Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Streetstyle Round-up

Okay okay so I might be horrifically tardy on the sharing what shows I've liked from New York, London and Milan fashion weeks (don't pretend you haven't been waiting with baited breath, nerds) but we still have Paris (we'll always have Paris) to swoon together over Dries and the rest of the gang who show there this week.

In the meantime, my fashion week reading has mostly consisted of being shocked and not a little sad to learn that Raf Simons is leaving Jil Sander (one of my favourite partnerships, uh, ever. Up there with Theyskens and Rochas- still not over that one ending either) and quickly looking over my usual favourites- Jil Sander, of course, and Prada, Louise Gray, but it's been patchy. It's actually just occurred to me that I don't think I've even looked at Proenza Schouler. I don't even know who I am anymore.

But to my credit I have diligently kept up with Tommy Ton's streetstyle for style.com which you know I adore and so I will now share some choice reflections with you.

First up. Trends. You know how I feel about 'trends', nerds. Skeptical. Because early on they are signifiers of 'cool' and 'fashionable' and later on a way for products to be categorised and packaged for quick consumption. With a shelf life of about one week because by the time they're being mass-produced and worn, you're already experiencing fatigue. Khaki stovepipe cargo jeans? Colour-blocking? Layered bracelets (aka the 'arm party')? Layered chain necklaces? Tank tops with enormous arm-holes? And the zombiest of trends that would not die and stay dead (you remain unforgiven, Sienna Miller): BOHO CHIC. All dead trends. But here's a glimmer in the sky that will burst over us very soon- beanies. Or, for the North Americans in our throng, toques. If you have another word for them and are currently mystified, looking below may prove the visual aid you are grasping for.

Lessons learned: beanies are fun when matched to your woollen jumper. They can pick out the shades of your outfit or be a punctuation mark of colour on their own. They are a bit funny looking but very practical when you are a chic show goer. Or when you are a skier. Versatile.

Nothing says "cool" to me like unexpected colour- what is that, exactly? Neon yellow? Chartreuse? So good with the grey/white ensemb. (Look in the right background. What do you see? TREND.)

I want her clutch. That's the kind of clutch that would drive me to a life of crime- of the snatch and grab kind.

This is just a great photo. Also: short netted veils, where have you been all my (21st century) life?

Cooooooooooooooooooooooooool outfit. A tuxedo look is classically feminine and sexy by my book. And the fact that she tossed a canary yellow blazer over the top is just fantastic- light-hearted enough to not look like she massively overdressed (even though it's fashion week and many people "overdress.") She looks like she's not even trying. Which is the grail, basically.

Exhibit B. Same as before- cool, cool, cool, lady. Extra points (not that I'm giving points, except now apparently I am?) for the pants which are colourful and everyone knows how great colourful pants are. Fact.

The reason I like her hat is totally subjective. It's because it looks like a horse-riding hard hat. I think it would be impossible to be unhappy in such a hat, and it is not so literal as the Balenciaga variation of 2008, if I recall correctly? Also, it's a lovely shot. 

As is this...

And this. 
I would wear all of these outfits, which I don't think is quite the point. But they're all so balanced, so comfortable looking, so interesting with a mix of fits and colours and textures... nice.

Is that... a My Little Pony on her phone? There are no words.

And lastly but never leastly, my number one lady-crush, Taylor Tomasi Hill. A streetstyle gush is not a streetstyle gush without my favourite red.

All images by Tommy Ton for style.com

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Fashademic!

image from RUSSH

It is two years today since I started Fashademic and in one week it will be two years since I started my research on style blogging. It feels like so long ago now, considering all that has happened in the interim- but here we are!
It has been fun, nerds. I love having you here, love reading your responses to things I've written, and I consider it a privilege to have a corner of the public sphere to call my own and daub with my favourite quotes, photos of Taylor Tomasi Hill and proto-thoughts. Thanks for reading.

To "celebrate" this momentous occasion here's a shortlist of eleven of my favourite posts from the past year, in no particular order:

1. By the printers, a funny interlude I had with another postgrad student about our respective projects. 
2. Quotation by John Berger that is so full of truth, I was astounded and glad to find it. Then happened across the perfect image to marry with the quote. 
 3. Whoa, Christianity on being a thinking person with a Christian faith and how the two are not incompatible.
4. on talking about being a fashion researcher or 'when Valerie Steele made me LOL'
5. the stars by which I set my course is a prose poem of sorts about how I feel about my thesis.
6. "it's a reference to a Chinese meal in Toronto..." when Mary Katrantzou met Gaston Bachelard and they blew my mind apart.
7. LOLITA? on the at times glaring lack of reflexivity in fashion editorials.
8. Fashademic the short documentary my dear friend Lindy made about me and my research. In other news, I never thought about what my face looks like when I talk. I now know it involves lots of emphatic eyebrows.
9. A Day in the Life when you are writing an article with a tight deadline and you are also on Twitter all the time (following me? @fashademic if you want pithy updates on what I just ate. It's totes awesome.)
10. Lost, Mad or Lust, Maudlin Or Lovers, Mystical or Llamas, Marvellous o Benjamin, you and your Arcades Project. I'm not the same person.
11. Dresses as coats over dresses an outfit post I actually liked. Success!

Here's to another year of new ideas, being challenged in our old ways of thinking and being  a reading and writing public together.
Big love x

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Outfit Post with pink pants and washing basket.

In this outfit post, you can expect some behind the scenes glimpses of my life, such as the washing up basket in the background there. It's the little differences I bring that make my outfit posts so unique, no? Some shoot on cliff-tops, some drive into the middle of the desert for their shoots... I walk into my kitchen, prop my digital camera on the ironing board and let the magic take me where it will.

 ... Like against this wall, for instance. 

Here I am in a vintage vest from the '20s that I got for my twenty-first birthday from The Vintage Clothing Shop. I'm wearing it backwards, held together with a safety pin (and that's how we do it in the big league, ladies!) My pants are the pinkest shade of pink, the exact shade of the lovechild of fairy floss and a flamingo, and they're by one of my absolute favourites designers, Dries Van Noten. They actually make me a little nervous sometimes because they're, you know, beautiful, and I don't have a great track record with keeping nice things nice. If there is a glass of red wine to be spilled, a random smear to appear on a pocket, a pen to explode, or some other stainy disaster to be enjoyed, you can count on my enjoying them all over my clothes. And as these pants are also dry clean only, I feel an edge of stress every time I wear them. Yet at the same time, how could you be anything but happy in slightly slouchy but straight cut pants the colour of delight? They really are. Blue for joy, I think. Yellow, sunshine yellow for happiness. But pink for delight, always.

Last outfit post I neglected to tell you what I was doing that day- I will this time because these are outfits I wear; I don't put them on just for the photos. So this time I was going to work in the shop where I (love to) work. I managed to NOT spill soy sauce from my avocado brown rice sushi on them, I managed to remember NOT to wipe my washed-wet hands on my pants legs to dry, and I managed to feel very cool in them all day long. All signs that I am well on my way to a promising future.

Outfit: top- vintage // pants and belt- Dries Van Noten.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An encouragement to us all.


Provenance unknown; courtesy of a Facebook newsfeed... 

A thought on young girls and fashion's influence

"Girls are treading a fine line between being seen as victims of media and fashion industries, which position them as too sexualised too early, and being agents of "girl power" - confident, opinionated, and about to embrace their entrance to womanhood."- Rebekah Willett, "Consuming Fashion and Producing Meaning through Online Paper Dolls."

I just read the sentence above. The sentiment expressed is fairly common to studies on girls and young women and their relation to fashion, but this time something jarred. "Too sexualised too early." As if there is ever an appropriate age to be sexualised? The emphasis I read here is not that it is 'negative' to be sexual, but to be 'sexualised'- a turn of phrase that places power of definition of you as a sexual subject in the hands of another person.

Fashion is not necessarily about being sexual, anyway. As the Man Repeller cheekily demonstrates, there is a network of complex motivations that inspire and propel people towards fashionable dress, and attracting a member of the opposite sex is low on the list of priorities. Obviously images of young girls being dressed as adults is deeply problematic, both for the message it sends to adult women- younger, thinner, flatter, more innocent is more desirable- and the knowingness it attributes to the girls who are modelling themselves, often still growing up yet rendered by the styling and our gaze as consenting adults. (See Vogue Paris December 2010 for an illustration of this. Or better yet, don't.) 

But what else is there? What other discomfort seethes underneath fashion's glossy exterior, alongside the dismay about sexualisation? I suspect that it is bound with what fashion does- it emphasises the exterior, it draws and plays over the skin of the wearer, inviting the eye and perceptions someone might make upon seeing you. So fashion, turning its burning gaze to young people (some boys like fashion too. I am going to write about that in my work but I feel like it goes unsaid too often. Girls are not the only people who like fashion! All right then.) Anyway, fashion turning its burning gaze to young people inculcates them as consumers, presenting them with established social codes (as expressed through clothing) or promoting an image for them to adopt- a premature occurrence for a group who are in the process of figuring out who and how they want to be perceived. At a formative time in their development, they are being presented with images of what they should be, who they could be, a process which orients them towards appearances as one of the most important ways to be in the world. 

For me, fashion should be enjoyed amongst a variety of other ways of thinking, appreciating and expressing- to enjoy it alongside art is to see the mutual influence of the two on one another, to link it with literature is to see how characters and historical times inspire, and how dressing in certain garments or styles can evoke a sense of the past- or the fictional- in the everyday. To see fashion as an outworking of human society, reflecting both beneficial and horrific aspects of humanity, our collective fears and desires- this goes well beyond the purview of looking "fashionable." Perhaps some young people are not yet ready to hold fashion in this context among other things, but are being incrementally taught that it is important they should be consumers and that to be significant they must be skilled at branding themselves with a particular style. I think it is this anxiety, as much as that they will be looked as as sexual beings "before their time", that is at work in the attitude of people towards fashion and young people (namely girls). Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

'On Dressing and Being Dressed': Guest Post for 'Kill Your Darlings'

A guest post I wrote for the blog of  'Kill Your Darlings', an independent Australian journal of fiction, essays and reviews, is now up and ready for your hungry eyes hereMy argument will be familiar to many of you already, but if you need a fix or if you, like me, are avoiding the work you really should be doing right now, it might be of interest...

NB: For interested parties, the book I am holding is a fascimile of the first complete collection of Shakespeare's plays, complete with period spelling and syntax. It is beautiful but weighs an absolute ton. Luckily that Therese Rawsthorne dress was masking the shrieking of my poor, wimpy upper-arm muscles (biceps? whatever.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sontag Cover

Am also reading this extraordinary book. I read Sontag's work for the first time last year and instantly wanted to read more. This is the book the essay I read was extracted from and it is so rich, so teeth-sinkingly good. 

And the cover! A wonderful choice of image that underlines her argument about the fleeting, documentary, artistic, personal nature of photography yet it also has the power to emotionally impact in its own right. It's called 'Gypsy watching the police evict his family, Kent, 1963' by Don McCullin, and I keep turning back to look at it. The dismay and uncertainty of his face as well as the beauty of the image at an aesthetic level- the light in his hair, the shadows gathering in his careworn face, his scarf, pulled or worked its own way to the side, just so- keeps me swinging back and forth between his story (as the title suggests) and what is actually visible.

Source of image

On 'Addressing the Dress' by Richard Martin

I have been reading a book on arts criticism over the past week, a collection of essays edited by Maurice Berger. One of them is by Richard Martin and is on fashion criticism, and so much of what he wrote resonated with me... so of course my thoughts flew to you, gentle readers. 

Martin teases apart the concept and practice of fashion criticism. He argues that any theoretical rigour or negative reviewing is stymied both by the history of fashion reportage as women's entertainment and the close relationship between design houses' advertising dollars and the publications in which fashion reviews appear. This excerpt particularly resonated: 'a global financial newspaper devotes pages in its weekend edition to the arts in excruciatingly academic reviews of art exhibitions and concerts, but makes any reader turn the page to the heading 'How To Spend It' to find fashion' (54).

But before we get swept away in righteous indignation that No-One Takes Fashion Seriously, let's consider this point: 'fashion has assumed, in a media age, the awesome properties of the spiritual and aesthetic, not merely in finery and finish, but in ideology and identity' (60). And hasn't it? I have to be careful, even in my own work, not to ascribe too much significance to what fashion is and does. When we talk about its capacity to visually articulate aspects of ourselves, or its role in systematising notions of gender and sexuality, we should also take care not to talk about it in an absolute way, but acknowledge that it fits alongside other ways of being in the world, other articulations of self; and that it is no more or less important than these other ways. Yet perhaps we are inclined, as people with an interest in fashion, to feel a responsibility to 'reclaim' it, to redefine it in the face of a common dismissal of it as something only superficial, commercial, unfeminist or frivolous. 

Fashion is multi-faceted, and thus difficult to articulate. What language can we use to describe something that is a billion dollar commercial industry, an arena of design and innovation, an everyday practice played out in the bedrooms and over the selves of billions of people, as well as an image, an idea? How can you write about something so exuberant and superficial (in the literal sense) and with such a capacity for influence? How can it be properly critiqued in a media that relies on advertising dollars, in a profession that relies on the people you're critiquing granting you access to their work? Unlike the critics of other artistic arenas such as the visual arts, music or the theatre, fashion critics can be denied access to the shows, restricting their ability to do their job. Perhaps part of the job of a fashion critic, then, is to negotiate the spaces between these concurrent truths and develop a language which offers insight and rigour- and perhaps fashion houses need to accept that robust debate and criticism is a part of art and culture, that it celebrates the exemplary and challenges the underwhelming. To create without criticism is for your creations to be met with nonchalance or blandishment, neither of which are helpful. Or, as Martin says, 'when we neglect the ordinary, the option for the extraordinary vanishes. If we ignore the quotidian and commercial, we are doomed to speak only of the venerable and awesome' (70).

What should fashion criticism be, then? I believe that there are many accomplished and rigorous fashion critics who have established their careers and reputations since the publication of this book (in 1998): Tim Blanks, Nicole Phelps, Cathy Horyn, Virginie Mouzat. They join the likes of Suzy Menkes and Colin McDowell, who were already forging a new method of enquiry, informed by their broad interests in art and fashion history as well as their keen intelligence. What separates the work of these critics from fashion journalism in general is both the insight and the knowledge that infuses their evaluations of a collection- how it fits into the arc of a designer's work, how it is influenced by previous fashions, histories or contemporary society. They do not write to enthuse but to clarify, to offer perspective and to interpret. 

Well, aspiring fashion critics and journalists alike, I recommend that you look up 'The Crisis of Criticism' and turn to 'Addressing the Dress' and reflect on all therein (nb: I advise that you then make time for the rest of the book, because it really is an exceptional collection of essays.) In the meantime, chew on this delightful excerpt, in which Martin appropriates T. S. Eliot (I LOLed):

'All too often, the designers that mingle popular dreams and design desires are the ones most frequently ignored, perhaps in the uncertainty of analytical technique. (Donna) Karan's definitions of the feminine (and correspondingly, in her menswear of the masculine) and of the body are undeniably a cultural configuration important in our time [two more examples are given, of Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein and the perspective their designs offer on memory and the American ethos]; yet all such notions are left unexamined while nonetheless in the room, the women come and go, talking of Donna, Ralph, Calvin and Giorgio' (67).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Outfit Post!

So my knowing smirk is really directed at myself. 'Well, well well,' my clothes may as well be saying. 'You came crawwwwwwling back in front of the camera after all.'

Um... yes. I did.

Because I think that I've been too hard on myself, really- I've been so discomfited by the idea of putting myself visually front and centre that I convinced myself I didn't "need" to do outfit posts, that Fashademic could be more writing-based. Well, sure; but I love seeing how people dress, and I love seeing glimpses of other bloggers (or big unadulterated slabs of them) in photos, so why did I feel differently when it came to myself? It's a mystery... but in the meantime, ta-da! I offer you... my new favourite skirt (don't tell my other skirts.) Here is why I love it: it's multi-coloured. It's knitted. It has pompom ties. It says 'buzzblond' all over it (why? does it matter?); and it makes me feel outrageous.

It's by Bernhard Willhelm, a wonderfully creative, unpredictable designer who studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and who gives perfectly non-sequiturial answers to straightforward questions (see the latest RUSSH, for instance. So good.) I dressed it with a (forgotten) black hair elastic on my wrist, a bassike t-shirt in the best sky shade of blue and earrings I made in a fit of being inspired by Prada. I actually haven't worn earrings for a number of years now but all of a sudden, my bracelets are languishing and, well, that's what Miuccia does to a lady. She comes out with revhead shoes and rose-and-"diamond" earrings and silk-satin rompers and somehow the response she engenders is "MY WORD, YES!" not " . . . *crickets* "

I really was just retying my pompoms properly here, not even posing. What a natural.

And this is my brain's creative response to my inner, frantic 'what do I do next? Look relaxed!' moment... hand on hip. I know, I know, how do I think of these magic poses? I'm just an innovator, I guess.

skirt: Bernhard Willhelm // tshirt: bassike // earrings (that you can't even see, how fash mag of me): self-made // sandals (that you also can't see, soz): Rittenhouse.

Huge thanks to my profesh photographer housemate Kate who rescued me from staging my camera on top of an upturned saucepan to get the right angle and intervened with her D-SLR- life saver!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Child's Christmas in Australia

This year I'm participating for the first time in The Sketchbook Project, a cool initiative run by the Brooklyn Art Library in which you register to get sent a notebook to fill with whatever you please and then mail back. Your sketchbook will be hired out by browsers at the Library before travelling to other libraries around the world, and you can chart its progress online, seeing who has borrowed yours and looking at other people's work. 

All the content must be original, and this year, after hearing Dylan Thomas' wonderful 'Child's Christmas in Wales' by chance on the radio, I was inspired to write an Australian version of my own. I am the first to say that I do not have the warm, resonant voice of Thomas, and also my 'Child's Christmas in Australia' isn't properly finished- it's just a draft. I did, however, want to record it to see if it flows, and I think it does, and so I thought I'd upload it for you to have a listen, if you like. I'll write the link in my sketchbook so the borrowers of my sketchbook can listen in while they try to decipher my scrawl (hey! hope you're enjoying the sketchbook, future readers). For everyone else, there's my odd Australian accent ('Are you sure you're not British? Really? You're sure?') and the sound of Lindy's footsteps walking up the hall around the 5 minute mark.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ivy League.

This is, perhaps, my favourite pre-fall lookbook of all time. I like it because there are books and sheet music in it, because the girls look like friends, because it's so old-school University in a kind of wooden-seats-in-the-lecture-halls-and-gin-toddies-in-the-dorms kind of way, and also, um, because the clothes are lovely. But they are by Raf Simons at Jil Sander, so are we surprised? (We are not.)

Images shot by Ben Weller  and accessed at Fashion Gone Rogue


As my public diary of PhD adventuring, I feel it only fitting to share here on Fashademic that my very first academic article was recently published in the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture. It's about outfit posting, how it relates to fashion imagery and bloggers' self-representation, with some thick description of me doing an outfit post thrown in for good measure. 

For those of you playing at home, getting articles published is important because the process of being accepted and working your writing towards publication helps you hone your academic writing skills, it gets your work before the eyes of experts who will peer review it, and once published, your ideas will be circulated to a wider audience. There is a little pressure (or a lot, depending on the people around you) to publish a number of articles before you submit your thesis. I heard a talk by Lisa McLaughlin, the editor of Feminist Media Studies Journal when I was in the first year of my PhD. She said that when she was a post-grad, maybe twenty years ago, if a student published anything at all before submitting, that was exemplary. Now, she said that most students seem to be aiming to have between 4-6 articles published before they submit- i.e. the system has sped up exponentially.

I really can't imagine managing to churn out another 3-5 articles before I submit (which will be sometime late next year, I should think.) Two, maybe three, publications in total seems more likely; this one alone took about four rewrites, countless re-reads and weeks of solid researching to beef up my reedy conference paper into a robust article. It's not a huge deal, but I guess because it's my first one, I'm a little proud of it. And a few of you have mentioned that you'd be interested to read my work, so... and now I'm bashful. Any interested readers can access it here for about $18, or go all out and buy the journal here. Do let me know what you think, unless you find any typos or grammatical errors in which case, never, never tell me.