Monday, May 31, 2010
You know your look comes from the heart when you can look this stylish naked.
I'm reading Just Kids, Patti Smith's memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, who she met by fated chance on her first day in New York City, carrying a plaid suitcase, no money, no home, no job, hoping to crash with friends who'd actually moved and Robert was the guy down the hall, lounging dreamily in his room, who helped her find her friends' new apartment. " . . . he rose in one motion, put on his huaraches and white t-shirt, and beckoned me to follow him." The book, which you surely already have heard is majestically good, is also full of style detail - Patti's rain coat, worn in the heat of July and transmitting a 'La Boheme' kinship to fellow penniless, park-sleeping seekers; Patti's beatnik sandals and 'ragged scarves', Robert's sheepskin vest and love beads. The book is entirely romantic, mainly because Patti Smith is a romantic, and her prose is romantic, and she's writing about a romance with a kindred romantic spirit, and the romance infuses even the clothing and jewelry of their moment, transforming simple objects into spiritual talismans, transmitters of destiny. Patti gets a job at Brentano's bookstore and Robert, who magically works at a different branch, comes in to purchase a Persian necklace she had become obsessed with.
'It was made of two enameled metal plaques bound together with heavy black and silver threads, like a very old and exotic scapular, It cost eighteen dollars, which seemed like a lot of money. When things were quiet I would take it out of the case and trace the calligraphy etched upon its violet surface, and dream up tales of its origins.'
Finally finding a home together, he gives Patti the necklace on their first night, wrapped in violet tissue and tied with satin ribbon.
For his 21st birthday Patti bought Robert a silver bracelet she'd found at a pawnshop, engraving Robert Patti blue star onto it. A reference to Venus, ' . . . the shepherd's star and the star of love. Robert called it our blue star.' The pair, too broke to do much but wander around New York City, would take nighttime walks, gazing up at their planet and the moon and the stars. Dreamy.
Patti's androgynous style is soul-deep, revealing itself in childhood when she dreamed of wearing coonskin caps and being Davy Crockett, furiously declaring that she was not a girl but Peter Pan when her mom tried to make her start wearing shirts in the summer. Her clothes in the photos here are surely a result of poverty as well as personal style, but worshiping as she did vagabond poets like Rimbaud, Patti wore her tatters with deliberate cool. Look at the perfect rolled cuffs of her jeans with their blown-out knees, the weird way she's tucking her too-small shirt into the waist, her mullet-y hairdo.
I love everything about this photo - how silky her shirt looks, it's unbuttoned-ness, the hole in the elbow, the scraps around her wrist, her wild hair and the wilder look in her eye like she's daring you to dare her to cut it. Not that she would give a fuck what you thought, anyway. As she told the New York Times Style section, "My style says, 'look at me, don't look at me.' It's 'I don't care what you think.'
I love her jeans here, too - what, does she have a rag tied around her ankle? Why have I not thought to tie a rag around the ankle of my jeans? This drape-y, tunic-y thing is Rick Owens cool, but like the rest of her tatters it's no doubt the result of thrift store menswear not fitting her scrawny body. And it looks awesome, the way ill-fitting menswear can look on a female, like of course you are not even trying, like you are following the sartorial cues of some incredible, inaccessible rock 'n' roll cult.
Patti in braids! And more men's clothes that don't really fit her. The thing is, she looks sexy and so essentially rock 'n' roll, but also classic, like she created her own new classic way to dress, which she has. And dignified all at the same time, noble, like Joan of Arc, who she'd pledged herself to before taking off to meet her NYC destiny. There is also something of the Vietnam war protester in this one, a reference I like to draw on when feeling bad about army looks, how 60s protesters were the ones who brought army jackets from the war to the streets.
Later, older, with money and fame and success her style remains the same, the tatters and the oversized-ness a clear style decision. She has famously said that she wears only 'vintage and Ann Demeulemeester,' the amazing, moody Belgian designer who calls Patti her best friend and soul mate. Oh wait, I do love this one picture of her in a Christian Dior gown -
You'd think maybe Patti Smith would look absurd in a ball gown, but her sharpness and dignity synch up with the severity and drama of this one, and clearly she can wear whatever the hell she wants, anyway.
Ann Demeulemeester based her 2006 collection on Patti Smith' iconic look, sending cute boys down the runway in some sort of rocker Victor-Victoria aesthetic tangle: boys dressing like a girl who was dressing like a boy. Or whatever.
I like the whole sweet underlying narrative of this, that of Patti Smith as a yearning young person, utterly inspired and consumed by this longing to live the life of an artist, dressing to emulate Rimbaud and Bob Dylan, carrying on a conversation with the style expressions of other artists, and years later another artist, Demeulemeester, inspired by Patti Smith's art and life and style conceives of an entire collection around the artist, inadvertently pulling in all these other dormant influences. You can see Bob Dylan via Patti Smith in the guy above, and Arthur Rimbaud as well. Of course now the look costs, oh man I guess I don't know for sure but I would guess that entire outfit is like $10,000. But we know from earlier photos that you can look just as hot (hotter) for literally nothing, if you go picking your clothes up off the street like Patti did.
Ann and Patti walking the runway at the close of the 2006 show. Like Patti Smith, Ann Demeulemeester is aging in a ruggedly handsome way women are generally discouraged from aging, all wild hair and wrinkles and her own mannish designs, smoking cigarettes and whatnot. "I don't have the problem that a lot of other people have: that's it's awful to grow old. We all get older. I'm happy to grow older," she told WWD. (In 2009 she joined designers Etro and Yohji Yamamoto in sending senior citizens down the runway.) Other musicians the designer loves include Tom Verlaine, Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Nico and PJ Harvey; for her Spring/Summer 2010 womens' line she sent models down the catwalk to a Bruce Springsteen cover of a Suicide song. So, in addition to wanting her clothes, I would also like the woman to make me a mix CD. Here's a look from that show:
What up, zipperhead! She sent the men down the runway wearing those same headbands.
Let's end with some photos of Patti Smith, now about 64 years old, looking fucking awesome. I've got to get back to Just Kids, which I have spent most of the day reading, noting that today is Memorial Day, Joan of Arc's feast day and the day, in 1967, that both Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, on the verge of meeting one another, pledged their lives to art, synching themselves up to their incredible destinies.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
The old rock band t-shirt reinvented with more refined materials and modern, flattering and/or feminine cuts have been a bit of a fashion phenomenon the past few years. Many a reconstructed tee are sold on Etsy and by designers like House of the Gods, and they’re all over stores like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters.
I’ve been very torn about how to feel about these shirts. When I stumbled upon this gem, I carried it around Forever 21 for a good half hour, confused and terrified, before ultimately deciding it was worth the $15.80.
Music by 60s and 70s rock bands – the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, etc. – was, for me, my formal introduction to teenage rebellion, and my best friend and I obsessed over Pink Floyd, saving our lunch money for the event of them ever getting back together. As a 14-year-old growing up in the suburbs in the 1990s, I found so much comfort (and so much discomfort) in this radically emotional music from several decades earlier. Lyrics like “Mother, should I trust the government?” screamed at me from my t-shirt and my stereo simultaneously while I laid in my bed, thinking about how totally fucked up society was. This exploration of deep, dark emotions often was not pretty: it sometimes went hand-in-hand with depression, eating issues, drugs and a slew of other self-abusive behaviors. And in some ways, I feel insulted to be offered re-entry into an emotionally charged adolescent world where I first learned to question the status quo via a $15 Pink Floyd tank top.
And yet… in a way, isn’t that what fashion always is? Whether you find your inspiration flipping through a fashion magazine or through Janis Joplin liner notes, it’s always an attempt to make a connection; to get in touch with something that resonates with you in a way that sometimes defies logic. And to mark yourself as a part of it, claiming it as your own, even if – like Pink Floyd to a teenager in the 90s – it belonged to some other culture, community or generation entirely.
Finding a shirt like this at a store like Forever 21 feels sort of like a really amazing thrift store find in that it is cheap & it is very well possibly the only item of its kind in the entire store and you found it stuffed amongst string bikinis and ill-fitting pin-stripe pants that you know better than to even attempt to try on. And I imagine that this clothing is, in effect, for now grown-up Pink Floyd fans. Or Led Zeppelin or Doors or Eagles fans. My shirt seems to me to not say “I Heart Pink Floyd" as much as it says, "I hearted Pink Floyd, and I survived, and I continue to heart them now from a very specific distance and angle."
There’s something awesome and powerful about repurposing garments from your past in a way that suits you now. As if to say, “Hey XL Pink Floyd shirt that I wore in 9th grade when I was sad and stoned and self-mutilating and hated my body: I have arrived.” The one I got at 4E21 is oversized in a much more deliberate way, with a scoop neck, and a racer back. It has the words “What Do You Want From Me” written in pink in all caps as if in spray paint with an enormous open-winged owl, and the back is slashed in a very precise-yet-punk way & it’s totally excessive and kind of embarrassing but also exhilarating. As if it’s saying, “Hey 1996, I don’t need you. It’s over.” Instead of crying hopelessly or secretly slicing my arms with a pocket knife while listening to Wish You Were Here on repeat, I wear a shirt with over-the-top laser-cut shreds going down the back in a straight line. And I wear it unabashedly, with a pair of skinny jeans, metallic heels, and no hemp jewelry whatsoever.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I wish it looked like this:
In my mind it does, anyway.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
It's weird to like fashion inspired by football because I hate, like really hate, football. I just leave my body entirely when forced to observe anything sporting (excepting, of course, faggy sports like figure skating or anything with a good costume. I also enjoy a good luge.), so I guess it would be sort of poseurish to wear such items, but then being against, like, war is not enough to kill my attraction to many military-inspired pieces, including an army-ish miniskirt I found for $19 on the sale rack at Urban Outfitters a couple weeks ago. Like sexual fantasy, fashion stakes its claim on you in your subterranean places, overriding good sense, politics, rational thought, morality, ethics, reality, whathaveyou. It's a wordless pulse that hangs out where imagination leaches creepy dreams and stubborn desires, where brain chemistry gets dripped from beakers and hormones surge and stop. Nothing else explains the irrational need for something you, um, don't actually need, ever. Or the time a pair of spectator pumps tried on while in the throes of intense PMS got me high, I mean it, or how I have been moved to tears by any number of intelligently designed or dramatically presented pieces of clothing. This shit is physical. As a person whose whirring mind occasionally feels like a gun pointed in on itself, I appreciate the visceral hold fashion has on my psyche. It doesn't make sense because it doesn't have to. You don't need to use language to behold it unless you want to. Once, when I was newly sober and a wreck all the time, just very raw, I went to the art museum and looked at a Rothko painting, a patch of orange and a patch of blue, and I stared at the orange until the color throbbed in my head and I felt a sun rise in my solar plexus, I swear. I walked over to read the little plaque about the piece and learned that the artist had intended to induce a spiritual experience in the viewer. It worked! And fashion works like that, too, or it can, as it is art as well, don't forget. Okay, but anyway, don't you want to see what those jock strap socks look like on?
P.S. Those black shoes are maybe my favorite shoes in the world right now, too.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
My Grandfather was the most fashionable man I have ever known. He was a british man who worked in the fashion industry. At the time of his death he was working for Brooks Brothers. He traveled often and to many countries looking for fabrics. We called him Pop-pop. Every Christmas he took my sister and I into New York for lunch and a Broadway show. Many times making us walk the long New York blocks in the blistering cold to restaurants like, Top of the 6's and Sardi's. If the restaurant did not serve hamburgers he would have called ahead to make sure they were prepared to do so. If they tried to seat us near the kitchen or a bathroom all hell would break loose. So not only did I learn how to dress well from him but also how to break bread properly, and that sitting near bathrooms and kitchens is not cool. On workdays he wore a suit with his hair slicked back. On weekends I woke to him in the den listening to Mile's Davis wearing khaki's, a pastel striped oxford, a bow-tie and loafers, his hair parted to the side and reading the paper. I remember even his beach towel being enviable and always matching his swim trunks. Though he died when I was only 12 I have been lucky enough to get my graciously grubby hands on some of his goods. Here are a few of my favorite things which were once his things.
Silk ties I recieved via my Mother who either stole them from my Grandmother or recieved them from her for my step-father. I have a still standing obsession with paisley because of Pop-Pop. These include, Christian Dior, Stanley Blacker, Brooks Brothers and Lord's.
Silver checkered cuff links given to me by my Grandmother who's own fashion should not be overlooked. She gave them to me in the Tiffany pouch shown, however, they are stamped Georg Jensen. It sure helps me feel fancy to pull them out of the Tiffany pouch on special occasions. Though checkered patterns have been fully played out and seem fitting only for people 16 years or younger these days I can't help but think Pop-Pop must have been ahead of his time with these. I myself will break the checked rule and wear these myself as there is something iconic about them.
Cartier watch. My mother took me to the post office where she pulled this out of a safety deposit box and placed it in my hand. "Don't tell anyone." she said. I felt like James Bond. It has a saphire windy thing and is as classic as anything could get. I like it best worn casually with jeans. Though the band is old and cracked I never replace it because it was the one Pop-Pop used and when i sweat it brings out his smell. Is that gross?
Collection of silk bow ties. These include, Lord's, Aquascutum(Check out what these guys are up to now, especially if you're in the market for a trench. Also, Aquascutum Limited), Brooks Brothers, and Racquet Club.
Harris Tweed coat. My Grandmother gave my mother a bag to take to Goodwill and she found this inside. She mailed it to me knowing I would prefer it in my closet. It is unfortunately too big but I plan on taking it to a tailor. I'm thinking of shortening it and adding a belt. It is very bell shaped at present, reminds me of Sherlock which could be bad but could also be good. Upon receiving this I promptly tried it on and put my hands in the pockets. Those gloves(cashmere lined from Aris) were in one pocket still curved to Pop-Pop's hands. Like he had removed them from his hands earlier that afternoon. The other pocket had that wrinkled hanky in it. And this I know is gross, it's got his boogers still on it. I got this a couple years ago and have still not been able to wash the hanky and leave it in the coat pocket. I mean, what if some supposed long lost relative showed up trying to take possession of the coat? Not today brother, I've got DNA.
I absolutely love wearing the clothes of dead people. And not just any old dead people clothes thrifted, though that can have it's own charm. I'm talking your Fathers or Uncles or Mothers or whoever. It's like taking them out with you for the day or evening. Often times I'm sure they do join you when you wear their stuff. Why not? Be careful of dead creeps clothes though. Like that thrifted Woolrich jacket you always feel like shooting people when your wearing? First sage it, then take it to the dry cleaner. You will be whistling while you wear it in no time.
James Dean's look--rugged, rebellious, masculine and androgynous all at once--inspired an enduring and uniquely American fashion iconography. Anyone with an appreciation for basic aesthetics can get behind a fitted white t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans--and the deceptive simplicity of Dean's slouchy, considered look launched a thousand fashion ships in the years since his death in 1955.
What works about Dean is that his style is cultivated, personal and no-nonsense. He looks, in other words, completely comfortable in his clothes wherever he is. Every accessory is an organic expression that puzzles together perfectly all the elements of his style--giving him an understated confidence that both flies in the face and easily riffs off the suits that surrounded him.
Dean's masculinity was both authentic and performative, a reflection of his most certainly queer private life. He liked racing cars and throwing sass at reporters. He was cool and charismatic. He knew what to wear to a party and what to wear on a Sunday lounging around his house--a respect for the etiquette of fashion combined with a keen sense of when to bend--or break--the rules. Knowing intimately the language of the genteel meant James Dean never looked like a fool. It also gave him the space to embrace a range of sartorial expressions from a grounded template and always look cool in the process.
Dean's effortless style lives on today in the work of two of America's best fashion designers--Thom Browne and Tom Ford--who connote images of rebellion rooted in a sense of the gentlemanly palette. Tom Ford's incredible fashion fest/film, A Single Man, demonstrates his diverse range of midcentury style interests. The actors he dresses are detailed and particular in their expressions: from a Dean-esque hustler to Colin Firth's buttoned up Englishman to his more-at-ease-slightly-ruffled American partner, Jim.
But one need look no further to the man himself: Ford's style is consistent yet interesting, lived-in but dynamic. Like Dean's hair or tight white t-shirt, Ford's trademarked his scruff and and suit combo to create a highly personal, unpretentious style: masculine lines with graceful drama. And he never looks like he's wearing a costume, precisely because he seems to understand that he is.
Thom Browne, like Tom Ford, knows how to turn gentlemen into dissenters with the cut of a suit or the buttons on an overcoat. His perspective is a little more forward and androgynous--more 60's, that is--but his exposed ankles and skinny ties still smack of that tailor/rebel mash up. Like Ford and Dean, what's awesome about Browne is that he critiques and celebrates systems of style simultaneously and the result is that he highlights flair without a lot of fuss.
Gentlemen know the rules and rebels question them. What interests me about fashion is the intersection of those two perspectives: where an awareness of the inherent power of tailoring and cocktail party etiquette runs headlong into the battle cry of individuality. Tattoos & wingtips, horn rims and v-necks: the result is always a little bit of fireworks and a lot of class.
Monday, May 24, 2010
RHIANNON ARGO A somewhat boring t-shirt I stole from (an ex). I've worn it so much it's starting to get holes in it. It's the perfect worn-out t-shirt that fits really cute. It's a boys' t-shirt but it fits really sexy. It's Pink Floyd The Wall. It's one of those break-up casualties - for her it was a casualty. Sometimes I wear it for like a week straight. Is that gross? This is the thing that if I lost it I'd probably cry.
ELIZABETH PICKENS I haven't seen it since - when did I even get this? It was so long ago, maybe in the fall? I remember it's black. And I calculated how much I bought it for - 35% of the original price. And this is precisely why I won't unwrap it. There will be dog hair all over it. This is my descent into madness. I like to buy nice products and never use them. It's a black Alexander McQueen dress that has a deep v-neck and I'm kind of a prude. It's a very plunging neckline. There is breast exposure. It's like a sexy business dress of the future. I can't eat dairy for like a week before I wear it. I haven't worn it. Wearing this, I would get so much attention, and I'm more comfortable behind the scenes. This dress was originally $1,740. This dress cost 1/30th of my house in Missouri. There's already dog hair on it!
KIRK READ This is a suit that was screen-printed by Sahar Koury. I got nominated for a Lammie in 2001. I was going to the ceremony and I wanted something to wear. This was a way of bringing San Francisco aesthetics with me to a very New York, very literary, very suit-and-tie environment. It was a way of kind of bringing San Francisco dyke culture into that New York room. Without sounding too corny - which I guess I risk a lot - it was a way of sort of literally wearing on my sleeve this appreciation and love for women and transpeople and artists. Saying with my clothes 'This is my people, this is where I come from, I'm not from this uptight Ivy League, gay white male culture.' I was asked by two people, 'Are you on drugs?' She used some images of a wedding cake, the top of a wedding cake. She used a wolf head because of (boyfriend's) last name. She used text from a Mission weekly hotel that burned, and many people think it was the owners that burned it. She used the words 'Welcome Home' because it was the diner me and (boyfriend) first met. Under the flap she used the words 'tight butts drive me nuts.' She did the Lone Ranger. And an eyeball on the left buttcheek. I guess that was like, gay guys have eyes on the back of their butts. Yeah, I just love her. I didn't pay her nearly enough to make this, but it felt good to pay an artist something. I since have paid her to make clothes for shows. It feels really good to be able to pay artists. I think one of these images is from her father. She made a shirt to go with this. And a tie.
ROSE MAY DANCE These are my shoes. My mother always said, 'If you want to go shopping the easiest thing to go shopping for are shoes, because you can sit down and you don't have to take anything off.' I was walking along and I saw a shoe sale. And so I walked in. The place smelled so good. It was all the leather. These are leather. Look at them - they are leather, genuine cow leather from Italy, where all good shoes come from. They were the only ones for $27 in my size. I have worn them only a little bit outside. I wear them to a party. I wore them quite a bit around the holiday season and then broke this clasp. But I had wire in my father's tool box and I mended them. You can see how these shoes jazz up my outfit.
GERARDO GONZALEZ I only have one pair of shoes that I always buy. I have to buy them every two months because they go from white and perfect to . . . They're just basic white Vans. I just think I have issues with committing to other shoes. I'll buy other shoes, but when I put them on they don't feel right. It's the whiteness. Which is stupid because I go through so many.
CYD NOVA This is a shirt that my partner made for me. It came from when I came out to him, like the first month I was IDing as male. I was going through this 'passing' thing and feeling like all boys' clothes are ugly and if I am going to look male I have to wear ugly clothes. People said I have to wear plaid shirts but I didn't want to look like a frat boy. So he made this. It says 'non-frat' on the front and 'faggot' on the back. It says 'Daddy's boy' on the tag. It's very cute. When I went back to visit him in Australia he said, "I made you a present." And I said, Oh, that's the nicest thing anyone's ever made for me.
BYRD PAPPAS My vest was given to me buy the person who was to be my girlfriend ad life partner, before we were life partners. It's kind of a sweet gender story. My binders were killing me. I just wanted a vest. One day I was at her house, and it was cold in the city. I was visiting from Oakland and I didn't have enough layers. I put it on and it was like a magic cloak. It fit me perfectly. The next day she gave it to me. From then on it was my second skin. I even wear it all summer. I think I got really excited about the vest because they're the perfect thing when you want a break from binding. It can allow for some androgynous coverage. If you can't afford surgery and you want to be comfortable. I'd be like, you're sure you can't tell? You can't tell? And my girlfriend would tell me, 'Stop stressing, you can't tell.'
KATIE KAAPCKE I don't actually need glasses but I feel like they fit my persona. These ones are gigantic. I had a lot of friends who wore glasses without the lenses and then I found a pair online that were my dream glasses. I loved them. They just go with everything. I feel naked now when I don't wear my fake glasses. People think it's really vain that I wear fake glasses. Not that glasses equal dork, but I do equate that. I just have this want to wear glasses.
ALL PHOTOS AMOS MAC. INTERVIEWS BY MICHELLE TEA.
all subjects photographed in their home, talking about their favorite thing to wear
I love Monáe's fresh approach to genre-bending, but more than that, I am CRUSHING HARD on her fresh approach to feminine fashion gender-bending. I thought for this my debut blog post, I'd feature her in all of her bow-tie, saddle shoe glory--James Brown meets Marlene Dietrich, 2010. As a former tomboy turned vaguely-andro-French-girl-from-the-60s-yachting-maybe-I'm-secretly-judging-you woman, Monáe's soft shoe-ing, tux-wearing, pompadour-sporting confidence is a dream come true. It's bad, people. I spend hours scouring the farthest reaches of the Internet for interviews, videos--live and studio produced--and magazine images. I'm a 31 year old tween. So be it.
But what's not to love? There are so few examples of feminine fashion that manage to embrace an intelligent, non-sexualized, look you in the eye sort of I'm-dancing-your-way-move-or-dance-along attitude. I'm tired of looking for outfit ideas and getting piles of sundresses, gladiator sandals (yes, I know that's not what's hot this season), and tips on how to dress for various boyfriends that I don't have. I generalize, but you get the gist.
Her style is full makeup, sleek lines, Thom Browne-inspired suits and Sci-Fi freedom fighting. She traveled the world, drew from her own dreams and pilfered (in the best possible way) every musical genre she could find to make The ArchAndroid. The result is an album that smacks of creative dynamism, intellectual forward thinking and fun. Beyond that, it makes you want to stand up and save the world.
It pretty much sums up one of my favorite things: Shenanarchy. Women who display a sick stunner style that fiddles with the typical puzzle pieces of fashion. Janelle Monáe IS style shenanigans and subtle fashion Ánarchy.