Thursday, July 02, 2009

Black & Blue

I have been waiting for Brandon Brown to post about fashion as he promised last month but can wait no more. In the the spirit of and in response to The Talking Points, I herewith discourse upon some fashion points, gleaned over the decades.

I thought to start with basics. Some kind of denim, let’s say jeans or a skirt, and a black top. A completely neutral, unisex ensemble that says about you only that you might like to play it safe. It doesn’t even say for sure that you like to play it safe. It’s that neutral. I went to a party a while ago and wondered what to wear and wore black shirt and jeans and found that about half the people there were similarly attired. Conclusion? Always a good choice, but not really a statement.

But what about the rule of having one thing out of whack? A rule that can be applied to poetry as well as to fashion. For me, in the case in point, it was a ridiculous necklace and mildly absurd scarf. Right now today – in black & blue – I am wearing bracelets and a necklace that I made myself. Nerdy? Oh yeah.

Of course an easy solution to the statement thing is the used t-shirt with something written on it. The t-shirt should be faded, the statement oblique. I believe this began in the 80s but it might have been earlier. It is always effective but a little too cool.

Okay, hard to get anything written here on during breaks. Back this morning and am in denim again, jeans. I believe these are classic mother jeans. More turquoise than indigo (didn’t I just hear a story about real indigo-dyed jeans being expensive – can’t remember details.) I am wearing these jeans because I am a mother and also of a certain age. There was a time when I worried that light jeans were actually stonewashed, having forgotten the exact meaning of that term from the 70s, even though I was, you know, there. Alli Warren said something one day about stonewashed jeans that put the fear of god into me. I think it was “I definitely need to wear stonewashed jeans” or something equally devastating. Do they even exist anymore, I worried. Was I accidentally wearing them? Finally I gave up and focused on pegging the jeans I have, something I hadn’t done since the aforementioned 70s when there was a traverse from bell bottoms and back to them. Finally I gave up on that and just wear em as I buy em.

Note: I remember Dinah Shore had a daytime TV show a long time ago. This was in the Burt Reynolds days. She said once that jeans cover a lot of “figure faults.” I was intrigued by the term “figure faults” which I intuited she had retained from the 50s. I had assumed you had to be perfect to wear jeans, but not true! I think this was in the 60s. I was just a child, darlings.

Next, folded up jean cuffs – is it over?


Blogger BB said...

I'm called out!

The "thing out of whack" is what Barthes dwells on and calls "the detail" or the distinguishing thing and situates in the post-Revolutionary moment which purported to break down distinctions between the classes. But in the form of the "outfit" you're talking about--the black shirt and jeans--the detail feels like the place for communication, exactly. It's how you perform your sartorial symptoms. It's risky--because it dwells in the threshold of the fetish and is easily overdetermined. I love them! I just bought a pearl necklace and a wristband with a big red heart on it.

sorry for the empty promises. meanwhile--folded up jean cuffs--I don't think they're over. With certain shoes and configurations, they're totally utilitarian and certainly summery when one goes sockless.

I love this post obviously.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Alli Warren said...

O, I kinda sorta remember. I think I was talking about the phenomenon of the return of acid washed jeans. At my age, growing up, they were the jeans your friend's mom wore, and then somewhere in the 2000s they started coming back, along with other horrendous 80s attire. So now you have this sort of ensemble:

which encompasses the witty faded t-shirt as well.

The thing I'm always curious about with fashion is appropriation. The hipster appropriating the Mom. The hip hop star appropriating the old money-loafer-polo-docker-pastel-Ivy-League thing.

But mostly fashion is about money. And time. And class. How's that for an assertive statement?

I could talk about fashion forever. Laura let's go to T-Rex!

9:55 AM  
Blogger Nada Gordon: 2 ludic 4 U said...

My jeans happen to be folded up today, although they are not stonewashed. Rather, they are deep burgundy (that would be the out of whack detail, perhaps).

So, no, not over.

Love the sartoriality, of course. Keep it up!

10:12 AM  
Blogger Laura Moriarty said...

Yes to everything.

Brandon, please send an image of these famous pearls for my planned post on foof or hyper girlie attire.

And now I think I understand acid wash. Brent just accused me of wearing stonewashed jeans today but I knew better than to believe him.

Overstated is fine if one can avoid overdetermined.

I don't agree about the money thing if you are under 30, well maybe 40. Then the vintage and big box trash ensemble one might assert is more effective than many an overdetermined "outfit" sported by those cursed with too many resources and too much leisure.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Laura Moriarty said...

Nada -- I clearly need your help on the hyper girlie. Please backchannel.

10:19 AM  
Blogger rodney k said...

I'm not so invested in the wash or the cuff, but in the pocket. There's a whole language of denim jean pockets--the wide spread of the "mom" jean, the tiny functionless affect of the low-slung young, the flap that buttons, implying that you're cool but up for utility as well.

More time and variety seems to go into pockets on women's jeans than men's, for associations that are probably pretty clear. Or am I just behind the times on men's pockets? I did try a new, more fashionable pair of men's jeans on the other day, and was surprised at how low they sat on the waist compared with my usual "dad" jeans, cut to surmount the problem areas.

I heard an old Mod once with a variation on the "thing out of whack" advice. He said to combine something thrift with something expensive--ratty jeans and Italian loafers, faded T but crisp homburg, high-end blazer with JC Penny button-up, stuff like that.

Seconding BB's love on this post.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Alli Warren said...

O totally, Laura. The big box trash and thrift ensemble is usually much more effective.

But that this is about money. About the (relative) lack of money...

And this is what is so interesting to me about the current phenomenon in hip hop: wearing the clothes of what has traditionally been completely off limits, wearing the old rich white man's clothes, reappropriating them and saying hey look at a) how rich I am and b) how much better I look in them than y'all ever did. I think Andre 3000 started it and Kanye brought it to the masses.

And re: money, everyone on the Sartorialist blog looks hot because the clothes are well-tailored [expensive]. It's about the fit, no?

10:50 AM  
Blogger Nada Gordon: 2 ludic 4 U said...

Hi Laura!

I’m happy to backchannel, but wondering if it’s OK to talk out in the open about these matters as well. Can I just take a moment here to rant against jeans, not just because they are a default uniform, but because of their utter unsensuousness?

I understand that jeans might be “sexy” (as in “is there any more room for me in those jeans”) in that they pretty clearly define body parts like buttocks, packages, mons pubises, and so forth, in ways that the cascading ruffles of a petticoat or an intricately pleated skirt cannot. They may even camouflage (on some people, in some jeans) “figure faults” to some extent, acting as a natural girdle or creating a continuous line from waist to ankle that lengthens the appearance of the leg.

All the same, as garments in and of themselves, jeans WILL confine, no matter what, and WILL NOT ventilate in the proper places, and will neither flutter nor twirl. Their fabric may provide a kind of pleasure against the skin, but often it is an inappropriate sort of pleasure, given that they are worn outside in public, and it cannot be compared to the kind of pleasure that a skirt gives as it swishes about one’s bare legs or that one feels grasping a handful of its fabric. Even the simple fact of the variation of fabric types possible for a skirt makes it, for me, a far superior garment.

Why then, you may be wondering, did I opt to wear jeans today? Some days I just feel that I should, because that’s what people do nowadays. I think that is a terrible reason for a fashion choice. I also chose them today, I guess, because rainstorms have been forecast, and I admittedly don’t love getting rainstorms all up my legs. But if I must wear them for their practicality, there really should be something different about them. Of the approximately ten pairs of jeans I own, only one pair is remotely normal, two are more like leggings, and the rest are burgundy, shocking pink, purple (3 pairs in different shades), pale mauve, and dip-dyed red. I own one pair of black jeans that, while versatile and not unflattering, always make me feel so hopelessly generic that 80% of the time I will change out of them to something else.

I also feel, buying jeans, terribly discriminated against, as a person with an inseam of about 27 inches. They can be altered, but then the tapering and overall garment proportion is off.

So… screw jeans: try wearing skirts, or tunics, or pantaloons, or salwar, or anything, but not jeans! Guys, that goes for you, too.

Laura, did you have any specific questions to focus my backchannel on the hyper-hyper-girlie? Cuz otherwise I'll end up writing a novel...

11:21 AM  
Blogger Laura Moriarty said...

Alli -- One thing about the money issue is that I try not to have problems for which money is the solution. Of course it often is. But in this case I am most interested in the gestures made within a community -- the vintage jacket of just the right fit, the new necklace, looseness, tightness issues etc. Rich people wear fancy stuff but whatever.

Nada, I did just backchannel. For years I didn't wear jeans and in a sense I have caved. Which leads us into questions of overdressing -- ultra femme or otherwise -- which I have done since I was 7 and first got my school dress dirty so I could wear it to play.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Steven Fama said...

Jeans work well for gold-mining.

Perhaps more common, they are dang good for gardening.

And I can wear them to work, most days at least. And they are great for when I walk up to and into SPD.

And rolling the cuff reduces fraying, especially with shoes off, and thus tends to extend the life of the pants. Plus doing so just seems to make the walk down from or to BART seem easier -- not as much drag on the ankles, or something.

For a good ten or fifteen year stretch -- most of the '90s -- I could get good (new) jeans lots of places. These days, I swear by the old stand-by Levis. The customer service at the "flagship" store on Union Square (Frisco) is just tremendous.

Tremendous like Nordstroms or (and I mean this, I've lots of experience on this one) SPD!

6:50 PM  
Blogger Nada Gordon: 2 ludic 4 U said...

Laura, I'm going to post my response on Ululations, because I think I'll need some photo-documentation... stay tuned...

5:41 PM  

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