Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The accompanying text

Much to the severe disappointment of my male readership, these days I'm directing more of my extracurricular-online attention to Pinterest than Blogger. It's visual rather than textual, upbeat rather than contrarian/cynical. It is, in other words, a far better antidote to dissertating.

But my desire to explain the reasons behind my pins sometimes gets the better of me. I know, I should let the images and brief captions speak for themselves, and keep the textual/critical out of it. But I feel compelled to provide a guide to each fashion personality as currently conceived, and the challenges it brings. In order of my excitement about them, from most to least:

Space-age: That which is studded, that which is neon, and, of course, galaxy prints. Mod, punk, and goth all make their contributions. It's about looking futuristic. Silver wedge boots are a must. Avant-garde Antwerp designers, why not?

While "space-age" can be a persona, this isn't best accomplished by wearing head-to-toe space-age everything. (Tavi would disagree. As would steampunks.) Instead, it's a kind of post-goth minimalism, with more gray than black, with the occasional "pop" of neon or galaxy-print, if you're so inclined. As a rule, in life, it's best off keeping that-which-is-space-age to accents. All of this adds a certain unavoidable incoherence to a space-age board.

Another challenge with this board has been deciding whether or not to pin everything space-age I can track down. As it turns out, not everyone with access to galaxy-print material has a good idea of what clothing to make with it. (Thus why a huge piece of it is hanging on the wall behind me, like a futuristic tapestry.) And there are a lot of DIYers out there taking a Pollock approach to black Keds, with mixed results. There are items on this board I would not wear, or encourage others to purchase. But I've been erring on the side of over-inclusion, just to keep track of what's out there.

Gamine: The "gamine" look is, as I've mentioned before, overplayed. As I also noted, it's how I like to dress. Every time Uniqlo gets a new shipment of horizontal-striped jersey material, every time it discounts said shipment, I'm there. So I'm not conflicted about celebrating a look that's not exactly outside the mainstream. Nor do I feel compelled to include everything striped. I know gamine when I see it.

The challenge with here, however, is that too often, "gamine" is used to mean "that which is worn by a slender, flat-chested woman, preferably French." I don't want to fall victim to a variant of the "models off-duty" trap: thinking a look is "gamine" because the woman wearing it is, even if the look in question would be the opposite of "gamine" on anyone else. A Birkin spawn in a Patagonia is, for example, not "gamine."

Glossy Tribeca Whole Foods Mom: As the name suggests, this category was inspired by the women I'd see when shopping at those odd, midday, grad-student hours at said supermarket, near my old apartment in Battery Park City. The "Tribeca" Whole Foods, not actually in Tribeca, is nevertheless the headquarters of the berry-and-soy-milk-smoothie set. I would wait on line at 2:30 or whatever, inevitably behind a woman with a quilted Chanel bag and an engagement ring worth all five guaranteed years of my stipend. But what interested me weren't so much the universal-at-this-point status symbols, as the particular, and particularly American (it has L.A., Chicago, and suburban incarnations, among others) way of looking rich. It's a polished look. Shiny hair and nails. Glossy. Unlike the women of the Upper East Side, they're not striving for some other persona (WASP circa 1962, Catherine Deneuve circa 1965...), but are perfectly content going out in public in leggings and running shoes. They look fit, not skeletal. They are, at the very shortest, 5'10".

Here, the problem I run into is that there aren't a lot of garments that convey the look in question. It's a way of carrying yourself. Think of the women from the "30 Rock" fight-club episode. A certain glow. How do you convey, via fashion, hair that's glossy to the tips? Well-toned upper arms? Non-waifishness? Cosmopolitan Americanness? But ideas keep coming to me. The board lives on.

Swiss/Northern Italian Socialite: This is a woman unironically enthralled with what she imagines upper-class British women wear. But, despite herself, she dresses more elegantly than they do. There's a certain overlap with the recent, oxymoronic "heritage" trend, certainly in the color scheme and choice of fabrics. Lots of brown leather, camel knits, (the illusion of) quality materials.

Allow me to sound (even more) insipid, but the challenge here is that "heritage," this cycle at least, is done. Unlike "gamine," it doesn't seem to have staying power. Fisherman's sweaters once again look frumpy. Efforts by Banana Republic and so forth to look extra staid have lost their charm. There is hope, though, because S/NIS isn't heritage. It's more refined. But is it maybe too refined? Perhaps the problem is where I live. I pass a Ralph Lauren every time I go into town, and the window is chock full of inspired-by-equestrian, and it's underwhelming.

1 comment:

Chris Petersen said...

"Much to the severe disappointment of my male readership, these days I'm directing more of my extracurricular-online attention to Pinterest than Blogger"

Not bothered in the slightest...pretty much believe that most of what you write or otherwise is in my opinion always stimulating to one degree or another.