Friday, January 02, 2015

Reading materials

-I'm halfway-ish through Women in Clothes. I figured I'd better read it after I was lent it by one person and then given it by another. It is, in principle, a book I should love. And I do very much like it. The idea behind it is to examine how women feel about their self-presentation - to treat clothing as a serious undertaking. It's a window into class, body image, gender, self-esteem, everything. It's all the guilty-pleasure voyeuristic enjoyment of Into The Gloss, but you're reading a book. Also ITG-esque: there was this one essay that I kept alternating between thinking was the most pretentious, too-cool-for-school thing I'd ever read, and finding endlessly compelling and inspirational.

The drawback to the book's approach is that it almost by necessity excludes the frivolous or generic. There's a lot about nostalgic relationships to mothers' wardrobes and gender as performance, but nothing (thus far) that gets into the head of the girls I saw in Penn Station yesterday in a North Face fleece and Lululemon headband uniform. There's a section - very cool visually - with photos of women's hands, to show their rings (or lack thereof), and oddly enough, no one's fiancé went to Jared. Poverty is acknowledged (Cambodian garment workers; broke writers) but ordinary tastes are (thus far) absent.

The closest (again, thus far) I've seen to a blunt, not-at-all-earnest-or-signaling entry was the one that just documents a woman's e-commerce browsing, site by site, item by item. It feels real, but also demonstrates the challenges of turning the real into the readable.

The book somehow evokes - for me at least - a certain kind of Cobble Hill woman, chic but intellectual, New Brooklyn but more polished than hipster, 30-something rather than 20-something. Maybe it's all the references to clogs and literary readings? Of course, perhaps the second half of the book ventures into mall-ier territory...

-Yesterday I came across a newsstand full of free issues of the latest Chopsticks NY. "Home cooking issue," reads the cover, "with 12 comfort food recipes." Oh! "Let's Cook At Home with Japanese Ingredients," suggests page 9, and they had me at hello. Yes, the magazine is ads, but it's ads for basically everything Japanese in the New York area, and is full of incredibly useful information. I now know about several more Japanese supermarkets in New York and New Jersey, and a Japanese kitchenware store in Long Island City that - unlike it's Manhattan equivalent - has some weekend hours.

-Take a moment to process this, from Marisa Meltzer's Styles article about shampoo alternatives:

The once-odd idea of using cleansing conditioners (they clean but don’t foam) as a substitute for shampoo became increasingly in vogue in the last year. 
“It comes out of the new insight that shampooing every day is not for all consumers, especially those with curly, kinky, wavy hair or color-treated or processed hair that might be more susceptible to damage,” said Ron Robinson, an independent cosmetic chemist and founder of beautystat­.com.
Yes - the standard for haircare has for far too long been based on what works for one hair type. Perhaps the time has finally come to question whether the women who achieve shiny hair by washing their hair daily (but can air-dry) are actually lower-maintenance than those who only need shampoo once a week (if that) but do require heat-styling or products of some sort to reach the same goal.

But I'm not convinced that the answer is daily hair-washing with some other product that isn't, but probably costs more than, shampoo. If "forgoing shampoo in this sweaty SoulCycle era is simply not an option," perhaps the more stylish (and frugal) alternative is taking advantage of the cold weather and running outside, something that's safe and easy to do in the kinds of locales where SoulCycles tend to have branches.

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