the difference, am I right? Like a twee bit of leather decorating your dangley hood string.

Over a French press of Cafe Bustelo the next morning, Ariel hauled a bunch of Steven Alan shirts from her closet and explained how she gets her causal preppy guy look so perfect: "My philosophy is, I buy women's clothes and then I get them tailored to look like men's clothes. With men's clothes, even a size small is too boxy. You can get the right length, but the shoulders will always be too big. But the women's shirts always do this horrible thing where they flair out just slightly at the waist, which makes me want to kill myself. So I take it to the tailor and he makes it completely straight, so it looks like a perfect child's shirt." Genius! Flaired lady shirts make me want to kill myself, too! And I'm a feminine person. Sometimes you just want to dress like a man.

"The jacket - they had these scrunchy pockets. A man would never walk around with scrunchy, poofy pockets, and neither will I. The tailor took the pockets off, flattened them out and sewed them back on."

Here's a Levi's men's jean jacket Ariel's magic tailor fixed up for her. "He went in and sewed it up all along the inseam, so it will fit me. A woman's jacket would have some annoying flair. Designers don't think woman want pockets, to put their hands in pockets. They need to be giving hand jobs or something." Where did you find this talented gentleman? "Kate Moennig recommended me, she said he could do anything. He's the type of person, he makes you feel good about your clothes. I was like, How much do you think this will cost, and he was like, Don't worry, you have a beautiful jacket, you'll be very happy. It's just some Levi's jean jacket, but I was like, I have a beautiful jacket! He could have charged me a hundred dollars, I felt like I was on Vicodin or something when I left."

"These are my three pairs of jeans. I only wear A.P.C. jeans, always A.P.C. Petite Standard. It's unisex. What's nice about A.P.C. jeans is that men wear the exact same ones. You'll see what happens with these jeans if you wear them every day. They turn into this." That would be the pair on the left, which are a year and a half old. The middle pair is seven months old and the black jeans on the right are four months old. "You can't wash them. You can run into the ocean and rub them with sand. I've done that once." For those who insist upon washing their APC jeans in a boringly civilized manner: "You first dry clean them, then put them in a cold bath with a splash of black Woolite. Then wrap them in a towel and let them hang dry." Totally easier to run into the ocean and rub them with salt. And so much more glamorous!

About the jeans on the left: "This is the perfect pair of jeans. The patches are good for a while, but I don't want to look like a hobo."

About the jeans on the right: "They've never been washed and you can see the raw denim, which is really nice."

"Before APC I thought I could only wear Uniqlo jeans, and now when I put on Uniqlo jeans I feel horrible. I can't believe I wore them."

"My style's so simple I don't have to worry too much. It's not going to become dated, because it's just too classic."

On writing for How to Make it in America: "I've learned a lot about the fashion industry, which has been fascinating. The showrunner, Ian, is really into fashion. On my interview for the show we were both wearing A.P.C jeans. He and I have really similar style, we also like J Crew sweaters. I've learned how the industry works - for instance, I didn't know about how reps and showrooms and buyers work. We have a character that gets involved with a fashion rep - a fashion rep puts you in their showroom. The buyers will come and look at the showroom and get you in Barney's or whatever fancy store you want to be in. I love shows that get into details of an industry I didn't know about." Ariel does her sartorial research online at New York Magazine's Cut, Dossier Journal and Refinery 29.

Time to take this conversation out of the closet and into the streets!
First stop: Opening Ceremony!

Here we have a pair of Keds for Opening Ceremony Camp Oxfords in one of my fave patterns ever, toile. They are a mere hundred dollars, and if you convert that amount from Opening Ceremony prices to more lowly boutique prices it comes out to, like, 35-cents. You can't afford not to buy it! But, I didn't buy it. I love toile a lot, but I feared that the novelty would wear off and I'd be stuck with a pair of hundred-dollar Keds. Here's a pair that will never lose their cool:

Are these the perfect kicks or what? Perfect. However, I couldn't even consider buying them, because all my energy, focus and brain power was being used up sneaking photos around the store. They're not allowed! I risked utter humiliation at the scolding hands of very, very stylish people, all for you, dear readers. Enjoy!

I have dreams about rooms like this. Rooms stuffed with incredible clothes, dream item after dream item crammed together on gleaming chrome racks, and I get to have whatever I want and I'm filled with tremendous anxiety as I try to make off with the entire inventory without looking like a fashion glutton. Alas, this did not happen at Opening Ceremony.

I like my stripes like I like my men: French and quirky. If you do too, you'll love agnes b. for Opening Ceremony.

Amazing embroidery on an Opening Ceremony jacket.

Just something luxurious to toss on while you're hunting deer in the canyon or whatever. Let's get a close-up of all that shearling:

Don't you want to just lay down and take a dreamy nap in this? It would be like catching a snooze in God's beard. Heavenly.

The look for hot sluts at Opening Ceremony this season: Tight, velvet, cut-aways. Nice.

Keep your scandalous self under wraps without losing dazzle with this heavily metal-and-rhinestone encrusted trench. Whoa. It feels good to be all weighed down with pure glamour.

The sumptuous bag and dignified accessories nook on the second floor.

It's like a raver went on a peyote-popping vision quest and barfed Pendleton all over the place. Those cool striped jeans on the right are Levi's for Opening Ceremony. I considered considering them but realized that the striped pants I thrifted in Warsaw for 17 zloty are just as awesome! Score! Let's get a close up of that groovy boot:

You can't see it, but there's a bit of rawhide strung with beads wrapped around the side. Yes.

Okay, this is the least expensive thing in the store: Pendleton meets Opening Ceremony socks! Cute, and only $35. Which, after some currency conversion, equals out to them paying you to buy the socks! So, you simply must. Though I did not. They have thigh-highs for ladies, too, but those are literally a hundred dollars more, and worth it if you got it. My thigh-high moratorium has officially come to a close! Now let's go into the dressing room so I can try on some items I'm not going to buy:

Alexander Wang made it easy for me not to buy this chunky, amazing knitted shrug - I couldn't figure out how to put it on.

This lady clearly had the aid of a stylist. Unfair! Incidentally, this is the second time I've tried to try on a piece of clothing at Opening Ceremony, and then got all tangled in it and gave up. Which only proves how genius the clothing in this place is. Suggestion: Intelligent Ladies' Maids at all the dressing rooms, ready to assist with the straps and holes and snaps and buckles of complicated pieces.

Okay, this is a Pendleton meets OC ankle-length wool skirt, in this mild maroon and dark gray plaid. I feel like the hottest one-room-schoolhouse teacher on the entire prairie. I'm used to most things I try on anyplace not really fitting me well, and I was kind of shocked at how perfect the skirt fit. Certain it was a fluke, I was unprepared for what happened when I tried on the next piece, a Pendleton um jumpsuit:

Hello, what the fuck? This is the best garment that has even been made, ever, in the history of the world. Have you ever had the experience of feeling completely transformed by a piece of clothing? I put this on and instantly felt I could do anything: become America's Next Top Model in spite of being nearly 40 and 5'3; hop on a motorcycle, though I do not drive, and zoom over to a nearby bank to gracefully and non-violently rob it. No - hop on my beloved horse, though I've never ridden a horse, and gallop over to the nearby bank and politely ask the bank manager to just give me all their money, which they would, because the jumpsuit has benevolent yet extreme supernatural powers. Then I would take the money and trot my horse over to a nearby MedSpa and give her a unicorn horn implant, because we are in Los Angeles. I myself would decline any procedures, because my jumpsuit has rendered me perfect. Can we look at it again?

Fuck. Yes. It is $630 dollars and I am on the verge of creating a Kickstarter page to raise the money. What do you think? Would it be a genius piece of um performance art or an act of high douchebaggery? I promise to donate to all of your fashion Kickstarter pages! Let's do it! Keeping each other looking good is a community effort!

Look! It's le pied de Ariel Schrag! Should she buy these cool high-top boat shoes by Band of Outsiders for Sperry Topsider? I say yes! Here's another question: Is the whole So-And-So for So-And-So by So-And-So meets So-And-So getting a little maddening? It's very LGBTQIQ, is it not?

Look what we found in the Opening Ceremony Bookstore! An interview with Ariel in Girls Like Us, which is not just the only good lez magazine, it's a really great magazine, period. Ariel's so famous!

Next we're off to the unfortunately named boutique Confederacy in Los Feliz, which didn't give a crap that I was running around taking pictures of everything.

My new favorite jacket: a two-toned 3.1 Philip Lim motorcycle jacket made of the softest leather I've ever touched, with silk trench-coat cuffs. A seriously brilliant design. Really - look at those cuffs:

Thank you, Mr. Lim.

While I was furtively molesting the Philip Lim leather jacket, Ariel was busy fondling soft, soft Steven Alan sweaters.

While the Found By line seemed to be thrifted items that some enterprising person brought to the dry cleaners and stuck a hundred-dollar price tag on, the aesthetic allure of these bags is undeniable. Though maybe you can hang anything on an exposed brick wall and I'll suddenly think it's worth a hundred dollars.

It is no longer enough for boutiques to simply sell clothes - you've got to sell me an entire aesthetic experience, man, a total environment, a simulacrum of a rural domesticity I have never known but yes, I dig it!

Hay. It's a lifestyle thing.

The suggestion that one could, say, be bitten by a rattlesnake while trying on cardigans gives the shopping experience a frisson of danger!

Speaking of, should Ariel get the green Gant Rugger cardigan, or the red one?

It's a win-win situation.

Alexander Wang flannel booties. Sigh.

I mostly can't wear leopard because I wore it too much in the 90s and it just makes me think of bad rockabilly looks that won't die, but these shoes were sort of making me reconsider.

A hot, hard-working man-tote by Levi's.

The perfect man-trench, courtesy of Band of Outsiders.

Confederacy gets an A+ in style and lifestyle; if only they would change their stupid name! It makes everyone uncomfortable, Confederacy, it really does. And it doesn't matter that you named it after the novel Confederacy of Dunces. That book sucks. You want to name your boutique after some rugged, manly tome? How about Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian? Just call it Meridian! Fiskadoro, after the Denis Johnson novel, would also work. You're welcome.

Oou on Vermont Street in Los Feliz sells a smartly edited mishmash of new clothing by small designers and used items that are total treasures, in particular a whole bunch of amazing leather and canvas bags. Check it:

They had some great boots, too:

Will I spend the rest of my life regretting not buying these wonderful Frye boots in my size? Yes.

Oou's new neighboor is the incredible pop-up boutique New High Mart. These people have mastered the shopping-as-a-fully-sensory-experience experience. It is easily the best smelling room I have ever walked into, and me and my retail companions were totally dazed when we left, like we had fallen down some wondrous, artisanal, urban-pastoral jack-rabbit hole. "Now I understand how putting together a store is really like curating," breathed one would-be shopper. It was like wandering through a really amazing gallery installation with spiritual undertones. They wouldn't let me take any pictures, but I took one anyway and almost got busted, and then the lady was chasing me to make sure I wasn't getting pen on anything while I wrote in my little notebook. Jeez! Don't harsh my mellow, woman, I'm trying to zen out to your perfectly curated mountain hipster market! Here:

For sale: Martin Margiela 6 puffy muffler-slash-purse, backless looseknit MM6 cardigans, Vivienne Westwood for Melissa shoes (the only place I've found them in the US outside Epaulet in Brooklyn) - and even more exciting, gorgeous Alexander Herscovitch for Melissa beige jelly wedge Oxfords (!), intricate sweaters with attached drapey scarves by LennyLeLeu, and really fantastic wool jeans by B'sbee. Plus fake Pendleton hair bows, wool socks, skeins of wool, Birkenstocks, caftan-ish button-ups, and more.

Afterwards we collapsed at nearby Umami Burger for some umami burgers. Don't believe those know-it-alls on Yelp - the burgers were delicious! The onion rings were gross, though the umami ketchup was delightful. I am now accepting recipes for umami ketchup if there are any culinary whizkids out there who feel like sharing.

I can't hit Los Feliz without visiting one of my most favorite bookstores on the planet, Skylight Books. They just opened an amazing annex a couple doors down, stocked with magazine, art books and graphic novels! I cruised photo books by Barry Shapiro and Maripol, and made my only purchases of the day: a prized copy of the obscure, ideal women's fashion mag The Gentlewoman (thanks to fellow IBC-er Michael von Braithwaite for turning me on to this - check out her recent blog about Issue 2! And, if anyone has Issue 1, I will buy it off you!) and n+1's What Was the Hipster: A Sociological Investigation, a collection of papers and essays responding to an, um, symposium on hipsterdom that took place at the New School. For real. I'm looking forward to Jennifer Baumgardner's piece on Williamsburg, and an entry titled 'On Douchebags'.

I leave you with a final glimpse of my lost love, the only jumpsuit that ever fit me. Good-bye.


  1. michelle i want to date you in that jumpsuit. because everyone wants to rub elbows with perfection at least once in their life. plus, i bet ariel would make a comic about it.

  2. TOILE! Holy shit those shoes are awesome!

  3. Also I was unsure about those Pendleton boots when I saw them online in another forum but now I'm sold. I would totally wear that business.

  4. Page, those boots would really POP with your stoic color palette. Do it! Seinberg, how about a coffee date, in gym clothes? I know it's not the same . . .

  5. michelle i want to date you in that jumpsuit. because everyone wants to rub elbows.

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