23 December 2006

Style Shout-Out II: Our Tiny Red Lady

This shout-out's been a long time coming. In a poem I wrote in 1999, I referred to Tori Amos "Our Lady of Tiny Red Terrors." She was "Our Lickable Mother." choirgirl hotel is still my favorite Tori Amos album. I love its aesthetics! It was her high-water mark, fashion-wise. Though, to digress, the fashion styling on the Boys For Pele album art (slim white jeans with beige tuxedo stripe, strappy black slip-ons from which her crimson toenails peep in the brougham/Talula photo) are nothing to sneeze at? And who didn't almost piss their pants at the vegetable-bulb-as-choker Crucify image?

But for choirgirl hotel, Tori got electronic for the first time. It was compelling and strange after Pele and the previous albums. On the album cover, hair floating up, she reminds me of nothing so much as a mermaid. She's just fuckin glamorous on the single covers for Cruel and Jackie's Strength maxi single. As a 23 year old living in Manhattan, I endlessly trawled Virgin and Tower, obsessed with these images. I was breathless at the glamorous ankle boots she wears in the Spark video. Of course, as Kevyn Aucoin, may he rest, would point out, Tori Amos has the greatest face: her bottom lip and the wise-looking span of her cheekbones are breath-taking.

The pedal-to-the-metal transformations of Strange Little Girls would have been impossible without the fashionability of choirgirl hotel. (Yeesh, the black dress she wears in the Strange Little Girl video is gorge, and her hair has a tad more blonde, if I remember correctly.) The Don't Make Me Come to Vegas single cover is probably the most perfect photo taken of Tori Amos.

But more than that: I believe images or Tori wouldn't be nearly as compelling if she weren't lousy with talent. I bought Strange Little Girls in 2001 out of torobligation, but realized listening to it again in 2004 that it's a superb album. I love Scarlet's Walk for A Sorta Fairytale--duh--but came to appreciate a track I usually skip when I let the cd play out last week. Our Lady rules.

13 December 2006

Rhymes With "Quadracci"

Bambini, guess what Ms. Kansas discovered last night??! A sucker for Milwaukee's old buildings and an admitted history nerd, she could not pass up Larry Widen and Judi Anderson's book Silver Screens: A Pictorial History of Milwaukee's Movie Theaters. When she read that none other than LIBERACE was one of Milwaukee's native sons, Ms. Kansas's jaw bounced off the floor. OMKG!!! Liberace!! She couldn't quite believe it. It's too perfect. And while her taste is markedly different from Wladziu's--that's Lee's first name. Kids, it just doesn't get more Milwaukee than that--Ms. Kansas believes that all style beacons are to be embraced. Why, if this were Madison, Liberace, The Musical! would have run long ago at Broom Street Theatre.

10 December 2006

Dead Cold Style

Oy! Sorry, bambini. It has been a...challenging time for Ms. Kansas, leading her to neglect her posting duties. She did not mean to leave you all without a lifeline!! Well, so, it's not hard to see that winter is upon us, and few things make Ms. Kansas grumpier than trying to juggle the need to look stylish with the need to keep her tokhes from freezing off. In fact, the last time Ms. Kansas talked to her mama, Mrs. Oklahoma, she was fretting over her style baby keeping warm. Currently, Ms. Kansas's warmest coat is a manky, shapeless double-breasted thing matted in a few places that she scooped up at an anarchist clothing swap in Madison in 2004. Style truth is stranger than fiction. Ms. Kansas sees looks she'd prefer on the girlies riding the bus, but large-buttoned knockoff Marc Jacobs coats with adorable detailing and teetering suede boots likely aren't the answer. Hmm... What to do??

Off the top of her head, Ms. Kansas is feeling the second-hand fur. Ms. Kansas does, indeed, believe fur is murder--but she signs off on thrift store furs because buying second-hand is the responsible low-consumption thing to do, that shit is warm and, honey, that fur been killed. So, march up into some place like St Vinny's, Madison's second-hand Harrods, because those old furs are waiting for you, chile. If you're afraid you can't carry off a fur, Ms. Kansas suggests one of those Britcool heavy coats those boys in Oasis used to wear. Only make sure it's not too heavy or your silhouette will be ruined. Lastly, there is the dependable puffer from a Wisconsin firm like Lands' End. Again, you must watch your silhouette.

One of Ms. Kansas's secrets that she will share with you right now--happy holidays, kids--is wearing more than one winter scarf. It's very much the look. Ok, now get some faux furry boots or Moon Boots. (Ms. Kansas lives in dismay of her Sorel boots, but, honey, her feet don't get cold, now, do they? She is still looking for an adorable boot that can stand up to even a winter in St Paul. She will keep you posted.) Top it off with a hat with a little popcorn ball. Off you go.

23 October 2006

Halloween Love

Ms. Kansas always has the best of intentions for Halloween--even if she rarely follows through on them. There is something very glamorous and sultry about this holiday, no? What with the whole veil-between-living-and-dead-lifting/carnivalesque angle, don't you think? Revellers in stunning and well-planned costumes inspire fantasies of going as Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald, a 1930s glamorpuss or an Anne Rice-style vampire.Though, for the record, Ms. Kansas has nothing for the Halloween in Madison scene but an upturned nose. Yes, that was "Madison," as in "Wisconsin."

This morning Ms. Kansas was thinking about how female college students' costumes list toward Sexy This or That. As in Sexy (read: Slutty) Nurse or Teacher. These costumes not only lack imagination, originality and intelligence--but also they're completely, utterly tired.

So, Ms. Kansas is here to solve the Halloween costuming conundrum for female college students the nation over. Fortunately, every college student can't come to Halloween in Madison. But that doesn't mean they have to miss out on all the fun! Below is a list of Sexy Costumes A La Wisconsin:

10. Slutty Wolf
9. Slutty Beer Stein
8. Slutty Cranberry
7. Slutty Sink
6. Slutty Maple Syrup Bottle
5. Slutty Can of Pledge
4. Slutty Calatrava Wing
3. Slutty Sub-Zero Fridge
2. Slutty Lake Michigan
1. Slutty Frank Lloyd Wright Building

Just like being there! Enjoy! And Happy Halloween!!

07 October 2006

Workplace Scourge

I am, of course, referring to "khakis." Rhymes with "tacky." Not coincidental, I'm sure. I find it demoralizing simply to contemplate putting on a pair of khakis right now. They sap my lifeforce. And, not to get all white-shoe on anybody's ass, but they're appropriate only for a very limited (fortunately!!) sartorial window: any time in May until the weekend after Labor Day. This opinion, of course, is greatly influenced by the fact that in Wisconsin there are only about 14 days of the year, at most, that can legitimately be described as "hot." Khakis are absurd in March--too light--in character and hue; they're laughable in fall--for the same reason; unthinkable in winter. I believe darker trousers are much more suitable the shorter the days and the brisker the weather. I'll be blunt: in cold or even cool weather, khakis are bumptious. Khakis were invented for a hot, no! make that tropical environment. Inappropriate khaki usage can bring down an entire workforce. It bleeds away the self-esteem and acts as a blockage to know one looks ridiculous.

02 October 2006

The Fall and Rise of the House of Coiffure

Has it really been nearly a month since my last post?! Many topics have been circulating through my mind. And here is one that is unavoidable since my hair is growing: coiffure. Specifically in its relationship to Black women. This isn't an original thought. I read it somewhere before; I forget where. Coiffure--or, rather, its downfall since the end of the 1950s--has been the downfall of Black women's hair.

In my mind, the word "coiffure" connotes hair with volume and, perhaps, density. Braids, knots, buns, twists, etc. Hair being bound up or fastened in some manner. This is why I say I say coiffure had its end in the 1950s; for, in the 1960s, we see the trend toward unfastened, free-floating hair. For Black women, this means one thing: Yikes! Ergo, the hair straightening chemicals of dubious long-term effects.

Ah, but in the glory days of coiffure...it was all so simple. Hair was about volume--and volume Black women's hair had in abundance. Have you ever noticed that in 18th-century portraiture French aristocrats look like they have White 'fros? Wealthy women called in the coiffeur de jour for a toilette that could take hours. In the 19th century, women wore their hair in puffs, frizzes, braids, knots, curls, fringes, and all other manner of somewhat morbid Victorian assemblage. (I'm thinking mid- to late-19th century.) Again, no problem for Black women.

In the early 20th century, Gibson girl hair was big! Waves, kinks and wild curls aren't a problem when you wear your hair in a pompadour. Everyone had serious frizz back then. And it was so picturesque! On into the 1920s and 1930s, you could do a shiny finger wave if you pressed your hair. And who cares when everyone had a head full of all manner of grease and brilliantine?? Ok, and on into the 1940s and 1950s. And then, in the 1960s, it all started to go flat, so to speak.

Hair used to take up space around the head--sometimes a lot, sometimes a little less. It used to have sculptural, 3-D quality. Hair could make shape. Alack! not anymore. I remember when I was a girl my mother used to braid my hair. Those are the days I want to get back to. To be honest, I feel uneasy when my hair isn't fastened or bound in some way. I want quasi-19th century bohemian braids. Amel Larrieux does that well. Onward! This, I think, is the future of Black women's hair.

09 September 2006

The Same...But Different: What Ho, Fashion? or, Getting Medieval On Your Own Ass and Sundry Cares

Well, well, now, Ms. Kansas has certainly had a veritable blitzkrieg of style adventures and her head is still whirling. Since July she has staffed FASTEN's table at the East Side Open Market during their fashion show (the designers are unbelievably talented!); written a story about boutiques in Milwaukee for Undercurrentz, a new Milwaukee rag; gotten the rundown on what it takes to be a stylist from the Arlene Wilson Management; been hired to be a stylist for a show Redken's doing in Wisconsin (!) in November; not been hired as a merch assistant at Bon-Ton; and ended a brief interlude on wardrobe staff at Milwaukee Rep. Would someone please fetch Ms. Kansas her smelling salts and step lively about it?

Though, she found that running wardrobe and she were definitely not two tastes that go great together, Ms. Kansas is wildly enthused about having been around other clothing nerds. For that is what Ms. Kansas is, that is what the costume department is packed to its rafters with, and there is no use in denying either. No, she is not a fashionista. Her academic proclivities are undeniable. Another insight: it is virtue to make stuff. In the costume shop, Ms. Kansas got to make crafts. She could scarcely believe her luck at being paid to make belts, cut leather, hammer rivets, distress tabards, paint capes and hem up cowls. Kate Bailey, the Crafts Artisan Supervisor, could surely make cute shoes out of used chewing gum and denim scraps.

Last night was opening night of King Lear (Ms. Kansas highly recommends this production; Peter Silbert and Mark Corkins as imperfect fathers made her weep like a child during rehearsals)--and what food for the style hungry that is!! If you think not, Ms. Kansas pities your lack of imagination. Cowls, my dears, are the new little black dresses. A small joke from Ms. Kansas...

1. While walking down the street this afternoon, this insight: tuck full-leg pants into boots. The tight-pant-in-boot look is in right now, but Ms. Kansas was actually alive in the early 1980s; she's been there and done that. The full pants in boots make a smart medieval-cum-Cossack look. The men in the Lear cast rock this look dashingly. Go to, ladies. Somewhat related: spats. Any kind you can find, high or low. Kind of like legwarmers. Wear with shoes or boots. Ms. Kansas still kicks herself for turning her nose up at a World War I-era pair her mother found at a rummage sale as a snotty teenager in the early 1990s.

2. Cowls. Really. All manner of neo-medieval headgear: wraps, turbans, caps, scarves, hoods. Ms. Kansas has had a pash for this kind of thing since watching the Gerard Depardieu film The Return of Martin Guerre in history grad school. Also, hair in knots and braids--especially if it has any idea of waving, kinking or curling.

3. Medieval tailoring: that's why the peasant look is called the peasant look, bambini. Simple square and rectangular shapes. Ms. Kansas loves a dolman or batwing sleeve!! Smocking, pintucks, pleats, yokes. Tunics! Caftans! Heaven!!

Get out those history of costume books and get imaginative!!

14 July 2006

Old Money Living in Milwaukee

I meant to make this post yesterday, but simply ran out of time. I find myself looking for an apartment--that's what I did this past Wednesday and Thursday. Soooo, since I currently live in the coolness-challenged enclave of Shorewood, I have only now realized Yankee Hill existed. It's positively patrician!

I laid eyes on the Plaza Hotel on Cass Street and fell in love. When I saw that it was apartments as well as a hotel--oh, my, just like in the old days!--my mouth watered. Ok, so it's been established that I'm a history nerd--or, if it hasn't, I suppose now it has. I walked into the lobby. I had the strangest feeling. I felt like I stepped into another era; the ambiance simply felt different. It was impossible to stand in the lobby--terrazzo! moldings! vestibule!--and not imagine oneself as a marcelled chorine in all her feathered and fringed glory. Well, at least for me it was...

I kept walking and came upon not one church, but two. Undeniably, one was grander than the other, perhaps overbearingly so. I was meandering around wondering how I could have possibly missed all this gorgeousness. Oh, the Deco! the Deco!

I discovered the next day when I viewed the apartment that it was, erm, a bit too tiny for me. So, I repaired to the restaurant for breakfast. There was a semi-circular lunch counter. I almost wept. I've never seen a lunch counter I have not loved. I had a yummy breakfast and caught a bit of an older couple's conversation. Listening, I realized they were talking about June Allyson's recent passing--and joined their conversation. "She's a little bit before your time," said the old gentleman. Ah, but, he was talking to the woman who had been the Old Hollywood-obsessed 12-year-old in Parsons, KS. Somehow, we got around to talking about Angelina and Brad and Christie Brinkley's most recent divorce. The lady at the desk indicated that the hotel's first building had been built in 1925, and the other in 1926. So, I was right about the marcel and fringe.

19 June 2006

Show Love: Costume/Textile Collections and You

I was a grad student in Textile and Costume History at University of Wisconsin-Madison during the 2003-04 school year. During that year, I volunteered at the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC in the hizzouse!) and interned at the Costume & Textiles Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society. A lot of what I did was cataloguing artifacts--which can be pretty time-consuming. At HLATC, I researched a folk costume donation and learned about the differences in Serbian dress. To digress, folk costume is hella interesting and it influences "fashion" in so many ways (e.g. the "peasant" look that bubbles up every few years.) The handwork--if it's, you know, done by hand--is swoon-worthy. The shapes or silhouettes are pretty simple--but the construction or embellishment--pin-tucks! quilting! mirrorwork! mad pleats! smocking!!--will leave you verklempt.

So, yes, I am a textile nerd. One day in the Historical Society's collection, the curator and I were nerding out over this dress that I would estimate was made during the years 1912-1917. The dresses from that era are crazy; they're just so elaborately constructed. We were poring over this dress like,
Well, it looks like she got the seams wrong here and decided to start over. Oh, my goodness. Do you think this was from a pattern? A year later, I had a dream about this dress.

In the Historical Society, I got to see and handle the most beautiful, amazing things. To think: people lived in and wore these stunning objects. In the most recent issue of
W--the one with the Madonna and horse fashion story--Madonna is wearing this very cool-looking beaded black vest-y thing. I recognized it right away. The Historical Society collection has dozens of them. They reminded me of something Tom Ford would have dreamt up during his Gucci years--all black, elaborately beaded, sometimes with net work, very black widow-y Goth. They're dated from the 1870s-1880s.

The 1920s is an era much beloved by clothing nerds/fans. The fabrics and colors were gorgeous. And the embellishment was unbelievable. I would go peep at the dresses in the 1920s area when I got bored; it was truly mind-blowing. Designers and dress-makers were just getting inspired by a wide variety of things: King Tut's tomb, Ballets Russes, various African cultures, "Orientalism," surrealism, Modernism, the Russian Revolution, etc. And just kind of going crazy. And people wore it. When I lived in Madison, there was a store there called Florilegium, which has since--oh, the bitterness, the cruelty of it!!!--to the metro Kansas City area. I walked in there and looked at the dresses. They had other things, too--like lamps with beaded shades and little metal and tapestry handbags. You look at this stuff and go, This stuff comes from a very different mindset. This comes from the mindset of people living with beauty, with having the time to create beauty. For me, it was humbling, almost.

During my semester as an intern at the Historical Society I got to see the stuff I was learning about in my Fashion History class up close--for real. One week we were talking about Poiret in class, and I came across the one in the collection. Another week in class, it was Lanvin--and, what do you know--I found a pink silk satin with brown (?) handwork suit whose existence had been forgotten. I ran over the the curator and the volunteer like, "Omigosh, we have a
Lanvin!!!!" We all went over to gawk at it.

During my internship, I came to the conclusion that everyone who thinks they care about "fashion" should volunteer in or donate to some historical society's costume and textile collection (and it doesn't have to be the Museum at FIT or the Costume Institute either!!); these collections do such important work and protect and keep the wonder.

29 May 2006

That's Mme Editrix To You! Now get me a mocha! And an Hermès scarf!

It's been a while, and, bambini, I've missed you! So, I've been thinking. I love clothes. I've been writing since I was 8 years old. Two great tastes that taste great together, no? I've been thinking of going back to journalism school since March. Et voilà! I shall become a fashion/lifestyle writer or editor...er, editrix. Also, I want to be a stylist; Carine Roitfeld was a stylist before becoming editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue.
My mother is no doubt rubbing her hands together, thinking,
Well--finally!! Yes, it took me a while to stop being childish and play to my strengths. To, well, commit. How fitting it all is. My mother is, after all, the woman who had me watching the Tonys (!) in southeastern Kansas when I was in middle school and swooned over Dreamgirls (!) when I was a tot. To say nothing of her fascination with Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. All true. I couldn't make it up if I tried.

17 May 2006

Blouse; Godet; Dirndl; Sash...Whatever

Things are pretty busy for me. The AFTA convention is in about two weeks. I usually deal with the inevitability of events with calm, finely-honed denial. Lots of things are happening.
But I am trying to think of a name for a fashion maga/zine. So far, I haven't had anything that just grabbed me in such a way that I knew it was just right. I've been thinking about this for a week or so. Yeesh.
Last week I was looking at PAPER magazine's website. I started reading it when I lived in New York ever so long ago. A boy I was in school with got me started. I forget his name. I do remember that he's bisexual and I that I treated him really awfully. I was 23; so, it goes without saying that I was quite stupid. I've been sorry about it for years and wish I could tell him. It is my karmic burden. So, I have him to thank for the joys of reading Mr. Mickey's column. Well, look at that! There's the last copy of PAPER I bought sitting on my desk at work. It's the FASHION LEGENDS issue. But, on to Mr. Mickey. He is awesome. I love his outré fashion advice. What a jokester Mr. Mickey is! He's friends with Michael Musto, whose Voice column I love. And Mr. Mickey is a vegetarian. He couldn't be anything but loads of fun--so, if Mr. Mickey is ever in Milwaukee, he must give me a call!
So, I was getting some online Mr. Mickey love; sadly, Mr. Mickey's blog is not about schmashion, but rather flibbertigibbet topics like royals and Broadway. Sort of not my cup of tea. PAPER editor/publisher Kim Hastreiter does the Fashion Schmashion blog. I was reading along when I came upon a post about Robin Givhan of the Washington Post. Well, it seems she wrote up a Pulitzer. You know where this is going, right? She's the Post's fashion editor. So, I was like, Holy crap. It can be done. Oh, yeh, and she's Black, too. Needless to say, I became quite light-headed. So, I started dreaming up names for my fashion magazine in embryo...


04 May 2006

Style Shout-Out I

What is a style shout-out? It is someone or something who has not yet ascended to the lofty heights of icon status, yet is noteworthy and, perhaps, influential. It's quick and dirty.
For our first Style Shout-Out, we have Lisa Bonet/Denise Huxtable. I suspect former English professors would take me to task for conflating the woman with her character. How simplistic! How naive. Yet, I believe I can make a sure-footed argument for the case of Lisa Bonet the person being inextricably bound up with her alter ego, Denise. Denise, the weird one! Denise, the freak! Denise, with her white-girl-talking self! Wasn't Lisa Bonet herself some of those things? Without Lisa Bonet, Denise Huxtable just wasn't conceivable. What balm to the soul for the odd Black girl out!
I remember Denise's trippy New Wave gear and choppy hairdo. Denise as Olivia's stepmom wearing the skirt-trouser hybrid I coveted. Denise and her head of swinging locks. Denise jacking up Theo's knock-off designer shirt. And then it was on a whole new level on A Different World. My recommendation to anyone would be: get your dvds of A Different World and bite Denise's style tout de suite.
This is my tribute to Lisa Bonet. Thanks for letting your freak flag fly.

23 April 2006

Not a Shop Hound

My weekend started on Thursday. I don't usually go out. A group of us from PA went to Elsa's and then to Mantra. Do not sleep: Kenya, Tyanna and Tish are fucking hilarious. We all had a good time eating yummy food and showing out. Then we went to Mantra, where my expectations went unfulfilled. I had thought they always had good djs. Maybe the music sucked because it was ladies' night or whatever.
Friday night I went to LuLu for my neighbor's birthday cele. I bought Megan really adorable stationary at Broad Vocabulary, then settled in and talked to boys and drank a Shirley Temple. When I remembered it was Gallery Night, I sauntered over to Paper Boat--birthday hat and all--and chatted with Faythe Levine. I cut that evening short because I knew I had river clean-up at 9AM the next morning. No Highbury for me.
After the cleanup, post-barbecue, I went shopping for sneakers. Not that I'm some shop hound that buys something every week or something. I stopped at the skate shop on the same side of Farwell as the Oriental. They don't sell women's sizes, which sucks my left one. So, I went across the street to Envy and got the sneakers I had been eyeing. I cannot wait to unleash them on everyone. I think I'll wear them to work with fishnets and a skirt. I decided to got to MODA 3 to look for bags because I found Envy's selection uninspired.
I didn't buy a bag at MODA 3. I did buy 2 tops because I never have enough. I held out on the bag because I bought a light blue one last week at Borders that has garnered compliments on two separate occasions this weekend. The thing about bags is that you can never have enough of them. That's the problem. The same thing with jackets! I didn't realize how picky I was about hoodies until yesterday. The last hoodie I bought was this vintage violet Adidas one with grey trim that I bought at a second-hand store in Brooklyn in 2002. It was the hoodie of hoodies. It was the perfect size and color, and the hood had just the right amount of floppiness. Fuck, I miss that jacket. There's the cut and fit to consider--that's the hardest part of hoodies to get right, I think. And then the whole factor of logos or writing; the line between cool and sycophantic is sometimes very slippery. And I have plenty of jackets!
I think pants also fit into the never enough category. I love pants. I don't really like wearing skirts or dresses. About jeans: I do not place jeans in the never enough category. I don't think an adult ever needs more than 3 (three) pairs of jeans at any one time. More than that is overkill. I think this comes from the part of me that likes the idea of a uniform. European friends have proven the 3-pair maxim is the way to go.
Today I went to Atomic and bought Cocorosie's latest cd. I haven't gotten all the way through it. It sounds like something induced by a fever dream. I also picked up Standing in the Way of Control. It's great. Their new drummer Hannah is awesome. I also think Brace is way underrated as a guitarist. He's quite good. And Beth Ditto is so pretty. Oh, and her voice is fucking amazing! To me, they sound very much like a Southern band. But then, I'm from the part of Kansas that borders Arkansas and I almost went to school in Searcy. "Keeping You Alive" is totally rocking my life this minute. Let it rock yours, too.

17 April 2006

Nick Zinner Hair

Yup, I hooked up the Nick Zinner hair today. But not on purpose. I realized that's what it was after the fact. It's sort of sticking straight out from my head in the front. And I have on a dark button-down shirt. YYYs were in town Saturday. I stood on my chair part of the time. People drink beer, then leave the bottles and cans in the aisles at the Riverside. Yuck. The dude from Blood on the Wall sounded like Jack White. I wonder if that was on purpose. Holy fuck, the chick who plays bass is named Courtney! She wears glasses! And, fuckity-fuck, Brad Shanks went to school in Lawrence, KS!
Um, ok, what else? YYYs added a fourth person for the tour. They played a lot of songs from Show Your Bones. I think that sounds like them, only glammy-er. Haven't bought it yet. Christian Joy's designs for Karen O are getting more sophisticated. I loved what she wore on the cover of Spin. Nick Zinner's a total cutey pants. He was stage left diddling around with his equipment. I was like, He's like a hot anime come to life! I also think he's a very good guitar player. Yah, better than Jack White. I guess the whole guitar-with-octave-pedal-as-fake-bass disturbed me more than I realized. I thought the whole playing through more than one amp thing was kind of sketchy ego thing, but Michael Allen signed off on that. So, ok then. But, really, when I watch a show I'm watching the drummer because I really want to get on the old drumkit myself, but I've been intimidated by the hand-eye coordination thing. Butch Vig was my drumming hero for a hot minute last year. But it's always been about Brian Chase. And he's a cutey pants, too.
Big reveal: Say "A" is a play on a song by The Seconds called Say Hey. But you'd know that if you really were indie rock enough!!

11 April 2006

Say "A"

Are you indie rock enough to get the title reference? Anyway, this post is about men's undershirts. Some people refer to the sleeveless kind as "wife beaters" or--perhaps they feel this gingerly linguistic intervention somehow ameliorates the effect--"beaters." That's not ok. In fact, it's completely, utterly wack. And you don't have to say it. There's a better phrase. It's "a-shirt." So, stop using that other phrase already.
My introduction to the a-shirt qua a-shirt stems from
Devil in a Blue Dress, a movie Denzel Washington starred in when I was in college. (It also features the always soigné Don Cheadle. Sometimes I ask myself, Who's better dressed: Denzel or Don? ) In this movie, the a-shirt is an essential costume element. Denzel wears this article so well that Esquire ran a feature about a-shirts, from which I learned the term. And when you think about it, isn't the a-shirt rather indispensable?
The Professional, Natalie Portman's first movie? I had been telling this guy Bryan that an a-shirt, trousers, suspenders and boots would make a really awesome outfit. He didn't seem convinced. One day we were watching The Professional together--and that was exactly what Jean Reno, the actor who portrayed Leon the hit man, was wearing. And, you might have realized that Jean Reno and Don Cheadle were both in Hotel Rwanda.
But maybe these overwhelmingly sleek men have not convinced you to make the change. So, try saying it to yourself: "A-shirt." Now, isn't that nice? It calls up an image of an elegantly suited, well-shod man who smells good who's about to make himself a gimlet (that would be with gin, not vodka), doesn't it? What do I smell when someone uses actually inexcusable term "wife beater?" Cheap beer.

02 April 2006

Two Great Tastes

Andrea Loest has been a friend of mine since my days in Iowa City. Since being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, she has been living in North Carolina. She has a cat named Bandit and a boyfriend's dog named Bird. The last time I talked to her--back in January--the two of them were mixing it up.
Portland, OR, is one of my fashion obsessions. I keep hearing that they have this massive, awesome indie fashion scene there. Well, it turns out that Andrea had a show at Seaplane, the Indie Fashion Palace of the Northwest. Andrea's life is always so awesome. Except for hurricanes, I guess.
Andrea was planning to go to NO for Mardi Gras. Before she did that, though, she went to the Netherlands and got herself on Dutch TV. Check out her photos by going to her website and clicking on Photo Gallery. I am totally excited about her designs' evolution.

Boy Booty & Dirty Urges: About Photography

My title is a brilliant fridge poetry composition from last week when I was cat-sitting. There was no booty, no urges. Sadly. Last Saturday I shot one of my colleagues for my Presentation of Learning. He has a really interesting face. A face that you could spend hours and hours shooting. Or maybe I just think that because I'm slightly OC. I'm excited to see how they come out. He even let me put makeup on him! I got the color roll developed yesterday.
Two of my goals for this year are photography-related. I want to get another lens for my camera. And I want to learn more about lighting. Most of the photos I've taken have been happenstance of good lighting. I want to be able to do my own--have my little light meter, carry around my gels. I would feel so cool.
Arek brought up something that I've thought about before myself: shooting people when they're not expecting it. When they're between movements or shifting or talking to you. I don't like having people pose. I have some great photos of my friend Elise on the first role I ever shot. I was shooting while she was eating or answering a question I just asked her. I love this because it's more naturalistic.
A photography epiphany I had last week: my face is endlessly interesting. I must do self-portraits. That totally makes me wish that I knew how to do them.

30 March 2006

The Beauty of Everyday

I ate lunch pretty late today--around 3PM. I went to Harlequin Bakery, which is so adorable, even though I knew they wouldn't have any pizza so late in the afternoon. Their truffles caught my eye--so I bought one little box of two for myself and one for a friend. I am a sucker for decor and packaging. What can I say? The little box for my friend fit perfectly in this carved wooden box I carry my individually packaged teabags in. I will not deny that I am almost unbearably smug about this wooden box. It's like being one of those bitingly chic women in 1930s movies who puts her cigarettes in a cool box to offer her guests--only not unhealthy.
On the counter at Harlequin they had these mango jellies for $.35. Who can resist that? So, I bought one of those, as well. The taste of mango takes my brain to Tel Aviv. There's more mango-flavored stuff there than we have here in the US. It's oddly metallic, but a really good ripe piece tastes mellow and almost smooth. I love Harelquin's pistachio-green, pink and brown logo. Food colors. Sweet, minty colors.
So, I walked down the street to Bella for something more substantial. They had mozzarella and Roma tomato sandwiches there! Ok, I guess mozzarella and tomato sandwiches take my brain to New York. It was delish.
I walked back to my office and realized running out for lunch is very ordinary and, well, needful, but it was the style epicenter of my day.

29 March 2006

Rock Star in the Office

I'm not an office rock star in the sense of being some typing or spreadsheet ninja. My outfit yesterday made me feel like my office's resident rock star. We had a site visit from the Americans for the Arts reps, and I was like, People who live on the east coast often have this very parochial idea of what the Midwest is like. That is, if they're not from the Midwest themselves. So, I needed a good outfit. I wore the navy J. Crew top I always wear and these black trousers that are admittedly from the Gap that have a slimmer silhouette. My socks were navy, and I wore the Docs I've had for nearly 10 (!) years. I wore a black belt with a square silver-colored buckle. So, my lines were very Keith Richards in the early 1970s. I untwisted my hair and pinned the back up and wore black eyeliner. The total effect was very new-wave 1980s British band--especially my hair. I swaggered to the printer and copy machine all day.

26 March 2006

Style Icon, Pt. 3

Ah, Björk. Click on her name at left to brighten your day! After I bought her Greatest Hits, I realized most of Björk's songs are about love. "Pagan Poetry" is the most emotional song about loving another person I've ever heard. When Vespertine came out in 2002, I immediately loved "Pagan Poetry," but sort of couldn't deal with the voices and musicboxes. I'm ready for it now--so any day I'll be able to handle Medúlla. I really like the imagery she creates in "Hidden Place":

the beautifullest
still strong
dark and divine
and the littleness of his movements
hides himself

He invents a charm
that makes him invisible
hides in the hair

Can I hide there too?
hide in the hair of him...*

Björk's music is about being out in the world having adventures and experiences and emotions. She is brilliant. Her voice gives me chills. I love the back-of-the-throat trills she inserts where necessary--like she just couldn't contain herself and the feeling had to get out.
She is unashamed to be herself and do what she wants to do. People who had hissy fits over her Marjan Pejoski dress--you know, the swan--can suck it. That was completely original. Björk wears designers like As Four, Matthew Williamson, Alexander McQueen and Sophia Kokosalaki. Pretty different from the ever-present Chanel and Prada that famous people usually swath themselves in.
I love that Björk presents herself differently. Really, it's the visual equivalent of her music:

"The reason I do photographs is to help people understand my music, so it's very important that I am the same, emotionally, in the photographs as in the music. Most people's eyes are much better developed than their ears. If they see a certain emotion in the photograph, then they'll understand the music."*

*Info from

22 March 2006

Department Stores Love Wisconsin

I must be a blogaholic. Just a quick one at work. Nobody will notice! I had an interview this morning with Carson Pirie Scott, which was recently bought by The Bon Ton, for a Merchandising Assistant opening. Carson Pirie Scott used to be a part of Saks Incorporated. I was walking down the street and I knew I would do a post. There seem to be a lot of department stores around Milwaukee. The place where Borders is now used to be a Gimbel's. There's an Art Deco parking garage on Michigan that says Gimbel's. I'd heard the name before, of course, so I googled it. The first Gimbel's was here in Milwaukee. Who knew?
Then, of course, Kohl's is headquartered here in Wisconsin. I applied for a Fashion Stylist opening there. I was like, I'd be good at that! Then I realized I'm shooting a model this weekend and that I've had other people model for me since I got my 35mm. Holy crap! I should put together a portfolio. Thinking about that made me start to sweat. But, you know, I shoot photos, I style. Hell, why not?

20 March 2006

Ehh...Bay View

I am doing this post to give myself a little treat. Yesterday I was in Bay View. So far, no one has touched my hair. I have no qualms about punching anyone who does, though. I went for my knitting lesson at Knitwit. I hate purling--no, wait, I'm trying to do some behavior mod--I love purling. Recently I dreamt that Susie was trying to convince me that I should felt wool--that I should consider it as a career option. Knitwit does have drop-in felting days; I'll think about it, Suze. After my lesson, I felt I needed to go to Sweet Kicks because that's where my knitting teacher told me she got her sweet purse. Sweet Kicks is across the street from the Highbury; as I was walking into the store, some guys loitering around the Highbury's entrance cat-called me in a non-threatening way. Sweet Kicks has many, many pairs of Campers there, but not the kind of boots I wanted. They also carry Le Coq Sportif and Gola brands. I bought a red plastic cabochon-shaped ring. I knew I would post about yesterday afternoon because I found myself buying jewelry. I don't wear jewelry. I wore the ring out of the store. Something must be afoot. This must be a new phase of my life. Seriously. Next, I stopped by FASTEN and looked at their sale items. I was looking for a boy gift. I decided against the little gray wallet with a car screen-printed on it. I went nextdoor to Paper Boat. The stuff there is usually a little out of my, ahem, range. They carry bags, some clothing, jewelry, etc. I've been totally excited to go in there and find the brands like Lekkner and Polaire that I see advertised in Venus or Bust. I found a nice little something, though, with a giraffe motif.

14 March 2006

Jewelry Love: SERRV/A Greater Gift

I was on the bus this morning and I was thinking about how I was going to have to do a quick post about the organization formerly known as SERRV. I don't wear jewelry that much; it's not inaccurate to say that I don't wear jewelry. Recently, though, I discovered a bracelet I bought as a gift for someone, but never sent. This bracelet "is very Masai." It's this gorgeous red. Oblong and small round wooden beads. I pair it with this turquoise jacket I always wear as a layer or a little green Austrian-style blazer with red facing at the cuffs. Also in the same never-sent batch of gifts was a pair of red-beaded double horseshoe-shaped brass earrings. Made in Kenya. A Greater Gift gets lots of samples from artisans all over the world, too. I once scored a pair of little metal bicycle earrings in the gift shop that I sent to a British South African friend now living in Omaha. The stuff they sell is unbelievably affordable, too! The link above will take you to the jewelry webpage. Stop by one of the stores in Madison. They also have this cool Tibetan collection. As I've mentioned in a previous post, A Greater Gift is an awesome Fair Trade non-profit. Store addresses in Madison are 122 State Street, half a block from ye olde Capitol, and 2701 Monroe Street, nextdoor to Bluephies. Don't sleep on it.

11 March 2006

Style Icon, Pt. 2

I was going to do Style Icon, Pt. 2 about Björk, but that's going to have to be Style Icon, Pt. 3. Style Icon, Pt. 2 is about me. Is that self-aggrandizing? Who cares? I was getting dressed for a Public Allies event last night and realized I should talk about myself as a Style Icon because I am killing it. Yesterday I wore not one, but two bangin outfits. The first part of Friday I wore a pair of jeans, rust-colored Royal Elastics, an Elmer Fudd hat I found in Madison, a navy blue quilted jacket with a pink flower pattern, and a turquoise jacket under that. For the evening event, I wore one of my Super Secret Vintage Dresses from the 1940s with a pair of Frye boots from the 1970s. I considered wearing the pair of Camper mary-janes I have for a very Björk-like look, but decided on the boots. This made me realize I am a thoughtful or clever dresser. I will explain why. The dress was black with these sort of kimono-like sleeves and two sets of pleats at the skirt. Someone who doesn't know much about clothes might think the dress was, in fact, from the 1970s because that decade was sort of retro with an Edwardian look and lots of drapey-ness. So, wearing these 1970s boots with a dress someone could mistake for 1970s was brainy. Also, my hair was cornrowed (snaps to my girl Shana for hooking up that joint) and secured with these black hairsticks--which played off the kimono sleeves.
When I look back on my style history, if you will, I realize that I've been a style icon in the making. I had my prom dress made by a seamstress. I had another dress made for me. The past week or so I've been trying to remember for what occasion. I picked the material--black with small gold flowers. I ended up selling this dress to a clothes-trading store in college. When I was 12, I badgered my 4-H leader into giving me her daughter's dress from the 1950s and can-can. At 12, I was completely obsessed with the 1950s because I was mainlining re-runs of The Donna Reed Show on Nickelodeon. The dress was pale green with a darker green watercolor-like pattern. Cleverly, I wore this dress with a pair of grey-green flats (Flats, people, flats!! I was 12 and I knew to wear the full 1950s skirt with flats!) from Walmart. I wore this outfit to a tea (!) for my Home Ec class. I had this other slubby-weave pink ensemble (it may have been linen). I have no idea where I got that from. In the late 1980s, vintage wasn't cool--it wasn't even vintage; it was second-hand, and middle-schoolers want everything new from the mall. But I was totally worshipping at Donna's altar. Around this age, I was also poring over this book about English costume from 1900 to 1950. I checked this book out repeatedly. I think this book was by C. Willett Cunnington, a costume historian. I don't remember the name, just that it had a pink dust jacket.
It irritates me when people like Kate Moss are called icons. How hard can it be to slap together designer shit that's new every season?

08 March 2006

Candy, Gum, Cough drops

This past weekend I went to a birthday party. Since it was not just a birthday party, but also a fantacular, I wore a costume. I was a candy girl from the 1940s. My costume was completely slammin. I totally nailed it. I wore vintage pieces I bought this past fall--a black blouse and a black moire jacket with a peplum that buttoned diagonally. With that, I wore a pair of black dance shorts, fishnets and 1940s-style platform sandals with a two-piece wrap-around ankle strap. In fact, everything I was wearing was black. I topped it all off with a hat I borrowed from my neighbor Megan, which I perched on my head at a saucy angle. I looked like a showgirl! Like I should have been in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Cabaret. Well...I was covering up too much to look like a showgirl. I looked like a candy girl.
I felt wonderful. I felt powerful. I was in my element. I was doing what I was put on earth to do and doing a goddamn good job of it. I was so amazed that, with the exception of the hat, everything came from my closet. Full disclosure: I've been a candy girl before in Madison's Cherry Pop Burlesque. So, it's not like this was just random sartorial dominion.

26 February 2006

Gay is ok!!

Last night I went to UWM's drag show. It was really good. I'm not being catty when I say that I was shocked by how good it was. The performers, especially Lady Gia, Jade, Kenya and Angel Maxima (I hope I spelled those names right), were excellent. There was also a drag king who absolutely tore it up. I don't remember his name. The MC, Isis, worked the crowd like a professional and had two outfit changes. I had a really great time. And the show was a benefit for Project Q, I think.
The queens rocked what could only be called, even by conservative descriptions, hoochie gear. But whatever. Having spent all those years in grad school, I could not stop myself from thinking about how gender is a performance--most of the queens who were performing have a better catwalk stride than I do--with the makeup, clothes and gestures. When a guy makes a prettier woman than I do, I think that brings to the fore how these ideas of beauty, femininity and glamour are complete put-ons.
This also makes me think how in the most recent Savage Love column, someone wrote in about the usage of the word "gay" as an adjective. Whenever I describe something as "gay," I'm referring to a style, aesthetic, or flavor usually rocked by or associated with stylish gay men. I'll admit that when I'm trying to run my gaydar I look for "gay" style signifiers--fashion or style signals that straight men are generally too clueless or inept to perform. So, for me calling an outfit or accessory(because, bambini, that's usually what I'm referring to) "gay" means it has some awe-provoking, superstylish quality. Also, it really seems like using "gay" as a synonym for "pathetic," "tired," or "weak" is for middle-schoolers. It's just that over.
I'll say it loud and proud: Homos are my homies!!

23 February 2006

Style Icon, Pt. 1

It's a truism among the stylish: you know whose style you should bite? Old ladies'. No doubt. Old ladies consistently have great coats. A good coat is everything. What you buy at the Gap or J. Crew these days is true crap; you realize this if you buy coats at the thrift or charity store. Next, their shoes. If you don't know how to rock an old lady shoe, you're a slobbering amateur. Try a poly coat in a dark shade with a pair of Hush Puppies. Or, for a casual look to go to class, Hush Puppies with jeans. Not some ridiculous overpriced jeans, though. A good reasonably-priced pair will do. From the 1980s, if you're lucky. Little old ladies also seem to know how to freak out a stompy boot, which often makes a look. Also, old ladies know from headwear. They wear scarves on their heads 1960s-style. It's not for everyone, no, but it's very eye-catching. The inspiration for this post was an old lady with a city cart--you know, the things people in New York take with them when they go grocery shopping. What do you call those things?--that I saw in the library. Wear little old lady clothes and go ballroom dancing. It can make a very fun Friday night.

01 February 2006

This Is Mad Style??

I was in Madison this past weekend. I took a to-do list with me. Most of it was shopping related. So, where do I shop? Oh, you all would like to know, wouldn't you?! I often ask people where they get their stuff, but am hypocritically tight-lipped about where I get mine. Well, I'm not going to reveal my Super Secret Shopping Spots, but here are some in no particular order: Cornblooms at Hilldale. I just got myself a pair of super comfy Earth Shoes there. They often have good sales. They carry Cydwoq, Dansko, Camper...what else? Frye boots and Birkenstocks. Good stuff and they're an independent store. There are other good shoe stores in Hilldale, too, like Preidt, which is exceedingly expensive and another whose name I forget. City Shuz is near the Capitol. They have trendy brands like Bronx and Dollhouse. J. LaMore at Knickerbocker Place sometimes has good shoes. I like buying cute stuff I really don't need at Pop Deluxe on State Street. I like their bags. I've bought onesies for 3 different babies at A Room of One's Own with sayings like "I Love My Mom" and "I Love My Daddies." I went to Glitter Workshop on East Johnson. They opened right about the time I was leaving Madison. Handmade clothing and jewelry and vintage indie designer stuff. Very "cute." And where will you go now that you're decked out in style? Here are some nice places to hang out: Natt Spil--you can actually have a conversation in the back room. Cafe Zoma. As I predicted, as soon as I left Madison they started staying open evenings. Their decor is great. I love the unmatched dishes they use. Their desserts are yummy. During warm months, you can sit out back overlooking the bike path and community gardens. And your doggy can sit with you--as long as s/he plays nice. Cafe Montmartre, where I actually saw Shirley Manson in person. She's awesome! Roman Candle has a great decor--and pretty yummy pizza. Kitty-corner from them, Mother Fool's has a great eclectic decor with yellow walls. Equipped with this list, you are now ready to go forth in style in Madison.

22 January 2006

Soup Brothers

This past week I went to Soup Brothers in Walker's Point for a meeting. It was the second time I'd been there. Soup Brothers has heaps style. The guy who takes your order--whose name I didn't get a chance to get--is friendly. Their dishes are an assortment that look like they've been culled from years of savvy thrifting/estate sale-going. The bathroom is decorated with phones and call-related paraphenelia. The place is pretty small, with a huge main table bearing a display/installation of random objects like dried or fake flowers and the Dum Dum lollipops banks used to give out to kids in the 1970s and '80s. The linoleum is "delightfully" worn and the light fixtures are gorgeous. Random stuff graces the other tables--including the Answer Me Jesus doll at the table where I sat. I can't stop thinking about this place. It has oceans of style. It's a style palace. I would say it's like something you'd see in New York's East Village, but it's not. It's its own kind of place.

21 January 2006

Dress Reform

Dress Reform is a 19th-century concept aimed at getting women out of restrictive garments like corsets, crinolines and bustles. But I think Dress Reform is needed today in the form of people buying and wearing less clothes. I like the idea of a "uniform," of wearing the same thing every day of the week. Having acres and acres of clothes is really at 20th-century American concept. Even today, people in other countries just don't have the sheer number of clothes Americans have. French women buy fewer clothes than American women. Having endless outfits is obviously consumption driven. The fashion cycle is ludicrous. Fashions used to be in style for a decade or more (of course, this was in the 18th century and before.) In any aspect of life, I believe in getting something that's well made and expensive rather than overpriced crap you'll have to keep replacing. I realize, though, that if I were given the choice, I would have so many clothes that I would need an extra room to store them. But why is that? Maybe if I weren't so consumed with getting more an more clothes our outfits I would focus on other things. I think if the focus in clothing is on an item being well-made, there's more time for beauty rather than accumulation.

05 January 2006

Milwaukee Talk-y

I was first introduced to Milwaukee by way of Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books. I pored over these books for their descriptions of early 20th-century dresses. Check out this Maisonneuve piece about Milwaukee's music scene. I'm not a big music fan because I'm totally done inhaling second-hand smoke. When I lived in Madison I kept hearing about Black Elephant, which this article mentions.

03 January 2006

More handmade goodness...that's non-exploitative

Full disclosure: I used to work at SERRV International/A Greater Gift. But I'm not on their payroll anymore! From September 2004 through May 2005, I worked in the retail store of this Fair Trade non-profit in Madison. Yippee! Kathi Koppa was the greatest store manager possible. I cannot imagine a better retail job. The textiles there are incredible. There are beautiful silk scarves, hand-crocheted laces, rugs (!!) and baskets galore. Everything is handmade. While I was there, it made me realize that people in these Third World countries were making their living doing things like making pottery, dolls and glasses. How many people in the U.S. would give their eyeteeth to be able to support themselves making earrings?? The stores in Madison, WI, are at 122 State Street and at Knickerbocker Place on Monroe Street.

Project Alabama

I've been thinking about Project Alabama a lot lately. Project Alabama is a "label" sold at Barneys New York and boutiques like Ikram in Chicago; it is also a for-profit enterprise that employs women doing handwork in a desperately poor region of that state. Alabama native Natalie Chanin is the designer. I saw a photo of a Project Alabama piece in the January 2005 issue of Vogue. Woo hoo. What I find fascinating about Project Alabama is its use of hand-sewing. Of course, hand-sewing makes the line super expensive. But these poor women in Alabama are getting jobs and the world has time to enjoy something that was made by human hands. I was looking at the website and found a link to a non-profit called Planting Stitches. Their mission statement is: "to improve the lives of individuals, living in disadvantaged rural areas of the South, by providing sustainable economic development opportunities through cooperative ventures with national and international apparel companies."