22 April 2007

Hair Peace: Black Hair Is...Black Hair Ain't

MK has noticed that she keeps on writing about hair--particularly Black women's hair. So, she's decided to roll out a series about this sorely neglected topic that she will whimsically call "Black Hair Is/Black Hair Ain't."

A few notes: when Ms. K refers to that institution, "Black hair," she refers specifically to the kinky, coil-y kind. Yes, Black hair is an institution housing a multiplicity of types--curly, wavy and even the more-or-less straight. But because Ms. K has more-or-less kinky Black hair--thus, this it is the area of her 30+-year expertise--this is what she shall be discussing. Also, Ms. Kansas will admit right now her bias against wigs, weaves, extensions and all manner of follicular duplicity. Having said that, she must duly admit this bias is predicated upon the fact that her own hair grows rather quickly. And if it's not glaringly apparent from previous posts, Ms. K will have no truck whatsoever with chemicals that change Black hair's molecular structure on the grounds that such chemicals are exceedingly harmful and dangerous. As MK has said before: hair is like a gay man. If it's not that way to begin with, don't destroy it trying to make it straight. So, having parsed all this out, gentle reader, know that even if one does not necessarily agree with MK's hair homilies, she may still have something to offer.

21 April 2007

Put Your Hair Up!

How to say this? Yes, MK has certainly previously weighed in in favor of coiffure qua coiffure. In the past few weeks, though, she could not shake the feeling that women's hair worn down is over. Yes, over.

Oh, sometimes MK makes pronouncements that seem a bit out there. But certainly that's the price one pays for being ahead. For synthesizing history and zeitgeist to see what no one else can see. Sometimes one sounds a bit out there, yes. But then 6 months to 2 years later, one finds--lo! and behold--that one's "kooky" preferences or predictions are "in the air" as received wisdom. Go fucking figure!

And so, she says to you: ladies, please put your hair up. Braid it, knot it, twist it. Do something messy and adorable and secure it with an old hatpin. (Just mind those ends, kittens. Those things can be sharp.) Do you see that?! Such a style secret of near-incomprehensible genius she's just given away!! But, hell, if it improves the appearance of the general population Ms. K considers it no less than what civic engagement demands of her.

As she was saying, ladies: hair up. If one's hair is too short to go up, please proceed as one of those 1920s bobbed ladies. In fact, MK is currently growing out her hair for the express purposes of braids and bobby pins.

Why should one wear one's hair up, one may well ask. Among African-American women, Ms. Kansas thinks it's no secret that wearing hair "down" has wrought unimaginable havoc on scalps across the country--if not the world--due to the effects of chemical straightening, whose ghastly results really cannot be exaggerated. It's time to stop the insanity. Look around. It's very common these days for Black men to have longer, more abundant hair than Black women. Why is that? Because Black men, in general, don't pursue straight hair that "hangs down." The natural state is ok for them. Note bene: MK is not pushing long hair as the norm. Only: if one wears one's hair short it should be by choice, not de facto.

Secondly, hair worn loose is a tad on the grody side. Loose, unbound hairs are more likely to stray into food or unwelcoming mouths.

Last of all, hair is power no matter one's gender. That's why balding men get so het up. This is why drag queens wear the most enormous wigs. In the old days, women wore their hair down only in private--like when they were getting ready for bed. In the movie Titanic, Kate Winslet's character Rose wears her hair down. All the other ladies have their hair up. This cues the audience in to the fact that Rose is different, rebellious. She is suffocating in her surroundings, etc. This is all apparent just from what's going on with a head of hair. Now then, as MK was saying: borrow a page from that old book. Or part of a page. Think about it: what could be more erotic than taking down one's hair for a lover?

20 April 2007


Not to sound like a hyperventilating, overemotional teenage fag hag, but: OMKG, a Björk album and a Tori Amos album--both out the same month. Somewhere in the afterworld Kevyn Aucoin is surely getting verklempt. The artwork looks fab, and Ms. Kansas read that Tori goes back to the harpsicord for the first time in more than 10 years. Where's MK's inhaler? Photo nabbed from www.toriamos.com.

17 April 2007

Sweaters, Gems, Gold Pants

Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with her work will be not at all surprised that Leslie Hall is an all caps kinda gal. The Lady of Gem Sweaters of Awesome and Solemn Beauty and Power is also a gold pants-wearing art dynamo. The School of the Museum of Fine Arts alumna makes videos, curates the Mobile Museum of Gem Sweaters (MMoGS), and tours with her band Leslie and the Ly's. But wait--there's DIY cred! The L & L album is self-released. They've done all their own booking and publicity for their country-crossing tour. And Leslie, unsurprisingly, is a rampant crafter. This very busy Gem Sweater Lady and Ames, IA, native gave the Church some of her time via email. Photo from www.lesliehall.com.

Q. Who and what inspires you?
Elvira, Ginger Spice, the chubby Ricki Lake years, and dill pickle potato chips.

Q. How did you get into gem sweaters?
I just couldn't walk away from such detailed craftsmanship in a single sweater garment for $3.99. I became obsessed and passionate about the beauty and orphan-like qualities of a thrift-store sweater.

Q. Do you have a cat?
YES. He's a stray and I named him Turtle. He's neutered.

Q. What do you wear as you go about your "everyday life?"
To disappoint and to be honest I dress as a sloppy art school student. And I wear a lot of our band merchandise because it’s on a really soft shirt that feels good on my body. Stiff cheap t shirts are a thing of the past to me.

Q. Is there a fashion figure in history you identify with? Do you havean idol from history?
Wow. Fashion history idols? I've never been asked that!

Q. Do you wear jeans?
Yes, but not those low-ride jeans EVERY store seems to only carry. I like'em MOM-style. HIGH on the hips keeps everything I got LOCKED in. And deep pockets to carry spare change, cell phone and car keys.

Q. Does costuming (in its performative aspect) inform your music/songwriting?
Well, trust me: if I'm in a gold suit draped in 36 inch long fringe I will do a lot of reaches and grand waves. If I'm in a gold suit with a puffy power vest I'm gonna do a lot of shoulder pops and laser launches.

Q. Are you much into the New York fashion scene?

Q. Did you grow up sewing? Were you in 4-H? Which town did you grow up in?
I just pick up sewing on my own for fun. I sewed 24/7 in high school. I made a lot of wallets, some vests, and purses. I really think i would have liked 4-H. The competition. EVERYTHING!

Q. Do you knit, crochet, sew or otherwise "craft?"
I AM A CRAFTER. Hot glue, jewel it, tape, plaster: I love it all. I am a craftaholic. At any moment in time I could have 10 projects going.

Q. Do you thrift?
OH, HONEY thrift is a golden song I sing. It’s right next to the grocery store. I pop in, check things out. Then off to the produce section. Ames, Iowa, is a wonderful place for my kind of people. Hunters of the fine recycled love items.

Q. What do you listen to?
Country music is my 100 percent fave right now. Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I sing along. I cry for sad songs. OH, don't get me started. YES, I LOVE IT.

Q. Do you have a "day job?"

Q. Will you be touring to promote your album?
YES! Check out my website www.leslieandthelys.com. I have all my tour dates. We are coming to every village and town to promote gem sweater rescuing and gold pants lady jams. HOLLA!

07 April 2007

Interview: Melora Creager

Behold! the Incomparable Melora Creager of Rasputina. Cellist extraordinaire, artist, mommy, former designer, muse and Kansas native. Now living in New York, she was nice enough to talk to the Church about her style and what goes on in her one-of-a-kind mind. Photo from www.rasputina.com.

Q. Who and what inspires you?
For visuals: movies from the 1930s, collagist Henry Darger, Native Americans. For music: Michael Nyman, Nina Hagen, Leadbelly. These are just a few examples.

Q. When you started your band, did you have the performative historical aspect in mind—or just playing the cello? Did your pre-existing sensibility inform what became Rasputina?
I wrote a manifesto to start the band. I had theories about girls who played the cello—that they (we) would have to be prim in a way, having studied such a thing since childhood. There are so many movies with a scene where a whole lot of girls are in a big bedroom in their corsets and bloomers (Gone with the Wind, Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, etc.) I wanted to make a cello rock band of that scene.Yes, it's what I think looks good. I'm using my personal aesthetic. It has changed and expanded over time. Rather than a "Victorian thing," we now dress to embody something vaguer and more iconic: cowboys and
Indians, medieval Maori swashbucklers.

Q. Do you have a cat?
No, I'm not much for cats.

Q. What do you wear as you go about your "everyday life?"
I'm an every-season layerer. I've been big into leg-warmers and skirts over pants this winter. Marilyn Manson taught me about the pantyhose t-shirt, which is a Rasputina costume staple that I wear in everyday life.

Q. Is there a fashion figure in history you identify with? Do you have an idol from history?
No one person—I mix it all up. The costumes from the original Rite of Spring—I’ve always wanted to imitate that, but it's hard to find pictures of.

Q. Do you wear jeans?

Q. What contemporary or past designer's work do you like?
Designer James Coviello is my best friend. I am his muse, but he won't admit it. I wear his clothes all the time. I like Vivienne Westwood a lot. I have a lot of designer clothes from a job I had long ago, and I still wear those—Ghost, York & Cole. I carry a crazy Dior bag with spikes and buttons.

Q. Does costuming (in its performative aspect) inform your music/songwriting?
My songwriting is very visual, but not about clothes. I've stopped wearing a corset so much because I just want to sing at my best.

Q. Are you much into the New York fashion scene?
I used to be when I was a jewelry designer for Ericson Beamon. Not anymore. I just go to James' shows and Anna Sui.

Q. Did you grow up sewing? Were you in 4-H? Which town did you grow up in?
Yes, I used to do a lot of crafty sewing as a kid. My mom helped me. I made a purse out of jeans butt, you know? I wasn't in 4-H. I was too "town" for that. I'm from Emporia.

Q. Do you knit, crochet, sew or otherwise "craft?"
My daughter goes to a Waldorf school, where the handwork is most important. So I just learned to crochet so I could help her. I can't stop doing it! That's why it's taken so long for my new record to come out. I only want to crochet!

Q. Do you do work in other media—like visual art?
I fancy myself an artist, and believe that an artist can work with anything. I draw, paint, work in the computer. I make dioramas, silhouettes and felted pictures.

Q. What do you listen to?
Right now, Robin Williamson (from the Incredible String Band), Hildegard von Bingen, The Smiths and brain entrainment tapes.

03 April 2007

A Girl Like I

Yes, kittens, Ms. Kansas is Courtney Becks! But of course! Here are some things to look forward to this week: the eventual posting of the Church of Style interview with Rasputina's Melora Creager. Yep, she's a Kansas girl, too. That'll happen later this week. Another MK Is Feeling. This week's installment about my style week will include shopping for glasses, among other things, and a word about Gem Sweater Lady No. 1 Leslie Hall.

Last week I did go soak up the Classic Movie at the Charles Allis Art Museum, refusing to let dank weather hold me down. And a treat it was! First of all, it's in a, like, mansion. Though Three Smart Girls Grow Up did suffer from a flimsy plot, one element was very surprising in that, decades ahead of its time, it addressed the issue of the deletorious effect of fathers working too much. Of course, the reason for the overwork is to give the family "things," which offer cold comfort if one's parent is a stranger.

Anyway, the costumes were insanely beautiful. There was just too much to take in! The sleeves! The drape! The shoulders! And so beautifully wrought!! Interestingly, this film solved a lifelong conundrum. As a girl, I watched Destry Rides Again one Sunday afternoon. I was just a child, but I copied down the name of the Costume Designer in a notebook when the credits rolled. I could never find out anything about "Vbra West." When I asked Dale E. Kuntz who the designer was for Three Smart Girls Grow Up, he said: "Vera West." As a person who's always thought in pages and words, it clicked instantly: it had been a penmanship mistake.

01 April 2007

Interview: Piney Gir

Hmm. What can one say about Piney Gir? She's a Kansan-turned-Londoner? She plays a mean accordian? She is No. 1 Thrift Store Fashionette? Here, lovely and amazing Piney was nice enough to talk to Ms. Kansas about her unique style. Photo from pineygir.com.

Q. Who and what inspires you?
Life and living!

Q. What town in Kansas are you from? Did you spend significant growing-up years there?
Kansas City. Pretty much my whole life, apart from the farm in Wisconsin for a year and that town outside Seattle where Twin Peaks was filmed for a couple of years.

Q. Do you have a cat?
No, I don't like cats—achoo! I LOVE DOGS THOUGH! But I am not home enough to care for a doggie they are pretty high maintenance pets.

Q. What do you wear as you go about your "everyday life?"
Dresses, every day.

Q. Is there a fashion figure in history you identify with? Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, my Grandmother.Do you have an idol from history? Well Hildegard Von Bingham was pretty cool. I love Dolly Parton but she's still alive. She's a legend though.

Q. Do you wear jeans?
Only if it's really really, really cold.

Q. What contemporary or past designer's work do you like?
I'm into vintage clothes, but I don't champion a designer as such; I get excited by whatever I find. The thrill of the hunt is all part of the fun of wearing something. I can't afford to be into Chanel or Prada, and the treasures I find in vintage boutiques are one of a kind!

Q. Does costuming (in its performative aspect) inform your music/songwriting? Costuming does affect the Piney persona, but the songwriting happens very much inside my head and has nothing to do with anything else really.

Q. Are you much into the London fashion scene?
I did take some evening courses in fashion at St. Martin's School Of Art And Design and have been to a few parties and shows during Fashion Week, but I'm not a designer myself (unless customising things counts as designing).

Q. Did you grow up sewing? Were you in 4-H?
My Grandmother was an amazing seamstress and she taught me a lot. We used to get lost in her basement, design dresses and make them together, that was fun... We started doing that when I was really young like 4 or 5. 4-H was never my scene. I tried to be a Girl Scout, but they seemed more concerned with learning how to moonwalk than making crafts or walking around in nature, and that was the stuff I wanted to do.

Q. Do you knit, crochet, sew or otherwise "craft?"
I have just learned to knit. Galia from Psapp taught me how in the tour van, [but] I'm not very good (yet). I do love to needlepoint! It's so calming. You can't think about anything else; it's like meditation. I like to stitch unlikely things, like a hot dog on a tie or a pin up girl on an apron. I also like to make sock puppets.

Q. What do you listen to?
I love all kinds of music, but lately I've gotten into old stuff like Dolly Parton [and] Johnny Cash. I have just discovered the Rolling Stones. As new stuff goes, I am liking that Beirut album, and The Hidden Cameras are GREAT. Psapp is amazing as well. I just like good music whatever it is!

Q. Has being from Kansas affected your aesthetic?
I don't think being form Kansas has affected my style much [cuz] there are all kinds of people in Kansas City. But I do think my Grandma has affected my style. She looked like a Hollywood starlet, but she was a simple country girl. She had the most amazing dresses and a lot of them she handed down to me (we are the same size!) Even at a young age I wanted a 50s frock, not a new store-bought dress. I credit Grandma Margie for that.

Q. What do your boots look like?
Ummm... Which pair? Right now I'm wearing a pair of cowboy boots: brown with black toe tips and black flames on the top with red piping.

Q. Do you have any style obsessions or quirks?
Yes, vintage dresses, boots or stilettos, tortoise-shell sunglasses, mismatched earrings, flicky black eyeliner.