Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Post-Hurricane Pattern Mixing

Well, Irene has come and gone and fortunately seems to have left fairly little damage or trouble in her wake around these parts. We had a lot of rain and wind...some tree branches and entire trees down here and there, but I didn't lose power or anything. Basically a quiet stormy weekend, ideal for the making and consuming of large quantities of eggplant Parmesan and zucchini bread. (Doesn't everyone else cook ridiculous amounts of food when stuck at home?)

Yesterday's outfit started with a blue floral scarf from a swap with the lovely Michelle. I'd been saving this scarf intending to use it as a faux turban (like in this tutorial from Keiko Lynn), but every time I tried that, it didn't quite look right...I suspect it's because I don't have bangs, which makes the wrap around the head look quite different. But I started this morning planning out with the white shirt and some gray shorts to keep a neutral palette to try pulling off the headscarf. When headscarf again didn't look good, I scrapped that outfit idea. Didn't feel like the gray shorts without the scarf, so I ended up grabbing my leopard-print skirt off a nearby pile of clothing and swapping that out. But the waistline didn't look quite right, so...Eureka! I could use the scarf as a belt! Sometimes it amazes me how complicated/random the process of putting together an outfit can be.

I still want to try the scarf as turban idea, though. I'm also resisting cutting myself some bangs (which I haven't had since I was probably 10). Though I did add some layers into my hair yesterday morning...I think it works (or at least I think it doesn't look like I randomly cut pieces of my hair shorter, which was basically the technique).

My camera's been having trouble over the last few days, which seems to be attributable to the memory card. Thus the limited pictures of this outfit. Too bad, as I really liked it... more pattern mixing than I normally do, comfortable, and fun.

On another note, I can't believe it's already nearly the end of August. Orientation has started here at school for the class of 2015 (feeling older? Check!), and classes will start next week. I'll probably sit in on a couple of classes, though with my Ph.D. program I don't have any required classes. Mostly starting to prepare for my general exams. Anyone have terrific plans for the remainder of the summer? Things to make sure I do before it's fall already?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

FFB: Dressing to Please

This month's Feminist Fashion Bloggers themed post is on fashion, feminism, and relationships. A topic that I found especially interesting is whether it's a problem for a feminist to let her style or clothing choices be affected by her boyfriend's/husband's preferences. Here I'm thinking more about long-term relationships, once you're no longer necessarily "dressing to impress." Most of us change some aspects of how we dress to please other people and/or to be "appropriate" for particular situations...and yet, I get uncomfortable at the idea of dressing not for my personal aesthetic/desires (unconsciously shaped, of course, by my culture, my work environment, the events of a particular day, my finances, my friends, etc.), but for a man's preferences. Even when that man is my dear boyfriend of almost seven years. (I haven't really introduced him here...let's call him K.)

See, while K. likes most of what I wear, he has a somewhat different sense of what he thinks I look best in than I do. To illustrate, I managed to convince him to style an outfit for me according to some of his preferences. Granted, he was limited by a) the return of summer weather, and b) the clothing and accessories that I own, which are items that I have primarily obtained for myself because I liked them. But he did come up with an outfit for me, which I wore to work last week:

A little insight into K.'s thought process... He definitely wanted me to wear a dress. This particular dress is one that I'd gotten from my mother and had been about to give away during my last closet cleaning, since it's quite a bit shorter than what I'm normally comfortable wearing, but he had convinced me it was fine and I should hold onto it. So...out came the dress. Silver jewelry to match. Yes, I should wear heels...but not too high. And I should absolutely wear my hair down, the way he likes it.

I know there are people who wear significantly shorter hemlines on a regular basis...I see them all over town. So why do I feel so uncomfortable with this dress? I suspect it's exactly because on my body, I think a short dress is supposed to be somewhat provocative...intended for the male gaze. Which, well, is why I ended up wearing it that day: because it pleased the male gaze of my partner.

Certainly, there are clothes that most men stereotypically just "don't understand." The Man Repeller blog is all about these sorts of fashionable-yet-not-"attractive clothes...the blog defines a Man Repeller as "outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls (see: human repelling), shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs." (I admit to have returned a couple of jumpsuits to the thrift store due to skeptical expressions from K...he always gets quite disappointed when something that he thought was a cute dress turns out to be a playsuit).

So is there anything problematic with dressing occasionally in a way that makes your other half happy? Generally, I feel my style choices should be primarily about my own self-expression. I want to wear things that make me feel comfortable, satisfied, and very much my own self. On the other hand, sometimes it makes me happy when K. likes what I'm wearing... is that anti-feminist? Is there a difference between dressing to please men in general vs. dressing to please one man in particular? And are either of those too layered with patriarchal issues of control? Does dressing for a man automatically bring up the "male gaze"? Wikipedia has an interesting definition of the "male gaze": "In feminist theory, the male gaze expresses an asymmetric (unequal) power relationship, between viewer and viewed, gazer and gazed, i.e. man imposes his unwanted (objectifying) gaze upon woman. Second Wave feminists argue that whether or not women welcome the gaze, they might merely be conforming to the hegemonic norms established to benefit the interests of men — thus underscoring the power of the male gaze to reduce a person (man or woman) to an object (see also exhibitionism)." Is the gaze still objectifying if it is actually wanted, in the context of a romantic relationship? Or is any kind of appreciation for a woman's appearance automatically objectifying and therefore confirming a male-dominant power structure?

More problematically for me, though, is how dressing for the satisfaction of one's partner can be linked to some behaviors that are quite troubling for me, as a feminist. Abusive men can use clothing "suggestions" as control, such as forcing their partner to dress less "provocatively" in order to keep other men from looking at her. Clearly that's on the far end of a continuum of behavior...but I'm not sure I'm comfortable even with the situation the author of a recent Daily Mail article describes. She appreciates and enjoys her husband's transformation of her wardrobe (getting rid of maxi dresses, UGG boots, short skirts, sequin tops, anything "too short, too low, or too tight," and anything else he felt didn't suit her) and his strong "alpha male" opinions on what she wears. "Within minutes of waking, I’m expected to be dressed: smart Levis or well-cut trousers, crisp ironed shirt, buffed and shiny heels, even my hair should be glossy and styled, and I, of course, should be fully made-up — all before breakfast." She discusses how she thinks this has been terrific for her and that she's content with her choice. However, she also says things like "Some people might think I’m foolish for agreeing to this, but when you’re entering into a new relationship, you find yourself going to surprising lengths to fit in. I wanted to be accepted and I wanted to be desired."

I also want to mention the fact that these issues seem to be more...well, more of a "feminist" issue when we're talking about a woman changing what she wears to please her male partner. Is it a problem if a man changes aspects of his wardrobe for his girlfriend/wife? I feel like that's more stereotypically acceptable; the woman trying to convince her boyfriend to throw out his old hole-filled concert t-shirt, or to try a new haircut. Or what about one woman in a lesbian partnership wearing things her partner thinks she looks good in?

How much do you let a partner's/boyfriend's/girlfriend's preferences shape what you wear (if at all)? Are you comfortable with that?

If you're interested to see how other FFB members explored this topic, a roundup of the others' posts is on the group blog.

Friday, August 19, 2011

FBFF: Following Your Dreams

This week's Fashion Beauty Friend Friday questions are about our dream jobs...Katy at was inspired by some recent posts about bloggers who are quitting their day jobs to focus on what they love (including Sal at Already Pretty). I'd been thinking a lot about this myself after reading a recent New York Times article on how the recession has given many people the opportunity to pursue their "dream jobs," only to find that the reality is much tougher than the dream. If you're interested in seeing what others have to say (I know I am!), the linkup is here. (EDIT: sorry for the broken link! Fixed now.)

1. Fess up - if you could do anything professionally what would it be?

My dream job is to start my own theater production company, with a focus on creating advanced technology for the theater. This company would both consult for other theater companies' productions (doing things like designing and implementing the technological aspects of productions) and allow us to produce some of our own work. We'd likely also create some interactive installations, as well as performances. As part of this work, I'd be not only writing software and developing hardware for performance contexts, but also doing theatrical design, running a theater company, and even choreographing some of my own pieces.

2. What draws you to this?

  • This sort of job would combine so many of the things I love to do, and challenge all of my abilities. (In a way, this is like the work I am doing right now.) I can be creative, scientific, analytical, intuitive, imaginative, logical...I solve problems in many different domains. I've always been a jack-of-many-trades, and would love to have work that challenges me on so many levels.

  • In everything I do (both technical and artistic), one of my favorite aspects is progressing from the hint of an idea to something actualized, made into a reality. For an example, my process of costume design progresses from initial ideas (perhaps images that echo the desired tone of the costumes and characters), to sketches and plans, to actual, physical pieces that come into being onstage. The same is true for choreographing a dance, writing a piece of software, etc. You start with a vision, and then you get to make it into something that actually exists.

  • For me, the performing arts have a strong sense of community and collaboration. I saw a piece last semester by the director Peter Brook. The three actors in the piece had been working with Brook for years -- one of them since the 1970's. I think it would be AMAZINGLY awesome to have creative collaborations for over 40 years with someone you enjoy working with!

  • Along those lines, it'd be amazing to have a lot of freedom over the people I work with and the projects I work on.

  • I can be a bit obsessive with work. I sometimes find the idea attractive of working at a "job" 9-5 and then having the rest of the day to drop that and do whatever else I want. But really, I'd rather work that I eat, sleep, breathe. The work that is consuming and compelling, that fills my head with visions as I'm going to bed and new ideas when I wake up. That periodically becomes my life for stretches of time. (Granted, I do want other things in my life along with work (family, friends, and whatnot), so there will have to be some kind of balance...)

  • And frankly, I love the theater. I love the creation of worlds, the development of new realities and experiences. The telling of stories, the possibility to really affect people and make them see their world in a new way. I want to be part of the theater's magic-making.

  • 3. When did you first start dreaming about this ideal?
    I started having this particular vision fairly soon after I started grad school three years ago and realized that I really could combine a lot of the things that I'm interested in. I wouldn't have to choose between my more analytical/logical/"intellectual" interests and my creative passions. I'd done some work in undergrad that started heading in the direction of merging my technical and artistic interests, but when I was applying to grad school I though the theater part of things wasn't necessary, that maybe I could leave it behind. Fortunately, thanks to the research group I ended up joining, my research has been brought squarely back to the theater. I'm surprised that I ever thought I could have left it. Others in my research group have also talked about the possibility of developing a performance company together after we graduate, so I may have a team to do this with.

    Me calibrating a giant musical instrument/set piece from my group's latest opera. I didn't design the set piece, but I did do the interaction design...

    4. What's holding you back from going all in?

    Well, something that's not quite "holding me back" but is certainly limiting me is that I'm still in grad school. While my studies are hopefully preparing me for, I'm not at the point yet where I am free to start my own company (literally, my research assistant contract includes lines about how I am not allowed to have any other jobs either paid or unpaid).

    Additionally, I know I'm definitely going to work through my own fears about trying to make money in the arts. As Veshoevius says in her post today on why flamenco will never be her day job, there's certainly the "fear of starvation." I'm terrified of having to support myself one project at a time...that I won't be good enough to make a living, that one really can't make a living in the arts, that no matter how hard I work it won't be enough. I hope it will be easier because I'll be coming in as someone who is also very skilled technically, and therefore in a more rarefied field (I've seen how much our group has paid some of the companies like this that we've work with!)...but I don't know. Being responsible for my own company will be a huge risk, and I'm sure plenty of times I'll be tempted to just get a regular 9-5ish job that gives me a regular salary and benefits and a steady stream of work. Who knows, I may also want to have one of these for a while as I get my feet on the ground.

    5. Sometimes the first step is the hardest... what's one step you can take now on the way to realizing your dream?

    Realistically, I think I'm in a very good place right now in terms of progressing toward this dream. I need to make sure I take advantage of the next three years of my graduate program to do more fascinating, fun research that makes other people excited about what I can do and want to hire me for projects/work with me. I need to continue making contacts in various theater companies, getting my name and abilities out there. I should try to set up collaborations with choreographers/designers/performance-makers that I really admire, while I'm still in school and have the name of the school supporting me. I also need to progress on getting that Ph.D. Probably, that means I should finish up this post and get back to the book I'm reading about performance theory as I prepare for my general exams...

    An installation that I'd done with a colleague: 400 vellum butterflies suspended above a hallway on campus.
    What about you? What are your career dreams?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lace on a Rainy Day

Today's forecast was basically "rain all day, and a bit colder out," so I started out this outfit knowing I wanted to wear tights of some kind (easier with my rainboots than socks...) I finally worked up the courage to try out this pair of lace tights that I'd gotten a couple of months ago from Express (big sale + gift certificate = comfortable getting a couple of boundary-pushing things). I kept the rest of my outfit pretty low-key and dressy to make the tights the one edgy bit, and I think I like the result!

Also, does anyone else wear rain boots to work on stormy days but then pack another pair of shoes to wear for the rest of the day? That's what I tend to do, since I don't like wearing my heavy clunky boots all day, but have very few pairs of shoes that keep my feet dry when walking through puddles.

White shirt: thrifted. Camisole and tights: Express. Shoes: Skirt: J. Jill (purchased forever ago...this used to be one of my favorite skirts, until it got too small. I gave it to my mom for a while, but snagged it back during her last closet cleaning. Turns out, now that I wear skirts at my waist rather than right above my hips, this fits again!)

My clothing for the last few days has started to edge toward fall. It's still been fairly warm in Boston, but there's just a bit of a nip in the air, a hint that the heat we had in July is not infinite; that someday (soonish!) fall will be coming. I'm not sure I'm ready for fall. There hasn't been much going on this summer at the lab...mostly I've been reading a lot of research papers and starting to prepare for my general exams. So the fact that the summer is nearly over, that classes start up again in only three weeks, comes as a bit of a surprise. Mind you, it's still mostly been over 80 degrees here...there's just the first signs that someday it will be cold again. Is it still summer where you are?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy Birthday to Oona!

So Oona of oonaballoona from kalkatroona is having a virtual birthday party today, inviting guests in their handmade finery...I thought it'd be a great occasion to finally refashion a fancy frock I've had waiting in my pile. (If you haven't stopped by Oona's neck of the woods, you should. It's full of pretty things and humor and sewing inspiration.)

My dress for today's virtual shindig started out as this Steve McClintock number from (I'm fairly sure) the 1980's that I'd thrifted a while ago. Let's see...giant puffy sleeves, turquoise brocade, front peplum...check, check, and check. I actually saw another one of these dresses in another thrift store recently, and the design used to have one of those giant wrap collars and a bow in the middle as well. That much was at least removed before it got to me. But still...not quite a fabulous party dress for this era yet. (no, I'm not just going to wear it like this...)

But the body fit me quite well, I liked the color, and it had a terrific openwork detail in the back. So time for a refashion! I hacked off the sleeves next to the seam.

I then turned under the edges and finished them off, and cut about ten inches off the bottom to rehem.

And here's a dress hopefully fit for the party!

So happy birthday, Oona! And hope everyone else is having a good weekend as well! I've got a couple more posts I need to get up soon...updates on, say, where I've been while scarce around the internets the last couple of weeks (vacationing on a lake in Wisconsin with the boyfriend and his family. I learned to waterski!), and some of what I've been wearing...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...