today’s ensemble: black and white

Headache and crankiness today, maybe because I stayed out late at Light Industry watching the T.A.M.I. show. You know it, right? If not, go directly to YouTube. Do not pass go.

Several realizations while watching it:

Contemporary pop music sucks (sorry, Brandon B.) It just does.

James Brown was on another plane entirely. Twice the movie audience broke out in unrestrainable applause. They were that there with him, in whatever that place is.

The Stones were far ahead their guitar band peers in musicianship.
Mick and Keith once both had exquisite mochi skin.

Marvin Gaye was just… beautiful.

Diana Ross really knew how to put on some eyeliner.

I need to get a fringed dress and cinch it at the waist for gogo dancing purposes.

Gerry and the Pacemakers were pretty damn good. “I like it! Are you likin’ it too?”

Lesley Gore was completely fucking awesome: songs of fierce empowerment and helpless abjection. I asked G. on the way home, don’t you think she’s Jewish? So just now I went to Wikipedia, only to find she was born LESLEY SUE GOLDSTEIN. Yo sistuh!

In 1964, the world was about to explode. (That’s the year I was born!)
The riotousness of that time made 2008 possible. Don’t forget.

Today I stuck to black and white:

today's ensemble

The letters on the shirt read:

of prink girl
by the enq
No Hard Feelings Please

I bought this t-shirt five years ago in Tokyo on my honeymoon. I think it makes up for yesterday’s lame attempt at irony.

The skirt is a little ironic in that its message is “gothic cancan.”
Just think, tulle’s not just for brides and ballerinas anymore!

Because today is so non-Technicolor, weather permitting, tomorrow I shall endeavor to be seriously high chroma. I bought a vintage aloha maxi dress today (the bodice fits like a dream) ($22!) and hacked a foot off the bottom, then diligently sewed up the hem. Stay tuned.

Is it wrong for people to use their pets as fashion accessories? Because no sooner had I put on this outfit this morning when I spied little Nemo, all ready for the black and white ball with me, in his permanent tuxedo:

off to the black & white ball

Saw so many great outfits on the street today, this day after rain. The best was maybe a woman in a sherbet orange shift dress with this amazing necklace of a different shade of round orange somethings falling in tiers. Or was it the woman, her arm heavy with a dozen chunky bracelets, from whose belt had hung what looked like an enormous fox tail? I MUST be more aggressive about my picture-taking.

Threw my half-empty (pessimist) packs of clove cigarettes down the garbage chute tonight, thinking that’s probably where the headaches are coming from. Wish me power!

Today’s ensemble & the marinade of memory




Some days I am very successful at taking pictures of people in their outfits on the street or on the train. Today, though, I had an attack of shyness on the train on the way home and couldn’t bring myself to ask the fashion-forward couple sitting across from me if I could get a snapshot.

They were in their twenties or early thirties. He was lanky and thin, with beautiful shoulder length curly hair that somehow behaved perfectly (unlike mine) in the rain. Black docs, black leather coat (a bit too heavy for today), jeans, black shirt. Totally simple. He was the focus, not his clothes.

She (a big-eyed Twiggy type but with much longer hair) was wearing a lipstick-red “car coat” embellished by three tiers of huge ruffles, a dress I can only describe as “pumpkin-shaped” in shades of pink, orange, and red (a very early 70s big print), and bazooka-pink loafers. Her hair was dyed flame color to top it all off, and she kept girlishly twisting pieces of it around her finger.

It turned out they were not a couple. She got off well before he did, and didn’t so much as say goodbye. Oh well, so much for my narrative about them.

Oh, oh, kudos to Anne for taking up the fashion gauntlet so brilliantly today.
I’m interested in all the points she makes, even the ones I don’t agree with, like the first one, in which she said that “Clothes are best that emphasize or exaggerate rather than obscure that which already exists.” I think I do agree with this in terms of how clothing, in Gnostic fashion, brings out what is inside us in order that it does not destroy us. Fashion exteriorizes character and fantasy, as Emma remarked in that beautiful video Charles took of her on the beach.

I think that there’s a utopianism to Anne’s proposition, as there is to so many of her propositions. I think really it’s a visionary notion, that one should not only not camouflage one’s “flaws,” but rather attire oneself to accentuate them. Andy Warhol had a similar philosophy. He wrote:

If you’re naturally pale, you should put on a lot of blush-on to compensate. But if you’ve got a big nose, just play it up, and if you have a pimple, put on the pimple cream in a way that will make it really stand out – “There! I use pimple cream!” There’s a difference. (p.65, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol)

I just don’t think, no, for myself, that I want to exaggerate at least some of my physical qualities, I mean, I don’t want to wear a skintight dress in horizontal stripes to make myself look even shorter and rounder, and slouchiness, unless done very carefully, just ends up making me look like a schlump. Today’s blouse is ever so slightly blousoned, but only to offset the narrowness of the pants.

today's ensemble

I did try for a note of irony today. Can you see it? I bought them in Japan, these pendants. Why do you suppose they were selling star of David pendants at street stalls in Harajuku? It occurs to me that several of the street jewelry sellers were Israeli. That could have something to do with it.

When I pointed out my “note of irony” to a co-worker today, he asked, “why is that ironic?” He was right, in a way. Irony is supposed to go against literality. This was TOO literal of a gesture, like literal video. I would assert that that was precisely the irony: the over-the-topness.

I notice that I’m hardly a Baroness Elsa or John Lydon here. On a continuum of over-the-topness, this outfit would rank very very low, but it was raining, so that limited my choices somewhat, and at least I tried.

Not being a jeans and sneakers sort of person, it was a struggle to force myself to wear pants today. All these years on earth and I still haven’t totally figured out what to wear on a rainy summer day.

When people complain about rainy days, though, I always think about Sushil Rao, the Indian taxi driver in Crossing the BLVD, who said,

A young couple comes into my cab on a rainy day. They say, “Oh man, it’s miserable out there.” I say, “ That is the water of our life.” They ask me what I mean. I tell them, “You can live without food for days at a time. But water you need almost every four hours. Water is like diamonds. Our life depends on it!”

One thing Anne said that really resonated in me is her remark that garments have stories. It’s true: they accrue memories like marinades. I bought these trousers secondhand in my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo, Shimo-Kitazawa. I remember riding my bike around there and stopping in to a little high-end consignment shop and finding two pairs of pants, one iridescent purple and then these. It’s a wonder I still have them both, but these are the sorts of garments that you don’t just find anywhere. Turns out they were made Italy. The fabric, linen, polyester, and something else (elastic? lycra?) has this amazing sideways stretch, so they don’t need a fastener; I just slip them on, and when I do, I also slip on Shimo-Kitazawa, the twists and bends of its little streets, its jazz bars and noodle places and cool clothes shops. I can almost smell it.



I remember one day walking up University Place and running into Rob Fitterman. It must have been a while ago because he was walking Coco in her stroller (she’s now eleven, and the coolest human being I know). I remember he liked these pants: “Those are pretty cool trousers there, Miss Gordon,” he said. And Gary this morning also praised them. Maybe men like them because they can relate to the color scheme? These are kind of, you know, man-stripes. Do men, in general, prefer women who cross-dress a little? The way I like a little eyeliner on a fella? I wonder. Anyway, Anne, yes: “It is better to wear a garment with a story,” and “Clothing should be sentimental, like memory.” Indeed.

Oh, so much more to say, especially in response to Anne’s post. I need to run, though, to catch a movie tonight. Gary and I are going to Light Industry to see The T.A.M.I. Show!

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.

today’s ensemble (plus Stan on chimerae, Isadora on love, Eileen on poetry, and musings on paisley)

I’m not slacking on the outfit documentation. It’s just that I’ve been working hard on an essay that I promised someone I’d write. I don’t really like writing essays. I like musing. But OK, it’s part of the job description, yes?

Reading interstitially. Absolutely bowled over by Stan Apps’ e-book, Universal Stories with Unknown Particulars. Read it. Just read it:

To understand the world by dominating it won’t work. We might understand it by stitching together samples – making mythological unions between our data. Griffins and centaurs and chimeras of description…. the actual world spits up insights as furious recalcitrant spatters of unsought facts.

Also, finally getting to my copy of Isadora Duncan’s autobiography that Gary kindly bought for me at Moe’s a couple of months ago:

I have sometimes been asked whether I consider love higher than art, and I have replied that I cannot separate them, for the artist is the only lover


The dominant note of my childhood was the constant spirit of revolt against the narrowness of the society in which we lived, against the limitations of life and a growing desire to fly eastward to something I imagined might be broader.[I can so totally relate.]

or at the kitchen table this morning, an interview with Eileen Myles in The Brookyn Rail which is at least one third about clothing, but also offers such wisdoms as these:

“at all costs, a poet must not make platitudes. Nobody needs them.” [I love that this is itself a platitude]

[on living in NY instead of San Diego] “I kind of want there to be a lot of pockmarks and crevices. I want a lot of engagement.”

“Poetry’s like a valve.…when you get to look at a poet in action, that’s exactly what you see. It’s circuitry.”

“all a poet really needs for survival is a pair of boots.”

So, on to the outfits. Yesterday’s was deceptively simple, in a muted palette of grayed purple and purpled gray. The skirt is, wondrously, both ruched and godet’d. If you have ever sewn anything, you know how cool that is. The top is just that perfect shade of deep eggplant and together, these colors deceive me into thinking I might just be sophisticated. The bangles give off an oil-slick iridescence.

today's ensemble

As I was flaneuring about the neighborhood in the afternoon (oh, and this is a story in itself), a woman who caught me taking this picture of this sign

public discourse

… and then told me she was the author of it told me she liked my outfit and offered to buy me an ice cream at the delicious artisanal ice cream place on Church Ave., NYC ICY. I demurred, telling her that I was trying to resist. I mean, I’ve lost thirteen pounds and would like to lose more, and ice cream on these sultry days is my greatest weakness. OK, not my GREATEST weakness, but a very great one nonetheless. But oh, their hazelnut gelato! in a sugar cone! That flavor costs a dollar more but it is so completely an absorbing experience, the way it is eating a really excellent bowl of ramen although of course it tastes nothing at all like ramen.

Today’s outfit matches the apartment. It’s cheap and polyester, but I like how it references early 70s hostess dresses, you know? I wish I knew more about designers, because I know this paisley typifies someone’s style, I am just drawing a blank at the moment. Anyone designer-savvy out there? Kim R.?

today's ensemble

Paisley, too, warrants its own rhapsody: stylized forms of nature. Signification: India, drugs, movement. Wikipedia sez:

Resembling a large comma or twisted teardrop, the kidney-shaped paisley is Indian and Persian in origin, but its western name derives from the town of Paisley, in central Scotland.[citation needed]

In Sanskrit the design is known as mankolam and has long been used in India. It resembles a mango and has sometimes been associated with Hinduism.[3]

Some design scholars call the distinct shape boteh and believe it is the convergence of a stylized floral spray and a cypress tree: a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity.

My mother started dressing me in paisley when I was still tiny. She made for me a beautiful little paisley dress, and here’s the documentation to prove it. Note the art on the wall. I’m wondering if they are my mom’s originals? (Photo taken in Chicago, I’m guessing in 1967 or 1968)

today’s ensemble (& Shonibare MBE)

Still reeling, in a positive sense, from the Yinka Shonibare show at the Brooklyn Museum. How could I not like his work? It has all the elements I look for: fashion, color, cultural hybridity, inventive materials, intertextuality, and a playfulness that is somehow not not grave, either. He has said of it that he aims to be poetic rather than didactic, and I approve of the emphasis, but really it is instructive and thought-provoking as well as a festival of vivid surfaces.

In a piece like Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, one is given to notice a number of things all at once: the lively fabrics and their contemporary motifs, the giddy but harmonic color, the pea-green carriage suspended from the ceiling, the wooden trunks with their hidden possessions, the elaborate period design of the clothing, and not least, the randy positions of the headless mannequins (how can you not like that? Come on!).

What I hadn’t realized, so much, is that Shonibare’s work has been profoundly influenced by feminist thinking. I noticed that in his looped film of a masqued ball, in which a cross-dressed F to M courtier takes a central role. Also, his fascination with the figure of the dandy and with Oscar Wilde indicate that his interest in feminism might better be described as a desire to raise questions about contemporary gendering. Note the gender switch in this piece, How to Blow up two heads at once (Ladies), in which two women face off in a duel.

Perhaps it’s glib to consider dueling a form of empowerment, but the piece does serve to overturn expectations, and it feels charged even if, as a critic recently said, it is static.

I do love that it is a male artist, a black male cultural hybrid artist, who has taken up these themes, and who has exploited/appreciated/fetishized the intensely signifying textiles that are “Dutch wax prints.”

Today’s ensemble, I guess, was somewhat inspired by the exhibition, in that I felt moved to wear a colorful print, although not a Dutch wax one, this morning. I think the petticoat underneath as well expresses a yearning for the more complicated 18th century ensembles one sees in his work.

My look today is foofy (hi Laura!) and ultra-femme. “New York is my prairie,” I wrote beneath this photo on my flickr page. There are some days when one wants to dress against the city rather than for it. This frock, with its beautiful palette (gray-green background covered with magenta dots and lacy shapes, its baroque flower print in pale terra cotta, grayed turquoise, magenta, and salmon), edging of cream lace, and unusual faux-Grecian sash, perhaps errs a little on the side of the girlish, but if one can’t wear this on a hot day in July, what is life for?

New York is my prairie today

Erika Staiti and I were discussing on facebook the relationship of people to their clothes. She initially asserted that clothes were nothing without people to animate them. I convinced her that, “people animate clothes, it’s true, but clothes also animate, illustrate, change, define, confuse, decorate, bewilder, and seduce people. You know? And then the alchemy of person + clothes goes out to intervene in spaces.” In a way, too, Shonibare’s headless mannequins are clothes without people, and yet they are, to me, very animated, and definitely performing interventions (as well as other things).

Re: ultrafemme. Someone’s gotta do it. It’s an underoccupied and somewhat shameful space. Why shameful? Laura began to think on this in her post. Perhaps I do it BECAUSE it’s shameful: I want to move through that shame to some proud stance of female impersonation. Wearing lace feels almost politicized. To me. Is that insane?

I haven’t always been this way. I went through a gamine period in my adolescence, and posted this photo today (from 1980, in Oakland: please note the Slits record in the background!) to prove it.


OK, just a note on yesterday’s bluebird outfit. Here’s the description I posted on FB:

Handmade-by-me wiggle dress (from a real vintage pattern) in black cotton with a print of blue birds on it. The birds are composed of little flowers and leaves in two shades of turquoise? Maybe they are supposed to be hydrangeas? Black flat sandals with silly bows on them. Side part with barrette. One faux crystal plastic bracelet of faceted transparent turquoise beads. Today’s look is prim and a little stupid!

I really did not feel comfortable in that dress at all. I think that some days I put on clothes that conform to some sort of identity that really is not in tune with how I feel inside, not even with my fantasies, and that discomfort shows in the stiffness of the photo. As the caption below says, though, I did make the dress, several years ago, and therefore had to wear it, to give my labors their due. I think it would have been helped by HEELS instead of flats, but my spine is a mess lately, and that situation isn’t helped by this compulsive post, and so, with that, I’m off to my dance class. Ciao!

stiff in my bluebird dress today

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }.flickr-yourcomment { }.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }

stiff, originally uploaded by Ululate.

“you made this dress: now wear it”

chiropractor says to lay off the computer for at least an evening, so there will be no discoursing on this today, alas.

today’s ensemble


purple skirt with chartreuse faux-Mexican embroidery of flowers and peacock, bought on eBay by searching “anthropologie 6”; I love their clothes but won’t pay for them new

chartreuse tank top under black tank top with “edgy” vaguely 80s side slits

purple crystal bracelets. the yellow band is my proof of admission to the Yinka Shonibare exhibit at the Brooklyn museum.

Yinka reminds us: it’s all about the fabric:

today’s ensemble

is all about details. First, the keenly observant will notice that I’ve reparted my hair in the center. Hair partings signify. On the side: Anne Frank, Veronica Lake, retro. In the center: 1970s. India. I have a bit of a widow’s peak that only shows with a center part, and this signifies, of course, Morticia Addams.

Simple black jersey halter dress with unobnoxious handkerchief hem. It looks better with nothing underneath but I am a schoolteacher, hence the t-shirt. The sandals, partly made of carpet, are from the souk in Marrakech and are insanely comfortable.


Thai bag bought in Manhattan Chinatown at the little Thai shop on Mulberry below Canal where Gary buys the Thai comics he appropriates images from. Note the fabulous tribal pom-poms.

Bangles are “artfully” non-matching but matching.


This look says: Playful but not childish: well-traveled. Enjoys “exotica.” Grew up in California.

I wish someone else would play this game with me. The conversation got off to such a good start. Ah well, I don’t mind playing solitaire here, I’m still having a lovely time.

today’s ensemble

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }.flickr-yourcomment { }.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }

IMG_5460, originally uploaded by Ululate.

The foofy pink skirt I referred to in an earlier post with lace appliqued by me, anchored in some kind of reality by a square-neck black t-shirt. Black flat sandals with bows not visible. Earrings and bangles (I apologize for this) to match.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that I paid I think 7.99 for the skirt and maybe $12 for the beautiful trimmings. If I had bought this at Anthropologie it would have cost me ten times that.

p.s. Two fashion merchandising things that have amused me lately: The Gap with the words “short-sleeve t-shirts” stencilled in huge letters on their window, as if it was some sort of amazing novelty that The Gap should sell… just think… short-sleeve t-shirts! And then American Apparel selling leggings with slits cut in the side for probably twice what you would pay for a cheap pair of leggings. Like you couldn’t take out a pair of scissors and cut the damn slits yourself? Ha! Come to think of it, I think I will do that.

today’s ensemble

graphic psychedelic print cotton maxi dress with jewel detail at empire waist, bought cheaply at Forever 21 and customized with safety pins. bangles (not clearly visible in these shots, sorry) and pink metallic toe-ring sandals to match.