Friday, March 22, 2013

Not quite right, or "what does one wear to Eveleigh Markets on a Saturday?"

Most Saturday mornings I head to Eveleigh Markets to buy fresh flowers and locally grown fruit and vegetables for the week. I also breakfast on the samples (yes, I'm one of those people and I am not ashamed) and eye off the deliciousness I've never yet let myself buy (for lack of spare cash not for dietary reasons, I might add. If anyone wants to start a 'labné balls fund for Rosie' please do feel free.)

Anyway, my first inclination is always to dress simply- like country-girl simple. Fresh washed hair, white cotton dress and sandals. That way I can weave my fresh flowers in a circlet on my head and make believe for those forty produce-packed minutes that I am a girl in manner of Marie Antoinette frolicking in Petit Trianon. 

And yet- and quite justifiably so- I know I will feel conspicuous among the designer dogs and serious-eyed shoppers with their hand-drawn trolleys. And so I lean towards my most casual stuff- my bassike dealbreakers and striped t-shirt, which is my "off-duty" uniform if we appropriate model fashionspeak and apply it to a curvy, five foot seven-on-a-good-day researcher with "grad student hair" (as I was recently told by a friend.) But then I feel underdressed and so inevitably reach for something that's kind of ok but also just a bit off the mark. Like this:

Here I am, at a loss of how to position myself for the photograph (as always. Could this be considered my signature pose?), wearing a black silk dress from Topshop, a white bassike t-shirt, Marni earrings and a pair of Jil Sander pennyloafers. Accessorised by a hair elastic on each wrist because a. symmetry and b. useful. Apologies to the anonymous gent reading at my waist.

You see why it was called 'grad student hair'? Always just a bit dishevelled. But the point of this image is not to show you my halo of flyaways but to point out the earrings! I acquired them recently from the Belinda sale- something exciting like 60% off and I let myself go there in celebration of my cracking start to the academic year. Maybe I shouldn't reward myself with clothes to celebrate personal achievements but then, who am I kidding? If I didn't, I would have nothing to blog about except the new playlist I made on Grooveshark to write my first chapter to. (Each chapter gets a new one, which you can file in 'useless facts you never knew you wanted to know about my working methods'.) Anyway, the point is (and I do have one, promise) is that the earrings are clip-ons and made of plastic, rhinestones and neoprene so they are pretty much the best ever. Cue big toothy grin.

So all-in-all it's a bit of a weird outfit- Nineties dress and t-shirt combo in the favoured palette of that decade, monochrome. But then I messed it up with the attention-grabbing earrings and shoes but failed to follow through by not even styling my hair or wearing make-up. Much as I like the individual elements of the outfit as garments in and of themselves, as an ensemble they're all speaking different messages. 

In terms of whether I thought I was wearing an amazing outfit- not really, no. An outfit worthy of sharing with you? Maybe not even. But I've been writing lately about how we perform ourselves in particular ways on online contexts, unsurprisingly specifically on style blogs, and I suppose this is part of my performance of myself to you. Sometimes the way I dress is a bit off, like I'm almost there but not quite, and even the fact that I'm wearing amazing earrings or a dress I was thrilled to find (having hankered after a similar Ann Demeulemeester one that did absolutely nothing for me) doesn't overwrite the feeling. At other times, it feels like the clothes I wear are singing over my skin- even when it shouldn't really work but you feel like it just does and somehow that makes you feel like the coolest girl in the room. 

The good thing is that most other people don't really care if your clothes are singing or not- they're doing their own thing and are happy for you to do yours. Running as a throughline underneath all of this, though, is the question of whether or not such experiences could be conceived of as 'self-expressive', bounding off the idea that this is an inherent aspect of dress? 

I think that there is definitely a communication that flows from garment to self,  not just in terms of the relation of fabric to skin but also in the way that the clothes make you feel. The image you have of yourself as you wear them, the image you imagine flowing outwards from your person as a communication to those who encounter you. Taking this outfit as an example, did it express anything about myself? About my taste? Kind of- it shows you what things I like, but not how I would choose to style them if i really thought about it. The clothes semiotically communicate either way, sparking connotations and remembrances or curiosity in people who pay attention to clothes- or they might just indicate me as a young woman conforming to the social demand that we be dressed when we are in public. 

I don't yet know where I'm heading with this, but I know that I want to complexify the relationship between us and the clothes that we wear- and why- and what wearing those clothes do to our moods, our feelings of self, our feelings of being comfortably equipped for the situations we dress for. I don't know if this has a place in my thesis but I can't help but circle over the concept of dress as self-expressive and feel dissatisfied. It's on the right track but not quite there- kind of like my outfit that morning. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

'Fashion's New Showdown' for Vogue Australia

Readers of my first ever blogpost way back in February oh-ten will know that we have Vogue Australia to blame for my introduction to the heady world of fashion. Then-Rosie with her braces and predilection for wearing jodhpurs (more 'obsessed with horses' than 'on-trend preppy') could never have known that those heavy, glossy pages would throw wide a new way of imagining from which I would never emerge. And here I am ten years later, writing a PhD about another kind of fashion communication that has flung open doors (or 'windows'? ho ho) to new avenues for people to interact with and explore fashion- and I just wrote about it for Vogue. And so completes the circle.

Click here to read 'Fashion's New Showdown: bloggers and journalists' (if you like? No pressure... ok, a little pressure?) And while you're there, please do leave a comment if you have a different opinion or have more to add or if you just want to gush about blogs with me. And... go!

Image from

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In which Clifford Geertz is on the money yet again.

Anthropologist Clifford Geertz is one of my academic heroes: he writes clearly, with elegance and that kind of identifying accuracy which is intensely satisfying to come across. Case in point: gathering thoughts together to clad this introductory chapter and justify my study and why it is important, I struggle with the task of trying to define something that is ephemeral, ever-increasing and which has the tendency to change on a dime. And Geertz writes:

'Cultural analysis is intrinsically incomplete. And, worse than that, the more deeply it goes the less complete it is. It is a strange science whose most telling assertions are its most tremulously based, in which to get somewhere with the matter at hand is to intensify the suspicion, both your own and that of others, that you are not quite getting it right. But that, along with plaguing subtle people with obtuse questions, is what being an ethnographer is like.' (1973)

It is a relief to remember that no one study can 'explain away the entire world', as I was told in Honours. You do what you can, being honest and rigorous about what you are discussing and you set strict boundaries around what you will do, leaving the rest for future studies. Got to remember that this year!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My life in Instagram: A Personal Story

When Melissa tweeted me yesterday about my virtually criminal negligence of dear old Fashademic, I realised it's been over three months since I've posted. And as any blogging guru can tell you, the key to blogging success is to post regularly. So, in the words of Nineties classic Hook's Captain Hook: 'poor form, Peter. Poor form.' We will substitute Peter's name for my own and reread the quote in Dustin Hoffman's silky drawl and we are up to speed.

There are lots of reasons for my absence, dear readers, and none of them include being over blogging- they're mostly to do with an October 2013 thesis submission date (that's the aim, anyway!) and the arrival of the gent from the US. But really, when you come down to it, the true reason is that I have discovered Instagram. I am, as always, on the very cutting edge of technological developments and yes I am available for consultation for all that is "cool" and "happening" in the world of the Webz. Call me.

So, drumroll please! My life of the past three months through the lens of Instagram:

Here's where we left off. December 2012. My desk, crammed with books and pictures I like to have around when I work, including an artwork by my dear friend Olivia and the 'La Baleine' mug my parents got as a wedding gift ('Le Cochon' disappeared long ago.) Good for slurping jasmine green tea out of when on a deadline. I was working hard, writing up a history of fashion and personal style blogs to get to my supervisor by the end of the year and I am happy to report that the deadline was successfully met! High fives all around (from myself to... myself.)

And there was a bit of this also, for this was the year I discovered Coogee Womens' Baths. And if you're a lady who likes swimming/sunbasking by hydrangea bushes while overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I highly recommend it. (NB: I say 'sunbask' while assuming you would do so while wearing 30+ sunscreen, right? I like Mecca Cosmetica's To Save Face daily sunscreen- not greasy, thick or white and it works like a charm.)
I maintain that the matching of my nails to my bikini was purely coincidental.

There is a truth universally acknowledged that a blogger in discovery of a reflective surface must be in need of a selfie. And so I present summer outfit number one- a Desert Designs silk cropped top with Rittenhouse silk skirt, Dries Van Noten sunglasses and my battered old Coach Messenger bag (a $40 find at Bondi Markets about five years ago and still going strong.) This is me in the lift outside PG-ARC, thankfully alone in there (although as if the presence of other postgrads would stop me!)

The summer of 2012/2013 shall also be known as the summer of Herd Your Horses. This was a favourite childhood boardgame I rediscovered with Nick as long nights were spent drinking wine and moving our stallions around the board as we collected our herd and made for Green River Valley. Yes we did. I am not ashamed.

So then we headed down to Melbourne where my parents live and we spent a sweet time there with them, chilling at Williamstown (visitor recommendation: get the ferry and then have fish and chips in the park. Idyllic is the only appropriate adjective) and exploring the city. This is what Williamstown Harbour looks like. See what I mean about idyllic?

OH HAI. Here's me channelling Nicole and Margaret and having a photoshoot en situ. Except here I exchange glamorous for grimacing. But at least my awkward photo face is diminished by this silk Dries Van Noten shirt (eyed off for months before snatching it up on sale, high fiving self again!) and this *sigh* brocade skirt. I have told you before about American Rag and how it is the best vintage store? Well, last time I was there I spent three hours in there (not exaggerating) and I tried this lush skirt but I was temporarily taking leave of my wits and didn't buy. Fast-forward a month and I am nose-against-glass, straining to catch a glimpse of its silk-satin loveliness inside the store (which was closed, I might add. I might be weird but I'm not that weird!) Luckily for me it was still there and here I am gloating enjoying a day at St. Kilda whilst wearing it.

Upon returning from Melbourne I moved house! And I was seized by a frenzy to downsize my many (many, many) possessions (accumulated how?) and so my beloved fash mag collection was culled again. This is the top of a green recycling bin FULL of glossy pages collected from circa 2001. I still have my cherished favourites, don't worry- the December 2005 Vogue Australia guest edited by Gemma Ward (favourite issue of all time) and the Lula edited by Karen Elson celebrating redheads are still in my care.

Taking a moment to smell the roses at a winery in the Mornington Penninsula, Victoria. Here I am after sampling about twenty different kinds of wine, again with the Coach Messenger bag and also in one of my favourite dresses, by Bernhard Willhelm. I will look back on this photograph in the months to come, remembering the sweet sunlight and the wine and the flowers because instead of having petals in my face I will have...

Because I have seven months of PhD good times left and I plan on making the most of them with this little guy. You will notice my new desk space is less cluttered and also this photo was taken on a Saturday night. It was a couple of weeks ago and the thought of it still makes me feel smug.

And I also got a haircut. Last year, another PhD student asked, 'how old are you? Nineteen?' So this year I am striving for more of a profesh look (I am almost 27 after all!) and got a grown-up haircut. 

So this is me, looking forward down the barrel of 2013. I am teaching Performance Studies again this semester which is exciting, I'm currently writing my first chapter which frames my approach, methodology and the existing academic literature on style blogs, and I'm also determined to buy less this year- less clothes, less magazines, less stuff in general. I want to find new ways to enjoy what I already have. We'll see how long this lasts...

Note: I don't receive compensation nor free product from any of the stores or labels mentioned on this blog. If I mention something it's because I honestly like it and think it does a great job/is made well/what have you. If ever anything is sent to me for free to shoot or try, I am explicit about it.