So, hey. Did you know you can make super high-quality silk out of clam spit? Me neither. But apparently it’s a thing. A very rare, very highly guarded, very in-danger-of-dying-out thing. Like, as in, there’s one lady who is The Sea Silk Spinner, and–despite tradition–her daughter is not interested in carrying on the semi-mystical, highly un-remunerated practice…
On the fashion industry’s relationship with sizes above 10.
Being an Australian, one of the things that always throws me about these articles is that US women’s clothing sizes are two-to-four steps “down” from what things are here. So, for example, a US 10 is an Aus 12-14, and a US 14 is an Aus 16-18.
I say “mostly” because the phenomenon of vanity sizing means that US-made clothes are often sold here under their US size. I have a brand of comfortable mom jeans I like, for example, that do this; I wear a 16, which is “really” a 20, although the department store clerks will only mention this when they’re trying to sell you a size 14 (i.e. 18) pair instead because they never stock any/enough of the goddamn 16s.
Meanwhile, I’m still 5’7″ which means nothing in any of the “discount” department stores (e.g. Zara, Uniqlo) fits me, on account of it all being imported from Asia and designed for women maxing out at about 5’3″, so it’s all too short in the cuffs or narrow across the shoulders. Not to mention I have comparatively small boobs, meaning nothing in plus sized stores fits me either (it’s all too big across the bust).
Good thing my mum knows how to sew, I guess.
When I’m in a group of thin women, I am instead mesmerised by how effortless their ensembles look. It’s okay for thin women to slip into stretchy jumpsuits, wear plain tees or crop tops with a trusted pair of mom jeans, or eschew makeup altogether in favour of a more ‘natural’ look. It’s okay for thin women to be emblems of the ‘lazy girl trend,’ an entire aesthetic rooted in looking like you haven’t spent more than two minutes getting ready because you’re just that chill. Nevermind that the word ‘lazy’ is one often used to shame or ridicule fat people, who are perpetually accused of being undisciplined and inactive. Both sartorial and regular, old laziness seem perfectly acceptable if delivered in thin, conventionally pretty packages.
Marie Southard Ospina on fatshion.
It’s been pointed out there’s a male equivalent of this, too, in which it’s more “acceptable” to be a fat dude if you’re hyper-masculine (i.e. bear-esque). But woe betide any big dudes who are young or can’t grow beards or want to have a sense of style outside of “lumberjack”, “ageing drummer”, or “Evil CEO”…
Probably not what you’re thinking, given the article title of “How We Dress Women For The End Of The World“. Instead, it’s interviews with the costume designers for The Matrix/Jupiter Ascending, The Hunger Games, and The Handmaid’s Tale.1
- None of which are actually “apocalyptic” fiction, but… whatever. Never let the facts get in the way of the headline for a stealth ad for a Hulu miniseries. [↩]
It’s pretty much what you think, but interesting all the same.
The only thing I really need to keep in a pocket is my iPhone, and given that I have multiple pairs of leggings with pockets big enough to do just that (hint: put them down the side of the thigh, not in the fold of the lap), then there’s really zero excuse for any other garment not to have them either.
One of the problems I’ve had in the last few years is the creeping knowledge I’m not, strictly speaking, young enough to get away with dressing like I did in my teens and twenties. I mean, I’m an adult woman now. How does an adult woman even dress? Everyone has opinions on it, so I can obviously Do It Wrong if I don’t know. Is there, like, some kind of class I can sign up to teach me?
Well, no. But there are articles like this to help me find my fashion way.
If you reflexively answered “yes”, firstly, thanks Tumblr! But secondly, read this.
The answer is actually a little more complicated, in that, while Western Orientalism is a real thing and a real thing that negatively impacts people of Asian descent living in the West, it’s also a deliberate cultural export that was created by countries like Japan in order to make money and promote nationalism. And, nowadays, it’s seen by some Japanese people as a way of preserving Japanese art products (particularly textile art) that aren’t valued back home.
So. What do?
Full disclosure: I wore an uchikake to my wedding. Not as part of a proper outfit or anything, just the coat over black slacks and a shirt. Since then, it’s lived hung up on the wall in our house.
The uchikake is old, probably from the early 20th century. In its former life, it was a rental outfit for a bride, that’d been passed from woman to woman over a hundred years. But Japanese-style weddings aren’t so popular in Japan any more, and a lot of the shops that had previously serviced the market are going out of business. When they do, what happens to all their textiles?
Well. There are plenty of businesses online that recycle vintage Japanese uchikake and obi and kimono to enthusiastic Western collectors. My mum–who did her thesis in Asian art, back in the 1970s when that sort of thing Was Not Done1–went through a phase of buying up masses of this stuff. Her house is hung with obi like wall scrolls, while the more damaged kimono she unpicked and upcycled into other things like Japanese-style patchwork quilts.
And the uchikake, she bought for me. And I wore it when I got married.
I’m still not sure what I think when I see myself in my wedding photos. The uchikake is undeniably beautiful (also really warm, given how cold the day was), but I’m still a white girl and I’ve learnt a lot about cultural appropriation in the intervening eight years between then and now. I probably wouldn’t wear the same thing again. Yes, it’s a Japanese item sold intentionally by Japanese people to spread the love of Japanese craftsmanship to non-Japanese (successfully!)…
… but Orientalism in the West is a real thing. It’s a real thing that hurts real women. That’s not something I’m down with perpetuating, even unintentionally.
So… yeah. I don’t have an answer to this one.
- It was so not done, in fact, that most of the texts mum could find on the topics were in French. So this is why my mum can read French, because it was the only way she could learn about Asian painting. [↩]
Him, wearing his wife’s pants: Where are the pockets?
Me and his wife, yelling: THERE ARE NO POCKETS!
The politics of women’s appearance is a painful tug of war between the meanings women intend to convey (which are as varied as the tiles of a mosaic) and those imposed on them by society, often by men who cannot countenance a symbolic universe in which women’s expression does not exist solely for male consumption.
The obvious example is the well-meaning man who, thinking he is being affirming, tells us that we need not wear makeup on his account because we’re beautiful just the way we are. It sounds lovely until you realize that this presumes we wear any amount of makeup for his benefit, or to persuade men in general that we are beautiful.
To see a woman with a lot of tattoos, a lot of non-ear piercings, a non-traditional hairstyle and/or hair dye is to see a woman who is making her ownership of her body plain as day to anyone who looks at her. Note, this is very often not the intentional “political statement” most wish to make. Most simply like dressing this way, after all. They do it for themselves. But some men insist on reading it as a political middle finger flipped in their direction.
–Katherine Cross dresses for herself.
At first I thought:
“The Apple Watch is kind of cool… but who’s going to need one? I always have my phone in my pocket anyway.”
Then I bought some skinny jeans. And now I’m like:
“Who’s going to need an Apple Watch? Me. I’m going to need an Apple Watch.”