Friday, May 28, 2010

And what I wore to grade

I started the day in jeans and a tee shirt, which I hadn't planned to photograph. But during my laundry haul (3 1/2 flights of narrow stairs, necessary greetings to folks on the street, and 1 1/2 blocks of lugging), they kept sagging and falling, until I was almost guilty of pants on the ground, so I changed in this thrifted dress I haven't figured out how to wear yet.
I like the dress, and I have been on the thrifting look out for a denim dress since it's now quite trendy. While this petite dress generally fits (even at the waist), the shape is a wee bit awkward. But the more I've worn it today, the more comfortable I felt. Even though this lacks the strong utility elements of more current denim dresses, I like this dress because it feels functional but still femme-y. It's a bit late 90s with its princess seams and angled breast pockets, but the late 90s weren't so bad.
I have some ambitions of lightening the dress through a salt wash or other methods. Has anyone has any luck fading denim?
(and I'm still grading. Stupid laundry and other household labor has taken me away from my work duties).

Edit: Yes, I coiled the laces, highly imperfectly. The blogosphere tells me that it's called an Eastland Knot. Click here for a tutorial, complete with awesome illustrations.

Dress: Talbot's petites, thrifted
Belt: from a pair H&M pants
Necklace: street vendor in Hawaii
Shoes: Eastlands, via Alamo Shoes (Chicago)

Jumping into it

Thanks for your interesting comments, bloggy buddies. And for indulging my over analysis of probably spurious faux academic thoughts about fashion. Graduation was fine. It took a while but the students were really happy and really cute. I especially liked the following:
- Honorary degrees: The people who get them are generally amazing. This year's crop included a history-changing (no joke) investigative journalist (old school kind, not the silver fox Anderson Cooper variety) and a social justice oriented actor/playwright.
- Shoes! We can only see their shoes under their robes, and they did not disappoint. Towering, staggering architectural stilettos, intricate gladiators, earthy 70s style platforms, flip flips with sequins- you name it, I saw it. The dudes' shoes were also cool but less impressive. My very nice chairperson asked, "How can they walk in those shoes?"
- I was there last year but I've forgotten about it already. My chair said, "Be prepared for some Liza Minelli song on the way out." The faculty walked in on Pomp and Circumstance and the exit song? "New York, New York." The students and the parents were dancing and singing along. Corny, but adorable.

OK, now that I have a day or so of grading ahead of me, this means summer. I have many goals, but in the short term, I do need a little break. I'd like to reactivate my fledging, mostly vegetarian cooking blog, which has dwindled this semester. I'm hoping the LinkCSA veggies will help. And to get a leg up on that break, Brilliant Analytical Philosophy professor and I (herefore referred to as BAP) got started on the jumpsuits. Did you think I had forgotten about that? Like many women, we are a bit longer in the torso, which makes buying jumpsuits hard, but making jumpsuits more doable. Since we're no seamstresses, yesterday we did the muslin shell. As you can see, we pinned a couple seams the wrong way, but it worked for fitting. (There's a joke here about how many PhDs it takes to pin a 1970s jumpsuit).

This is view 2 of this Simplicity pattern, which many readers liked. While I originally wanted to make the longer pants version, I realized that I needed a perfect bike riding outfit. It is probably about a 1/2 inch too short in the length. We'll slash the traced pattern and add some length. And don't worry, this is only the shell for fitting the torso. The actual pants will be much longer.

But to satisfy my need to be a Charlie's angel, we are also making view 1 of this pattern, although we'll shorten the sleeves to elbow length. We aren't making view 2 because it doesn't have awesome cuffs or a fab button tab. This will be in a grey doubleknit.

I took about 10 shots of the fabric, but this was the best I could do with my open source photo editing software. The top blue woven fabric is for the bike outfit. I want to look like one of the workers in Germany or London that I saw during my time there, who'd wear zip up jumpsuits and carry lunch pails. A combination of those worker dudes and Rosie the Rivetor. (I don't know why, but construction workers in the U.S. with their bright orange plastic vests and overalls are less inspiring for me, fashion wise).

Do any of you folks have creative, non-academic/work goals for this summer?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hemlines, recessions, and correlations

Today is graduation ceremony. We are converging in an iconic location in midtown Manhattan where there are often many big shows, and we the faculty get to sit and blink in bright stage lights while the students and families feel proud. I dislike being a prop, but I like the excitement that students feel. So as a result, I am going to rebel by wearing something not so solemn under my robe (which DMed confirms were created to keep stinky, chubby clerics warm back in the day, in drafty stone walled early European Universities).

Yesterday, I read my student evals from the prior semester. Nothing to report (3 or 4 haters, but mostly a lot of love), but one student did mention that she appreciated my "modern style" and envied my "tall and lean figure." OK, I guess that's pretty cool. All in all, it was an irreverent set of comments (including the students who signed their names on their comments sheets, and the one person who wrote, "I HEART PROF RAD" across the bottom half of a page).

On a somewhat related note, I present to you the second installment of "fashions in academia" although maybe for today, I can call it "fashioning claims in academia." I found this article "The Long, Lean Backlash to the Mini," from Thursday styles section of the NYTimes to be interesting. Evidently, a fashion forward (fringe) trend is the dark, lean maxi skirt/dress. Not to be confused with the bright and beachy styles of last year, these new styles are typically paired with "harsher" pieces, like motorcycle vests and thick soled boots. I'm actually pretty into this look. Some of these dresses are amazing, and I always want to wear more unstructured styles.

The woman on the right found her dress at a local Goodwill (!!!) I really like the simple style of the middle tank dress. I could probably fake that with some jersey fabric. The "midi" length is a little hard (between knee and ankle) but the higher heels can make up some of the loss leg length.
What I especially liked were the attempts at explained why this style has emerged. The article claims that the emergence of these "fluid by rigorously plain" maxi dresses/skirts are the result of "shifting cultural climate born in the wake of the Dow’s collapse." A fashion director at Saks argues that reflects women's desire for less show and more quality.
Never mind that the Times and most major media outlets have (prior to the Euro-panic of the past couple weeks) been been publishing "recovery" articles since January. The quote reminded me of an oft cited dicta about hem lengths and the economy. Economist George Taylor created the "hemlines index" back in the Roaring 20s, arguing that hemlines tended to go up during flush times, and down during recessions. This makes sense when you think of how hemlines first rose during the 1920s. The Maxi first came into style during those awesome stagflation days of the 1970s.
Such a prediction was popular for a while, during the start of this Great Recession, or whatever you'd like to call it.'s "Slaves to Fashion" blog also predicted lower hemlines in January 2009, but as you know, this hasn't happened in a noticeable manner yet. Yet high hemlines are still the norm, both in mass marketed retail and on tastemakers. In addition, a fashion writer in the Guardian claims that historically, this has not been true. Another Financial Times piece in late 2008 confirmed that empirical evidence goes against this maxim. (A write for Jezebel says, "bah!" to the idea that fashion is as culturally or socially relevant as it once was, in response).
Yet here we are again, in 2010, possibly on the cusp of a [what Rad will argue her face off to be] temporary [jobless] recovery, and fashion experts explain a marginal trend of longer flowing skirts as relating to an unstable economy. Do you buy this at all? Could my permanently pessimistic view of our current account deficit driven American economic* model be responsible for my desire to flock to the simplicity of these long and elegant dresses? Or are you, like me, annoyed with how economists try to create spurious, unimportant relationships between ridiculous variables? Will you try the

(Did I just over professor myself? Ack, stack of final papers to grade that will likely make my eyeballs bleed. I miss those students already Over and out.)

(By the way, if you dig the look and wanna thrift some lovely lengthy skirts, but are puzzled on how to style them, Sal at AlreadyPretty has an awes tutorial.)

*This is a fancy word for we spend more money buying stuff from abroad than we make.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

B*tchin' Camaro

When my young, single mother first came to the US, she worked hard on her English, passed the registered nurse licensing test, and worked in Arizona as a nurse, making something like $5/hour. After a while, she saved up some money and bought herself a Camaro, and posed in front of it in an outfit very similar to this one, back in 1975. The jeans were a bit tighter and higher waisted, the sunglasses bigger, the shoes were cork instead of stacked rubber soles, and the shirt may have had some embroidered flowers. She sent this photo to a young man, a pen pal introduced by a minister, who later became my dad. When I wear any outfit like this, my mom just kind of shakes her head about the way fashions repeat themselves (but she's flattered to be my style icon).

Today is the last day of exams. I am of the mindset that it's fun to dress casually during exams, since projecting authority isn't as big of a deal now (this may come back to haunt me, but most of the grief I get now is via email). I like these old jeans, which feel as thin as paper and breezy as linen. I didn't wear them for a couple years because dark denim was so prominent. I almost cut them into shorts but Blokey told me they were too nice. I'm glad I listened.

Shirt: H&M
Jeans: BDG (2003)
Necklace: street vendor in Hawaii
Scarf: via Ebay
Shoes: Aerosoles (thrifted)
Sunglasses: DKYN, Macy's (via Mom)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tricky hemline challenge

Today is going to be hot, so I wanted to pull on one of my many summer dresses. However, they are mostly from a few years ago during my last years of graduate school, which I clearly spent flashing poor Minneapolis drivers from my bike. While I don't mind showing leg, this dress/tunic is both just a tad too short and a bit too loose for me to wear comfortably. I am taking a cue from my Swedish friend, who like to layer South American style tunics over fuller skirts, and looks amazing doing it. At first, I wasn't sure about this outfit, because it goes from full to fuller, and creates a kind of dropped waist, but I think it works OK. The skirt is stretch chambray/light denim, so it the outfit very light. (I try to eschew leggings on a hot day). Since I have several more short dresses, and no longer have teaching obligations for a while, I'll try to challenge myself to lengthen hemlines for the next few weeks.
I read a cute article yesterday in the Times about photographer Phillipe Halsman's "Jumpology", which was his method of photographing celebrities mid air. I mention it because it's a pretty significant fashion/style blog convention. Halsman said that when the subject is jumping, they focus on the vertical motion and this makes the "mask" fall, so you can capture the "true" subject. Jumping photos are really cute, but I probably won't do one (I'm not outside, and I'm probably too reserved). Still, finding the jumping photo (referenced in the article) of Nixon, as the VP under Eisenhower, made the article worth it:

Monday, May 24, 2010

If I had biked...

Today I am giving one of my final exams, but I dressed pretty casually because I had planned to bike to school with the DOT's NYC Bike Month guided group. I live in central Brooklyn, but teach in midtown. It's about 10 miles, which is not a big deal, but I am kind of scare of navigating downtown Brooklyn and very lower Manhattan. I fell asleep relatively early but this morning, I got an email from a colleague who wanted a phone meeting earlier than I'd hoped, so I had to hop a train instead (I found this out AFTER I was dressed). Oh well, utilitarian outfit. I'll use you another day, when I am less scared and more prepared.

I had a great time in Delaware. We actually spent quite a bit of time in Philly, since the college town my buddies live in is quite boring (it doesn't feel like the edgier college towns in the midwest, like Madison, Urbana-Champagne, or Lincoln, NE. These towns have their own arty, hippie vibes that this town lacked. Maybe it's just different out East). I really really liked Philly, which I haven't been in as an adult. Cute neighborhoods, nice coffee, well planned developments (like in North Liberty). Folks were super nice, especially to the kids. So much for that stereotype.
But since this is a style blog, one of the things (among many) that we talked about this weekend was the difference between clothes shopping for little kids in the US v. Sweden. My friends had been living in Sweden for the first year and half of their first child's life, but then moved to the East Coast. They were dismayed at how gendered the little kid's clothing was, especially the shoes. I found this out when going to Target/Payless (my mom believed in only buying growing feet cheap shoes) to pick up shoes for my kid sister years ago. There were all these pointy little high heels everywhere, and then some sparkly sneakers. I am not saying all high heels or sparkles are bad, but rather it's amazing how the American market* gives you little choice in the matter. At mass retailers, they said that the choices for girl's shorts were all super short, and shirts are all sleeveless. But in Sweden, children's clothes are basically androgenous until the age that secondary sex characteristics start to develop (10-12 for girls? Maybe 13-15 for boys?). Even then, there is choice between very girly and less girly outfits. Since this is what they value, my friends bought their pre-schooler boys clothes.

(Maybe you can't see well, but she is wearing Einstein's face with his tongue sticking out)

I mention this because the blogosphere was buzzing over this infamous Instyle magazine cover a few months ago about Shiloh Jolie Pitt's style, which is very tomboyish.
The fact that this became an magazine cover doesn't mean that all Americans are obsessed with normative gender socialization, but that fact that retailers seem to think this way is pretty telling.

The Swedes told me that folks come up to them and say things like "Why does your son have long hair?" or "How come your son is wearing a pink hat?" Someone even got angry once for their failure to adhere to gender norms. While my friends don't care if a stranger correctly identifies their daughter's gender, I found it interesting that other people cared about this pre-schooler's performance of gender. Very strange. (I do know that it is difficult to buy baby clothes that are neutrally colored. A friend of mine told me that the purple organic cotton onesie I gave her daughter was the only non-pink article of clothing she received. Colleagues of mine told no one the gender of their child before his birth to avoid an influx of blue items).

Has this been your experience as well? If you're not American, are there norms of dressing children in ways that emphasize their gender?

*That the brilliant clip-on pacifier on the toddler's pink owl shirt (from H&M) is made by a Swedish company and not available here. Everyone in town is jealous of this clip on chained binky. The dad claimed that the idea that free markets in the US provide everything that consumers need is suspect. "Swedish social capitalism, baby!" was his rallying cry.
(I learned a few Swedish words since the kids speak both, like bunny rabbit, stupid, and piss. Ah, the company of young children).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Delaware bound

I just sent off what I've finished for my writing group deadline a few hours ago. Now, I'm off to Chinatown to grab a $20 bus to Philly, where I'll meet old friends from grad school (from Sweden) and their amazingly beautiful children. I actually had difficulty dressing because I'll be sitting on a bus for 2 hours, and it's hot out today (I can feel how it's going to be hot), so I want to be comfy but not rumpled. Since the bulk of this afternoon will be spent with 4 year old Inge-Lisa, I coudn't wear anything that was too short (Blokey sighed at my last minute outfit changes. Poor fella). Plus, I hear that she's quite sartorially rule bound (she evidently expressed her horror at what the the students at the University were wearing. "Pajama pants? You're not supposed to wear pajamas outside!") so I need to dress to impress. The other child is about one, so I needed to pack highly washable clothes. So this is my Inge-Lisa/bus/baby proof (hopefully) outfit.

Please excuse the look of despair. I'm quite happy and excited but the marathon writing sessions are hard on the looks. And instead of sleeping immediate at 3, I started reading this long NYTimes magazine article on Stieg Larsson. I am a woman obsessed (with Sweden, evidently. Blokey's mum's family is called Erickson, so there's another reason).

Dress: Me(el) (from Canada!), via Cliche
Jacket: GAP (from mom)
Tank: H&M
Slightly more than flip flops: Havianas

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shopping diet update 2

Since day three of my mostly sequestered writing marathon (of moderate productivity) has me looking unfit for internet eyes, I thought I'd update on my self imposed shopping diet. I decided, because of savings goals that Blokey and I had, that I would limit my spending to only used/thrifted, and about $20 a week (it was originally exactly 20 but luckily I'm no math genius). April was OK, until I visited Chicago during an academic conference and went on a mini spree with my close friends.
This month has been better. I've only bought second hand stuff. But I have gone over my budget, and I didn't buy many things that I needed, just wanted. I realized again that I tend to want to accumulate new stuff when I have the most anxieties about my scholarship. Shopping (even if it's thrifting and Ebay/Etsy lurking) is part of a larger strategy of distraction/procrastination, and it generally does pick me up temporarily, but then I'm all "What am I going to put all these clothes?" Blokey and I do have limited closet space, and I can only store so much stuff away before it becomes pointless to buy them. I am traveling a lot this summer, so I do hope that I can stick the spending plan better next month (and the rest of this month). I have the goal of really limiting my shopping to needs, not boredom, and then supplies for sewing. And instead of fuzzy goals, I have a concrete one of saving on clothes so I can fly out to hang with Anne and company for one extra visit.
On a lighter note, I read this very funny piece in Jezebel called "Catalog Fantasies: This Could Be Your Life." It's a clever deconstruction of the different kinds of narratives within the styling of various popular clothing chain catalogs (I don't receive any). The comments made me laugh, including one person who said that the JCrew catalog is a world without breasts. Since I don't look at this often, I peeked over at the webpage, and sure enough, these Ivy League type patrician looking ladies are pretty universally elegant on top.

While other look awesome in this look, I tend to shy from JCrew (unless thrifted) because it's a bit too polished and I'm someone who admires Lisbeth Salander. But I did appreciate these $50 numbers:

"Luxe Terry Drawstring Pant". The description reads: "think of it as polished sweatpant."
I will (and I think poorly of your use of "pant" as a noun).

This is it's sister, the Luxe Terry Un-Sweatpant (the description calls them "sweats")

These are obviously perfect for my many periods of self-imposed research hermit moments, because I can throw on a denim jacket to meet folks or run errands when I am on the verge of going crazy. I've lusted after tailored sweats before, but as I'm not buying new, these aren't relevant. I am having sewing fantasies.

Tailored/polished sweats (of the non Juicy variety): cool and comfy or too close to "can't be bothered" for your comfort?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What would Lisbeth Salander Do?

La Fille D'Or recently posted a bunch of lovely pictures from a 1968 magazine on style in Sweden. And that reminded me of something I wanted to do- namely dress in homage to the most amazing feminist fiction character that I've encountered a long time: Lisbeth Salander:

(Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander, in the recent movie. I haven't seen the movie yet. Source)

I've read the first two books, and can't wait for the final book's American release later this summer. I am trying to channel Lisbeth not only because she's a B.A. that takes names, but also because she's an amazing and competent researcher. She loves to find out information, many times just for the sake of learning, and she writes the most comprehensive and clear reports as well. (Did I mention that she can take down bad dudes, despite being less than 5 ft. tall?)

So I'm not super amazing Lisbeth and I lack her B.A. motorcycle jacket, her hacking skills, and general brilliance, I am channeling her fearlessness and her amazing research skills. Like Lizbeth, I am staying up late, working on a weird schedule, and thinking non-stop about my research (OK, maybe with slightly less focus). While maybe Sally would not wear wear this Murakami shirt, maybe she'd appreciate it.

DSCF4258, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

In addition, I'm quite sure that Lisbeth would have a similar work space, although maybe she'd work more from a sofa or on the floor.

(She'd also approve of my major intellectual crush on the late Steig Larsson, but that's a story for another time).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Curly's gal

Curly's, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

This post doesn't reflect what I'm wearing today, because I am, like Dorky Medievalist and La Historiadora de Moda, Butt-in-Chair mode (and must wear what best suits this function, which is shorts, leggings, and knit top). I recently thrifted this dress, but it was a size 18/20. I thought it had promise. But it did look like this:

DSCF4208, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

Please excuse the crazy hair. I started working on this when I'd come home from teaching, mentally exhausted but wanting something to do to relax. I was inspired by the skills of Sew I Thought and New Dress a Day. (This project is almost finished. I need to reinforce and finish the seams, and fix the seam of one sleeve).

When I showed this to Blokey, he said that it was just a little "too special" to wear in public. (He has since changed his mind). Then he called me "Curly's gal," because it looked like something that the character "Curly's wife" in the Gary Sinise/John Malkovich "Of Mice and Men" might have worn. (I couldn't find any pictures of her, but I did find regional theatre productions' images. He might be on to something):

I didn't know what I was doing, so like an idiot, I took the sleeves and the collar off. I probably didn't need to take the sleeves off, and reattaching them was a learning experience. The bust curves were a lot lower than mine so I ended up pulling up the shoulder seam, but this ended up making the sash about 1 inch higher than my natural waist. In addition, some of the seam ripping did cause a bit of fabric puckering and the reattachment of the collar (I made it a big less huge) remains a tad awkward. Luckily, I don't care that much.

DSCF4246, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

Good thing my ma doesn't do the internet (she pays Baby Sis to do her social media networking for her businesses), because she'd tell me to stand straighter. Damnit, she's right. Note to self: stretch every hour while butt in chair.
Today is gloomy and cool- perfect BIC weather.

Also, thanks for your great responses to the "Fashions in Higher Ed" segment. I really enjoyed hearing everyone's perspective, especially those who did not go on to careers related to their "discipline." I have many opinions about "disciplines" too but that's for another day (and probably a different venue). Happy Tuesday, all!

Dress: Thrifted, DIY altered
Boots: Mia
Leggings: Target

Monday, May 17, 2010

School's Out

School's out, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

... (but not forever)
Today is the last teaching day of the semester. I am both happy and a little sad. I actually really like my students most of the time, which is the result of hanging out with them and learning about how they are cool. I don't consider myself to be very maternal or patient by nature. I'll miss some of them, but I'll be teaching my first master's level class in the fall, so I won't likely have any of them again until next spring.
For the last day, I wanted to go for light but professional. It's supposed to be in the mid 70s, and I would go bared legged, but microfishnets are easier than shaving while half asleep. This outfit is in response to AW's post at In Professorial Fashion, and as you can see, I am OK with relatively short skirts, especially on the last day. While I dig the nautical aesthetic of this outfit, I am wearing a slip that has been folded down a few times. I'll have to do some quick work with safety pins when I get to school (I have those in my office as well as moleskin, and extra pair of tights, emergency stash of snacks.)
From here on out, it will be Rad's research, almost 24-7, with 2 final exam dates. So lots of casual wear and travel outfits until late August. This might sound good, but there's possible furloughs (work with no pay!) and the pressure to publish is pretty huge, so I do covet other people's 9-5 jobs sometimes.

Jacket: UO (2003)
Striped shirt: H&M
Skirt: H&M, thrifted
Microfishnet Tights: Daffy's
Black flats: Ecco
Belt: Thrifted

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Everyday is the weekend...

In my second semester of grad school, a young assistant prof (who was pretty cool, in retrospect, and is well admired within policy circles today) told us "Being an academic means that everyday is the weekend, but you work every weekend." So true, even more true this weekend. But I like working on my own stuff (sometimes) on the weekend. In full disclosure, my weekend usually begins on Thursday, so I can thrash about at my desk and self flagellate as I attempt to organize my ideas and thoughts. It's been one of those weekends.

OK, this outfit is lackluster but I felt I can share what I wear when I am trying to be brilliant. I'll rework it into something more presentable soon. (I would never wear the shorts to teach, but they are sitting butt in chair friendly).

I am taking a page from In Professorial Fashion's awesome blog and starting a new segment, called "Fashions in Higher Ed." While not about sartorial style, this section will feature new possible trends in how one consider my industry, the college and university system. (Since many of my modest universe of readers are current/former graduate/undergraduate students or faculty, perhaps it will be of interest. Let me know if it is radically boring).

- Fashion number one, from FireDogLake, discusses a recent book called REwired, by Larry Rosen, which makes the argument that these Web 2.0/SMS/Smartphone generation of young 'uns (I count my baby sis in this cohort) aka "Digital Natives," have a different approach to knowledge, communication, and access, and higher ed's antiquated ways need to step the heck up. The whole education system needs to get with their "plugged-in" attitudes and demands for knowledge and accessibility, and use technology more (This means I should not sigh when I get 11PM, "Professah, what was the assignment," emails? I just need to get with it?)

Part of me thinks that EVERY generation has been painted with a broad brush that we're so different, so irreverent, so non-traditional compared to the last, but how unique is the "digital revolution generation" of students? Are emails, blogs, SMS, Twitter changing their approach? Is it true, what the grammar Chicken Littles say, that digital literacy kills traditional ones? However, not being on the receiving end of the higher ed system, I wonder if adopting certain technologies would really make a difference.

- Emerging Higher Ed fashion number two: In the NY Times, an articled called "Plan B: Skip College," spoke about a very nascent movement by economists and rogue education policy folks who were arguing that our policies for dealing with skills and employment problems by the wholesale pushing of higher education can be misguided, as many folks don't use or need their degrees, but end up with a lot of debt. On the other hand, there is a significant wage premium to getting a degree (even to having "some college") in the US, and with stagnant real wages since in the 1970s, that's nothing to shake your fist at. This is especially thought provoking for me since I teach and "urban" student profile- meaning that 85% of so of the student max out on government grants, work 30 hours or more a week, and come from lower income families. Many are first generation college goers or first generation Americans. Don't get me wrong, I have many many brilliant students who rival the best students I've taught at the U of Minnesota, a "top tier" public university, but many of my best students are returning students, who have returned to college after several years on the job, going part time, and thus are committed and take it seriously. Part of me thinks that for some, going to work and coming back is works well, but part of me thinks the benefits of a liberal arts education should be available to everyone, regardless of their preparedness or even if they appreciate it.

Thanks for allowing me this non-research interlude. Thoughts?

Shirt: Rodarte for Target
Shorts: JCrew, thrifted
House slippers: Target
cranky face: courtesy of the research "agenda"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Working it (from home)

Working from home, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

Today is the last day of the Dress your best challenge week. It's not easy to talk about what you like about your body, something that other bloggers have noted (Kendi, for example, wrote about how it's so much easier to make fun of one's body). Today, I'm dressing to emphasize my hips. I've had a love/hate thing with my hips for a while, and I'm starting to love the more. I hated them because I thought they made me look unbalanced. To 15-22 year old Rad, a small bust should equal narrow hips, like Diane Keaton. But this how I'm built and you can't change your skeleton. No amount of misguided working out in high school and college ever changed the width of my hip bones and the tops of my thigh bones.

Over time, I learned appreciate how the made me look nice in certain kinds of clothing, like pencil skirts. They give me what few curves I have. While it is a pain in the butt to find pants or skirts that can fit my waist and my hips, I've heard that the bigger difference means certain health advantages (we'll see about that). So to appreciate my hips, I showing them off (for a day of working the home office) in what makes them look good- well fitting* low rise boot cut jeans. I've read that longer torsoed gals like me should wear medium to higher rise jeans, but my hips can have some of the spot light too. Plus, proportion flattery be damned, but these are the only kinds of jeans that I can fit right off the rack.**

Jeans: Uniqlo
Belt: borrowed from fella
Top: Lux, thrifted
Scarf: via Ebay
Shoes: Ecco

*This is temporary. Once I've been sitting for more than few minutes, they stretch out. Damn you, awesome jeans that have no stretch in the material!
** I said earlier that my legs made off the rack pants easy to fit. I was just talking about the inseam, not the whole waist/hips conundrum.

(Once again, Lula the chupacobra cat has decided to lord over my outfit photos. She is possibly semi-feral, so believe me when I say that standing in the photos is something that she decides to do. In fact, whenever I move stuff around to take pictures, she runs into our office before I close this door.)

Edit: I'll be featuring more of these "vintage" scarves I got for a song on Ebay the next few weeks. I'll try not to overload on them. Blokey was instantly amused by the acquisition, but not entirely on board. He wore the one from yesterday, ascot style, and serenaded me with "Dedicated Follower of Fashion." I have the sneaking suspicion that he might be making fun.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Skin that I'm in

Skin that I'm in, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

Tunic: DIY, from the Burdastyle batwing top pattern, extended 5 inches
Leggings: Target
Scarf (as belt): Ebay
Shoes: Ecco, thrifted

Day 4 of the Dress your best challenge: I'm dressing to flatter/draw attention to my complexion. I mean by this both the color, tone, softness/hardness of the big ole' epidermis, the biggest organ of everyone's body.
My skin was a touchy subject for a while. My mom is very fair, and as some of you may know, light skin is fetishized in most places in the world (except where folks are naturally fair). See this NYTimes article and this blog post for more info. The preponderance of skin lightening creams in the Global South/East Asia reflects deep seated prejudices about skin color, class, and beauty, but we don't have to go into that now. The key thing is that for a while I internalized some of the not so nice things said about darker skin.
In addition, until about 3 or 4 years ago, I still struggled with break outs that made my complexion less than picture perfect (I think it was pretty common in graduate school). I think it was my perfectly complexioned mother's mission in life to spend as much money possible to manufacture clearer skin. I tried almost everything under the sun, and then I sort of stopped trying. I tried to minimize stress, eat healthier, exercise, drink water, fresh produce, etc. I put almost nothing on my face now except some moisturizer and some glycolic acid (I occasionally use a mask, but only when I want Blokey to mock me. He has pretty damn perfect skin too). The most important part, however, was accepting myself as not perfect. I could spend money on pills, creams, and contraptions and possibly have marginally better skin, but instead I've just decided that this is not a big deal. It doesn't make impossibly unattractive, it just makes me "me."

DSCF4200, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

(Lula likes to blog too, but I'm deducing from her facial expression that she prefers the scarf around the waist, not the neck)

Here's what I've figured out as being pretty awesome about my skin. It hasn't really aged since I was 16. There's a just a bit of dryness under my eyes, but I don't have crows feet, even when I smile. When I furrow my brow, the skin crinkles, it doesn't wrinkle. This rather oily, thick darker skin looks pretty good as I'm get older. My skin is also pretty well moisturized without lotion, even in the winter (even in Minnesota winters). Also, with the exception of 2 pictures, I haven't worn make up in any of my photos on this blog. While I can look better with some make up, I still think I look all right without it.
Finally, I don't have to worry about "looking too pale," which I didn't know was a problem until my fair-skinned friends explained the dilemma to me. Someone tried to do my colors once and declared that I'm one of those weirdos who can do cool and warm colors. White or cream? Both, please. Black/brights or earth tones/browns? Either works. I can wear a wide variety of colors (even if I often don't) and I think I pull them off relatively well. This blog is partly a way for me to explore colors, patterns, and non black looks, and I think I'm making good progress.

Special Request: Warmer weather Ikke edition

Kind reader (and IRL friend) Ikke (or 'Koo, as I call her electronically) has asked that I write a bit about her wardrobe challenges. I am reluctant to give style advice, but since it seems that I am always talking about proportions and flattering cuts around her in person (which is rare, sniff), I guess I should give it a go.
To give you a rough idea what we're working with, here's a shot from my wedding:

Seriously, do I have any dressing tip for a very beautiful young woman? [It should be noted that she is one of my fashion icons from grad school. I never met anyone who wore fun socks, red tights, clogs, wide legged jeans, and colors the way she did. She was like sartorial magic. But different times, different places. We aren't kiddos sitting in the departmental computer lab, listening our iPods and writing seminar papers anymore].

So innocent in g-school (more than 6 years ago)

So we know that Ikke has awesome shoes and pretty amazing legs. Long, slender, shapely. I'm obviously blind with jealousy. However, she is a bit reluctant to show skin in warm weather. In addition, she has what is commonly known as a "apple" figure. She's on the taller and slender side, but she carries weight in her midsection and bust area.
(Once again, I have no expertise about giving advice about clothing. I am the girl who wore black shirts and jeans throughout graduate school. I am qualified to teach awkwardly conceptual classes to undergraduate students. Or how to insert an invisible zipper. In addition, I have few curves, a long flat torso, and am pear shaped. Different fruit altogether).

So we'll tackle not wanting to show off too much leg first. Ikke spends her time in mild climates, like the UK, Netherlands and the Pacific Northwest, so there is some leeway here.
Here's some suggestions:

1) Dignified shorts: Finding such a pair is a tall order at times, but there are shorts that don't show too much of your leg. For example, these Bermuda length denim shorts would look rad with a looser fitting, summery breezy top:Many folks find bermudas to be awkward. Legs McGee types like Ikke are meant to rock these shorts. Fabric 1970s style wood wedges are optional. This season has no shortage of great higher waisted options, which are great for holding your wobbly bits in.

2) Microfishnets or lace leggings under skirts and tunics. Target has this affordable brand of microfishnet that has shapewear on top, Assets by Sarah Blakely. Kristen has sung their praises before, and I trust her.
Order those fools here (come in nude and black)

As for the lacey leggings, first you have to overlook the fact that they are awfully "Kelly Martin." When in fact, they are just enough "Kelly Martin."

Wear like regular leggings (obvs not as pants.) There are rose styled one available for cheap here

3) Linen pants. Stores havethese awesome sophisticated cargo ones (that are above the ankle) and classic wider leg cuts too.

4) Did some one say "summer boot"? OK, no one did (well InStyle and YouLookFab), but luckily, for the leg shy but sweaty in the summers, retailers have responded with the light colored, perforated, cut-out style summer boot. So kicky and sassy, yet they work in the heat:

The middle pair is a mere $50 on Amazon. It would look rad with skirts and femmey dresses. Just the right amount of edge

As for dressing Ikke's body type, there are two approaches. You either go with what you got (emphasizing loose and flowy fits on top, and going nice and sleek on the bottom), or you dress to create a different kind set of proportions. Both work, but when you're dressing, you should pick one strategy. There are experts who have done extensive lists. Angie and Imogen have some suggestions, although there seems to be some disagreement (It seems the banded bottomed top is a controversial one).

5) Try higher waisted pencils skirts made of stiffer fabrics. Kendi, who is of a similar build, has sung their praises as figure flattering and magical. Sal also did a post on this recently. I believe this to be true as well. A belt also helps.
6) Dresses made of woven materials (stiffer cottons, tropical wools, and lined linens) with a seam below the bust, a v-neck, and something like a waist band. Wait, Ikke already knows this because this is very similar to what she wore to read Communist propaganda at my wedding. Preferrably in a slightly stretchy fabric. This is a good example:

Edit: Angie just posted this BR dress. It's pricey but it's summery

7) Structured pieces for the top half: The "boyfriend" (such an annoying term) blazer trend is still going strong, and they've got great linen ones for warmer weather. Leggy ladies like Ikke might look awesome in this trend.
This longer length, looser fit blazer from Free people hits at the hip, which will elongate and slim the top half (source)

8) Woven, flowy tops for warmer weather: I generally believe that thiner, drapier woven fibers (not stretchy jersey) are you friends in hot weather, no matter what your shape. They just happen to flatter someone with Ikke's shape.


9) I've also heard great things about the flattering powers of the twist front top. How rad would Ikke look in this? Better than this lady:

10) Accessories: this I have very little expertise in (although I am dipping my toe into this experience). However, I do think that longer, summery scarves help to lengthen and narrow the torso. See, Hollywood thinks so:

They can also be worn around the waist. Longer necklaces also do a similar elongating trick.

I officially feel adviced out. Anyone else leg shy or have expertise about this area? Did I leave anything out/give poor advice?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wrist action

Wrist action, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

Today, day 3 of the Dress Your Best Challenge, I'm dressing for my delicate wrists, which are the end of my quite long arms. I don't know why I like them, but they're small, bony, and I use them all the time while sitting in front of a computer all day, so I appreciate that they haven't gone out on me yet (knock wood). They're pretty strong too, helping with me almost yearly moves in graduate school and carrying heavy bags of groceries throughout the city (We haven't got the old lady cart yet, but we think about it).
I have problems fitting for my long arms and getting shirts to go to my wrists, but thankfully bracelet length jackets and shirts fit the bill by not even trying. Or rolling up sleeves, which somehow even works OK in colder weather. I think the flash of wrist adds a feminine element to boxier and masculine cuts of blazers and button down shirts. As for this outfit, I am not quite sure if my "mauve" jacket goes well with the bright vintage 1970s/1980s tomato polyester dress, but I'm hoping it does.
It's quite grey and gloomy- I call it NY does Vancouver without the abundant natural beauty/awesome coffee. I hope the weather is better in your locales (and gets nicer here soon).

Blazer: from 1970s suit, via ebay
Dress and belt: Not Just Vintage (Brooklyn)
Tights: Target
Shoes: Naturalizer