Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lately: completely obsessed with all things photography, photoshop and flickr.

It's finally getting warmer, which I'm not sure how I feel about. I'm delighted that now I won't be freezing every morning but this is the season of the awkward weather where you don't know how to dress for fear of the wind or the sun making things temperature unpleasant, one way or another.

It does make me want to go out and do things, instead of hanging around the house all day. Perfect weather to read in the park or just walk and think...I actually haven't done that in a while. Probably because the cloudy cold weather whips away any desire to be outdoors.

I'm reading Valley of the Dolls, which is basically a retro version of any modern actress/model/glamor chick lit porn, but it is rather fun and silly. As in: the main character is so naive and ridiculous you root for her to be somehow crapshooted. Or maybe that's just my usual cynicism...

In the near future, I should:

-make a flower headband ala erin fetherston
-make a music video -make a mixtape
-polish the first five chapters/do an outline for one of my novels and send it to this scholastic scholarship/competition

probably others that I can't think of at the moment..

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cultural update

San Francisco/Berkley was a lot of fun, although with enough utterly ridiculous adventures and festerous crapshoots. It was a great little vacation that made returning to school and San Diego just that much more bleak of a prospect, and, as expected, I've been lacking in energy and motivation these past couple of days. Perhaps in large part because of the rainy, cloudy, cold weather. Yes, I do so love the rain, but when SF was all clear and sunny and pleasantly cool, and I expect home to be warm and sunny and annoyingly summer like, it's a bit frustrating that I have to dress for wet weather...which I'm most certainly ill prepared for.

In Berkeley, we went to go see There Will Be Blood, which is quite an incredible movie that I can't recommend enough and is going to become a classic in the level of Pulp Fiction and in the same vein as No Country for Old Men (a masterpiece in its own right and also highly, highly recommended). To be honest, the first half of the movie frustrated and upset me incredibly with the sheer amount of injustices and terrible things that were happening, but I was expecting it to be disheartening...it was just that I think I went with the mood of something slightly less heavy, and got wrapped in the movie's downward spiral attacking the evil nature of humanity. And then, of course, the glorious, glorious, epic ending made up for everything...not to mention some of the events that occurred shortly after our movie that made the night a memorable and hilarious one.

Which brings the total number of depressing movies I've seen recently up to a three or four in a row. Which doesn't sound that terrible, until you consider that one of said movie was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a brilliant adaptation from the book, a beautifully, moving and well crafted film that definitely called for tears and a sinking feeling deep inside. Followed by There Will Be Blood, and set up by No Country for Old Men. Not exactly a cheerful, optimistic combination. And now I think I may just be longing a lighthearted, simple, quirky and cute movie that brings about a smile and renew hope for the world.

Anyway, I'm almost completed with Porno by Irvine Welsh, which took a surprising long time to get through. I do really enjoy the book, but I think, concerning the subject matter and Welsh's style, this book requires certain environments and times to truly read well. It's one of those books that you get completely caught up in, but is so detached from regular life that it's difficult to sink into with only a few minutes to spare. I'm not quite sure if this is a good thing or not, but whenever I read it at school, I tend to become completely detached from the classroom, teacher and classmates and fall into this absurd world of druggies and crooks. Go figure.

Yesterday I finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, which is one of those thought provoking, fascinating and innovative non-fiction books resembling Freakonomics or Blink. I find it a bit funny that although I consider those three books rather similar in nature and perhaps even style, they are categorized under Marketing, Current Affairs, and Psychology respectively at the bookstore. Any time I try to recommend the others to a customer interested in one, I have to scramble around the store to find the other two. But then again, I question more than a few books and the way they are categorized/organized. It's the sort of little things that sometimes can be frustrating, but generally, I accept and leave be.

Lately I've been letting out all my self-centered fashion obsessions and photography-wannabe tendencies by posting on Wardrobe Remix. I've always enjoyed lurking on the site and find it a good source of inspiration and ideas, and just fun to look at in general since it tends to be one of the more diverse photo fashion sites and doesn't focus specifically on, say, American-Apparel prototypical hipsters or Scandinavian hipsters (both of which I can enjoy, the latter more so than the former, but I also quite enjoy diversity.) Actually bothering to post fairly regularly, though, definitely adds something to the experience. As in, it makes me want to diversify in my outfits and wear things that actually make for more interesting outfits than something safe, predictable.

I realize my whole problem with fashion is that it still ends up too generic and molded. Sometimes I'm more drawn to the more subversive and ridiculous styles than the typical visions of "beauty", and even those high fashion editorials sometimes hold the same sort of appeal that gets tiresome after a while. So what's the solution? At the moment, it is take things as they come and wear whatever makes me happy and feel good, and agrees with my ideals and values and idiosyncratic sense of aesthetic (as a certain teacher of mine would say...)

I do also kind of wish the rain would stop, and that at some point in the near future, I can go out and photograph someone other than myself. Preferably strangers, to cross off my "take more photographs" goal and the "talk to strangers" goal. Who knows what doing something like that will magically turn up?

Sigh. Actually, probably nothing. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apathy. Rain.

I've figured it out. The magic answer. The solution to all the bland restlessness, yet inability to make myself do anything sense of foggy boredom that has been clouding over me lately.

This is apathy. Strong, intense apathy that dampens anything worth looking forward to, an apathy I befriended not so long ago and apparently has returned.

This apathy. Makes happiness difficult to attain, depression just a small step away. But taking that step (in either direction) is oh so difficult. Lack of motivation, of optimism, presents a bit of a challenge.

So maybe this four day weekend and my trip to Berkeley/San Francisco will make things interesting again. Not that today hasn't been interesting, it's Valentine's Day, and I, of course, managed to get into all sorts of irritating crapshoots with trying to send last minute scholarships and losing my keys and the puddles getting my flats (the one day I decide to wear flats!) all wet and water splashing all over cars and such...

But hopefully it'll be the change, the spark, the inspiration that I need to get out of apathy. I am actually quite excited.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lolita.

My life is a contradiction. I'm obsessed with the dark, subversive, morbid and grotesque. A Clockwork Orange is one of my favorite movies, right along with Amelie. I can spend an afternoon engrossed in the delicacies of Marie Antoniette, or the deranged world of Eraserhead. I've read nearly every Stephen King novel, and welcome the graphic perversions and subversions in a Chuck Palahniuk novel, or with the drug addicted, violence inflicting but somehow likable Brits of Irvine Welsh. I also adore the satire of Christopher Moore or Terry Pratchett, the play with language that Tom Robbins has mastered. Okay, literature-wise, my tastes are a bit outside the norm...that isn't to say I don't enjoy the well written epics of Michael Chabon or the modern classics like Middlesex or The Secret History, even actual classics like A Hundred Years of Solitude. (And no, this is not just an attempt to name drop every hip book literati are supposed to know, ever.) The point is, it's not even so much diversity as adversity in what I love.

This of course, translates to my life, my personality, and most importantly (or rather, most interestingly, at the moment), my style. I've noticed that this blog has become a bit fashion-centric, but whatever. I need an outlet for these pseudo intellectual fashionista thoughts.

So. Ever since I've first set my eye on the first real Gothic Lolita dress, I've fallen in love with the whole "lolita" style and everything associated with it. Not the Lolita you may be thinking of--this lolita is a Japanese fashion that gets its inspiration from French Rococo rather than nymphet pedophilia. This whole thing centers on the elegance and innocence of a particular period in time, perhaps most notably channeled through the movie Kamikaze Girls, which details the lives of two Japanese girls from opposing worlds...one a sweet, adorable and beauty-above-all-else idealized lolita princess, and another a rebel, punk rock like hardcore Japanese gangster and their friendship.

kamikaze girls

For a long time (before I even watched the movie), I obsessed over the amazingly dresses on the lolita brands' websites, all the frilly, ruffled, lacey poofy and elaborate details, pastel or goth colors and every little crown or strawberry motif went straight to my heart. Deep down inside, I adored the overly feminine, girly. For a long time I was convinced that I would save up enough for one of those real brand dresses (costing at least $400 with ridiculous shipping expenses and whatnot) and perhaps individual pieces to wear every day. I realize now that it is a bit ridiculous, but should someone offer me all the lolita dresses I so desire, I would have no objections to draping myself in all those layers of delicate designs and cute and sweetness overload...

Anyway. I didn't just love the clothing, I fell in love with the community and lifestyle behind the image. This lolita was a complicated fashion, with seemingly endless rules--no skirts above knee length, must wear a blouse under jumpers, must wear fancy lacey socks to go with the dresses, petticoats necessary, makeup and presentation must match the outfit...--and separate sects. The Elegant Gothic Lolita, its most commonly seen form, the sweet lolita, the country lolita, even the theatrical Dandy or Gurololi (horror lolita, essentially) styles that were rarely seen but held a certain fascination for wannabe outsiders like myself.

baby the stars shine bright

Yes, my favorites leaned more towards the classic, simple pretty elegance of Mary Magdelene than the sugar stuffed, cupcake-strawberry pastel ruffles of Angelic Pretty, but I loved everything about lolita nevertheless. I even managed to buy a few lolita offbrand dresses in China, which I think I've had the guts to wear a total of two times...once in NYC, where I knew no one would recognize me nor really care, and once on Halloween as a semi-costume. I really loved the sense of underlying rebellion in the fashion, you know, in the modern era, where etiquette is a lost art, these girls embraced the sweet and feminine. They did not flutter an eye in the face of people who judged them based on what may be ridiculous costumes.

I felt like the lolita fashion rebelled more than the spikes and studs of punk rock. This was a sort of post-rebellion, an anti-rebellion that did exactly what rebellion should do...it made a statement, and did not care about the causalities. Apparently, men are not such a big fan of lolita fashion (I can't imagine why...), and with all the ultra-scene-queen-emo-punker kids sprinkled across strip malls every where, it seemed that to stand out required just the sort of over the top prettiness few others dare to tread in. Even the way in which girls dressed in lolita were supposed to behave, you know, with head raised tall, well groomed, a smile, please and thank-you fluttering from dainty lips, it seemed adverse to the rush and rudeness that rule society today.

lolitaOf course, without the proper attire, it was a bit difficult for me to truly participate in this phenomenon...so all I could do was to keep a bit of the lolita deep inside myself, and wear pieces that may not be all out French royalty, but at least somewhat inspired by the lace and bows of ages past, and trends in modern Japan.

Meanwhile, I kept up my obsessive reading on all things lolita related. Eventually I began to question the whole fashion...I wanted to dress to be original, to express myself, and it seemed that lolita was nothing but a bunch of preset notions and rules followed to a T. After looking at endless photos of cute girls with the same haircut and a slight variation of the same dress from the same brands, I began to sense a sort of conformity within what should have been a truly refreshing and original fashion style. After that, I drifted away from the baby pinks and blues, black and whites of the Japanese style. Now and then, I'll still soak in all the eyecandy I can from certain websites, but I stopped trying to dress solely like these girls, and learn to incorporate those details that I love into things I can actually wear everyday.

So, puffed sleeves, lacey yolks, ruffled edges, bows, and that general Victorian inspired elegance became a key to my personal style, one that my friends even were well aware of. I had a soft spot for ridiculously adorable, sweet and girly things, but sometimes still didn't have the heart to truly wear the sickeningly sweet. And besides, shopping at stores like Forever 21 could at most lead itself to semi-Victorian inspired pieces, never the lolita separates I once craved.

But that was only one source of inspiration for my sense of fashion. Hand in hand with lolita sweetness, I love fitted, well cut, menswear inspired pieces. My wardrobe probably would fall apart without my signature black blazers, as well as the vests to update a basic top. Secretary, white collar office conservative classics also found a niche in my wardrobe. Pencil skirts and fitted blouses that are often observed to be "running for president" material have become indispensable things I wear daily.

To say that I'm only lolita and girly victorian inspired would be simply inaccurate. Yes, I adore things that are "cute", but I'm also quite fond of "sophisticated," "elegant," "classy" and "classic."

But when I caught sight of the Erin Fetherston for Target collection...I fell utterly and completely in love, and began obsessing about every little item in the collection. Those adorable dresses! The puffy skirts! The heart detailed cardigans and coats!

Erin Fetherston for Target

I even adored the styling of the models. The blonde blunt bob wigs, the Mary Jane shoes and cutesey poses. Cuteness overload.

So after a long long time of reading over every little blog post and forum discussion about the collection and waiting for an eternalty (and first, the only thing I felt like I had to have was the scarf with the hearts, as I was in a desiring of scarf frame of mind and it was one of the most adorable things I've ever set sight on), essentially the whole collection went on clearance and I went a bit crazy, purchasing nearly every piece in the collection. (Most of which hasn't even arrived yet, so maybe I won't like any of them when I wear them, but that's besides the point...) Point being, this was the lolita/twee girl inside of me begging to have clothing that bordered on overly cute, precious, youthful.

Since I've wearing so much of that conservative secretary silhouette lately, I wanted something different, something that made a statement on its own. Erin Fetherston was the affordable and applicable answer...with dresses marked down to ten bucks a frock, who can really resist?

Which still doesn't quite bring me to my actual point here. (Is there a point? I canef red dress barely keep track..)

The point is, I then read this post critiquing the message the Fetherston line, and this whole baby-doll empire waist little girl trend in general and how it objectifies women in society today. And put out ideals that mindless, cute blank lolitas (in the Nobokov sense) are what today's young women should try to look like.

On the one hand, it made perfect sense. After all, all that Fetherston stands for is this fairy-tale princess aesthetic, pretty ruffles and frills, all eyecandy and sweetness, no substance. She's well aware of this, and is in fact trying to market this. Hence the wigs, the patent leather mary janes and little girl poses.

But what that particular blogger truly suggested was that Fetherston's line, and her promo artsy video put out the idea that wearing her clothing will make the wearer a doll. One of those blank minded, pretty toys easy to manipulate. And that most of Fetherston's fans embraced that image.

So let's talk about me, again. Me and my obsession with this line. Me and my fear of even liking fashion, of admitting that I cared about shopping and clothes and labels more than I should. Me and my embrace of the avant garde, unusual, extraordinarily intellectual. Me and my dedication to reading the most hailed cult books and watching obscure cult movies in order to understand certain ideologies. Me and my love of making a philosophical argument out of an ordinary event.

I'm probably the last girl in the world who would pick superficial prettiness over some artistic, intellectual inner expression. I hate following trends and looking like the masses (although I'm finding that more and more likely to occur the more interested I become in this whole fashion thing...maybe it's a sign that I'm just not cut out for it?), and I hate idealized notions of what a female should be and gender roles and whatnot.

That particular blog argues that the lolita look hides the womanly curves that makes a woman a woman. The same arguement could be made for objectifying women and flaunting them as sex machines by highlighting said curves. What about the low rise hip hugger jeans and stomach revealing mini-tees of just a few years past? I hated that look far, far more than the whole empire-waist-babydoll trend (although I admit that the belted, fifties poofy dresses remain my favorite. A nod to both the lolita styled flared dresses and fitted corporate office attire I enjoy so much).

Sure, it's a bit upsetting to think of grown, mature woman as little girls in tiny, strangely fitted dresses. But this sort of social stigma usual exists with any aspect of fashion, or anything, really.

I am a girl of contradictions, and so I love the Fetherston, lolita, sweet and girly feminine cuteness just as much as the sleek, simple elegance of a classic black dress, blazer and pumps. The statement I'm trying to make with my fashion sense is no longer "scene kid," "punker," "hipster," "indie girl", or "twee lover." It has become a bizarre blend of the sexy and cute, basic and ridiculous, and every ideal I had once tried to become. I think, just looking at my appearance, few would be able to guess the personality beneath. And as my style is always shifting, obsessing over some new item or style (right now: preppy chic via Gossip Girl), I'm never truly able to convey the sort of innocent, naive little girl-ism of Fetherston, nor the strict, all business secretary sense of certain "classic" conservative pieces I own.

And I really wish I understood my personal relationship with fashion better. At this point, I'm often confused by why I like certain things, certain set images I'm trying to convey, and their in fact often opposing nature.

...I see that I have rambled on into nothingness, as usual. I had a set purpose in mind in starting this essay/blog, but at this point, I seemed to have lost track.

So maybe I'll sit upon it more. It seems that like before, when it comes to writing about fashion from an intellectual standpoint, I lose my bearing and original thoughts.

The only remedy:

gossip girl!

Yes, a completely irrelevant photo of the beautiful and well dressed cast of Gossip Girl. (In case you're wondering, Blair and Chuck are my favorites. Style wise, and personality wise. Yeah, they're horrible people. But I've always had a thing for villians...)

XOXO
Laura

Friday, February 8, 2008

Senior ditch day?

There's been kind of a lot of my mind lately, and I have ample time to think and write about it, but somehow, I feel like I'd much rather tackle the little meaningless superficial little things than anything deep and revealing.

So, today at school, for instance, was one of those so utterly pointless and horrible days. Horrible because it was our senior ditch day, and nearly all of my friends and even friendly acquaintances were absent from the classrooms. Add on the fact that somehow we didn't have poli sci today and teachers were well prepared for the absences, meant a festerous, long day consisting mostly of me awkwardly reading Porno by Irvine Welsh in class or watching Gossip Girl (my new favorite guilty pleasure TV show. Hey. Sometimes they play good songs, and always wear really good clothing...). And also very nearly having to walk home all the way. (Luckily, a friend who isn't in any of my classes but who did have to go to school saw me on the way and gave me a ride. Hurray for little accomplishments.)

This afternoon was one of those afternoons...you know, where there is absolutely nothing to do and I'd rather not think about the minuscule amount of homework I have or the scholarship essays I should be writing. Instead, I spent it taking silly personality quizzes and reading reviews of clothing I've already brought online. And it wasn't the most horrible thing ever, I suppose. I did also circle the house and sing along with my favorite songs with that punch pop strut, or the ones with those ever fitting lyrics. And somehow the day is nearly gone.

It feels nothing like a Friday, and I feel like I should have work tomorrow, but I don't! Which is rather lovely. Sleeping in is always a delight, although this was purely accidental since this was another one of those weekend Santa Barbara trips that never ended up happening. Sigh. Someday.

It's probably not healthy frequenting target.com as often as I do now, especially since that's a really unfortunately designed website with bad product photos and general bad design...but, somehow, it's become a regular, nearly automatic site to type in. Someone find me something new to obsess over.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

American Apparel!

Oh, oh, American Apparel.

Inevitably I am finding myself drawn into your ever swirling black hole, which it seems that all my friends have fallen into. You know, the one where they wear head to toe bright and obvious AA clothes and nothing else. Where they know the materials, cuts and styles and new things by heart. Where every other week, someone mentions that they need to go to American apparel.

Myself, I've always been an anti-American Apparel type. Not necessarily their clothing (which is generally just plain, colorful, and often times terrifying--see: lame leggings, bodysuits), but their whole sense of aesthetic. The scary pornographic hipsters on their website, the CEO's perverted ways, the idea of the whole brand as a hipster uniform...I am not, not fond.

I owned, perhaps, two things from American Apparel. (And a number of Threadless and Oddica shirts printed on AA...but that shouldn't count). A yellow/white tube top I brought when I had a friend who worked there for 50% off, and a black pencil skirt from the same occasion. I love the pencil skirt, because it is one of those easy basics that go with anything and everything. I rarely wear the top, but I convince myself that there is value in it as a layering piece, or if I un-American-appareled it with quirky styling and piling on necklaces and bows or belts or something.

Then I discovered one of American Apparel's finer points, its little secret. Suddenly all their blank, colored repetitive clothing became exciting in completely new ways. Layering pieces, basics to play off with my far fancier clothes, just splashes of color in my otherwise nearly completely black with scattered grey, white and navy wardrobe, and such...

And yes. I still hate their models, their approach to marketing, their non-conformist conformity. But it won't be a rare occasion when I'm all dressed up (dressed down?) in dark colored pencil skirts an maybe even attempt to pull off some of those skin tight minidresses with sophisticated jackets and accessories.