Everything Dysmorphia

Or: Is it Cool if I Blame Modernity in General for my Stint as a Green Eyed Monster?

If you’re like me, you have confident days and self-conscious days. Sometimes I oscillate a few times between the two over the course of an evening. This condition is pretty average for a young woman in 2013. Add 5 Sadness Points for every hour per week you spend checking Instagram or Facebook, reading magazines, or perusing blogs. Subtract a point for each time you do something good for the soul (without bragging about it), and multiply by your level of jealousy towards anyone in your life. My calculations suggest that I’m not an adequate human, and if I read one more damn article about a skinny rich girl who’s become a wildly successful actress-blogger-DJ-model-philanthropist by age 19, I will need to be institutionalized.

Insecurity is rampant among Millennials, and I’m far from immune. See Generation Y depression explained with no shortage of patronizing stick figure illustrations here. In typical 90s kid fashion, I’m dissecting the problem from my own point of view.

As if on cue, the economy crashed as I graduated high school, and I’ve been struggling to find a path that remotely resembles the dreams I had as an Everyone is Special kid. Sometimes trying hard isn’t enough, and success won’t come without connections or dumb luck. This is a hard lesson for a girl who grew up in decent schools and a loving home. I thought following all the rules and making straight A’s would entitle me to wonderful things. It turns out I’ll have to keep grasping like everyone else, shoving resumes into bottles and throwing them out to sea. It’s made me the life of the (pity) party, and I could re-write epic poems about our bitterness: I saw the greatest minds of my generation delivering pizzas and folding t-shirts…

One night, as I was carrying garbage down 24th street to the dumpster at work, a frat boy told me, “You have a great job.” I nearly dropkicked him in the polo shirt. I didn’t, though, because 1) I’m not a violent freak in practice, and, 2) Reality will dole out that dropkick on his graduation day.

Moments of feeling like a failure are bound to disrupt 20-somethings mucking through this little era. I think it’s particularly hard on young women who are, more than ever, expected to “have it all” and look perfect while doing it. I think insecurity about my life’s trajectory and my bank account have spilled over into more petty categories. Being a control freak lends itself to that. I can’t will my journalism degree into being relevant or micro-manage the cockroaches out of my apartment, but damned if I can’t improve my own body. According to every fashion magazine, a three-step, DIY blowout is a hell of a lot easier than landing a job interview. My dream of moving to a different city is so distant, I might as well dip into my meager savings for Top Wardrobe Picks for Fall!

And yet, my superficial efforts can’t live up to my expectations, either. Keeping a constant eye on the digital highlight reels of friends, strangers, and celebrities makes me feel like I’ll never measure up. Sometimes I partake in the race to win others’ approval or envy, but it leaves me feeling ashamed. I could abandon the well-studied pressures of online life. That would likely hurt my social, professional, and creative pursuits. What’s the right balance?

I think I need a media and technology cleanse. It might be even harder than that juice cleanse I subjected myself to for approximately no reason. If only green smoothies and interval cardio could wash out delusions.

Recently I took my eyes off the 24/7 updates from women with nicer clothes and better lives than me for just long enough to consider my rank in my own world, not theirs. I completed the previous sentence and realized what a nasty word “rank” is. Unsurprisingly, I’m doing just fine in the middle. I’m slightly above the poverty line (applause, please.) Indeed, I have everything that I need, suffer no real injustices, and keep the company of some amazing people. I haven’t struggled to find male suitors and have been treated to the affection and support of a great boyfriend for the past year and counting. What’s a lucky bitch like me doing feeling sorry for herself?

The answer is dysmorphia. The word is usually found in the context of body dysmorphia, in which the affected develop negative body image that doesn’t match up with reality. I think the current climate for young people, plus modern media (social and otherwise,) put us at risk for Everything Dysmorphia. I’m compelled to worry about things that hardly apply to me and don’t matter. I hate leaving the house without makeup. I curse my hobbit-like height even though it has essentially no effect on my life. I fret about my hair being too thin, even though a couple of stylists have made unsolicited comments about it being thick. A close friend shut down my concerns about how I’m a bad socializer, saying I was way off base. My boyfriend basically laughed in my face when I identified my body type as “curvy.” I might be a straight up waif by average American standards, but that goes out of focus when you grow up in ballet studios and work in an environment notoriously populated with svelte girls. Selling clothes actually gives me a reality check. I’ve seen girls come in with bodies I’d kill for. I admire them, grumble about my own, and then… I realize they’re buying the same size pants as me. The good news is that I look just fine. The bad news is that I’m insane.

If that all sounded like one big humblebrag,  then I guess I’m using the internet right.

Yes, there are young women out there who have wonderful jobs. Some have tons of money. At least one is the human definition of “carefree.” Some eat nothing but junk food and still wear size 24 jeans. A lot of them are gorgeous. Many are hilarious, brilliant, or both. Some party every night. One is dating one of your ex boyfriends right now. Tons of them are in Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. A few are incredible at painting or playing guitar. All you can do is pat them on the back (or, more likely, hit “like”) and let them inspire your next goal. It’s almost certain that the people you envy are busy envying someone else, and that someone is wishing they could be you. It’s a food chain – eat your heart out.

One last thing: Let me go back to that anecdote about the frat boy snidely congratulating me on my garbage-hauling job. When I emerged from the putrid alley, he was waiting to apologize for how his comment sounded. He wasn’t being sarcastic. In fact, he’d seen me making trips all evening between the retail store and its off-site stockroom. He said my job was great because he actually thought I was being paid to walk around modeling the store’s clothing.

Suck it, sadness.

On Finally Accepting that I’m Wifey

The first time someone described me as wifey, I flipped. Used colloquially as an adjective or a noun, many people consider it a term of endearment. I wasn’t one of those people. Wifey was a venomous word reserved for girls I considered an embarrassment to my underdeveloped brand of feminism. Wifey girls are desperate to keep a man by catering to his every need. Wifey girls don’t stand up for themselves or fight for their goals. Wifey girls would rather clean the kitchen than paint canvases or play guitar. Wifey girls plan their weddings on Pinterest before they even get a boyfriend.

Cara Delevigne in a Dimepiece top

Cara Delevigne in a Dimepiece top

For decades, women have struggled to not be defined by their traditional roles as wives and mothers. Most men’s ideals weren’t left behind in this process. As women gained strength and independence, it became the norm for men to respect and desire these qualities in a woman worth pairing up with for the long haul. Wifey, put simply, refers to someone who would be a good wife. The guidelines for being a good wife (or husband, while we’re at it) have changed. By most people’s definition, it doesn’t require subservience or a loss of self. It’s about being loyal, supportive, and under your partner’s threshold for annoying-ness. Making dinner for your partner isn’t a crime against feminism. Odds are good that it’s just one of the little things you both do to help each other get through this exhausting thing called life. Being a “good girl” helps, but I’ve been averse to this label as well.

Where’s the fun in being good for a man? What’s exciting about having something he could handle every day, ‘til death do us part? I didn’t want to be anyone’s glass of water. I wanted to be a shot of whiskey. My bad girl envy is not surprising, considering how pop culture glorifies this stereotype at every turn. In particular, this decade is all about “bad bitches,” which sounds like a doubly negative label for women, yet girls are striving for it. “Bad” has long been “good.” “Bitch” has been reclaimed by confident women to a huge extent. Obscene amounts of attention are rewarded to Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj. On Wale’s song “Bad,” he complains that, “Bad girls ain’t no good, and the good girls ain’t no fun” before Rihanna’s chorus about being a commitment-phobe who’s great in bed. Popular music and movies are fond of casting bad girls, divorcing sexual prowess from morality as if the two can’t coexist. When good girls have sexual agency in pop culture, it’s usually fraught with conflict. Robin Thicke “always wanted a good girl” in “Blurred Lines,” but he wishes she’d cut the act and put out. Drake sings “You’re a good girl and you know it / You act so different around me” to the subject of his latest hit. Men will be confused by good girls acting bad and vice versa until they accept that all women have both qualities. It’s the ratio that changes from person to person and throughout life.

lana_del_rey-born-to-die images

Much to my chagrin, I’m more Sandra Dee than Sandy. Despite being a square, I had a proper wild child phase full of all the things one hesitates to publish on the internet. I checked off all the boxes on the Teenage Rebellion list pretty early in life, then continued on my goody-two-shoes trajectory of honor rolls, university, and a timely graduation. I drool over clothes from Nasty Gal and Unif that I would probably never wear in public, even if I had hundreds of dollars to blow on cutout mini-dresses and spike-covered platform boots. I wear short shorts when it’s warm out and I believe in fairness. Nothing boils my blood faster than double standards. I don’t think the point in (or before) a relationship when a woman chooses to have sex is an indicator of whether she’s “girlfriend material.” I think it’s a swell litmus test for women to weed out backwards, hypocritical men. I’m a product of the times and all the time I spend fretting about them. And I’m kind of wifey.

Being a serial monogamist in my teens and early twenties has made me question myself as much as a chronic first dater might. Talking to friend of mine (who also admits to being girlfriend-y) brought the issue into focus. What’s wrong with being the kind of person someone would want to be with for life? Some people just can’t take a compliment.

I’ve learned to accept it. Being “wifey” doesn’t mean you’re desperate for (or incomplete without) traditional gender roles. It could mean the opposite: You’re stable, whole, and mature enough to be someone’s long-term partner. Being a good girl doesn’t have to mean that you’re boring or uptight. It can mean that you’re mature enough to think before you act, and kind enough to consider other people’s feelings in addition to – not instead of – your own.

Scraps of my Childhood (Sigh)

I saw a pile of old fabric while visiting my parents’ house . My sister is learning to sew, so my grandma donated materials to the cause. It made me so happy to dig through them and recall what they were originally used for. There were 80s watercolor blues and prints for Halloween and Thanksgiving. I had a dress made out of that red floral as little girl. It was handmade and also a hand-me-down: my aforementioned sister wore it on her first day of kindergarten. That frock is long gone, but how cool would it be to make a little something for my niece out of the same fabric?

I’ve tried sewing a few times, my best attempt being a semester of “Apparel” in high school. That effort yielded a Frankenstein kimono robe with a kitsch textile featuring roses and eagles. My, how my taste hasn’t refined. I’ve since stuck to clothing repairs and simple alterations.

I appreciated my mom’s seamstress skills long before I had her hemming and darting all the junk I brought home from Goodwill as a teenager. I kept my first pair of  eyeglasses in a case she made with multicolored otter fabric. I was the coolest (only?) girl in the school band percussion pit with all my drum sticks and mallots tucked into a lunar-print , Velcro equipped bag.

Way before that, my grandma was making quilts upon quilts and perhaps ten of her grandchilden’s favorite toy: a cloth frog filled with rice, with buttons for eyes, and more love than went into any Ty  Beanie Baby.

I like the idea of people making some clothes at home. My mom made her own wedding dress (and has claimed that she hated it) out of financial necessity. I think circumstances are different today. You can find some brand new clothes for cheaper than the cost of materials, not to mention the time investment. Sewing is now exclusively about making something special for yourself or someone you love. It’s a way to say we’re cut from the same cloth.

Lipstick and Other Ways to Die

A history of toxic cosmetics

Although  the royal beauties of ancient times bathed in some of the grossest substances to ever fill a bathtub (warm blood, veal stock with egg yolks), it is the more common, widespread beauty practices that have had women making up to meet their maker throughout history. At times, we’ve been endangered by a lack of education or insufficient product regulation. Other times, we read the warning labels and chose to open the bottle anyway. Cosmetics have gotten more sophisticated over the centuries, but many are still considered toxic. Technology has phased out some dangerous formulas but helped invent new ones. Now makeup history is coming full circle as proponents of natural and organic formulas are back to pampering themselves with milk and honey, not imidazolidinyl and oxybenzoate.

Makeup is ancient. It most likely got its start in Egypt, where both women and men swathed their eyes in kohl. This proto-eye shadow was often made with antimony, a highly toxic element which can cause headaches and depression in small doses, or dermatitis with prolonged skin contact. Ruins of Babylon and Greece suggest that people painted their faces with naturally occurring white lead, a common practice destined to continue until the 19th century. The best smiles of the Roman empire came from scrubbing teeth with merciless pumice stones. Sometimes the most dangerous thing about ancient beauty products was obtaining them: a recipe for hair growth ointment found on a papyrus manuscript calls for the fat of a lion, hippo, crocodile, cat, and serpent mixed together. Rinse and repeat.
King Henry II’s mistress, however, had very thin hair. It was a symptom of gold poisoning, which eventually killed Diane de Poitiers, according to a study published in a British medical journal after her body was dug up and studied in France. She had sipped a solution of gold chloride and diethyl ether to prevent aging.

At least she didn’t use the Greek hair dye of yore: leeches soaked in a lead vessel full of vinegar. Another beautifying technique of this period was popular with European women. They dropped extracts of belladonna, a hallucinogenic plant, into the eyes to create that dreamy look of dilated pupils and mild delirium.

Looking fair-skinned and fragile, connoting a luxurious indoor life and femininity, respectively, was the dominant aesthetic in developed parts of the world for a long time. Even when Christianity declared makeup the mark of a loose woman, God-fearing ladies bled themselves regularly to reduce the pesky flush of good health. In the 18th century, tuberculosis was so common that historians suspect it became chic to appear afflicted. Consumed by consumption, women brightened their eyes with a splash of citrus juice and consumed iodine, chalk, or small doses of arsenic to get pale. It sounds unfathomable until you fast forward to modern times, when women continue to pay for their own cancer by spending hours in tanning beds.
Of course, faking pallor externally was always an option, though hardly less dangerous. Lead, sulphur, and mercury (prescribed for blemishes) graced the skin. In late 18th century Italy, a woman called Signora Toffana formulated and sold a lead-and-arsenic face powder to wealthy socialites. She was executed after an estimated 600 men allegedly died from the habit of kissing their wives’ poison-dusted cheeks. The gentlemen of the English Parliament were getting fed up with artificial beautifiers, too. In 1770, a bill passed that said a woman using cosmetics could be penalized for witchcraft and her husband was free to nullify the marriage upon finding out his bride was not a natural beauty. This is either male chauvinism or just a good public health policy.
The 1800s brought some women reprieve from toxic makeup in the name of Victorian purity. Living in a culture that considered rosy faces beautiful but a pot of rouge scandalous, girls had to strategically bite their lips and pinch their cheeks before greeting a handsome suitor.

Get subtle color sans self harm with this sheer lipstick meant to mimic the look of lemon-scrubbed lips:

Lipstick Queen Medieval lipstick, $20. Seriously, harlots, it’s good stuff.

Those who did use makeup back then imported it from France, which was producing “natural, light” cosmetics to suit the style. An 1888 newspaper article warned women of using American makeup, which was more likely to contain bismuth, a substance the writer claimed would cause insanity similar to that of lead-poisoning. The story also advised ladies to remove their makeup with Vaseline as not to ruin their complexions like the actress Lillian Russell, who was reportedly lazy and slept in her stage makeup. This beauty tip still holds true, although few modern women would also add a mask made of raw beef to their evening skin care routines.
Fortunately, the 20th century brought some reforms to the cosmetic industry. Safety became one more selling point that advertisers could use to lure women. The 1920s flappers rebelled against standards of beauty (tan skin was finally fashionable, though still a sign of the wealthy who now spent their leisure time outdoors). Lead poisoning waned, but chemists were busy cooking up parabens, a class of preservatives that are still widely used despite evidence that they can cause cancer. Phthalates, which studies have linked to birth defects, obesity, and autism, were also making their debut as a fragrance stabilizer. In 1921, Chanel No. 5 was the first perfume made with phthalates and synthetics. They were instant classics.

The early 30s brought in some killer looks. Consumers could pick up a skin cream called Koremlu that contained a rodent poison, thallium acetate. The lotion was pulled from department stores once it was obvious enough that it was causing paralysis, abdominal pain, and blindness. Another trendy way to go blind was Lash Lure, an eyelash colorant that claimed the vision of dozens of women. It stayed on the market a good five years after the FDA made the connection but didn’t have the regulatory authority to act on it. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 was passed, but did little more than allow the government to classify what was a cosmetic and proceed to not regulate it.

Consumer demand for personal care products continued to increase mid-century as celebrity endorsements abounded and industry advancements, particularly in the area of petroleum, provided more variety. It was a market boom with enough preservatives to stand the test of time. By the 70s, nearly everything one could apply to her body contained synthetic fragrance. The FDA flexed its muscles in 1977, though, by banning six carcinogenic color additives commonly used in lipstick. The beauty industry felt so bad about giving women cancer that it stopped using the colors…once the existent supplies were depleted after a few more years. Similar apathy was revealed in 1986, when the National Academy of Sciences reported that many perfumes included toxins that act directly on the nervous system. Fragrance companies –and the government– shrugged it off.
While America persisted in banning products only once women started dropping like (beautiful) flies, reform took shape in Europe in the 90s. Policymakers adopted a guiding belief that cosmetics should be proven safe by manufacturers before they were sold. And in the year 2000, phthalates DBP and DEHP were banned in European Union countries. Willing to be passed up in regulatory measures but not research, U.S. scientists developed a way to test for these controversial chemicals. They were found in the body fluids of all 289 average Americans tested. Exposure is as easy as walking past an Abercrombie and Fitch, where one Californian teen led a protest last year against the phthalate-ridden cologne that the clothing store is regularly sprayed down with. Ads for the scent depicted buff, shirtless personifications of virility. The irony is that the cologne’s phthalates are shown to reduce sperm count and stunt development of the genitals in boys.

Phthalates remain in about three-quarters of our personal care products but are listed on hardly any labels, according to a lab analysis by the Environmental Working Group. If you were born in the U.S.A., your umbilical cord probably supplied you with 287 synthetic chemicals (180 of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals) long before your first spritz of hairspray. This is the “original sin” of chemical beautification before we can decide if a golden tan is worth melanoma or a trendy keratin hair treatment is worth sitting in a cloud of formaldehyde.
Perhaps the next generation will be better off now that all-natural makeup is catching on, despite the commercial advantages of chemical preservatives.
“The longer something can stay on the shelf, the more money there is to be made,” said Shirley Pinkson, co-owner of Austin-based chemical-free cosmetics line W3LL PEOPLE. Still, the growing success of her brand shows that demand is high for those daily products that won’t help accumulate stores of toxins that could cause disease.
Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, is also confident that the future holds safer ways to primp.
“We know a ton more than we did five years ago about what’s in our cosmetics,” Malkan said, referencing online databases full of ingredient lists that don’t get printed on bottles. Pressure from organizations like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has convinced companies, most notably the nail polish giant OPI, to bring their safer European formulas stateside.
“I see this as a women’s movement,” Malkan said. “We make 85 percent of consumer product purchases. We have the power to decide which companies we allow into our homes.”
Of course, it is up to each woman to decide what price she will pay for beauty. But in the year 2011, at least we can say the information and alternatives make it easier for us all to choose wisely.

Do-gooders can join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Pale chicks can read my guide to fake baking: Snow White and the 7 Tanning Suggestions

Gap Confuses Me with Someone who Doesn’t Eat Oreos

You know what rhymes with Gap? Nap. That’s what their clothes often inspire me to do. Of course, this is coming from someone who recently thrifted a silk blouse printed with realistic-looking lemons. Still. We all need love, respect, and great denim. A normal person can look to Gap for one of those needs.

What makes their denim worth being at a mall? The cuts are flattering, it feels and looks more expensive than it is, and I don’t mind slipping with ease into what they call a size 0.

Have I overlooked a case of ringworm? My favorite pair of jeans as a bony 13-year-old (Mudd flared hiphuggers, as I recall, heavily whiskered with bleach) were a size 0. I’m kind of small for an American woman, but very few people who are old enough to buy beer and who don’t have a carb phobia are zeros.

American Eagle also has vanity sizing. I know this from a trusty pair of jeans my sister stole out of a lost-and-found box for me.

Are these companies raking in more money by catering to women’s insecurities? Shopping phenomena are out there: I will like a dress at its clearance price more than I would have liked it at full price; I won’t feel as attractive in a skirt if I have to inexplicably go up 2 sizes for it to look right. It’s not logical, but it’s powerful.

I don’t even know how to feel about it. It’s like your boyfriend telling you he thinks you’re hotter than Megan Fox. So sweet! So dubious!

And it’s getting out of hand. During that trip to Gap, I tried on a skirt. The waistband was full of, uh, gaps. I felt pretty embarrassed (fraudulent, even) when the sales associate yelled across the store that she checked inventory for me, but there were no double 0’s left in that style. I imagined all the other Memorial weekend shoppers stopping to A)  passively hate me, then B) laugh at me trying to fit my ass into that size, and finally C) look down at their own purchases with those ego-boosting numbers stitched into the labels.

I have a hunch this is mostly an American thing. Weight norms have shifted here. While technical measurements in inches can’t change, sizes have a history of doing so. Ask anyone who buys vintage. She’ll know that a size 8 garment from at least the 1950s or earlier will fit more like a modern 4. There goes that over-repeated fun fact about Marilyn Monroe being a size 10. Is the fashion industry going to keep slowly shifting the numbers until we’re all buying pants in size negative 2?

Musings aside, if you’re looking for a pair of pretend-you’re-very skinny jeans, I’d recommend Gap. Besides, they’re having a sale through June 6 in which you get 40% off your whole in-store purchase (excluding full price jeans).

Cropped Legging Jeans in Faded Indigo Wash, $44.99 online, $21.99 in store, I paid $13.19

I’d buy these even if they were labeled as maternity jeans. That’s how perfect the wash and fit of these are. Comfy, versatile, and by cropped they mean perfect for shorties who don’t want cuffing or ankle bunching.

My other pick:

1969 Apron Skirt, regularly $49.95, $29.97 with discount

What’s more summery or harder to make chic than a jean miniskirt? This one’s lovely. The denim is lightweight enough to swing and drape- like chambray, but softer. Add a high waist, cute pockets, and look: sophistication where you least expected it.

I also spotted shorts with pocket lining made of crocheted lace peeking out the leg openings. And, obviously, simple basics abound. Hit it up. You’ll get to size down.

In conclusion, dear Gap, it’s okay if you confuse my hip circumference with that of a little girl whose coach faked her birth certificate so she could be on the Chinese Olympic gymnastic team.

Heck, I confuse myself with a stripper every time I almost buy a pair of sparkly gold platform heels.

The Nitty Gritty on Treasure City

One man’s trash is not just another man’s Treasure City Thrift store find. It’s also a means of improving the economy and the environment, both in Austin and abroad.  Cory Skuldt gave a presentation Sunday about how this overflowing second-hand store in East Austin is doing its part to clothe the community, not the landfills.
Skuldt talked about the importance of buying second-hand clothing as part of a new discussion series spotlighting active groups in Austin. The meeting was hosted by MonkeyWrench Books among stacks of homemade zines. A modest audience occupied the metal folding chairs. Skuldt’s infant son crawled about and played with the store’s only toy: a wooden block with the word “RIOT!” written on it.
“We’re more than just a retail store,” said Skuldt, who can often be found working the register at Treasure City, “We exist to support other nonprofits in a variety of ways.”
These efforts include donating items to charitable organizations in need and providing a meeting space for groups without their own buildings. Another goal is to keep the east-side community, which has been challenged by crime and drugs, connected through events such as fashion shows and movie screenings.
A clip was shown from “China Blue,” a documentary about blue jean manufacturing sweat shops where girls earn 12 cents per hour sewing the wardrobe staple. A separate report from CNN said that China produces 200 million pairs of jeans yearly, but that at least twice that amount is sold each year in the U.S. alone. It’s incentive to buy a lotta vintage or American Apparel, a horizontally-produced brand that pays immigrant workers fairly, yet gets deportation-raided by our government all the same.  Growl.
Anyway, Skuldt explained that the easiest way for individuals to help is to buy used merchandise. Treasure City Thrift is an even better option than some other resale shops because 100 percent of the money spent there will stay in the local economy. Treasure City also abstains from the common practice of shipping its unsold merchandise overseas, where it can stunt the growth of foreign economies that become dependent on what Skuldt calls an “influx of cheap.”
“U.S. controlled manufacturers pay people really poor wages to make the clothes in the first place, and then U.S. resellers sell them back at a mark-up,” she explained.
Instead, Treasure City gives away leftover items to Austinites on the last Sunday of each month at the Really, Really Free Market. This is an opportunity for all people who have something to give, share, or trade to meet at Chestnut Community Park and help each other out. There are no price tags allowed. So it’s kind of like Burning Man, with only slightly fewer hippies…
“We try to get everything back in the hands of someone local,” Skuldt said.
This re-donating is a major part of the example the store is setting by striving for a zero waste policy. They have a single, household trashcan and don’t throw away anything that can possibly be reused, regardless of whether there is a profit to be made.
Another unique feature of Treasure City is that it’s run by volunteers and has no hierarchy of management. They welcome anyone interested in their cause to stop by the store at 2943 E. 12th St. to help sort incoming donations. Off-site help such as increasing the organization’s web presence and putting up fliers is also appreciated.
“It sounds like a different kind of volunteer work,” said Erica Ochoa, a 19-year-old St. Edward’s student who attended the lecture. She said that she would like to support and volunteer at Treasure City since it is hyper local, whereas places like Goodwill can seem impersonal.
It’s a painless way to help our neighbors who are struggling to afford clothing and household items, especially for those who love vintage finds as much as Paul Baker, who works at the store regularly.
“There’s just too much production in general,” he said. “So, it’s kind of a celebration of the stuff that we have already.”
Now, the stuff I have already includes a Vena Cava shirt (buy one, get one top with kimono-cut sleeves free!). It only set me back $2 that’s sure to go forth and be virtuous. There’s no reason not to shop for throw-back trends new instead of at thrift stores. Skuldt recommends boxy vintage blazers layered onto newer looks for fall as the “80s phenomenon” still exerts its influence on fashion. I recommend taking it into the future territory of the past with some 90s grunge looks and rich fabrics like velvet and leather, too.   

WTF is Lady Gaga Wearing: A Sociological Approach

Pop stars have mysteriously stopped trying to look hot and started dressing absurdly.  They seem to have a goal of weirding out the public and – more importanty- out-weirding each other.  Women have been winning the spotlight with daring fashion since before spotlights were invented. But is it just me, or have styles been more extreme the past few years? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? And then there’s the petty question that usually comes up: Did Lady Gaga start all this?

It’s getting boring to talk about Gaga’s exciting costumes. It says more about her image to point out that the most scandalous picture the paparazzi could hope to snap of the pseudo-wacko celebrity is one of her wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She holds the title for strangest ensembles, but more and more of the music videos you’ll see on MTV feature singers in outfits that make Cher’s chaps and sparkly jumpsuits look like casual wear. Madonna made waves with her iconic cone bra, but it didn’t shoot out flames (Gaga) or whipped cream (Katy Perry).

When you pair a few disgusting pieces together, the effect is actually…really disgusting. Sorry La Roux! I still loved “Bulletproof.”

La Roux tops off all her outfits-on-acid with a signature swoop of hair that defies gravity. Katy Perry just looks like Zo0ey Deschanel but with boobs popping out of children’s clothes. Rihanna stoops to copying M.I.A. whenever she needs to look edgier. Swedish pop star Robyn sees it fit to dress up like a bumble bee or an astronaut.

Why is it confusing?

The music doesn’t match the image. Their songs are still as painfully mainstream as possible. The truly unique ladies in music are just sitting back and laughing at the spectacle.

(pic from Media Alive) Perry’s dress lights up and is covered in pink ruffles. At least there are no giant fruit props or noxious hair clips.

Why isn’t this effecting men?

Women in the limelight have always had more emphasis put on their appearance than men. They’ve worn less and less clothing over the decades. But naked doesn’t cut it anymore. Entertainment, at least in the U. S. of A., has expended most of its shock tactics. Now there’s nowhere to go but up. There’s nowhere to go but weird.

(pic from somekindofawesome.com)

Why aren’t actresses and models doing it?

These are competitive times in the music industry. Perhaps that explains why this phenomenon has had little effect on actresses and models, who are most valuable when they’re blank slates. Only like 5 percent of women have the right age, height, weight, complexion, and nubile alien beauty to cut it as high fashion models. However, most people can sing. Everyone can get a MySpace and YouTube account. Listeners are bombarded with unlimited access to all the  music they want, so musicians have to stand out. Pop princesses are battling to keep your attention in their crazy get-ups.

Stupid or progressive?

This trend looks forced and artificial at best (if I come upon another quote from Gaga insisting her character is “just who she is,” I may have to vomit and subsequently give up reading), sad and depraved at worst. But it’s INTERESTING. It compensates somewhat for the candy-coated candy they produce.

As a girl who enjoys high fashion as a visual art form, I think it’s nice to see anyone wearing Thierry Mugler (he designed a whole tour’s wardrobe for Beyonce) or Alexander McQueen (responsible for Gaga’s 10-inch “armadillo” heels) out of the fashion show context.

It’s good that divas are now commonly choosing their clothes not simply to arouse men, but to spark conversation. Until someone designs a bra that dispenses quality songwriting, it will have to do.

Out of the Closet: The Case for Spring Cleaning

So…you need to clean out your closet. Yes, you do. I once read a statistic that really stuck with me, despite the fair assumption that it probably wasn’t calculated in a scientific way: The average woman only wears 20% of the clothing in her closet. For men, I’m assuming that percentage would be a bit higher and “in her closet” would be replaced with “rumpled on his bedroom floor.” I’ve no desire to speak out against most people having a narrowed collection of go-to items. I mean, what kind of weirdo doesn’t have a favorite pair of jeans? If anything, there’s something wrong with me for being able to go months without doing laundry (the outfits would get quite “creative” towards the end, but I could make it happen). Whether your wardrobe is a modest heap, totally out of hand, or a shameful archive of old selves, it could use some editing. Aim to flip those numbers to 80% accessible pieces and just a guilty 20% “but a boyfriend gave me that” necklaces, “might need that for next Halloween” dresses, and “will fit into those if I lose some fat, muscle, and bone matter” pants.

Here’s why creating a streamlined, organized closet will be worthwhile, even if you unearth a spider or worse in the process:
1. Picking out an outfit will be a pleasant experience of self-expression rather than a boring resignation to whatever just came out of the dryer or a frustrating hunt. There’s pride in finding a diamond in the rough, but I’d rather have a shiny rack of diamonds ready and waiting.
2. When you can actually see all of your options, more creative pairings will ensue. You can juxtapose different items with speed and ease as opposed to merely digging around for that one (presumably only) shirt you know looks okay with that crazy-patterned skirt you bought on impulse.
3. Having a general mental inventory of your wardrobe allows you to shop more effectively. You’ll know what you actually need instead of just gravitating towards things you already have a sufficient version (or 3) of. Most of us who engage in some retail therapy and/or recreational shopping have favorite items to shop for (someone please restrain me in the presence of black boots, underwear, and vintage post earrings). You’ll find yourself with more choices if you seek out what your closet is missing, not what it was overflowing with in the first place.
4. You can benefit a charity by donating any unwanted clothes. Or hey, this is America, so benefit yourself by selling them.

I practice what I preach (er, blog), and this has yielded a mini-mountain of duds that I will try to convert into cash-monies. Coming soon: a review of various resale/consignment stores around town with my findings on how to maximize profits and minimize the weirdness of strangers assigning a dollar amount to your style.

I Love You This Hour, This Hour, Today…

The Case For Trends:

Some people have an anti-trend philosophy. This is the fashion equivalent of only reading historical nonfiction instead of the newspaper. Trends move in consistent enough cycles to deserve part of your clothing budget. I thought I was just being sentimental by keeping a hippie-licious pair of dark green leather and wood clogs (with brass stud details) that I bought at Goodie Two Shoes (1111 South Congress Avenue) when I was 14 or 15 years old. What can I tell you? I listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and made things out of hemp back then. But it paid off: this spring you can open any fashion magazine and you’ll be saying “WTF clogs…?”

And “throw-away fashion” is fun, despite its alleged environmental implications (I’d worry more about the underpaid factory worker implications). There’s instant gratification from cheaply purchasing the H&M version of whatever ephemeral, enticingly batty thing that high-end designers send down the runway. You can pawn it off to a resale shop if you get prematurely tired of it, or donate it to Goodwill when the style’s reign is over.

Just remember the higher status of investment pieces. Spend as much as you want if you find the perfect black pumps, multipurpose cocktail dress, dark skinny jeans, job interview pencil skirt, live-in leather jacket, boy-trap denim shorts…you get the picture. But good heavens, don’t drop triple digits on something absurd, like purple acid-wash jeans or a fringed vest. Just get ’em cheap if you feel compelled. I absolutely endorse wearing things that are borderline ridiculous.

Another thing: why strive for a classic look all the time? You’ll simply blend into the background by wearing the most “normal” clothes instead of blending into the masses (albeit smaller, more interested/informed masses…) wearing the same trend of the moment. Let yourself be identifiable as part of your own generation [This statement doubles as my only argument against wearing vintage all the time, though I love me some used threads]. When I’m an old woman, I want to look back at pictures of myself and laugh fondly. With fashion, it’s here today, funny tomorrow. Participate in the times you’re living in.

Here’s the thing: you can’t even distinguish yourself very well by dressing exclusively in black, or only in athletic wear, etc. It pins you tighter to a group. The only truly original dresser I’ve met lately is a strange and possibly brilliant architecture student who wears tie-dye tee shirts every day. Every. Day. There’s something awesome about this guy likely feeling way uncomfortable in anything but tie-dye.

Coincidentally, guess what’s totally in right now?

Tie-dye tank dress: Proenza Schouler, Spring 2010 (nymag.com)