Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photos of Inspiration

That middle photo is Canal Street in the 1800's.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flamboyance: A Love Story

As you may or may not know, I grew up in San Francisco, perhaps the gayest place on Earth. When I was younger, it didn't make that much sense to me to feel pride and a connection to where you came from; after all, it wasn't any accomplishment of mine. But as I got older and lived in different places, I realized how much San Francisco has shaped who I am (and how the food is like a zillion times better than almost anywhere else), how valuable it is for me to have this connection, and how lucky I am to have lived here.

Of course, there are many aspects of the city I could opine about- the sudden views of the ocean or the bay when driving down a hill, the micro-climates, the patchworky Victorian houses, the completely unique look and feel of each neighborhood, the tacos...(see me and Simone's rarely updated other blog, Little San Francisco, for more!) but I think my favorite part of San Francisco is its history of flamboyance and weirdness and weirdo outsiders expressing that flamboyance in a unique and showy way.

In the 1800's, San Francisco was an outpost of the wild west and lawless Barbary Coast. More cosmopolitan than the typical West saloon town, it was inhabited by weirdos from an early start. Madames rose to prominence, often becoming important figures in politics and society and affecting change. Society as established in other places was not set in stone in San Francisco yet, and as a result women and other marginalized people often took on roles they wouldn't have been allowed to take in other places.*

But what I'm really talking about is San Franciso's history of flamboyance as agitation- particularly in gay culture, and my memories of the Castro from when I was a kid, before there was even a Diesel or a Pottery Barn there. Seeing leather daddies and drag queens and other flamboyant people walk proudly across the street, and the acceptance that comes with it, never has failed to warm my heart. The drag queens and drag queen shows, the flashy and gay but serious political activists like The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and so many others have impressed upon me that there is value in glamour, especially when you are subverting what everyone thinks is glamorous.

Looking back on it, I have always connected to this idea. I went to a large, public, magnet high school, and aside from my weirdo friends, it was a sea of Gap flares and gray oversized sweatshirts and grade-obsession. For instance, in a school of 2,600, in San Francisco, I knew virtually nobody who was "out" and/or even went to GSA besides my weirdo friends, who did things like perform choreographed dances in drag/dinosaur costumes (it's charming when you're 16!) to "Electric Barbarella" at school events even though the other acts were acapella versions of Backstreet Boys songs performed by students wearing all baggy white clothes from Aeropostale. Naturally, I totally hated everyone and everything, except for glam rock, the subject of many a fevered adolescent dream.

Before my senior year, my friend Emily and I made a pact- a Dress Crazy Pact, to dress crazy every day we could. And I spent the next year with hair dyed pink, blue, purple, etc., wearing clothing I often felt was glam rock- tons of rhinestones, tons of hot pink, big earrings, poofy skirts, torn 50's dresses, striped tights with ripped fishnets over them. (Looking back on it, I think, 'Why didn't I get a sequined 70's jumpsuit and paint my face or something cool like that?' But, you know, it was still practically the 90's, and I thought that holographic Tripp NYC vinyl mini skirt was so Iggy Pop.)

Looking back on it, I was not wandering around, pasting photos of David Bowie to my locker, thinking "The personal is political" or "I am defining myself as 'the other'," but, "Maybe these clothes will blow everyone's minds and make them freak out!" I thought of my clothes as agitation even then, that they were a bright spot in everyone else's Scan-Tron of a day.

Discovering David Bowie, with his intensely weird and glamorous image, was huge for me. Julia commented on my post about space funk by saying how its proponents, as marginalized people, consciously defined themselves as the other- so other they were out of this world, and glam rock did the same thing. David Bowie, who deserves a post of his own, was aggressively queer, aggressively weird, aggressively artsy, but he was never aggressive. While many forms of punk rock and so many other music styles always seem to be rooted in typically masculine aggression, David Bowie copied Lou Reed's bitchy queen persona, or Andy Warhol's glitter-covered Superstars. Even before he was glam rock, he wore a dress on the cover of The Man Who Sold the World and the album was banned. I love the idea of glamorous weirdness as agitation (please see my YA book review post about this too) because so much activism and ways of separating yourself are conventionally aggressive, boring, or drab.

Watching Divine in Pink Flamingos walk down the street in the clip above was shockingly empowering for me as a teen, and now that I'm older it's all coming together, man. You don't have to wear a fair-trade Guatemalan hat and a polar fleece to make a political statement. When I got to college, I co-wrote an essay about the history of camp that really enlightened me- camping it up as a gay was a way to cope, an aggressive rejection of mass culture, and a performance all in one. After all, regular, straight culture was not open to gay people, and it still isn't.

Obviously, I don't want to be co-opting traditional gay male culture (and obviously it encompasses many things and there is no singular gay male culture), and it sucks how, in pop culture, gay men have become this obnoxious, makeover-giving, sassy, one-dimensional presence for straight women to rely on when the real men in their lives don't come through. But I do think, for women, there is a tendency to veer away from such things as flamboyance, and learning how to be flamboyant is important and powerful. I am always going on about how I'm tired of the lankness so popular in pop culture right now, and it's not just because I think it's ugly and love Kelly Bundy. It's because it's so easy to digest, to project oneself upon. I have spent many years feeling like a miniature drag queen compared to the greige indie girls, like I was not the one who boys were interested in, being too opinionated, too lively, and too active (as opposed to passive.)

And as I've written about before, I've always loved the ballsy, brassy, loud, cheap women in pop culture more than the meek, polite, pretty, appropriate ones. Similarly, I've always preferred people who are a little bitchy, mean and sarcastic instead of those who who are more pleasant and docile. It's taken me a while to realize why I like and connect to all this stuff, and in some ways, I'm still figuring it out.

In conclusion, I'm sure I could write a book on this, and apologize for this hastily written and unorganized post. As you can see, I don't go through a whole lot of edits, but if someone wants to pay me to write a book on this, I will do it.


midnight mass

*My brilliant SF public works thing is traditional, huge bronze figures like the statues of generals and presidents, done of drag queens, brothel owners, and other people who have made San Francisco what it is. Better than those meaningless, beyond fug heart statues that were placed allover the city!

I Am Sick of Looking at this Bitch

Not that it really matters, but I am sick of looking at the face of Gerard Butler. Everyone keeps talking about how handsome and manly he is, but are they seeing the same face that I am? He looks like he got punched in the face one too many times. I hate how it's fine for male actors to have squashed noses and faces because it looks like they got in lots of sexy, masculine fights, but women can't even have a bump on their nose.

Speaking of squashed faces/being hideously ugly, remember Shane West, who played Darby Crash in that little-seen Germs biopic? Really he should have been in a Sum 41 biopic, as "Dereyk Wibley", ultra-talented lead singer and ex-husband of Avril Lavigne. Shane West is another one people thought was cute in high school, and I was like, "Him? That Shane West?" I think they are seceretly the same person, much like David Cross and Corey Kennedy. Anyway, if Hollywood is calling, I'm ready to answer: yes, I will direct the biopic of the life of Dereyk Whibley.

It's hard to pick which one is more attractive. Or more punk rock!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mary's Musings: Jezebel, More Lady Gaga

I never used to read Jezebel, but now I read it all the time. It is a good go-to for gossip and news with a feminist bent. But then, I also get angry a lot by what I read there, because it seems to have an intense reactionary/normal bent as well. A disturbingly large amount of the comments are from grown women who write stuff like:
"No! NO!
I will not share my dolls with you.
They are mine. All mine. You go get your own."
*stamps foot and pouts*
bluebears promoted this comment

That is, of they're not busy writing really long, anecdotal, boring personal statements about their life that tangentially relate to the featured article, which is often not so much an article as a photo of someone from Gossip Girl on the street wearing a slouch hat with a pun title. Also, apparently people who comment there refer to themselves as "Jezzies." Anyway, here are some examples:
That is, of they're not busy writing really long, anecdotal, boring personal statements about

Adorable Children Do Adorable Thing
Specifically, they're recreating classic album covers, like that of Abbey Road. The kids, who are between the ages of 10-12, are cute as pie — but give me some toddlers doing this, and then my ovaries will really coo.

Even if you think babies and kids are cute, do we really need individual posts to point out how some child models are being used? Apparently for a Disney advertisement? Ovaries cooing? How essentialist! Sometimes Jezebel is one step away from just posting Anne Geddes photos, and what's horrifying is that all the commenters seem to totally approve!

Secondly, they hated on the new Lady Gaga video for its "mixed messages" and "bad acting" and being about "style over substance." What?! This video, btw, is totally amazing. Clearly it's got some tacky product placement, as well as some not that interesting crotch shots which I do think Lady Gaga needs to lose, but it horrifies me to know that whoever wrote this seems to have zero knowledge of campy B- movies, which are obviously what is being echoed/parodied/honored here. Style over substance and not being about the song, in a music video? How cutting! They don't even know why they don't like it, man! It certainly doesn't have anything to do with Leigh Bowery!

Also, a lot of commenters were angry over the "fake homoeroticism", but it's not like Girls Gone Wild style, she's making out with a legit-looking butch lesbian, which serves a totally different purpose. Also, Beyonce looks so beautiful with baby bangs. Also, Gaga wears cigarette sunglasses that have smoking cigarettes on them, and her hair is rolled up in Diet Coke cans. Also, she wears a telephone on her head made of hair. Also, the women's prison scenes are awesome. You must be made of stone not to appreciate this shit! Especially when you are appreciating seven year olds reenacting the cover of Abbey Road. The Beatles suck!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shameless Post About Models! Part Two

First of all, I think it's too bad that the best word ever- fierce- has been co-opted by Tyra Banks and Christian Siriano, former Project Runway winner and current Payless Shoe Capsule Collection designer. Well, mostly Christian Siriano. Tyra did bring an authentic version of the word to the public light.

Anyway, here is my continuation of model posts. This is hot bitch Kristen McMenamy , who had of an androgynous/Sandra Bernhard thing going on. I think there is some story about her where she busted into a room without her shirt and started screaming at someone famous. She fits in with the Gen X 90's post-Supermodel era, which rejected the drag-queen-esque, big haired supermodel for quirky andogyny and an overall more weirdo look. This is when CK One commercials were, like, so hip:

Kristen really is so fierce, and wears the clothes in a way that today's batch of bashful coltish teens certainly do not, kind of like a snotty 1950's style model but with a real face and personality. It always seems like bullshit to say one person is "good" at modeling and another isn't because it mostly seems like standing there, but with her, each photo is like a direct, confrontational challenge to the viewer. Also, she was styled in a way that highlighted her butch elegance, even though she was not a "lesbian model" like Jenny Shimuzu or even a lesbian in real life. She is one of the models I liked when reading Vogue as a kid, and often had a close cropped bowl cut dyed black accented with black lipstick.

Anyway, here she is on the runway lately and she looks awesome though she was forced to wear a humiliating 2010 outfit.

Edited to add more pics, including the Nijinksy and Leigh Bowery-esque one (way more Leigh Bowery than the much debated Lady Gaga, anyway!)

PS: Poor Naomi Campbell. Not really suited to the grunge photoshoot, was she? Speaking of which, I remember that photoshoot and cover and I thought it was so cool and totally inspirational.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Move Over, Dockers

Customers think this, the "Boxy [for serious] Cardigan" is: CUTE(559) LOVE(110) COMFY(90) SHEER(13). I guess 12-year olds can submit qualities they believe embody the garment. (I suggested "greige" for this dress.) Really its his is very J. JILL. But according to some internets research, it looks like J. Jill is going for a more Eileen Fisher look, but then again, so is Urban Oufitters. Anyway, the point is, you could replace the tags of Eileen Fisher clothes and put "Obesity and Speed" tags over them and Urban shoppers would be none the wiser.

I actually have nothing against this dress, except that it's length is so babyish. Why is everything a puffy little skirt? Maybe it's because I'm old, but I find it degrading to dress like this. At least a tight mini pencil-style skirt puts it all out there. This seems like it should be worn with pom-pom socks and a Skip-It.
Here's a fun little number. It kind of looks like the print is of bats, and then that would make this item worth having. But it's just a sad 90's floral or something. I love the extreme side-part on the model's hair- dynamite! This whole thing is explosive!!!

Here's another non-dress with a non-style, except that it's sort of 90's looking, or I guess, on closer inspection, really 90's looking.

Pleated khakis! See, Dockers is trying so hard with their new ad campaign about how if you don't wear Dockers you're gay, but what they don't realize that they shouldn't have changed their designs and just stuck with the pleated khakis that they're known for, because that's hip in it's own way too. But don't wear them non-rolled up, because then everyone remembers that they are pleated khakis.

Here we have the "flutter" short. Good god, these are so fugly. I remember wearing stuff like this. They make your butt look terrible, and it's unsettling to wear pants so flowy. These would be worn with scrunch socks and Keds; they are more 1993 than 96, you know?

I'll close with this darling dress and the fugliest floral ever. Also, I think this is a different model but she also has an extreme side-part.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Fashion Harness

I saw this image on Sea of Shoes:

Here's a woman who really doesn't know why she is wearing a harness. Why is it draped over a wool blazer? Awkward.

A search for harnesses on etsy resulted in:

Then of course there are the harness necklaces stolen/copied by model Erin Wasson from some other harness maker:

Even "designer" Justin Timberlake featured some harnessy looks for "his" "collection", entitled "Urban Oufitters from Two Years Ago."
Loving this look! Sag crotch jeans with a shapeless top made from a hospital dressing gown, all wrapped up in a bunch of belts!

I'm sure I could find more harness photos, but am too lazy. I know why harnesses are popular. It's because everything right now is studded, cage-like, bondage-y and "fierce." And a big part of attaining this edgy look is wearing the same edgy looks everyone else is looking so edgy in. Why are you sitting there, reading this??? There are harnesses to be bought and then strapped into!