Friday, July 30, 2010

Reception Dress, or Exhibit D, or 1950s on a non-1950s face

OK, I won't post anymore beautiful dresses that I don't wear. I will wear them and remix them from here on out (although not exclusively). This last dress was my reception dress at our wedding this past March. As you can tell, it was a vintage and uber casual affair. I got this (and my wedding dress) on Etsy for about $26, and I purposely picked out something that could be worn casually after the wedding. There is nothing wrong with this dress (other than the fact it's from a vintage pattern or is actually vintage, and the waist is 1" above my natural waist, but it still fits). The pleats are beautiful, the skirt full and so of-the-moment midcentury, and the color easy to coordinate.
Just for fun, I tried on the vintage crinoline with this dress. It's very cute, but is it wearable outside of a theme party? I am not one of those amazing vintage ladies who can rock victory curls, ruby lips and still look contemporary with their reproduced looks, like the great Gertie. But I tried anyway:

I don't feel like a Peggy or a Betty, despite the pearls and the crinoline. I think it's cute, but it looks off to me. And I realized why. Not to be too racially over-deterministic, but while there were plenty of people of color around in the 1950s, I associate strong midcentury looks with white-Americans. I know that plenty of people all over the world wore these styles, but somehow anything before the late 1960s/early 1970s feels a bit off on me (except hippie and some mod stuff, which I think has been mainstreamed a lot). With laws like the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924, there weren't loads of folks who looked like me here in the states, until the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. For some reason, 1940s styles don't make me feel this way, but that is probably because of the 1940s revivals in the 1970s.

But this is just an impression I have, and it doesn't reflect empirical evidence. There were thriving Chinatowns, significant populations of Japanese, Filipino, and other Asian American communities in the United in the midcentury.

What do you think about vintage looks, accessibility, and race? I am not sure what my discomfort is from, because I like prairie looks a lot, and I am pretty sure no one looked me in the midwest prairie in the turn of the century (although Little House was pretty popular in Korea, according to my parents).

Hope you have a lovely Friday!

Edit: Thanks to Liz of Scholar Style Guide for the heads up on this threadbared post, which deals with this issue much more succinctly!

Dress: handmade vintage, via Etsy
Shoes: BC Footwear, via Nordstrom Rack, and Tahari, via Ebay
Belt: thrifted
Pearls: vintage, via etsy
Cardigan: Limited, thrifted

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Polyester (or Exhibit C)

A-Dubs' recent post has inspired me to pull out my thrifted sundress, which I've maybe worn 3 times since I found it last summer. This dress has many positives. The outside is a lovely, floaty silk chiffon. There are mini round buttons on the empire bodice, giving this a vague drindl look. I don't mind a lack of a defined waist. It gives decent back coverage, which is key for me (I think the back is really intimate and personal, more so than upper legs). The hemline is a bit awkward, but I am taking a page out of A-Dub's book and rocking the wedge strappy sandals with the longer hemline.
The only issue is the polyester lining. As my mum-in-law has said, this defeats the purpose of the breezy silk summer dress. Do you think it's meant to be a fall dress, with a dark denim jacket, some tights? It's awfully flowery, so maybe some combat or motorcycle boots? Cowboy boots? What is up with sundresses with polyester linings, anyway? I am already sweating as I type this, but I am getting another wear out of it!

Dress: Zara, thrifted (Beacon's Closet)
Shoes: Giani Bini (gift from mom)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Exhibit B

This is Exhibit B in my "I have too many beautiful clothes I don't wear" show. I actually really like this dress, even though it's not a knit. The pattern is pretty, the colors are subtle (but do exist) and it's very cool and summery. But I don't wear it often because it's see through-ish and the light color makes me hesitate to wear it in public. The see through parts I usually remedy with nude underthings, but the light colors I haven't figure out yet. With dirty subway seats and my messy table manners, I may have to figure out ways to remix this is as a top with other skirts. Maybe this weekend, as per Style Underdog's suggestions?

Thanks for all the great suggestions for yesterday. Sadly, I've been to a tailor already with that dress. I should reiterate that I don't like wearing fitted woven dresses (at least ones fitted below the waist). I looked over some of my sewing books on alterations to make sure it's not just my tailor being lazy. The top right picture (from The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing) reconfirms that there isn't much one can do about pulling across hips, except let out more fabric.

And back to the shopping ban: I will still allow sewing new clothes for myself during the new year, mostly because I see sewing as a hobby, not as a means for accumulating clothing. Maybe someday it will be, but I like the creative process more than the wearing. I also like how I am learning more about clothes and fit from trying to make stuff for myself than from buying and wearing off the rack. Taking my measurements and comparing them to ready to wear and pattern measurements has been helpful. I know what parts of my body don't fit standard sizes, and therefore I can avoid certain off the rack styles (usually, many fitted bodices are suspect) and figure out how to adjust things.

Finally, totally unnecessary kitten shot. This little freak is 4 months old (estimated) now and he's getting bigger and stronger everyday. Buster does this when we don't let him eat our dinner.
"Please, can't I have some borscht?"*

*Part of not shopping is not looking at clothes online, a favorite procrastination hobby of mine. Instead, I am trying to fill my boredom and desire to step away from the office with less spendy activities, like cooking with my CSA veggies. So many local vegetables!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exhibit A

I told Blokey about my self imposed goal of not buying new clothes (with some stipulations) for a year, and he was both pleased and incredulous. I told him how I have beautiful clothes that I don't even wear, and I can't justify buying more (new or thrifted) when there are clothes languishing for non use. This is Exhibit A: a SKFK (a Skunkfunk offshoot) dress, purchased over 2 years ago at Cliche (in Minneapolis). I like the cut and the color (evidently, this wide band below the bust, gathers at the bust, and the A line cut above the kneed cut flatter a long torso-ed, smaller chested woman as myself). It's also a wrap dress, and has a fun exposed zipper detail on the left side. It cost a pretty penny, but I was all "I'll support a smaller Spanish brand and a local boutique!"
Yet I don't wear this often for a couple reasons.
1) I don't know how to layer it (the kimono sleeves do not take well to a cardigan)
2) It wrinkles easily (hence I am usually a knits gal)
3) I fear there are problems with fit.
4) I didn't realize it at the time, but there is a pretty strong "World of Suzy Wong" theme to the design.
As a women who would happily drape myself exclusively in knit fabrics until I die (not knit pants exclusively, but I could go skirt/dress/leggings instead), I am awkward and uncomfortable in fitted woven, stiffer fabrics. Observe the back view:

The puckering just below the waist band makes me wonder if this is too tight.

LinkReverse Wonder Woman, for A-Dubs

Any ideas how to make this more wearable (tone down the Asian elements)*? How noticeable is the pulling of the fabric on the back? Should this go into the donate/swap/resale pile? (If so, any takers?) I don't know if this is teaching appropriate (I thought it was, but I measured 3" from my darn low knees) but maybe for a lunch meeting or just going into the office. Although I prefer leggings, tunics, and flat boots for those days, but I can try to expand my options, right?
For now, it will accompany me as I continue to try to write, and for my produce getting needs.
Happy Tuesday.

*For some reason, I think I should not wear very "Asian" styled clothing, for fear that the number of ethnicity oriented come-ons and annoying questions I get, here in the 21st century, may only increase.

Dress: SKFK, via Cliche
Shoes: 9 West
Cat toy in the corner, via NYCPets

Monday, July 26, 2010

Catch up

Catch up, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

This weekend, I snuck over to Chicago to be part of Anne's fella's surprise party, and I fell behind on reading and commenting on everyone's awesome blog. I really missed Blokey, the kitties, and Brooklyn, so it's nice to be back and catch up on work and play.
Wow, I am so impressed with all the great feedback from Friday's post. I agree that the 6 or fewer pieces in a month is probably undoable for many people (mom's especially), but since I don't go to work daily in a very professional environment, it won't be too hard for me. And I will break it for a wedding and some international travel in late August, but I'll do my best otherwise. Right now I am trying to figure out which 6 pieces might be the most versatile, but maybe I'll bump it up to 7 or 8 pieces.
Which brings to the question of what would be the point of documenting these outfits? Well, I could try to be creative with accessories. Although I don't have loads, I do have some. I could also chronicle the way that having only a few pieces could affect my daily planning and activities. And see whether or not I could do it.
A few folks asked why I wasn't doing the 30 for 30 challenge. I am doing that because I work from home and it wouldn't be a challenge to limit myself when only a few friends and shopkeepers see me on a daily basis (and Blokey, who probably owns about 30 articles of well chosen clothing. And maybe 50 pairs of underthings). I'd like to participate in something like a 30 for 30 during the semester, even though I only teach twice a week. That would be more of a challenge, with 90 odd students looking at me for about 3 hours a weeks.
A few awesome bloggers (Cynthia and Style Underdog) are also committing to the Great American Apparel Diet. Even though I've had my own shopping diet for a while, it hasn't been an all out ban. Jesse.anne.O has also started a several month shopping ban. Since I mostly limit my blog reader to folks who also try to remix and limit their shopping, I also want to commit to a stronger shopping ban. While the Great American Apparel Diet will be officially over soon, my last purchase was the crinoline (on July 13). So I will also try to not buy anything between now and July 12, 2011. Which I know will be very hard, but Blokey and I have really clear financial goals (in light of possibly getting kicked out of our apartment soon), and not buying clothes will very likely help.
Everyone sets up their own rules, so I will allow myself to buy spend money on repairing/tailoring things I've got (especially shoes), replenishing my underthings (I count tights, shirts that only work for layering), and swaps. I would love to do temporary/permanent swaps with anyone else who is up to this (or a similar challenge). I can also continue to sew, and I still have fabric left over from a few project to whip up a new, versatile piece every now and then.

And this brings me to a final question: what will be the point of this blog if I am not consuming? And what is the end goal for my wardrobe? I am hoping to be able to really focus on the pieces and styles in my wardrobe that really speak to me, so I can have a well edited wardrobe and a clearly defined style, with some good use of accessories. While I may never become Rev. Billy, I can maybe get a little closer to bringing my spending habits better in line with my ideals.

Boy's western Shirt: Montgomery Ward, vintage via Ebay
Shorts: Levi's cut off DIY
Shoes: via Heavenly Soles, MPLS

Friday, July 23, 2010

Grey matter

Grey matter, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

Lately, I've been really focused and (unfortunately) stressed about my work, so I haven't thought much about clothes. So in the mornings/late mornings (darn you, unstructured work schedule), I tend to satisfice with my look. If it's good enough, I go with it.
This obsession with work will get worse with August, so I am trying to figure out something to do with my last month of not teaching, clothing wise (with some modifications).
One possibility was the "6 items or less" for 1 month challenge that the NYTimes and the Consumerist was talking about. It's less than a challenge for me since I don't go to work everyday, but maybe not thinking about my clothes will be liberating. I will get to have free reign over accessories.
I would have to make allowances for the wedding in August and a one week overseas trip, and the first day of school (August 30), so it would only be in the spirit of the project, but it still might be interested.
Is 6 items or less a month too crazy? Would it (or something modified) be something you'd be willing to try?
Have a lovely weekend.

Tunic: Arwyn, via Cliche (Minneapolis)
Cardigan: JCrew, thrifted
Jeggings: Hue
Shoes: BC Footwear
Belt: Not Just Vintage, Brooklyn

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beachware as workwear

I've had this beachy, breezy (and sadly a bit see through) tunic sitting in my closet for a while. I haven't worn it to the beach yet (because I've been wearing jersey dresses) and I wish I was going to the beach today, but I'm working and have a phone meeting with a writing partner (this is huge help for me, as I need a deadline). I am not quite sure how to wear this, as it ends mid thigh, which I wouldn't think twice about wearing on its own with a tighter fitting dress/skirt, but this is nice and billowy. For today, I paired it with brown shorts, which you can kind of see peeking out underneath.
Do you have any ideas on how I can make this more wearable?

Now, unrelated to clothes, but a part of my "Fashions in Academics" series, is this whole "debate" about getting rid of tenure. Some say, "more competition" and others say "it needs to be flexible to deal with different demands and lifestyles". The NYT has a "Room for Debate" series on "The End of Tenure." Cathy Trower, of Harvard's Education school, goes so far as to call it outdated, because it was created by a cabal of "white men." Interesting rhetoric.
I don't know the answer to these debates about getting rid of tenure. I know that there are problems, just like any other system, but whatever is said and done, I happen to be a fan of job security, for everyone. I truly don't understands argument such as "oh, well I don't have strong job security, so why should others?" I also don't understand why some folks constantly praise the use of part time, temporary, insecure adjunct teaching (or "sessionals" as they are called in that great state to the North) is not the solution. While I respect adjuncts and think they do great work (I'm married to an adjunct, and the man is dedicated to his students), I don't see how poor pay, no job security, and limited access to resources and voice benefits anyone, except a university administrator who narrowly seeks to minimize teach costs, with little regard for the students.

The funniest contribution to the debate was one by a Prof. Taylor, who claims that professors make over $200,000/year, average, post tenure. Based on the data from Illinois (which I consider a very average state, cost of living wise), the average full professor at a public doctoral institution makes between $90K-$120K/year.* I do not know Prof. Taylor's public university world, but the current alternative, in which adjuncts in NYC have to scrape a living at about $3,500/course/semester (pre-tax), can't possibly be the solution.

So, is tenure just outdated? Economic security a thing that went out style with the Cold War? Were your tenured profs distant, research obsessed idiots? Would love to hear your thoughts.

*Prof. Taylor argues that tenure, over 35 years of service, costs a public institution about $10 million. According to a dude from MIT's school of management, benefits usually add about 20-40% extra. I'm being generous and assuming an additional 8% IRA/pension contribution and I calculated a 48% fringe.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dress remixing in heat

I've mentioned before how remixing is hard in heat. I refashioned this "dress" a while ago, but I wasn't thrilled with the length. I guess I like skirts that dress that clearly are just above the knee, and everything else feels frumpy. So borrowing on A-Dub's genius (long torsoed ladies rockin' the wide belt), I used this stretchy number to blouse the top part/shorten the skirt, and now it feels like a whole new dress.

I've a got a few things on my plate, including a little hooky today since I worked nonstop over the weekend. Although perhaps I can file, "Going to see Flickan som lekte med elden* at the Angelica, midday, with a co-worker," as professional development? Social capital in the workplace is key to a good career, right? The midday movie is why I'm packing the denim jacket along.
Have a great Tuesday, everyone.

Jacket: Gap, via Mom
Dress: thrifted long men's tunic, repurposed DIY
Belt: Presence, Chicago
Shoes: BC Footwear

*Girl Who Played with Fire, but the Swedish just looks better

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My kind of model; or Production that we can believe in

What does goofy Goldy the Gopher have to do with ethics and clothing?

I know that usually I gripe and moan about crises and misogyny, but I also love a silver lining now and then. Bloggers have talking about sustainable consumption (although I prefer the term ethical, because I always think environmental when I think sustainable, but I am also interested in labor and human rights aspects of production) for a while now, and it's often easy to get into a depressed funk.

I am a big supporter of Students Against Sweatshops (I started school just after the bulk of their campaigns were over but I was involved in activisty campaigns with many of their "veterans"). It's not a perfect organization (a pretty darn good one), but they recognize that globalization and overseas production are facts of modern economic life, and while we can't change them, we can try to influence institutional consumers to make a change. I care about my individual consumption choices, I know that I am a drop in the bucket, while universities and other organizations have much more bargaining power.

This weekend, the NYTimes wrote a piece about how Knights Apparel opened a "model" factory in the Dominican Republic that is organized around principles of living wages and ethical production. The best part is that the price per T shirt at living wage, rather than minimum wage, is a mere $0.80. I think we can all dig down and cough up that amount for ethical production. (Knights will be selling these shirts at a lower profit margin, too. I could kiss the CEO, John Bozich. You will not likely ever hear me say that again.)

This lovely women is thrilled to have landed a job at Alta Gracia, which will be producing clothing for licensed University sportswear. Because of this job, she was able to secure a small loan to build a sturdy nice house (with toilets) for her family.
This makes me happy in a way that stories of microcredit do not. I know that microcredit is popular with many prominent people, but the problem with microcredit is that giving capital to a few small business is great, but you basically move money in impoverished places. Don't get me started on the high interest rates too. A really common microcredit business is a restaurant or a small shop. All this means is that the lucky person who got the microcredit loan gets all the money in the village/neighborhood. It's just an internal redistribution. What impoverished communities need is a steady in flow of external money. The woman working at Knights now takes her income and hires builders, feeds her family, and those folks use that money within their community. It's a big difference to provide externally funded, salaried jobs.* (For feminist economists' take on this issue, see here).
I am unimpressed with companies, like a certain fruit-monikered dress company, that blah blah about their ethics by pointing to the fact they donate to microcredit. Why not follow Knights Apparel and open up factories with the highest possible working and wage standards?
Shopping diet or no, I would be so happy to spend my money here.

Anyone else going to go out of their way to buy Alta Gracia's version of your Alma Mater's gear? Check to see if your school is a member of the Workers' Rights Consortium here:

And yes, reading about this happy young factory worker makes me want to STFU about my housing woes. Sigh. I am a spoiled, Global North Brat.

edit: For some good resources, check out the following links:
Good Clothing Companies
Interrobang Anonymous' list of resources

*I am not saying that we should give to microcredit, as I know that many microcredit loans help the quality of life for some people. But it's not how any country has or could possible transition to a more developed economy, if you're into that kind of thing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Never a bridesmaid

First, today's post a bit of cheat because I am not wearing this out. I am wearing a tank top and very short shorts, for writing. Later, I'll throw on an A-line dress, which Style Underdog reminded me yesterday is key for hot weather.
I am going to a bridesmaid a few short weeks for a very lovely friend. I've never been one before, and I am hoping to do the job well. The bride wants a 50s vibe, but if you've noticed, I don't really have a 50s build. I wanted to a really light dress, because it's outside in the Chicago 'burbs, in early August (which is swamp like and powerfully sunny). She also wanted black and white, with a black dress. Jessphg did a great post on black summer dresses a while ago, so I ended up buying one of her "similar to" dresses. It was a $35 summer dress from Delias, that shop for girls aged 14-18. It had a full pleated skirt and a fitted bodice. There was also talk of getting a crinoline, for the '50s vibe.
Fast forward to today, when I got the pretty crinoline in the mail. Here it is:

From FireflyVintage. They upgraded my shipping for free!

I used some pins to adjust the height, threw on the dress, and voila- I realized that my long torso strikes again.

please ignore the fact that I look like I've been sweating in front of a computer all day.

The bodice is an oh-so-significant 1 1/2" inches from my natural waist. Since I am more than 1 1/2" above average height, I suppose this is to be expected. But the end result is I think I look thicker in the middle than I'm used to seeing myself. The bride said no to a colored sash, so I have a few options:
1) Buy or make fairly substantial (like 3") ribbon or similar fabric belt. I'd have to use some interfacing to make it more sturdy, and I'd lower the belt strings a bit to tie it under the bodice. Maybe some hook and eyes strategically place to avoid slippage (time to completion, including shopping for materials: 4-5 hours, maybe $5-$10 max
2) Figure out a way to lengthen the bodice. I'd have to take out the stitches holding the bodice to the skirt, hopefully without ruining those perfect bleats. Then I'd attach a 2 1/2 inch waist band made of similar materials (time to completion: 8-10 hours, maybe $12 cost).
3) Say "screw it" and decide that I look good enough, it's not my wedding, and as long as the bride doesn't mind (she got this picture forwarded to her), I can go back to writing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cat Days of Summer

First, let me say how impressed and pleased I was about the interesting discussion from yesterday's post. This blogging community is clearly made of some very thoughtful and respectful folks. Why is it that some people believe that interests in clothes and style make you an airhead?
I know the phrase is supposed to be dog days of summer, but I don't have any dogs. I do know that when it's hot during the day, the kitties just lay around, all depressed and hot. Not that I am depressed on hot, but it's midway through July, meaning I have 6 weeks to be spectacularly productive, but little inspiration to do anything else. Like put attention into my appearance. I am at a weird point where, despite some occasional online browsing, I am pretty darn satisfied with my clothing collection. So it's not just boredom with my existing clothes, but rather just boredom with hot weather that doesn't allow for many layering and other remixing options.
I decided that I can use these days to practice outfits to wear on days I go to school but don't have to teach in the early fall, when it will still be nice out. This is my non-existent lunch meeting outfit. If I had a meeting with a colleague today, I'd be brining this- height and a little edge, but the all important blazer like piece. I can imagine this with the office blazer and a pair of dark wash jeans in the fall. Yep, I'm gonna knock their socks off this upcoming semester.
Anyone else feeling a summer style rut at all? Or does your enthusiasm for light fabrics and warmth have the opposite effect?

Jacket: Gap
Tshirt: Scrapbook, from Macy's
Shorts: pants from Junior's section of Dillards, shortened by me
Sandal: Tahari via DSW

p.s. Style Underdog, this one's for you:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fashion statement

There's a fascinating discussion going on at Academichic about slogan T's and wearing your politics as a part of your fashion choices. This is interesting, and as you can probably tell, I wear my politics pretty openly. I know folks have different opinions about that. I used to wear more slogan and message Ts, everything from anti-Bush, anti-war, pro-union types things, especially when I spent more of my time as an activist. To me, it wasn't about necessarily starting fights with strangers, but rather as a way to express myself.
That said, I am wearing the tricolour today as a way to express a political concern about what's going on in France recently, about the politics of women's clothing. Specifically, the lower house passed a bill (still needs to go through the upper house) banning all facial coverings, in a move that's specifically geared to outlawing the burqa.
Martha Nussbaum recently said it much better than me, but here are my additional thoughts:
I don't defend or reject the burqa, but rather I think it's important to think about what it means to live in a liberal democratic society (small "l" liberal, as in we care about individual liberties and freedoms, not the dictates of a king or a religious figure). It's true that "western" women in certain Muslim dominated countries must conform to their clothing norms (see What I Would Have Worn), but the point of a liberal democratic society is that we have few constricting norms on self expression, except those that might threaten other people's safety/liberties. If a society, France or otherwise, defines itself by liberal democratic values, it must uphold itself to it's own principles. Reciprocity does not apply.
Secondly, I dislike harmful cultural practices against women, but we should be aware that there are plenty of harmful cultural practices against women that we actively engage in, reproduce, and encourage. If we really care about stopping harmful practices against women, we should address them all, not the specific, limited ones that only seem to apply to a group of economically and politically marginalized populations. Sheila Jeffreys has done a much better job documenting this than I can attempt to in this space. Extreme dieting, risky plastic surgeries, precarious 4" heels, tanning- all of these represent a form of potential violence against women. Even though these are not as directly enforced, it is wrong to claim that there are not strong social sanctions against women who do not conform to certain ideals- in terms of their earning potential, career advancement, and life partner prospects. And most terrifying is the ways in which in this and other "western" countries, those women and men who violate gender norms in a way that is threatening have met with direct violence. Brandon Teena's death was not long ago. Violence against women (sexual or otherwise), and gendered violence* continues to be a reality in so many women's lives. And we know that what women wear in the West can become a liability in domestic violence cases (like the skinny jeans rape defense in Australia), showing how we continue to regulate and control what women should wear, while claiming that we have so much freedom.
Again, this is not to defend harmful cultural practices in one context because of the presence of some on our own, but rather to create a space to consider how claims of "safety" and "oppression against women" are used to obscure racist and fear-driven intentions. I may be super sensitive, as the sister-in-law of an amazing woman of the Islamic faith, but as a person interested in politics and fashion, and one who must carefully navigate strongly anti-Muslim sentiments in a classroom from a post 9/11 New York kids (who sit several yards away from their Muslim fellow students), it's an important subject for me.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about the politics of fashion.

Edit: Here's the outfit deets:
Top: Rodarte for Target
Skirt: UO
Shoes: BC Footwear (they are falling apart too)
Belt: off of a vintage dress

*There's a brilliant woman at my school who studies sexual violence against men and boys, so I don't want to make it seem like this is something that only women are the object of. The interesting thing about her research is she argues that these acts are deeply embedded in fraught norms of masculinity.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boots to the rescue

Boots to the rescue, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

All I wanted to do this morning was to not shave my legs, as it's not supposed to get above 85 degrees today. I tried on various pants (oops, stain), jeans (got too hot), and then realized that cowboy boots in summer can cover (mostly) your leg grooming laziness.
Thanks for your thoughts about my housing anxieties. I know that actually I am doing quite well. I'm not housing insecure, as I have to resources to move if I need, I just don't want to spend them. And I swear I don't have resentment to those richer than me (except when they don't want to pay their share of taxes, which I believe should be more, because they think it's unfair, but that's another rant), but I don't want to get kicked out of our place. I've read (and taught) Mike Davis' Planet of Slums, and I realize that majority of the urban world lives with far greater precariousness than I. My 45 minutes commute is nothing in the larger context. And I realize that even affluent upper middle class suburban families are pretty close to the edge (says Elizbeth Warren), with the 75% increase in health care and housing costs, as well as the individualized risk of the "modern" retirement (defined contribution) plan. I am grateful for many things, this blog being one of them.
I'm off to have a casual meeting and hopefully do lots of brilliant writing today. Have a lovely Tuesday.

(In case you were wondering how I can commit myself to sewing so many hours to make a dress like this: I listen to academic lectures on YouTube or various podcasts/radio interviews with intellectuals. So it's really work).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer sweater

Summer sweater, originally uploaded by Cohabitating_Closet.

I'm off to Manhattan to get my teeth cleaned, get library books, edit a manuscript (to be sent off my desk like yesterday?) and be uber productive. And avoid heat stroke, as it will be 90 today and likely hotter in midtown. I thrifted this summer weight sweater knit top a while ago, and I decided that it might work in today's weather.

Thank you for your kind words about the dress. I will try styling it a bit tonight when I have a chance some free moments. I flaked out on a few things last night because I've been having housing anxieties. Our landlord is selling her brownstone, and groups of 10-12 people traipse in here every few days, looking our apartment. A few thoughts on this:

1) Someone once accused me of being a hipster gentrifier for moving into a "transitional" neighborhood. I replied that I was merely on object, not a subject or agent of any gentrification process, since I had the choice of very small places in "gentrified" neighborhood, or a more moderately sized apartment in a transitional one, (and for a work from home type, this is a no-brainer). We had a heated discussion at the Tip Top Bar (a dive bar turned white kid joint in Bed-Stuy), which was probably ironic, but I continue to hold my stance. Likely, Blokey and I will get chased out of our building by someone "making investment," falsely advertised that he can make 90K a year in rentals (our landlord does not make this much for 4 units), and end up possibly displacing many of the families on our block. Or this ambitious property owner will find, to his disappointment, and he can only charge what we are currently paying, but it will be too late for us. We'll already be kicked out/have left in a huff of anger.
2) I hate this sense of insecurity, and while I am loathe to join the mortgaged classes, I spent too much time doing so last night.
3) Condos have gone down the NYC boros and surrounding areas. But many are still "douchebag living" steel and glass monstrosities, environmentally unsound, and eyesores (and the result of really crap politics).

Ah, the marginal urban living dilemma. Blokey and I can continue to get outpriced (or out ambitioned) out of various neighborhoods for a while, since we need extra space, but to what end? Will we be forced to become rental pioneers in increasingly further out and marginal neighborhoods?

Thoughts about the urban non-rich living dilemma?

Hope you have a great Monday.

Top: Jcrew, thrifted
Skirt: originally dress, thrifted and turned into a skirt DIY
Belt: Not Just Vintage (Brooklyn)
Shoes: BC Footwear

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Please note Buster's paw under the door. He dislikes being excluded from the outfit shots

I've got loads of academic stuff on my plate, but I have been taking time to recreational stuff too, like meet friends and play with the kitties. My major accomplish so far has been this 1961 rockabilly style dress, which I completed (almost) today (after weeks of stop and go sewing). I'm pretty proud of this highly imperfect dress, and I just need to add some bias binding to some of the seams. I'm in luck that these full shirtwaist dresses are in luck, but I think I'll be rocking this summer, floral dress for a while. (The jumpsuit has taken a back seat, as my co-sewer has been traveling, running marathons and putting us lazy gals to shame). The material is from P&S Fabrics in lower Manhattan, which is outside of the Garment district, and therefore cheaper and less scary. This fabric was on sale, maybe $3-4/yard?

Now that it's (almost) completed, I am at a loss as to how to style this. The pattern suggests pearls and flats. I also see a cute belt and cardigan for the fall. But what colors? Lime green is a bit out of my usual color palette. Would a light grey work for this? I feel like black would be too harsh, but my other cardigans are black, brown, and black and white.

The hardest part was fitting the bodice (as Elaine of the Selfish Seamstress has wisely noted, you have to take care when sewing 1950s style clothes for a non 1950s style body). It also had kimono sleeves, which are even more of a challenge to fit (but less so to sew). I had to make the darts more appropriate for someone who doesn't wear a conical shaping bra. But there is still a decent amount of gapping. I am just resigned to the fact that there is a good deal of "give" in the bodice, as I'd like to be able to hold onto subway straps in this dress.

I am proudest of the button placket. Buttons are pricey (like up to 2 dollars each), which is probably why cheaply made fast fashion often has ugly buttons. I got 7 white-ish buttons for about $1.50 by salvaging them off a men's button down from the thrift shop, and later used the shirt to practice button hole making, which is a whole 'nother adventure.

There's a funny front zip on the skirt, and a little hook and eye that I awkwardly used to keep the whole thing together. And while everything fits, I am definitely not used to the rockabilly style waist cinching!
Have a lovely weekend, bloggy buddies!

Dress: Self made
Shoe: BC Footwear

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Professional Shot"

I just thought I'd share this photo with you all, my lovely bloggy buddies, since you gave me such great advice about the shoes to match this dress (via Laws of the General Economy). It was 80 degrees and muggy and I wore "summer weight" wool knit, and I had a blast, even though I was the only high school friend invited to the wedding (the mother of the bride told everyone that I was funny in her car pool, years ago).

I actually wore jewelry (my sister's plastic black beads). Please not the semi-incredulous look on the face of the man just above my left shoulder. Yep, he can't believe my moves any more than Blokey.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Blokey and I are on our way to see Mighty Sparrow, the Calypso King, at a free noon concert at Metrotech. It's not for fun, it's part of his dissertation research. I picked up this airy shirt dress while shopping with Jesse.anne.o and What I Wore a couple weeks ago, and while it can be a bit short, it's the perfect one piece for the fourth hot day in a row. Did I mention the concert is outside? Well, it's all in the name of research on post colonial Caribbean culture. Sometimes, you just have to make sacrifices.

I can't believe there's not a single neutral in this outfit, although my friend C. told me that yellow can be a neutral. My hair is a neutral, I suppose.

I hope that you have a lovely and productive (and cool) Thursday!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heat and Dignity

Today is the third (or fourth?) day in a row that it has been mercilessly hot, around the high 90s. We're talking heat advisories and air quality warnings alerts. I know southern types might find this unimpressive, but certain aspects of the city make heat worse at times (subway stations, crowds, concrete). Blokey's fair skinned and cold loving parents are still here, and yesterday we planned a day around cool places: the Met, a couple cab rides, this adorable Japanese silent film (which was cute but included very stark social criticism), the Staten Island Ferry, and lots of water. It's so hot out that we even ran the A/C (at 84 degrees, of course) last night. (My work's A/C gave up yesterday morning, and they had to cancel classes and move staff around. I'm glad I played hooky). I have A/C guilt (I'm a Stan Cox convert), but as soon as it gets below 90, we'll turn it off.
When the heat goes up, my ability to care about dignity goes down. But I am trying to maintain non-embarrassing, but breezy, dress. I cut these shorts from a pair of summer weight thrifted slacks, and had the good luck of thrifting a seersucker floral shirt as well. The sandals are from my ma, so this is a $5 outfit. Not too bad for freakin' hot.
Hope you all are staying cool!

Shorts: GAP, shortened by me, thrifted
Blouse: thrifted
Sandals: Aerosoles
Kitten: rescue

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A rad bathing suit strategy

Outfit posts haven't been happening since Blokey's parents arrived and stayed with us. They are now at the Parkside B&B in lovely Prospect/Lefferts Garden (aka the "wrong" side of Prospect Park, but we dig it) for the next couple nights, so maybe outfit posts can continue. Today we went to Brighton Beach, aka the happiest place in the world. Can you tell I have a shore-fetish? In lieu of other brilliant bloggers talking about the beach/beachware (Sal of Already Pretty and D-Med of In Professorial Fashion), and my own obsession and attempt to get to the beach as much as possible (a shameful number this summer, given my proximity to the ocean), I'm sharing a picture of my own suit. But in an effort to not seem so narcissistic, it's an action shot from Lake Michigan, last weekend, courtesy of the beautiful Anne.

Link(She has been inexpertly cut out, unless she gives me permission to post the whole picture.)

I can't explain the face I'm making (I think our bachelorette friend told us to "work it for othe camera") but this gives you an idea of my modesty levels at the beach/shore. I wear a medium sized string bikini meant for a high school girl. There is very little coverage, and I doubt that I flatter my figure. I don't wear this because I think I have such a fit and awesome body. In fact, whilst in high school, arguably the fittest period of my life, I refused to wear a two piece bathing suit because of the following concerns: my torso was too long, my shoulders too wide, my breast too small, my arms too skinny, my thighs too heavy, my legs too short, stretch marks on my upper thighs, my hips too wide, etc. My body neuroses knew no bounds. But since I've been going to these awesome urban beaches, I've really learn to shed my bathing suit anxieties. There's something so accepting and awesome about going to crowded beaches, where folks look great, and happy, in their own way. Comfort, fun, and celebration seems to dominate here, not trying to create envy or hide "flaws." While I still maintain MANY hang ups and rules about clothing, I think I've managed to shed most when it comes to the beach. Yep, that's my tummy making little folds when I sit down, and I will have an Italian ice in this blaring sun, thank you.
So does anyone else feel more liberated at the beach/pool than you do otherwise? Or is the salt water just getting to my brain?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cows with Guns

On the eve of American independence day, I put together my Americana-ish outfit, which is also an attempt to remix this dress (and I have difficulty remixing, a sentiment well expressed by La Fille d'Or). I was also listening to the song my sister and I giggle over together, Dana Lyons' Cows with Guns.* It's appropriate because it's about bovine liberation, but it draws on themes of national independence movements (primarily of the 1960s and 70s, but we can relate them to the 1770s, I think.) I want to give this CD and book to all my friends with kids, but I don't know if my parent-friends would approve of tales of cows with automatic weapons (other than the Swedes, who give their kids books about unemployed single dads on public assistance who have great adventures together. Sadly, not in translation).

A lot of folks are wishing everyone a happy July 4, and I also hope you have a nice holiday weekend as well, but I am always ambiguous about this, as well as many other, holidays. Jessphg did a great post on patriotism and criticism yesterday, and it got me thinking about what patriotism means to me. I get annoyed when certain loud people claim a monopoly on the legitimate definition of patriotism. Patriotism doesn't mean never questioning the decisions of your government or never criticizing things that a government has done. Since I teach international relations and will teach international law in the fall, it's impossible to teach effectively without discussing some of our past government's mistakes (Iran contra, Chile 1973, arms races, Monroe doctrine, etc.) But like I always tell my students: being critical of what Washington has done in the past (or present) in no way is an attack on "America," although some students have difficulty separating the two (During this video, a very nice student and veteran got upset and shouted, "Why are you always picking on us! Why is everyone OUR fault?"). I can be patriotic AND prefer Howard Zinn's history of this country over, say, the Texas school board's story.

Blokey's parents come in tomorrow so we have our hands full entertaining soon, so I hope to be productive today and clean a lot. I may be able to drag my in-laws of a Scandinavian extraction to the beach (but not the shore) Monday. Maybe a beach post to come?

Have a lovely weekend, bloggy buddies!

Rad in Brooklyn, lefty American patriot, out.

Dress: Talbots, thrifted
Tunic as undershirt: UO
Belt: Not Just Vintage
Scarf: via Ebay
Shoes: via Heavenly Soles, MPLS

*I could listen to this song over and over again, but Blokey not so much.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


This dress has been sitting in my closet all summer, for a couple reasons. First, the toggles always do something funky, and the cloth often gets wrinkly and funky. It's also a bit too short (which I tried to remedy with lace bike shorts underneath, see below), and color might just to be too close to my own (summer) skin tone to work. But I'm going with anyway, because I dig the dirndl like elements, and it seems cheerful enough to distract me from what I have to do today.

This is the face of reluctance, and before I rolled up the lace bike shorts

No, it's a good situation to be in. Without giving too much away, this manuscript I submitted to an editor a while back (like before I started blogging), has been taking too much time in the review process and I've been getting discouraged. But I've finally heard from the editor, and he's going to work to get the second review back, but in the mean time, he sent me the first one. It's only 2 pages of recommendations and the editor promised it was "encouraging and positive," but I am so scared to read it. I need to respond to it by the afternoon so guess what I am doing right now? Laundry. (I'll read the report when I am done with the first load). It's nerve wracking, but it's a decent situation to be in. (In my mind, the editor had only kept my manuscript around so he and his staff could have a good laugh every so often.) I don't have anything else to report, but hopefully in a few months I can share more.

Thanks for you thoughts about my anti-budget cut rant yesterday. I know that I can't be alone in thinking this, yet politicians have responded to the state and municipal budget crises in such similar ways, and it's quite disheartening. What makes me madder is that no one raised taxes in NY State or city even during the "flush" times (evidently they did things like mortgaged buildings, borrowed against pension funds, etc.) resulting in short term/adhoc, rather than steady new forms of state revenue flows. What are we, Delaware? I've always wanted to be a public official when I was younger, but abandoned that after I abandoned the Naked Army at age 18. I'd have to cut back on my rage a bit, but maybe someday, I'll ride my "tax the rich, for reals" platform all the way to Albany (or insert some other capitol city here. I think drindl like mini-dresses probably won't be the appropriate uniform).