Friday, October 28, 2011

By the printers.

It went a little something like this.

Scene: Two young women are standing in the alcove where the three printers are set up. One stands by the shelf laden with the industrial staplers and three overflowing trays of scrap paper and unclaimed printing. The other has just walked in and peers at the printer distractedly. She is unusually well dressed for a post-grad student (surprise! it's me!)
The printer on the right hand side wheezes into life. It coughs out two pages. It pauses. It coughs out another page. This sporadic printing continues as the two women converse.

Me, leaning over to pick up the first piece of printed paper: I think that's mine.
Her, eyeballing the page, printed with bloggers doing outfit post poses: What is your research on?
Me: I'm researching style blogs and fashion online?

Aside: I always inflect up into a question when delivering this line, a pre-emptive reflection of the customary response- 'what's a style blog?' This tentative inflection is a mark of solidarity with the bafflement of my questioner... or of my own insecurity... Whatevs, your psychoanalysis is distracting me from my tableau.

Her: I was wondering what you were working on. Whenever I walk past your desk I always see you looking at pictures of fashion, or on your Twitter...

She falls silent. I feel judged but in a funny way, as if my research is a practical joke I get to play on my peers ('you think I'm the biggest bludger in the ARC but surprise! It's work! Gotcha!')

Me: Yeah, it's pretty great. I read for "research."

We both laugh.

Me: So what's your project on?

She, in the polished tone of voice we all unconsciously adopt when introducing our work: Japanese woodcut erotica from the nineteenth century.

End scene.

Movie time

Here at Fashademic HQ (today's hot desk in the ARC) I am once again experiencing the strange sensation of my mind melting into jelly. The reason for this bizarre occurrence is prolonged blog archive trawling, a necessary activity in order to finish my prologue. And I am almost finished! There are fragments of perfection in there (to satisfy the pedant in me) but it's not there yet... but oh, how I wish it was!

In the interests of preserving what little of my sanity remains, I turned to fashion films. Let me then present to you some of my favourite recent releases and may you also enjoy their surreality, their bizarrity (deal with it) and their showstopper clothes. 

AnOther Magazine Issue 21 featuring Rachel Weisz from AnOther Magazine.

Kenzonique from KENZO.

Friday, October 21, 2011

EXCUSE ME?!?!?!?!

I just gasped out loud in PG-ARC. (A hanging offense- NO NOISE MUST BE MADE AT ANY TIME EVER AT ALL. EVER.)

We'll just add this case to the ever-growing list of reasons why I want an iPad including but not limited to:
Reason 7. I could play Angry Birds on the bus whenever I wanted to;
Reason 11. It looks so profesh when academics present at conferences using them and I want to look profesh too;
and Reason 23. It closely resembles the slates that 19th century children did their sums on at school, and I have always wanted one of those but have paused because, really, what am I going to do with a slate? Except write on it in chalk a couple of times and pet it absently before putting it down and reaching for a notepad. This way I get the tablet shape of a slate but none of the pesky chalkdust on my Ann Demeulemeester leather pants (my what?! that's for an upcoming post... hi Dad.)

Voracious reading

If you had come looking for me lately, chances are you would have found me curled up in bed, pouring over a book. Actually the location doesn't matter- I would make a nest anywhere comfortable where I could easily hold the story open and forget myself amongst the printed words.

First, I read 'The Tiger's Wife' for the Irregular Bookclub I'm in, the club that meets whenever we've all read the book (or, at least enough of it to have something to say about it between mouthfuls of cheese, pastries and red wine) and that was a savage, swift experience. I ripped through it, made impatient by the glimpses of answers the narrator would tease us with before whisking us back into her labyrinthine world where folktales had legs and lungs, doctors followed ghosts uphill and gypsies hunted for ancestral bones in the orchard. For the most part, I enjoyed it very much- I relish stories that relish stories, if you know what I mean. The ending was frustratingly obtuse, but that's a quibble over a book that kept me flicking back pages to see how she had turned me upside down without me noticing her sleight of hand.

But then I saw the film 'Jane Eyre', which finally achieved limited release in Australia, and it filled me with a furious need to snatch my copy to me and drink it in again. Mine was originally my mum's, awarded to her when she was at school, and it boasts a green cardboard cover, stiff but soft to the touch, painted with miniatures of Miss Ingram (front cover) and Rochester (back cover.) It originally came in a box with a big portrait of Jane on the front but that got dog eared, careworn and eventually crumbled, whereupon I rescued the novel and now lament that awful Blanche Ingram's is the face I have to see every time I pull it towards me.

'Jane Eyre' is the kind of paradoxical book that whisks you up immediately but also demands to be savoured. So restrained, so passionate this heroine, that sucking it down in one draught would be to miss her shadow and light. So I buckled up under covers and slowly revisited Lowood School, Morton, the vast Thornfield Hall and most of all, the wild moors of Jane's own life, and reader! (Disclaimer: whenever I read a book written by a Bronte or an Austen, my language and even my sentence structure gently shifts to assume the cadence of the characters. I notice it in how I have been composing emails and I have to rewrite them before I send lest I say to a good friend, 'it has warmed my heart to see you so frequently of late, dearest L----') So many things struck me about this book, but I think the most interesting thing for me this time around was the prevalent Christianity at work in the story.

Charlotte Bronte's faith is writ large throughout the novel ('writ large'- I told you my language changes!) It makes me wonder what modern, Bronte-loving atheists do with the beliefs she accords her characters. Would a non-believing reader be sympathetic to Jane's motives for leaving Rochester? She is convicted that it would be wrong in God's eyes to stay with him after finding out about his wife, lest she be overcome by her love for him and agree to be his mistress. By leaving, she walks into destitution and poverty, must start again from scratch and deny her heart- her solace being that she has chosen the 'right' path, and she thanks God for the strength and blessing she enjoys as a result of being obedient to his will (her ascription.) The faith that permeates the novel- that God has mercy as equally given as his judgement, that to follow him is of paramount importance, that strength of character, honesty, charity, mercy (in the novel, flowing from faith) are infinitely more valuable than beauty, wealth, social prestige- or even, unforgiveness- and even the theological debate implicit in it (Bronte takes on Calvinism, and challenges what it truly is to be Christian in the St. John vs. Jane chapters) is quite extraordinary, and it's a rare modern novel that could so faithfully depict such complex themes. 

Interestingly, Jane doesn't unjustly judge people who wrong her but has compassion on their iniquities. You could argue that all of the characters are Christian by default, living in the England that they do, where going to church was as much a social as a spiritual obligation. But the novel is full of characters who might claim that title for themselves but act in a decidedly unloving way- her aunt Mead and cousins, her benefactor uncle who would not forgive his brother, even on his deathbed, and even St. John, who wants to be a missionary, but is so furiously fixed in his belief that he alone can decipher the will of God that he has more in common with a Pharisee than someone reoriented to the loving heart of God. (Am I making you uncomfortable? Soz.) Arguably, Jane is the model of Christianity we warm to- forgiving those who have harmed and abused her, compassionate in love but clinging to her faith, even though doing so will cause her to sacrifice everything she holds dear.

I guess what I could draw from this is that books speak to people differently, and different messages sing out alongside the stories themselves every time they're read. What struck me so strongly this time has never struck me like that before- other readings have left me gasping at the tenacity of Jane's character or the perplexity that is Rochester's. It's a magnificent book, though- I kind of wish I hadn't finished it, so I could keep walking through it.

And now for something completely different: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I am late to the party, it having been awarded the Pulitzer in 2002 which was light years ago in fancy literary circles. We are not in a fancy literary circle, however, so I am luxuriating in it without compunction. A woman who sat down next to me on the bus on Monday leaned over and said, 'I loved that book.' I grinned at her, 'it's good, isn't it?' to which she fervently replied, 'it's great.' I love a book that compels strangers to chat. And I love a book that draws you in so rapidly that all of a sudden you're elbowing Lefty over to his side of the bed and helping Desdemona pin up the blanket that hangs between Theodora and Milton, reminding her of her own blanket and how well that worked and shouldn't we maybe try something else to keep them apart?

I'm swilling bootleg hooch in the Zebra Room, painfully conscious of Desdemona sitting upstairs at the kitchen table, my fingernails are gouging into the edges of my car seat as Zizmo manaically veers the car across the frozen lake, screaming, and I'm anxious for these characters. I'm careful for them. I love how Eugenides doesn't judge them, how he is tender and fair and sly. It might be a good one for the Irregular Bookclub, in fact, but before we get there I must finish this stunner and then inhale 'The Line of Beauty' (talking of being behind the 8-ball.) Are you reading anything gripping at the moment? Do tell.

the lady in red (hair)

To me, she can do no wrong.

All images by Tommy Ton.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unrequited love.

I defy you to go eyeball-to-eyeball with these Haider Ackermann shoes and come away with your heart intact. These shoes are like the coolest boy in school. They're like that slouchy waster in the second-from-back row in your English tute who spends the whole semester avoiding eye contact with everyone and who then recites whole chunks of 'Leaves of Grass' by rote in his tute presentation (o wait... that's not your idea of sexy? The great thing about a blog is there is no such thing as an awkward silence after you've made a gaffe. I feel like Fashademic is an arena where I can really be free of my crippling case of foot-in-mouth disease (not literally... ew?) Don't even make me tell you about the time I almost asked an academic I'd just met what his research area is, and only stopped myself in the nick of time thinking, 'maybe not the smartest move?', to later find out that he is world-famous in my own field.)

Just look at the shoes that will draw you into a tumult of unfulfilled desire and ignore you all semester long, but that are so good-looking that they distract from all wrong-doing, even career suicidal gaffes:




Haider Ackermann shoes, in the immortal words of The Beatles, 'I want you so bad it's driving me mad, it's making me sad.' 

tangerine lipstick and neck moles. O YEAH.

Miss me

Today was gloriously like summer and yet it stopped just this side of 'sweaty mess' and so I lingered a while in 'healthy glow.' So I took full advantage of the late afternoon sun and the free application of a new shade of neon orange lippy at M.A.C. and here are the results, in unedited glory for your viewing pleasure: ta da! My inimitable pout. (I say it's inimitable'... but I really just like using the word 'inimitable'... yep.)

I really like this lipstick. It's $36, but. Unfortunately I've hovered around it in the M.A.C. store too many times to do a quick swipe on my way to work every day and go on my merry way while escaping notice. RATS! 

I wish I was one of those girls whose lipstick stays on their lips but alas, that's not me. I'm all about the smeary edges and flecks of colour on my teeth and enthusiastic drinks-drinking, so I inevitably end up with the outline of lip pencil and just-stained-lips colour where the high gloss/cool matte should be. Shame.

O hai little eye-wrinkles. You're cute! You can stay. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taylor Tomasi Hill

TTH in Emilio Pucci shot by Tetsuharu Kubota for The Block.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On discovering (and appreciating) vintage

A younger, more romantic* iteration of myself used to claim that I liked vintage clothes because I liked imagining the people they had belonged to. Looking at a pair of sheer cotton Georgian bloomers, for example, would put me in mind of the slip of a girl who used to tie them over her tight-laced corset, her layers of cotton, then lace, petticoats, before drawing a drop-waisted cotton-linen and lace number over the top. All this for a summer picnic or some such fancy, where she and her chums would gad about by the riverside.

Sure, okay (I roll my eyes at myself.) That's what I thought about as I breathed shallow and fast over the tiny hand-stitched hems and the loom-woven fabric? Yeah, no. I was thinking about whether they'd fit, how fast I could find out, and in what parallel realm I could pull them off.

I'm sure some people actually do look at vintage clothing and imagine the past lives of the clothes. There's definitely a romance to clothing of a bygone era: it is difficult to come face to face with beautifully wrought garments without feeling wistful that we no longer have reason to dress in hooped skirts, outrageous bustles or floor-length silk cheongsams. But let me tell you a little secret. Lean in, because I'm revealing my hand here: I loved vintage because of what they offered me and my hot little grasp in that very moment.

The workmanship was such a contrast to the slipped overlocking and the cheap cottons of the chain stores that my casual wage could afford. I loved the whiff of romance around the garments. I loved the unusual shapes and individuality of them- what are the odds that anyone else will own a padded emerald green polyester jacket covered in white and gold daisies? But most of all, most of all- I loved (and still love) vintage garments because they were made in a time when garments were generally made to last, and with a quality of fabric and craftsmanship which I could only find in one other place: the boutiques that sold devastatingly lovely clothing that I imagined I might be able to afford some time in my mid-forties. If I bought a precious vintage bomber jacket or a silk teagown, I was embracing an aesthetic of fashion which breathed beauty over my skin. The exclusivity, the strikingness, the quality of high fashion labels which was (and still is) so, so very far from the high street.

I suppose, in a way, I did escape into another world after all, so my grasping towards an explanation for why I gravitated towards vintage was on the right track... but instead of inhaling a world of the past, I was in a world of the present. My present, to be precise, as I was enveloped in clothes of a calibre I had believed would elude me for many more years.

*More romantic? you skepticise. Yeah, yeah, move along, joker.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

PFW: Haider Ackermann

How can you not warm to a designer who says that he was 'thinking along rockabilly Lord Byron lines' for his new collection? You can't is the only valid answer.
And so I present to you "my edit" of the Haider Ackermann Spring RTW collection, curated in true "style blogger style"- that is, they were all selected because they were my favourite looks. 'But there are eighteen photos here', you protest. 'That's almost half the collection.' Exactly.
But let's just talk for a moment about Haider Ackermann's incredible tailoring, his beautiful fabrics, the attention to detail... or, better yet, let's just look at what we've got here.

In the words of one of the grooms from one of my favourite childhood pony books, Summer Pony, "Very nice, Miss Pam. Very nice." Substitute 'Pam' (the horsey rich girl who lived up the road from Ginny, who kept her horse in her garage) with 'Haider Ackermann' and you're right there with me. Giddy up.

All images from

PFW: Dries Van Noten

Sometimes, I feel that words are just superfluous.

One of the utterly standout collections of the season for me. 
Why? Because of the island colours and the city shades, the extravagance of couture shapes tempered by the restraint of deft tailoring, the long and feminine lines- I could go on. 
I think I emitted a faint gasp when I first saw it.

And don't even get me started on these shoes!

All images from

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

All it takes is 1000 words a day.

Oh! You know what? I got up at 5.30am this morning to write. That's twice in one week now. I don't know whether to be pleased at my efforts or pale at the fact that I actually thought 'I'm so productive first thing! Maybe I should do this every day?' And not only did I think it ... I then agreed with myself.


You know what else is worrying? Dancing to 'Gold Digger' with your curtains open when your bedroom is at street level and people are walking by on their way to work. Yeah. I did.