Monday, November 30, 2015


    Our desire as a species, to create, is without limitations.  We have made things both exalted and profane, inspired and banal, spiritual, and deeply carnal.  But the impulse to create exists in all of us, regardless of who we are, how we grew up, or what our level of education was.  We must make things.
    For some of us, making means tinkering with motors, or tending to gardens.  Others make by dancing, singing, or juggling numbers to find a theorem. Still others, like me, take textiles, or small things like beads, and fashion things out of them that take other life, just like all those other makers do, every day.
    Just today, I was feeling bereft of inspiration about what to say here.  I decided to let myself abide with that. 
    I got to thinking about my partner's recent short trip to Mexico, and the jewelry he brought back for himself, and for me.  Then I found myself standing in front of the bank of drawers that house all the accumulated  embellishment stuff of many years.  Why not make a few new things, says I?  So I did.  Just so simple.
    Sure, for me the act of this creating was the effort of a few hours time, since I had the resources to hand to do so with ease.  But whether we have the resources to hand or not, we need to create.  It fills us, shapes us, and makes us expand. We become, in the process of making, more truly ourselves.  And the corollary is, that what we make can enhance not only our lives, but the lives of others.
    So, I made two necklaces.  Whether Jim will wear one or not is his choice. I kind of doubt it, since they aren't quite his style.  But the point is ultimately about feeding the need to create.  We tend to think that only artists must do so. That is profoundly false.  Every single one of us has the urge to create.  And if we do not use that impulse to build, we will eventually use that same impulse to destroy. 
    Perhaps it is that, that exists at the heart of much of the violence that plagues our world.  We do not honor, or support the creative in ourselves.  We dumb it down. We sequester it. We make it go silent in service of uniformity.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it is this tendency we have to strive for sameness in order to feel safe, and secure, that is the root of all this mess we live with.  I cannot say. I am no oracle. It's only a thought I had, but one, I think, that bears consideration.
Finally what I can say with authority to you is this.  Make. Do. Create. Build. Whatever it is that feeds your soul, and grows that innate desire, then do it.  It matters not at all if others see or understand it.  Just create.  Our world needs more creators, and far, far less destroyers, if we all to make it to the next stage.

Red and Black necklace:  Carved ebony, glass, ceramic,  painted wood, sterling silver.
Black and Blue necklace: Antique Deco glass pendant, quartzite, glass, ceramic.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Scatter #81

    I suppose I should call this the first Scatter of the Holiday Season.  Not this this assemblage has anything whatever to do with it.  But it's past Thanksgiving now so its going to be on most folk's minds till year's end.   The other thing on my mind is that, before this year is out, Attire's Mind here on blogspot will reach its 500th post.   Whew!
    So, let's get to it!

    First out of the gate, this album cover from the 1970s.   What struck me here is that the pose the artist is in, which is supposed to be commanding and sexy, gives a great look at the essential proportions and silhouette that was the baseline for the era. The legs are narrow cones leading up to the midsection.  His shirt is quite trimly cut which subtly accentuates the volume of hair and beard.  So what we get at the end is a very slimly drawn set of triangles, intersecting in the middle.  The 70s, especially for men, was the first full decade where a far more overt visual sexuality was not only available through apparel choices, but highly desirable.  Super tight pants emphasized crotch and rear. Tight cut tricot shirts enhanced fit upper bodies. And the fashion at the time for medallions and chains drew further attention to the male chest.  It was a major shift in men's Attire, that was part of a larger manifestation that signaled the cultural shifts going on about sex.
    Commes des Garcons has made a career out of shaking us up and trying to move the conversation forward in different direction.  This wedding dress from 2012 is a perfect example.  Satire in apparel form. Almost every aspect of this design is deliberately too big, calling traditions about weddings, and marriage into question.  The model looks lost within this, as though the married state has already begun to subsume her personality, and person.  The enormous bow, sitting front and center, makes it quite clear that the bride is being displayed as a gift to her future husband. And the lumpy, disheveled headdress and veil, imply her personal befuddlement at her upcoming state.  Of course, this is all my read on this, what I see.   What do you see?
    The way that men are being portrayed in fashion editorials is shifting, along with our culture's ideas about what men should be like.  Sure, the publishing industry is still awash with images of brooding guys in run down body shops, and lonely diners.  But more, and more images like this one are appearing.  Such images are signals of change.  More sensual than deliberately sexual, and possessed of a striking preferential ambiguity, pictures like this one are becoming increasingly popular in fashion periodicals, both printed, and online.  We are permitting, in fact encouraging men, with images like this, to allow their softer selves, and their emotional selves to be on view without apology.  Its about damned time.
    I love this asymmetrical evening coat/wrap.  I also love this look at the dominant silhouette of the 1920s.  The variation seemed to be between tube shaped, and slightly barrel shaped.  Certainly the dresses and suits of the time presented a tubular ideal most of the time, and a huge percentage of the coats and cloaks were spindle-like, rounded outward from the body.  Of course there were other shapes that were popular, but this one was the top player, for a whole decade.
    This portrait brooch was designed by the Paris based jeweler Georges Fouquet in 1895.  It is made in yellow gold and white gold, with multiple colors of enamel.  Blue ribbons around the face, which is framed with two clusters of lilies.  A cabochon moonstone is caught in the tendrils of the hair, and a pendant pearl hangs at the bottom.  What makes this such a unique piece is the subject of the portrait.  This is Sarah Bernhardt.  The enamel work of the face is particularly fine, shading with amazing subtlety, considering the size of the brooch, which is just over 2.5 inches.
    Patterns clearly have a significant role in what gets related by a garment, or set of pieces.  This outfit from Fendi's S/S 2016 collection is a case in point.  The shapes of the clothing themselves are completely basic. Nothing about cut or fit is unusual.  The only thing that distinguishes these clothes is the pattern.  Do I think this works?  No, not really. I find the pattern too fussy. It ends up looking like visual interference, utterly obliterating the form underneath.  Perhaps that is part of the point, creating urbanized camouflage that allows the wearer to pass unseen on the streets.
    The western world got knitted clothing from the Middle Eastern nations, where it originated.  For centuries strong trade existed between Europe and the Mideast for anything knitted.  Shirts, caps, jackets, and gloves were quite popular; and of course stockings.  This pair of gloves is from the 1670s, and originally belonged to a Catholic bishop from England. Made in green silk twist, they are knitted also with gold yarn to create the details, and most importantly the crests on both gloves.
    The cocoon coat has been around quite a while, starting out in the late 1800s, and gaining huge popularity by the teens, it has been around in one way or another, ever since.  This one, by Jeremy Scott, distills the idea down to the bare minimum possible.  In so doing, and partly due to the colors and textiles chosen, it gains a strong sense of the futuristic.  What we have here is only a bit more than an oval wrapped around the frame.  Does this look like a practical garment?  No.  But it sure as hell makes an impact.
    Another menswear shot that bucks the old trends.  Its a dramatic image, and full of differing messages, but none of them are the standard issue macho guy stuff.  I am also in love with that red coat with the short sleeves.  But mostly I'm in love with the interaction of tradition in the white shirt and necktie, the reference to another culture with the fez, and the choice of model, and position.  It creates a story that needs to be related.
    Call it cultural appropriation, if you wish.  Collections of garments like this are going to increase in frequency.  What makes this one of particular interest to me is the psychology of it.  In most cultures, the headgear carries the most significance, since it is physically closest to the mind.  Those things we hold most dear to us we wear on our heads, or over our hearts.  So, in this case, the message delivered is that the wearer is passionate about, if not the culture from which that hat comes, (probably Tibet), then other cultures in general.  This increasing cross cultural mixing fascinates me.
    This wig ad is from the early 60s.  I haven't really spent any time, yet, on make up, and its role as part of the Attire language.  But seeing this image really brought it home how much a player it is.  Its clear that the intent here is to convey a sexiness.  But to modern eyes, these ladies have a distinctly maniacal look that is nearly demonic.  Sure some of that is about pose and lighting, but the make up style is a major part of why it feels as it does.  Guess I'm going to have to do a make up post sometime soon.

     The final entries today are these two images.  All three of these are dance costumes from the Ballets Russes.  The designs were created by Leon Bakst, who did most of their costumes. The first is from a ballet called Le Dieu Bleu, which premiered in 1912, on May 13 at the Theatre Chatelet in Paris.  The libretto by Jean Cocteau was choreographed by Michel Fokine, to music by Reynaldo Hahn.  The second image is of two costumes by Bakst from Sheherazade.  Sheherazade opened in Paris on June 4, 1910, with music by Rimsky-Korsakov.  The premiere dancers were Ida Rubenstein, and Vaslav Nijinsky.  These three costumes, and I've seen these up close, were mostly painted cottons, though the effect from even a small distance away is dazzlingly lavish.  What strikes me is how much dance costume has evolved over time.  No one would think of costuming a dancer in this much these days.  But still, wonderful, and inspiring.  In fact, the Ballets Russes inspired fashion and art for a decade.

    Well that's all she wrote for today. Go out there and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It's True

    It's true that we spend, a lot of us, (sometimes me included), considerable time thinking about the presentation we give to strangers on the street.  What comes to me just now is, why?  Why do we consider the feelings and thoughts, positions and mores, of others before ourselves when it comes to our apparel?  Is it that we fear rejection? Yes.  Is it that we wish to blend into the greater society on some level? Yes. Is it that we want to attract interesting people, and potential mates? Yes.
     It comes down to community.  We, all of us exist within a construct of socialization we call community.   
     It is not enough that we play on the internet, text each other, and hook up willy-nilly. That isn't enough.  We are a community. We are a group of folk, who live in the same area, and largely have the same goals for our lives. Giving it a global view; that is what we all want, every day. We all want food, housing, health, love, learning, support in our endeavors, and continuance.  And we manifest these desires in our attire each day, to a greater or lesser degree.
    Funny thing; those goals are the same, regardless of money, class, or ethnic center.  It has nothing whatever to do with sex. It knows nothing about politics, or religion or education.  In the final view it knows nothing about locality, or nation.  We are.  Our goals, beyond the boundaries of narrowly held ideologies are identical. The plowman in the field wants the same for his children as the great do, happiness.
    We spend time trying mightily to separate ourselves from others.  The real truth, the thing we cannot manage to grok is this: we are of the same family.  All of us.  Wherever we are. Baseline, we are human people from the same genetics, striving to live our lives, and get to the next day, the next decade.  We want our children, if we have them, to move forward, where we can not.
    What is bad about that?  What is intrinsically awful about wanting one's own progeny to foster and thrive in the world?  Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
    The thing that is awful, that makes us vile, that makes us less than worthy as humans, less than worthy of divine love, however we may envision that, is denying to others the simple right of dignified treatment.
    When it comes to it, we have only each other to rely on.  Sure, there are upwards of 8 billion of us now. That does not diminish the responsibility we have to every human soul.
    Do not choose to leave each other aside,  We cannot afford that luxury. We need each other, desperately.  The world is changing rapidly, and if we, and our next generation, are to live through it, we must bring our full selves, our greatest being, our least divisive selves, to it.
     Bringing negative judgement to the appearance of others is one of the ways we create walls between us.  We must work hard, and consciously, to tear them down if we are to move forward in the 21st century.  Whether we like it or not, (and there are plenty who don't like it a bit) the world we live in is daily becoming a truly global village.  In a village, people rely on each other.  This is no less true when the village has billions in its population.  So deriding each other for our choices of apparel, not only diminishes us personally, but it makes those we judged harshly far less likely to help, should we need it.  Its in everyone's interest to stop the relentless judgements that proliferate across the web, that serve only to bolster the insecurities of those who judge. 
    Besides, it is in our very differences that we are sublime, not in our similarities.  Different is not bad, it is wondrous.
Give your full heart to the world, it needs it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rami Kadi: Deep Seated Fears

    For designer Rami Kadi, bugs have always been an irrationally feared set of living things.  It may seem odd to bring that up in this setting, talking as I do about the Attire language, but it is relevant.  You see, Mr Kadi decided to confront his fears in 2015, by lifting the image of his fear out of his subconscious, and placing it onto his clothing. He took himself through a process of release from their unnamed sway over him, by transforming them into something other, something beautiful.  He diminished their power.  He made them his servants, in the pursuit of the lovely.  Its a strong position to take.
    What makes this so impactful, is that it gives the resulting work a resonance it would otherwise not possess.  This is particularly true because, based on his own fears of not seeing insects when it is dark, he made them black light reactive.  Every design appears black and white under normal lighting, but in a black light environment, the insects glow intensely green.
    As well, by rendering the images of the insects in a flattened, line drawing way, they become a graphic design, and divorced from a good deal of their potential to disturb.
    The Attire language gives us some unique opportunities, not only for communication, but for personal growth and advancement.  By embracing fears, facing them down, we triumph over them. This concept is nothing new, we hear it all the time.  They are put in the place they belong in our psyches.  It's much like a man doing drag for the first time makes him face certain parts of his personality he may not be aware of.
    Fear manifests for us in an Attire sense all the time.  "I cannot wear such and such a color, shape, cut, pattern."  Really?  Is it really wrong for us? Or have we stayed away from it because others said so?  Its a tiny fear, but these small things add up, until we are ruled by them constantly.
    An exercise to try would be to go out shopping and try on things not normally picked.  Pull colors and styles that are suspect.  The transformation that occurs when we allow ourselves to move outside the narrower confines of the expected can be vast, revelatory, and freeing.

    Take the power back from your own fear.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Scatter #80

    A couple of serious oddities within this week's Scatter.  It continues to amaze me, the breadth of the creativity of the human mind.  So, with that said, onward into my brain pan for a rummage around.
    Speaking of creativity, Christian Lacroix is one of the more creative spirits within the design community.  I love his combination of humor, extremely high level understanding of craft, and a nearly childlike glee at what can be done.  The best word I can think of for the bulk of his work is abandoned.  There is a puckish delight that infuses nearly all his work; a playfulness about pattern and color that I find delicious.  These two looks are from his Spring/Summer 2009 collection.  Slightly silly in their styling, but immaculately constructed, looked at as individual things, both are actually breathtaking.  The wedding dress with its tiered organdy skirt and embroidered silk brocade bodice and bolero is an unexpected combination of humble textile and extravagant.  The pale pink and black dress is one of his classic expressions of volume, ornament, and drapery.  And lastly, the pose of the two models, just makes me smile.
    Sometimes it takes a simple thing, only, to take a garment we would otherwise ignore for its banality, and transform it into something arresting.  And if we think of how to use the Attire language to effect, this sort of detail makes a huge difference.  A gray topcoat?  Boring. this topcoat?  Memorable.  In structure this Alexander McQueen coat is entirely bland, a utterly classic topcoat.  The introduction of those stripes, and their placement brings energy to the design, and creates an emphatic visual impression of strength.
    This Faberge' piece is from about 1899.  A huge trapezoidal aquamarine is mounted in a platinum frame in the form of a quiver with arrows.  The vines, arrows, and bow knots are all filled in with diamonds.  Jewelry is one of the forms that we utilize continually to reference, and transform, commonplace, and rarefied objects, elevating them to new status, and creating of them an iconography.  A quiver of arrows takes on new meaning, visually, when it appears like this.  It becomes more romantic, and more layered in its ability to communicate.
    The gorget is the part of the armor that protects the neck and shoulders from injury.  This one is gold, and was made as part of a suit of ceremonial armor for Louis XIII of France in 1630.  The central medallion depicts Louis himself as Mars, on a rampant horse, sword drawn.  These details would naturally be lost on the folk watching from the sides as he passed, but the gleam of gold would surely have made an impression.  Its a remarkable example of both the armorer's and the jeweler's craft.
    In the 1860s, when skirts expanded like a hot air balloon and one of the ways to show off wealth was the extreme amount of fabric in use to cover all that area, a fashion emerged that bumped up the volume even more.  For a short while, before that half dome collapsed into the bustle, it was popular to have a complete over skirt that was then brought up with internal tapes to reveal the skirt beneath.  This was, a lady could display vastly more useless, but expensive fabric to the onlooker.  Honestly, as a style it was quite odd looking, and to my eye, destroyed the line of the silhouette.
     I've had this image of a Frankie Morello ensemble hanging around for a while, and I keep coming back to it.  I'm still not sure why, really.  Perhaps its the combination of textiles, and texture.  Maybe its because that color combination is one I enjoy a good deal.  In any case there is something that is compelling to me here.  Firm structure, and easy looseness in combination.  I had to share it, if for no other reason than to get it out of my head for sure.  (grin)
    This is from the Chanel Cruise collection for 2016.  What constitutes cruise wear these days is a complete mystery to me.  It looks more like straight up summer wear. I'm really on the fence about this.  Partly its because I dislike the overly infantile styling.  I'm not a fan of making grown up women look like little girls.  But I do like the evident craft of the design. That's a lot of careful assembly of pieces in what looks to be organza, not the easiest of textiles to work with.  I also wonder what relevance this sort of overtly child like look has in our current society.
    When I saw this what I saw was a conglomeration of influences coming together.  The final result works, but pulled to pieces it doesn't feel like they should.  Part of that is why I find the increase of use of wildly disparate ideas in design exciting.  Un-thought of concepts become reality more often as we pull notions from all over the place. And when we mix that with new textiles that didn't exist before, it just gets better.
    New Dehli based designer Manish Arora has a thing about color, and shine.  This combination of textures and colors is beguiling.  The Sci-Fi fan in me, and I'm a big one, loves the print here, too.  Rows of floating space-borne cities or stations with stars and planets, but all in pinks and lavenders.  This is also an interesting use of sheer and opaque together.  The placement of the sheer at the hem of the blouse reveals only a tiny sliver of skin behind it, and that only at certain angles.  I find that more provocative than the in your face sheer over next to nothing trend that continues.  Also?  Perfect workmanship.
    Now you might, looking at these think they were women's shoes, but you'd be so wrong.  These are Uzbeki men's riding shoes made in about 1850, in Afghanistan.  The very high heels are to help the foot stay in the stirrup. I love the sweeping curves of these. There is something nearly lyrical about them.  They are decorated with some silver studs and with polychrome embroidery in silk.  If I didn't have bunions like crazy, would I wear these?  Hell yes I would.
    It is rare enough when fashionable hats survive, since they were so often remade and re-trimmed till they fell to bits.  That this one, fragile as it is, survives is a miracle, and in such wonderful condition.  This summer bonnet is from 1840.  It is made of two layers, the inner one is of sheer gauze, edged with lace. The outer layer is beautifully hand worked eyelet lace, with embroidery.  The support structure is a wire ring at the rear, to which pink silk covered whalebone pieces have been  attached.  One of the things I've always found interesting about this style of headgear is that it is this perfect balance point between rectitude, and flirtatiousness.  The lady wearing it could proclaim to all that she was an upright person, and yet, the mere fact that her face get obscured unless standing directly in front of her, increases the desire to take a look. We are curious creatures, and we always want to take a look.
    As a last entry, something very different from my usual run, but something that is still most definitely part of the Attire language.  To the tribal people of New Guinea, it's considered inappropriate for children, and single women to see the penis.  In answer to the need for coverage, a wide variety of things have been used, with many different names, depending on tribal group.  Most commonly known as a koteka, they are worn to protect the genital, as well as to keep them out of sight.  Frequently made of grasses, and shaped to look like an erect member, others are made from gourds that are grown specially for the purpose.  The emphasis, is always on creating an image that implies great size to the hidden male appendage. so, even when they can't show it off they show it off anyhow, symbolically.  As a side note, the skirt made of reed hoops is fascinating.

And that, my friends concludes this week's romp in my head.  Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, November 20, 2015

What Would Happen If?

    What would happen if guys wore frilly dresses, and gals wore 3 piece suits?  What would happen to our society?  What would change about us?  Because, we would change, you know, substantively, guaranteed.  But what would that change be?  How would it manifest itself in real world terms?
     I ask these questions because increasingly we are looking at the blurring, and partial erasure of gender lines.  From those who are trans, to the poly, the auto-erotic, the non sexually identified, to all the other variants that comprise the continuum that is human sexual identity and response, the desire to express more fully who we are, is growing, and subsequently, the area now considered the normative, is receiving continual challenges to long held patterns of behavior, and response.
The answer to that first question is, we already do, at least, some of us do.  What is shifting, and creating the extremes of discomfort that some feel because of this shift, is that we no longer understand the cues we are seeing when we engage the Attire language.  We are unsure of how to respond, or what to think, and this makes many of us deeply uneasy.  The response is almost always dismissal, derision, and defensiveness.  It's a behavior set we have carried with us from the beginning, as a survival skill, based on the fear of the unknown, which has the potential to be mortally dangerous.  Of course, someone wearing clothing that is out of character with what we suppose is correct, does not mean they are dangerous, but the old programming is tough to beat; and requires constant diligence to control.
    It is at times like this that the most social growth is possible, and with that, an eventual flowering, as the culture reaches a new normality that embraces fully what was excluded before.
  Naturally, what makes all this so difficult for so many, is that it stabs the heart of the oldest conceptions we have of male and female, their roles, uses, and meanings.  That we have so much trouble with men wearing women's clothing is understandable, since this is a patriarchal culture that elevates the male, and suppresses the female. The substructure of this problem is the erroneous assumption that a man wearing women's clothing is somehow less male, and therefore less powerful,
less worthy of respect.   If you have spent any time at all hanging around drag queens, you know how
wrong headed that is.  In this culture it takes supreme chutzpah to do what drag queens do.
    Conversely, because of our male focused society, a woman wearing a man's clothing does not receive the opprobrium that men do.  Why?  Because by wearing the clothing of the male, a woman is visually taking on power, not relinquishing it.  And in our culture's hubris, wanting to be more like a man is a compliment to the male power structure, however wrongheaded that might be.
    So, getting back to the essential question of how this would change us, I can see that ultimately it would be freeing for all concerned, and could result in an easing of some significant social tensions.  I'm not saying we would suddenly all sit around in a circle and sing Kumbaya, but there would be a few less things for us to bash each other with.  That can only be a good idea.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Earrings: What's Up With That?

    I found myself, oddly, wondering about earrings. What is the source point for why we do this particular thing to ourselves?  Is it something so deep seated that we won't be able to suss it out?  Myself, I would argue that it's something profoundly hard wired. We have been putting things on, around, and through ourselves, for as long as we have been upright hominids, and probably before that.
    I suppose its obvious, considering that we have traditionally attached all manner of things to our bodies, given the chance.  Pretty much, if it sticks out away from the body in some way, it's fair game.  So, on that level, earrings are an obvious result.  We have attached things to breasts, penises, noses, lips, eyebrows, scrotums, vaginas, and anything else that extends more than a tiny fraction past the flat skin surface.
    The other significant factor, is that earrings draw attention upwards to the face. And we always want to get someone to look at us.
    But what I'm getting to here is that we consistently, and across all cultural boundaries, do this thing.  What culture, anywhere, does not indulge in the practice of hanging metal, stone, wood, glass, or anything else from the earlobes?  To me, that would argue that this is something larger, and older than any individual society could claim.  We seem to have brought this from our prehistory. And we do it still daily, all over the globe.  In fact, we do it more often, and with greater variety than ever before.
    Long ago, jewelry of any sort was an indicator of wealth and status. Only the powerful had the wherewithal to do so.  So folk who had earrings were to be reckoned with. And lets be clear, it was only in the last 300 years or so that earrings became uncommon for men.  Prior to that time both sexes engaged in the wearing of earrings, ear cuffs, and any other sort of attachment to the aural cavities.  With mass production, and with the improvements in technology that permit imitations of all sorts to promulgate, jewelry is now available to nearly anyone who desires it;  even though it may be plastic, with a metallic coating.
    And once again men are wearing earrings without negative comment.  Performers, and sports figures do so routinely now.  So the fact that ear adornment has been embraced by the men the rest of the guys look up to has given them legitimacy.  And as that legitimacy spreads and more men become comfortable with it again, its inevitable that the forms and styles available for men's earrings will expand.  Who knows where that may lead us?

    Living in San Francisco, I see men wearing very emphatic earrings, plugs, and cuffs all the time.  I will be intrigued to watch where this goes next.