April 30th, 2010 § §
- Cardigan: Self-embellished
- Gray tank: F21
- Jeans: Gap Outlet
- Yellow sandals: Old Navy
On baby e.:
- Shirt: FC Barcelona
- Plaid shorts: Old Navy
Baby e. and I enjoyed some time outside this morning since we’ll be likely be housebound for the rest of the weekend if the forecast of heavy rain comes to be. For this week’s floral venture I’ve returned to my floral embellished cardigan with its big, overlapping Amy Butler poppies. With a gray tank, cuffed skinnies, and yellow patent sandals, it’s a pre-weekend, mothering-friendly casual look.
Also, how cute are plaid shorts for babies? When I hold baby e. do we count as pattern mixing plaid and florals?
I’ve decided that I definitely gravitate towards bolder floral prints rather than micro-florals. I suppose that’s something I should experiment with…maybe I can talk A. into letting me borrow her floral print blouse for a day. Do you have a strategy for giving trends a test run? Do you thrift? Borrow? Wait for clearance? Just take the plunge?
Category: Beltless, Mixing Patterns, Pants Please, Proportionally
Tags: cardigan > E. > jeans > sandals
April 28th, 2010 § §
- Blazer – J Crew
- Floral Blouse – Maurices
- Skirt – Banana Republic
- Purple Tights – BR Outlet
- Black Shoes – DSW
- Bangle- gift from sister M.
First for today’s outfit, it all felt like a little much to me – too much going on in one outfit, yet there were parts of it I really liked: the mix of florals and stripes, the blazer with my grey pencil skirt, purple tights with my black pumps. I’m just not crazy about seeing it all mashed together. I do like that this outfit seems to make up for my failure to participate in blazer week and my limited contribution to tights week and is undoubtedly a comfort-zone stretching use of floral. Guess I’m making up for lost time with this one!
Now, for my thoughts on the very interesting discussion S. started the other day
. I am very interested in S.’s post and especially in all the thought-provoking comments, particularly because I am currently engrossed in reading and writing about postmodern appropriation, camp, kitsch, the cultural, political, and symbolic significance of clothing/costume, the performance of gender and race/ethnicity, gender and ethnic drag, and cultural hybridity — all which seem to play some role in this discussion.
When I hear the term appropriation, I can’t help but think of specifically post-modern appropriation – of the variety practiced by critical artists beginning in the late 1970s. Thus, I tend to think of appropriation as self-conscious and always at least potentially critical and subversive. These postmodern artists also point out that everything is an appropriation, there is no pure original. This idea was raised be several commenters. How do we determine what culture is begin appropriated and what is appropriation and what isn’t?
I think this also relates to the idea of cultural hybridity. There is such overlap in cultures and there has been such a long history of exchange – especially when it comes to clothing - it becomes very difficult to claim an authentic or original source for anything. So where do we draw the line? One line suggested in the discussion taking place int the comments was the issue of power dynamics, colonization, etc. – but this seems sticky as well. First, power relations have shifted so much in history and I’m not convinced that their can’t be something subversive about the appropriation of the colonized… I’m still chewing on this.
One thing I found very interesting that was suggested by several readers and by S., is this idea of costume/kitsch as the litmus test for appropriate appropriation – in other words many of you seemed to feel that if the appropriation doesn’t seem costumey or kitschy then it’s ok to wear something associated with another culture. My fist question is again, how do we define this? How do we judge kitsch vs. authentic? But, further does wearing something made by a people of a certain culture make it less offensive or more intellectual, etc than wearing something purchased at urban outfitters? Many cultures make objects specifically for tourist consumption so tourists can feel authentic.
In terms of subtle vs. costumy, I think costume, kitsch, camp, and drag all have the potential for subversion and criticality that the subtle appropriation lacks. I raised this in my discussion of drag vs. a uniform and I think this idea of the self conscious performitive use of clothing should apply to items drawn from other cultures.
Ok, this is getting ridiculously long and I’m not sure where I am going with it anymore! So, I will open it back up to you…. How do you make the distinction between costume and not costume? Is costume necessarily offensive or can it be more political and critical in practice? Is all clothing some form of appropriation anyway?
Category: Layers Upon Layers, Mixing Patterns, Office Hours, Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue, Teaching Outfits, Wardrobe Challenge
Tags: A. > floral > pencil skirt > pinstripe blazer > tights
April 28th, 2010 § §
- Denim trench – adopted from sister-in-law
- Yellow cardi: Ann Taylor Outlet
- Leaf top: H&M
- Belt: thrifted
- Skirt: ages old, perhaps from Ross?
- Pumps: Madden Girl, via DSW
Thank you all for bearing with me during the final, insane weeks of the semester (I haven’t forgotten that I owe you all a dress tutorial). After soldiering through many, many hours of writing, giving, and listening to seminar presentations I came home this evening and my husband greeted me by pointing out that I had just left my final department class as a PhD student. Whoa. I’m glad that I didn’t have the momentousness of the occasion in mind when I got dressed in the morning. That might have been a little too much pressure.
As it was, I dressed for today’s blitz of presentations wanting to end the semester with a pop. Enter the graphic leaf print tee paired with a yellow cardigan. I usually shy away from pairing yellow with black and white, for fear of looking like a bumblebee. But I think that the bold patterning of the top is fresh next to the yellow, and together they make a high-waisted skirt more modern.
I felt confident giving my presentation, put-together for listening to and commenting on others’, and comfortable enough to bike to and from campus (more on that later). Tonight, I’m taking a deserved night off, before heading back into the thick of actually writing those papers that I presented…
Category: Color Combinations, Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue
April 27th, 2010 § §
- Navy blazer – J.Crew
- Gold shimmery top – Old Navy thrifted
- Maroon purse – Picard, thrifted
- Jeans – S.Oliver
- Wedges – Report, via Solestruck.com
- Gold and pearl necklace – gift from mom
- Earrings – UO, gift from A.
This is what I wore the other night to a girls’ night dinner followed by a concert (John Butler Trio puts on a mean show!) The shimmery gold top and gold accessories were perfect for the concert venue, but the navy blazer toned things down a bit for the pre-show drinks and food. And I also have to add that if you’re going to be standing on your feet and dancing in place for several hours and want to wear heels – wedges are the way to go.
I used to be wary of wearing gold accessories and have only recently embraced this trend. The reason being that the few times I wore gold (especially in the form of big hoop earrings), I would get told by well intentioned people and without a trace of irony, ‘you look like a gypsy’. This would especially happen when wearing my hair down, long and curly. For some reason, this statement always made me feel a wee bit uncomfortable. As E. would say, ‘there is a lot here to unpack’.
I suppose that it’s easy to gloss over statements like these when ‘gypsies’ are mythical figures from Disney movies, stories like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and popular Halloween costumes. But it carries a different connotation when you’re aware of the actual group of people, Roma and Sinti, who form a disadvantaged and disenfranchised minority in most European countries. Romania, my birth country, hosts the largest population of Roma and Sinti in Europe and the racial and ethic tensions between Romanians and Roma is rife. So it makes me somewhat uneasy when I’m told that I am unintentionally appropriating symbols of ‘exoticism’ from a culture that I know little about and that has such tenuous relations with my birth country.
Add to that this recent article in the feminist magazine Bitch, that sparked a huge controversy in the comments section and has given me even more pause when wearing garments and symbols that could be construed as appropriating another (disadvantaged) culture’s artifacts. While I don’t entirely agree with the position taken by this article’s author, I do think that it’s worth exploring the role that fashion and the media plays in disseminating tokens of a specific culture and turning them into articles of mass consumption, completely divorced from their original meaning and symbolism.
Yes, that’s a lot to unload on you just to say that I’ve steered away from gold accessories in the past. But, really, this is more about my thinking of how certain symbols of exoticism come to signify ‘Otherness’ and how that meaning remains ever-present due to popular media and an all too often lack of reflection regarding the things we wear. I have no answers or concrete conclusions, I’m just trying to think about what this means for my own appearance and for the way I sometimes (even quite unintentionally) present to others.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter! S.
Post Script: Thanks to reader Amie for pointing me towards this great post over on a l’allure garconniere on cultural appropriation in particular to Native culture. I agree with much of what Julia writes in her post, especially about the importance of context and of making self-conscious sartorial choices. It’s the thoughtless appropriation that leads to reductionist assumptions of Other cultures that is harmful and it’s for those reasons that I like Julia’s points about asking yourself the following questions when incorporating tokens from another culture or group (I’m paraphrasing here):
- how are you incorporating these items into your existing outfit? Are you creating a romanticized and fantasized depiction of a cultural persona that has little to do with the actual group or person you’re emulating?
- are the items you’re including mass produced by a company that has unethical business practices in some far away factory but is selling these ‘ethnic’ goods as ‘authentic’ cultural artifacts?
- are you asking yourself what it is about a particular ethnic aesthetic that appeals to you and why? and why you associate these particular associations with a given ethnic group and their aesthetic?
I suggest taking a look at Julia’s entire post here and also checking out the recommended reading sources she lists at the end of her post if you’re interested in further exploring this topic. Great post and thanks for pointing us that way, Amie! S.
Category: Beltless, It's in the Bag, Night Without Grading, Pants Please, Reaching New Heights, Theoretical
Tags: blazer > S.
April 26th, 2010 § §
- Dress – vintage, thrifted, altered by me
- Woven belt – Banana Republic Outlet
- Necklace – Welt Laden in Salzburg
- Silver sandals – Target
The three of us have sometimes joked that I have a penchant for fabrics and patterns that would be found on 1970s couches or sofa cushions. I think this dress fits the bill and works quite well with my existing wardrobe of garments that could double as tablecloths, 70s armchairs, or exotic wall hangings. Maybe it’s the big white swan embedded into the swirls of blue and green or the somewhat psychedelic mix of colors – whatever the reason – this dress found its way into the 2 Euro unwanted clearance pile. Leave it to me to rescue it and give it a good home.
This dress did need a bit of a DIY alteration job; I took in about two inches on each side of the bust piece to make it a snugger fit up top (although I’m thinking that it needs to be taken in a but more still). While not suitable for every occasion, I think this item will fare perfectly well on hot summer days, for relaxed bike rides around town, and for all those tropical beach vacations I plan on taking. For now, I wore this on Sunday for a day spent lounging on a blanket at the English Garden, reading up on 19th century sexology, and enjoying lunch al fresco. Summer has a way of bringing out the hippie/bohemian in me. . . S.
Category: Dresses for Day, Our Best Flatware, Weekend Wear
April 26th, 2010 § §
- Grey Jersey Dress – BR Outlet
- Blazer – J Crew
- Belt – BR Outlet
- Necklace – Hawaii
- Bangel – gift from S.
- Shoes – Kenneth Cole Reaction, via DSW
These pictures are actually from a while ago, but I didn’t post them because I look so sick in them, and rather drugged, especially in the photos with the blazer. But, I really did like this ensemble and so figure you can excuse my puffy eyes and red nose (thankfully that horrible head cold has passed).
I wore this jersey dress and blazer combo to lecture to 130ish students for an hour and a half. I was on cold meds and fighting a runny nose, but managed to pull through with a pretty good lecture, if I do say so myself. It was hot and rainy that day, which is common this time of year in Academichic Central, so I needed to look professional while managing to stay cool and comfy. I love this jersey dress for just that reason – it’s comfy and chic, but I felt I needed to take the professionalism up a notch, thus enter the blazer.
This blazer has been enjoying quite the revival lately. Once I rolled up the sleeves (making in 3/4 sleeved and revealing the contrasting pinstripe pattern of the lining) it suddenly seemed much easier to style and much more versatile. I’ve paired in with a fuller a-symmetrical skirt, with baggy jeans, and now with a jersey dress. I’m thinking next I might try it with my grey pencil skirt and eventually even with some walking shorts. Hopefully when I pull it out next time I won’t look half as red and drowsy!
Category: Conference Wear, Dresses for Day, Reaching New Heights, Teaching Outfits
Tags: blazer > jersey > jersey dress > jewelry > statement necklace
April 24th, 2010 § §
- Dress – vintage, thrifted, altered by me
- Woven belt – Banana Republic Outlet
- Silver sandals – Target
My camera has finally arrived and I’m back in action. And just in time to contribute one or two floral looks of my own before our Floral Month comes to an end. Yesterday was a warm and beautiful day, so I celebrated by wearing my newly thrifted vintage dress that boasts a colorful floral and faux-eyelet pattern. I found this dress earlier this year and was instantly attracted to its cheerful pattern and crisp white cotton fabric. Unfortunately, it looked like a big ol’ sack when I put it on. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from E. is that picking up a needle and thread can go a long way. Just shortening the straps by a good five inches and sawing them down and tucked into the back of the dress gave it a much needed facelift.
And A. has taught me that there is nothing a good belt won’t fix when it comes to creating shape and definition. This dress looks similar to A’s shirtdress in terms of hanging there without much form when left on its own. But throw a wide belt around, and presto!, it’s now more day dress than night gown.
I don’t own a sewing machine and don’t posses much in the ways of sewing, hemming, or altering skills, but I’ve become much more open to finding items in which I recognize potential and taking those home with me to give my DIY-ing skills a try. How about you? What is your approach to items with ‘potential’ that may not fit just right?
For a complete list of all the DIY projects we’ve featured on our site, make sure to check out our Taking Notes page. Happy weekend, everyone! S.
Category: Dresses for Day, Our Best Flatware, Proportionally, Weekend Wear
April 23rd, 2010 § §
- Top: Anthropologie
- Belt: Gap Outlet
- Skirt: Banana Republic Factory
- Jacket: Banana Republic Factory
- Orange pumps: Dolce Vita
- Silver bangles: ?
I bought this really lovely top on sale at Anthropologie while visiting my sister-in-law in New York.
I am a sucker for an Asian inspired — especially Japanese — print. Florals are frequently conceived of as a nostalgic print, but for me it’s Japanese-inspired prints in particular that remind me of the textiles in my nisei grandfather’s home in Honolulu.
Of course, this top, with its loosely Japanese-ish motif, was made in India for a primarily U.S. consumer. On some level, I don’t think it pretends to be anything else. I don’t think that someone would ever mistake this top as being fashioned from vintage kimono fabric. Nor, in this age of globalized fashion, would someone presume that I am from Japan or have visited Japan based on my shirt. Asian-inspired prints have a comfortable niche presence in western fashion.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but I want to limit my ruminations for the moment to a history of “exotic florals” with less than exotic origins. In early nineteenth century France, shawls were one of the fashion accessories that denoted a woman’s class and taste. Two kinds of shawls were very popular: embroidered “Canton shawls” and paisley “Kashmir shawls.” The social currency associated with these shawls came in part from their far-flung origins, not only because it cost more to bring them to Europe but because the “Orient” had a kind of mysterious allure in the western mind.
But here’s where it gets a little more complicated. Those Canton shawls? Sure, they were made in China but they were made specifically for European and American consumption. The embroidered designs are distinct from those on textiles made for Chinese consumers, and the motifs changed over time to accommodate shifting European tastes. And the paisley Kashmir shawls? As early as 1810 French manufacturers were developing a hearty industry of imitation Kashmir shawls. Somewhat ironically, the fashion periodical Journal des Dames et Modes actually chastised French manufacturers for their lack of inventive power in paisley shawl-making. This irked the leading shawl-makers, the Ternaux brothers, and they launched a government-backed initiative to produce original shawls inspired by Kashmiri designs but “more in conformity with French taste.” Wild, no?
And that, dear readers, is your history lesson for the day. Bring that up the next time conversation lags at a dinner party.
Category: Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue, Theoretical
Tags: asian floral > asian print > blazer > cropped blazer > E. > floral > orange shoes
April 22nd, 2010 § §
- Blue Blazer – F21
- Pinstripe Skirt – Gap
- Green Ruffle Tank – Old Navy
- Green Flats – Banana Republic
I had good intentions of giving florals a fair shot today, but stripes once again won out. I tried adding floral accessories for a bit of pattern mixing, but I like the mix of the double stripes better. I promise I’ll try harder tomorrow!
Double Stripes, originally uploaded by academichic.
I love both this full skirt and this short-sleeved navy blazer and have worn both many times, including a few times paired together. In fact, I have worn both so much that they have both seen much better days. The skirt has a small tear in the front that I expect will only grow and the blazer is continuing to fade and loose its shape. So, I am now on a mission to replace these wardrobe staples. Today starts my official quest to find a lightweight full skirt in a neutral color and a short or 3/4 sleeved navy blazer. And, I am enlisting your help! If you find anything that you think fits the bill, leave a comment here or shoot me an email. I’ll be sure to report back on my own finds. A.
Category: Color Combinations, Layers Upon Layers, Mixing Patterns, Our Best Flatware, Skirting the Issue
Tags: A. > blazer > cropped blazer > full skirt > striped skirt > stripes
April 22nd, 2010 § §
We recently received a reader question regarding t-shirts. Reader K. wrote:
I have drawers and drawers full of every color tee and would love some of your brilliance on how to make them more stylish!
We’re sure that K. is not alone in having accumulated a hefty stash of tees in every color. We own a fair share of colorful tees ourselves because they serve an important function as a wardrobe staple and basic layering tool. Here are some of the ways we make those colorful tees work for us:
An important wardrobe basic is the plain solid colored tee. This item is just an easy ‘glue’ piece that can be thrown on with any pants, skirts, or under cardigans, and doesn’t require much deliberation. When in doubt, a solid colored tee is usually a safe and simple choice.
If you find that you own many of these plain solid colored tees and want to spruce them up a bit, here are some suggestions…
Layering a scooped necked tee over a tank or lacy camisole adds that extra bit of interest and detail that lifts this simple item to another level. Camis with lacy shoulder straps are especially useful for creating this layering effect. This works particularly well with scoop neck and v-neck tees.
Scoop neck tees are also great for layering over graphic tees, allowing only a bit of the pattern to peak out from the layer beneath. You can additionally play with the color choices in your layering, creating two-thirds of a triad, as E. did with this eggplant and mustard example above, or opting for a softer analogous effect by mixing two colors neighboring each other on the color wheel.
Graphic tees are also fun on their own. We especially like the combination of a relaxed graphic tee with a straight-line skirt and flats for a casual summer look. But let’s return to that simple solid colored tee once more. Should you not want to layer it over something else, you could just add interest by adding a scarf or any other fun accessory (think long necklace, pretty brooch, vest, etc)…
Simple tees, especially the more close-fitting variety, are also great for pairing with fuller and higher-waisted skirts. (And with wide leg pants or looser trousers). They do the job of balancing out the fuller bottom portion and play a perfect partner to those belted and more colorful items that demand something simple and fitted on top.
And, if your drawers are overflowing with loads and loads of tees, you could always choose a few of those with which to experiment and try some DIY. E. picked up a few basic solid colored tee and added embellishments along the neckline with just a few stitches, some ribbon, and extra jersey fabric. For the full instructions, go here.
Are you also someone who’s stocked up on more than your fair share of colorful tees? What are some of your favorite ways of working them into your wardrobe and how do you manage to dress them up on occasion? As always, leave your tips in the comments section below!
Tags: how to wear tees with style > tees > tshirts