Archive for November 20th, 2010

November 20, 2010

There be dragons in that castle!

I’ve decided that Lazy Days are balanced out by Seriously Hectic Days. Today was meant to be a stroll in the park: an early visit to the Philippino Lantern Festival in Parramatta, and (perhaps) home to gobble all the food we brought. Indeed, the only hiccup seemed to be the fact that Valerie intended to go out in her pyjamas (a shirt with pictures of sheep). This exchange happened over chat this morning:


Valerie: MAYBE I SHOULD WEAR MY SHEEP SHIRT
Andrea:
maybe you shouldn’t?
Hehehe
why?
Valerie: I SAID I WOULD DO IT AND I’M ALREADY WEARING IT XD. Because i wore it to bed ^^
Andrea: LOL
Do you want to?
(Better question: why do you want to?)
Valerie: Yes
I do
wearing it now ^^
have an outfit of sorts
lol
because
Andrea: you nutter
Valerie: they’re pyjamas? XD
Andrea: I can’t believe you’re trying to explain it to me.
Valerie: But I dont’ think they look as pyjama-y as my other pyjamas
which aren’t even fun looking. Also, i don’t have any other shirts like it XD
Andrea: yeah, you don’t. Because they’re pyjamas. No one makes shirts to look like pyjamas.

To be fair, when she arrived this morning, she looked rather cute. I unfortunately didn’t get a picture, but I’ll get one soon. Brown-khaki pants with brown knee-high boots, the sheep shirt (which is quite loose-fitting, has thick brown and white vertical stripes, with a sheep at the hem on the right and another near the neckline on the left), a brown hat and a black little square scarf around her neck. This is what I was wearing:

The skirt is a cheapie from Hong Kong; the argyle vest and cream blouse are from Valleygirl (bought a good four years ago and still looking pristine! Handwash all your cheap thrills and they’ll last a good while yet); the leather blazer is from BCBG Max Azria and is one of my favourite jackets, bar none. It was a bit hot for today’s weather but I thought I’d wear it out before it got too unbearably hot to wear again.

My accessories: Twitter stockings, which I’ve shared before, from Etsy; champagne pearl necklace; champagne pearl earrings; my beloved Sretsis glass bird ring; red hair bow.

So, even though Valerie was wearing her pyjama top, I suppose we didn’t cut too bad a figure.

Unfortunately, we left the festival almost as soon as we came. Valerie seemed to have an allergic reaction to something she ate and felt rather nauseated. (The poor thing hasn’t had an allergic reaction to anything before, and nausea is something quite rare for her.) It ended rather messily (won’t go into the details!) with me rushing up four shopping centre levels in search of antihistamines — I’m not familiar with Parramatta Westfield and the place is huge when you’re looking for something very ordinary! We went home after Valerie’s nausea passed and she felt well enough to move.

Let it be known now that if you are a worrier, a fretter, a mother hen of sorts to sick people, Valerie is not your ideal patient. After seeing her looking pale, flushed and dazed, I was quite understandably rather worried about her state of health after the episode had passed. I was quite content to tuck her in bed and simply sit at home all day. But Valerie wasn’t.

Two cups of tea later, she piped up, ‘let’s go to Top Ryde City!’

‘Why?’ said I.

‘Because we haven’t been there yet!’

(I still don’t know why ‘because we haven’t been there yet!’ is a reason to go to a shopping centre. Shopping centres are, by and large, all the same. Myer and David Jones may be on one side in Shopping Centre A and on opposite sides in Shopping Centre B, but this does not erase the fact that Myer and DJs are in both shopping centres and will more than likely have similar things.)

So off to Top Ryde City we went.

It was, like many shopping centres… like many shopping centres. I don’t think there’s much more to say about that, besides that it is brand new and the travelators are still bafflingly clean.

And like many shopping centres, it had Aldi, which is the usual grocery store to normal people but a haven of undiscovered treasures for Valerie. The girl collects Aldi catalogues as though they’re vintage baseball cards in mint condition.

I’ll concede Aldi has some weird and wonderful things at especially wonderful prices. Their Halloween fairy floss goes unrivalled and as someone who eats the stuff on a regular basis, this means that it is really awfully good. They had a fog machine for $40, which was so terribly tempting but let’s face it, what would I do with a fog machine?

This week, they have wooden building blocks for $15. Stuff of childhood, for $15! Nostalgia doesn’t get any cheaper!

With a bucket of blocks in our hot little hands, we scurried home to Bring Our Imaginations to Life.

First, we made a train. It was going to be a car, but it became a train. Such feats of engineering can only be accomplished with brightly coloured blocks, y’know.

Our brilliance led us on to more ambitious dreams: an aeroplane.

A picture tells a thousand words but this one is quite reticent. It just says: it failed miserably.

I’m not really sure where the aeroplane ends and the ‘just pile the blocks on!’ begins.

Eventually, it became a dragon:

MIGHTY AND POWERFUL

MIGHTY AND POWERFUL DRAGON

If you think it looks innocuous, you are sorely mistaken. Any dragon that can BREATHE FIRE (and all dragons can) while being made of something that catches on fire at the drop of a hat, and yet not die, is seriously a force of immense and awesome power.

So awesome, indeed, that it invaded and took over this castle:

This elegant architecture-designed castle sits on an expanse of land not the size of a postage stamp but, rather, a reasonably sized ‘you have a parcel waiting at the post office’ card — a great beginning lot for a first-castle buyer or a good investment for those looking to break into the retail block market. This castle boasts views of the rolling green hills on the right and a busy bubbling blue stream-cum-moat, with a sturdy yellow-block bridge. Castle does come with dragon, so be prepared.

The lucky inhabitants of the castle will be able to live a pseudo self-sufficient life, as they will be able to seize all their foodstuffs from the neighbouring farm:

Our idyllic farm

And when you’re sick of hearty, homecooked food, you can dine at the Generic Conglomerate of Asian Food restaurant, which is designed to look suitably ‘oriental’ without being anything at all:

The restaurant is flanked by the Twin Pillars of General Exotic Mysticism and has an Inverted Triangle of Balance for some extra pizzazz.

Good, huh. You know you want it. Go go go to Aldi and make your own wonderful lands of wonder, all for $15. You won’t regret it.

November 20, 2010

Satirical sartorialism: fashion and femininity

(A note: this isn’t a fashion post as such. It’s more of a pseudo-academic musing, which I understand isn’t always what people are after on lazy Saturday afternoons. Click here for today’s usual outfit post ^^. —I must add, however, that this post contains a rather dorky set of photos, so if you want to see the stranger side of me, have a read through XP. My outfit is pretty damn’d cute too, if I do say so myself.)

I read a great post, Selling Myself, by a fellow Voguette. She discusses the fact that Alannah Hill is an incredibly feminine brand; that sales depend on selling a (very feminine) image; and whether or not it matters that she is selling femininity. This post is a run-off rather than a direct reply; I’ve used it to bounce into my own reflections about my femininity and fashion choices.

As someone aware of and interested in gender, I often have to reconcile the fact that I am a feminist performing a very specific type of femininity — a femininity that is often derided as frivolous and a hindrance to feminist movements.  It would be easier if I were an individual engaging in genderfuck or even someone who dresses androgynously (as Tilda Swinton does), or dresses like Valerie, who is often seen in (a more feminine) vest and tie. Such performances are far more explicitly gender-b(l)ending than my rather conservative display of femininity.

Me (left): 'girly' girl: Bows; skirt. Girl. Valerie (right): 'not-girly' girl; tie; vest. Girl.

That being said, genderfuck performances are often read as ‘just fucked up and wrong’ as opposed to a playful approach to gender; androgynous or cross dressing people are often shunted into the butch/femme binary — that is, their dress choices are immediately (and sometimes erroneously) equated with their sexuality. These performances are often recognised and read through a conservative gender lens. Performances alone, unfortunately, do not invite reflexivity.

So what if we played within the actual constructs of gender? Dressing like a tomboy or like ‘one of the guys’ stems from a rather androcentric stance — that masculinity is neutral and femininity is other. And a feminine ‘neutral’ outfit — a laid back and ‘prettified’ jeans and t-shirt affair — feels to me like a naturalisation of the relationship between ‘prettiness’ and female. So I decided, a good five years ago, not to fight it, but to accentuate it a little; make it just a bit more absurd. I slipped out of my jeans and t-shirts and took ‘girliness’ to the absolute heights (that my wallet could reach XP).

This has, of course, invited very conservative readings of my gender identity. All of a sudden I was offered Jane Austen books at bookstores (don’t start me on how boring I find Austen); people expected me to be shopping for my boyfriend at EB Games; and people look rather taken aback and perplexed when I say that I once spent over twenty-four hours, without sleep, grinding my character to the next level in an MMORPG.

My clothes have led people to dub me a ‘girly girl’, although outside of makeup and clothes, I don’t ascribe to conventionally feminine interests at all. My interest in makeup and clothes stems from aestheticism and colour theory as well, not necessarily from ‘looking attractive’ (although that’s always a plus!) — I derive the same pleasure from putting together a nice outfit as I do from putting together a nice arrangement of objects. If I were a male in nineteenth-century England, I would be all over Piccadilly carrying lilies with the best of them. (And swooning. I find that aesthetes in literature are always fainting onto couches.)

This does baffle me a bit, because I can’t help but ask: what does it mean when I’m dubbed ‘a girly girl’? I’m ‘more’ girl than the girl in jeans and a t-shirt? But we both (presumably) have female genitalia; we both (presumably) have the XX chromosome.  How can the clothes on my back suddenly deem me more ‘girl’? All of a sudden gender is marked not by biological sex but by something else — something that is rather arbitrary, like clothing.

I mean, look at me, everyone. I’m seriously a dork. I don’t spend all my time lounging in teahouses and cafes and looking for vintage things. I do spend a great deal of time doing so, but that’s not because of my biological sex — in the same way my dorky geeky nerdiness* isn’t because of my biological sex, either. (*The first thing I did when I got my iPod Touch was download the lightsabre app and run around making ‘zzwmmmm’ noises. But I don’t have pictures of that.) I’m not quite sure what I was doing here, but rest assured: it was epic.

Least. Feminine. Action. Evar. But-in-a-pink-dress.

If I were in a dorky looking t-shirt and had my hair all frizzy, I doubt anyone would call me ‘very girly’. Take away my dress and cardigan and I am no longer obviously ‘girly’, which suggests a (simplified) equation: Andrea + current clothes = girly girl; Andrea – current clothes = girl; therefore current clothes = girly.

Clothes maketh the girl here; and certain clothes mark femininity. Femininity is, put simply, a costume: something we perform and something we do. As a costume and a performance, it can also be taken off and stopped. It is hugely unnatural to strut around in high heels as it is to rip the hair out from under our arms, but it is being marketed to us as a very natural thing: something that women ‘like’ or ‘have’ to do, by virtue of our gender.

What I hope to do by dressing in such an absurdly girly way is highlight how much of a costume it is: how much effort goes into engaging in all the trappings of femininity, how very controlled and limiting it is, how very ridiculous it is to expect women to conform to it all the time.  And I enjoy this performance. I do; else I wouldn’t be doing it. But I enjoy it in the same way I’d enjoy dressing up in a costume of a film character: there’s something really terribly awesome about acting a role. I just happen to act a role on a daily basis.

Of course, this doesn’t work flawlessly. It has made a few of my students think,  once or twice. It’s also probably been read as ‘just girliness’ by countless of other people. As such, my choices may be just the indulgence of a privileged middle-class first-world cis-gendered female (booyeah cultural theory keywords!), pretending to take a political stance. In my defence, I’m not trying to tangibly change very much by dressing the way I do. I am aware, however, of the politics of performance, both in a theoretical mechanics-of sense and in the tangible political realm. An explicitly artificial, costumed, so-feminine-it’s-almost-unreal performance seems to fit the bill as well as anything else.

I also think it’s really important to claim femininity as a valid performance. ‘Serious’ things are always equated with the masculine. If you want to suggest that a girl is stupid, you style her in pink and frills and bows. I get great thrills from appearing all frilled up and being able to hold my own in an academic debate; in wearing bows and pwning people at computer games. And these thrills stem from the reactions some people first have when they see me: a bit incredulous, a bit unsure… and, largely, a bit definitely positive that I’m not cut out for whatever task for which I’ve arrived.

I don’t want to have to don a suit to look respectable and serious. I can do just as good a job (in my field) in heels and with bows in my hair, and I don’t want to act some form of masculinity just because being male is srs bzns and somehow more valid than femininity.

November 20, 2010

Snow bunnies

My, I miss winter. I’m really in the mood to wear one of my favourite outfits: a red skirt with different sized polka dots, a cream bow belt, a navy blue cardigan and a red/cream/navy/tan/pink scarf. It makes me feel like a little snow bunny on a snowy mountain, except a very unsuitably dressed bunny because the outfit is just a very thin cardigan and a scarf.

I’m not wearing it today which means no photos, which unfortunately (for you!) means that I will have to draw it for you on Microsoft Paint.

Yes. Have to.

Ta da! Skillz, yo. The swatches of colour on the right aren’t anything at all; just me trying to work out what shades worked best.

The skirt, cardigan and scarf are all from Alannah Hill’s Autumn/Winter 2009 collection. The skirt is called ‘Lost in Headlights’ and also came in black with cream spots, which I now want rather desperately (even though I’m not quite sure how I’d style it). The cardigan is called ‘The Odd Moment!’ and the scarf is called ‘Sweet as Sugar’. Autumn/Winter 09 was an awesome season. So many happy buys.

Edited: Okay, I took a photo of my outfit after all, just because it seems a bit slack to just show you my Paint scrawls:

I’ve included my earmuffs in this shot. They’re also called ‘Sweet as Sugar’ and I wear them surprisingly often because my ears freeze off in winter. I don’t actually feel the cold except in my ears and sometimes my nose — my hands and feet are apparently freezing to the touch but they generally feel all right to me! I made the hair-bow myself, though you’ll find very similar ones on Etsy.

These are my shoes:

I added the bow myself from the leather of an old, unsalvageable pair of red suede shoes. Ripping those old shoes to shreds was amazingly fun. Look at the carcass:

I stripped both shoes in case the leather would come in handy. Haven’t had reason to use them yet, though I imagine that it’d make a nice leather headband or something. If you’re going to do it to your shoes, it’s much easier to do with a well-loved and beaten-up pair of shoes with both leather upper and leather lining — much softer and easier on your hands and scissors.

I think I’m now going to have to go off and play with all my summer dresses so that I don’t pine for winter so badly. Summer means floaty silk and little cardigans. Repeat; summer means floaty silk and little cardigans; summer means…