today’s ensemble: irony & its lack, discursivity & its lack

Cathy Horyn, one of my favorite fashion writers and fashion critic for the NY Times, recently wrote an article entitled Irony and the Old Lady. It begins:

FIRST go the knees, then goes irony. Sometime around age 50, women start to let go of certain ideas about themselves and fashion. Up till then you can wear lots of silly or brash things, and if you are reasonably fit and attractive or consistently daring, it doesn’t really matter. You’re still with the tide. You are home free with your esoteric Pradas, your porkpie hats and coy Lolita socks, and no little voice is going, “Heh-heh-heh, you’re too old for that.”

She holds up Madonna, who is precisely 50, as a paradigm for consideration, either of what TO do or what NOT to do as an aging fashion ironist. Apparently Madonna showed up somewhere recently in a puffy blue mini-thing with something like rabbit ears on her head, and some people loved it, and some people just tut-tutted. (If you follow the link you can see a photo of her on page 2 of the article. Personally, I thought she looked fine, and that the color was very demure, and I liked her boots, which reminded me a little of a pair of Fluevogs I own and consider perhaps my prize fashion possession. But then, I suppose I am not exactly one to go to for advice about good taste and aging with gravitas.)

Here’s me in the Fluevogs, complete with the boy backup singers.

A flower in each hand

It is a delicate balance, though, between contradictory yearnings: irony on the one hand and just wanting to look nice on the other. Some days, I think I hardly manage either. Today’s outfit was so boring I couldn’t help choosing the photo of me in it with the most bored possible expression. The principal problem with this outfit is that there is no discernible irony in it whatsoever. There is a small irony in the photograph, which is that the flash made my breasts appear flourescent-coral colored. That’s my bra showing through; who knew that a flash is almost as good as X-Ray Spex?

today's ensemble

I don’t actively dislike any of the items I’m wearing here. The color scheme of the skirt fabric is to my liking, even if the background is white. You will note how annoyingly I have, as usual, coordinated my bracelets with it (and I hasten to add these are all Fair Trade bracelets, made in villages by decently-compensated communities of women). I like the little single diagonal pocket with its row of white topstitching on the red binding. The print, though, is well, a little too, I don’t know, chirpy, or something, don’t you think? I remember being told in my twenties, by a boy I had a desperate crush on, “Nada, why do you have to be so floral?” as if he had been asking me why I had to be so smelly, or selfish, or evil, or something. Well, I don’t mind being floral, but I’d prefer a kind of slightly wry Douglas-Sirkish 50s rose print to this totally optimistic springy one, here. The skirt is a bit too long, as well. I realized suddenly this season that women who are five feet tall, without even another inch to call their own, should probably not wear skirts below their knees (unless they wear narrow maxis, as in yesterday’s paisley number), no matter how old they are (I apparently have five more years to try to pull off a little irony). It just looks dowdy. Unfortunately, 90% of my skirts are that length, and I’m not about to hem a couple hundred skirts (just pretend you didn’t read that).

Oddly, though, when I walked into class this morning, my students let out a cry of delight. They loved this outfit. Go figure!

Abrupt topic change. G. and I went to Queens yesterday to see Brüno with Brandon and Melissa, and here’s what I FB’d about it: My favorite part in Brüno (an amusing movie, but no stroke of genius like Borat) was when the “second stage gay converter” was telling Brüno that “we” should tolerate women even though they can’t stick to a point and wander from topic to topic. Talk about phallogocentrism vs. non-discursive communication strategies! Fascinating!

Thinking about this a bit later, I realized that not long ago Mark Wallace characterized women’s blog posts as doing just that. He wasn’t being disparaging, and actually decided to flit about in his own post that day.

This makes me terribly curious. Is this true? Let me look at my blogroll for a random sampling:

Lindsey Boldt mentions two topics, but doesn’t go in to depth on either.

The Dress a Day Blogger tells a very inventive story about the image on the front of a pattern envelope. (It’s good! You should read it!) It coheres.

Anne Boyer writes on one topic: her forthcoming novel, Joan. She does not stray from her point. Her novel might be said to be nondiscursive, but a) that’s arguable, and b) it’s art.

Selah Ann Saterstrom at La la La La La quotes a little bit of Thalia Field.

Laura Moriarty posts two lines. On the same topic.

Today’s bad science, then, would not bear out the second stage gay converter’s statement. I don’t know whether a proper research project would either, or even if it did, if that would matter. If I had any overall critique to give these bloggers, it would be that they don’t blog enough, that they don’t really give their all to the form. 🙂

I don’t particularly value discursiveness over nondiscursiveness, or vice versa, honestly. Or I should say, obviously. I am interested, though, in how and why nondiscursiveness shows up as an aspersion. If someone follows the vagaries (btw, because that word is so often misused, I’d like to underscore that it means twisty peregrinations and has nothing at all to do with being vague) of her thought, which may not proceed in, if you will, alphabetical order, why should anyone care?

There are times I find linearity oh unbearably tiresome. When poets read aloud the numbers of the numbered sections of their poems and especially when those numbers appear in the accustomed order, I, I don’t know, I almost feel like doing something violent.

Well, tomorrow I will endeavor to dress more ironically.

10 thoughts on “today’s ensemble: irony & its lack, discursivity & its lack

  1. Oh Nick, I hope you don't think I'm telling poets that they shouldn't read linearly numbered series! Heavens, no! I will go crazy if they do, but far be it from me to stop them!

  2. Have you already forgotten the dictum concerning platitudes you quoted earlier in your post? I am embarrassed to admit I hadn't even read the final part about your potential violence released by numbered sections. Still, the topic of the vocal habits of poets inducing rage is a rich one. I will limit myself to mentioning four types that I dislike: the toneless, the rapid, the loud and the grim.

  3. Me I don't mind rapid and loud (I was, after all, a “punkette” in a previous incarnation), but toneless and grimness are definite no-nos.

  4. damn i write like girl then. i really liked the purplish first outfit. those guys by you looked like they could use a makeover.

  5. One of my favorite new street fashion blogs is abt the fashion of the silver haired:

    I think a winning way for older folks to dress is with some nostalgia and childlike details (roses on hats, old men like little boys). This is what I intend to do, and it does involve some “irony,” but not the ugly kind.

    We saw the most marvelous 50+ woman at a dive bar over the weekend — bleach blond pony tail, large t-shirt with a vest, spandex shorts, a cane to help her walk, funky glasses — right out of 5th grade, 1982. The effect of nostalgia+childlike detail was absolutely endearing & the response among all of us was instant affection for her.

  6. nada, i am really enjoying your posts and your outfits. i wish my job that involves writing about clothes were this much fun. (it is ok, but it is not this much fun, because i am required to be generic and shoot for broad appeal, ahem.)

    it is much more fun writing about juniors fashion than what they call “women's classic contemporary,” i.e. respectable and polished to the point of being an absence of any real style. like i have sworn never to get an “old lady haircut” i do promise never ever to dress that way.

    something you said the other day about infantilizing struck off a loud BONG with me, a day or two later when i was standing looking at my closet. i always thought i felt STUPID in pastels and ribbons and bows because i am so tall, but really it's because i never liked those things, even as a kid. it is hard to get them to be ambiguous, or to tweak them, for me anyway. they do not signify (unlike our various hair-parts) anything but “delicate” and i've never felt delicate in my life. i would probably be terrified if i did.

    today, i am barelegged despite the rain, in a grey cardigan over a teal top over a navy pleated skirt, with a wide purple patent belt cinched over the sweater. i am a little cold, but i don't care.

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