When I was first leaving Bulgaria, I could take only two suitcases with me and that prompted me to made sure that I filled them only with the best clothes I could have, so that space would not be wasted. I made some new clothes with fabric I had, and even a friend helped me with sewing a skirt for me. The next two years were such a luxurious experience that, when I taught a two-month course at the Centro Cultural in Costa Rica, I was able to wear different clothes for every single class session (twice a week). My students never saw the same ones twice. Continue reading
Photo by E. Ivanova
As I’ve always objected, there is no point to “natural” styles in make-up or fashion — if they were really natural, they wouldn’t be styles, after all: a visual concept you have to buy as opposed to something you already are. This photo on the left I did a couple of years ago sums up the idea: first you scrub yourself of your undesirable natural state (feathers or any trace of hair?) and then you cover yourself with another layer which is supposed to represent your real self much better: your more authentic and hence, ironically, more natural representation. It reminds me of Agrado in All About My Mother, the transsexual who is convinced that all the changes she did to his/her body are justified by the idea that they make him/her be more like herself.
But this is not about the everyday tranvesting we do to our real selves through clothes. It’s about my mother-in-law, an upper-middle-class woman, Italian at that, who has always seen clothes as her identity shell. Which means that she has always invested a lot of emotion and of herself in her clothes. She hasn’t been going out much lately and her fancy, dressy clothes, so important to her, have not been able to do their role. Continue reading
Speaking of fashion, I didn’t delve into the question whether style is really a personal expression of self identity or just a convention, a formula offered by society and used by an individual in one combination of elements or another. Is an individual ever free, after all, to use any piece of clothing in her or his own terms to express her or his own identity? If I think that a tea gown expresses my personality best of all, am I free to wear it for an evening out without any repercussions? Continue reading
I love browsing through fashion advice books, but it’s always out of curiosity. I like to see a different interpretation of what women should look like – and how that changes through time . I never follow the advice contained in those books because I forget the specificities. And they are so different in every book. I just enjoy the visual imagery and the interpretation of the role of women in society expressed through that advice: do they have to make themselves attractive, do they have to learn to be practical or conform to some rigit etiquette?
I never thought such a book would be liberating, feminist or useful for me, for what it is worth. After all, they all imply that women undeniably have to change something about themselves or to adhere to rules on how to conceal problems and boost merits. That’s hardly liberating. It is more a constriction than freedom, just as a sculptor friend of mine expressed it through her metal corset creations. Continue reading
In July, I had the chance to visit an interesting store in New Orleans, Oh Susannah Doll Shop – all things doll, but, alas, with little time to peruse thoroughly and decide which of the precious items I was most in love with so that I would purchase it. The collection was outrageously varied, ranging from tiny plastic babies in a carriage to large, upsettingly realistic representations of girls as dolls in poses totally incompatible with what normally is perceived as “dollness”: dolls that express emotions (of fear or boredom), in awkward positions, in highly personalized clothing. These dolls can’t be really dolls in the traditional sense, because they are not blank, they are not the tabula rasa a girl wants to project onto it her own self-representation. They are an individual artist’s rendition of a girl idea, a sculpture to be admired rather than a toy to be handled and integrated into someone’s life. And that brings the question of what a doll really is and what dolls do. Are they age-limited, in terms of representation and user? Are Grandma Claus real dolls, if they do not reflect any girl’s identity, the way a Barbie may do? What about a boy-doll? Dolls are also a fertile terrain for feminist inquiry. What do men mean when they call a woman “doll”? Continue reading
If I had lots of money, I would start collecting precious cloth pieces and hang them on the wall as pieces of art. I can’t believe I missed this exhibit of Mayan textiles. I love Mayan textiles for their beauty, colors, symbolism and because I love Guatemala. Continue reading