This post’s title says it all.
Category Archives: SARTORIAL INDULGENCES
There’s certainly no shortage of women’s clothing boutiques in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, but Vera Ng’s We the People (156 Stanton, at Suffolk) is unique because its reason for being isn’t simply to sell clothes. “Ng created We the People as a safe haven for emerging designers. Much more than a boutique, the space acts as a consultancy, communal clubhouse, and showroom, all in one.” To that end, We the People has been an important launching pad for new and mostly local designers, as well as a point of knowledge transfer among designers about where to find the best zippers, which new sewing room has just opened, etc. Such information is exchanged over dinners hosted by Vera. How cool is that?
I was introduced to Vera and her lovely store yesterday afternoon while killing time waiting for a table at Clinton Street Bakery with my good friend Thuy Linh (whose forthcoming book is, in part, about the social and political economic histories that led to the opening of Asian-run boutiques like Vera’s). While I waited for Thuy Linh to try on an EKG tank top by LauraLou (on sale for $26.60), Vera and I talked about how business has been since they opened in May and also about the Made in Midtown project which, it seems to me, the community-based mission of We the People is so closely aligned. While Vera admits business has been a little slow, We the People has already gotten wonderful press in a number of blogs including New York Magazine’s The Cut, Daily Candy, and Racked so she has reason to be optimistic. (Unlike these other sites, Threadbared is not in the habit of profiling stores but Vera’s mission is so wonderful that I had to do a small post about it.)
By the way, if you dash into We the People while waiting for your table at Clinton Street Bakery or any other nearby restaurant, watch your time. The 30 minute wait went by way too fast while we were chatting with Vera and pawing at the amazing clothes on stock and so we lost our table. Blast.
I generally don’t wear hats. I rarely use hair pins or barrettes. I mostly wear my hair down and often without hair products. But I’d change my unadorned head policy for this Philip Treacy sculptural headpiece which makes me all kinds of happy.
Both Minh-Ha and I are neck-deep in manuscript writing, so while there are some things I’d love to write about (the new prison memoir with the sartorial title Orange Is The New Black, for instance), I’ve got to concentrate on Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Jennifer Gonzalez’s Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art, and ao dai calendars. (I promise it will someday make sense.) So, for our momentous 200th post, I’m doing the rare outfit post!
I’ve been wearing this outfit for the last five days, working in the garden and writing at the library. (I changed my clothes today, though I still look like an ’80s throwback. And even though she’s keeping the same hours as me, I’m betting Minh-Ha is not wearing the same thing day after day…) You can’t see my red cowboy boots with the bas relief of guachos roping a calf in this photograph, purchased in 2003 at the Ashby BART Flea Market with former Maximumrocknroll coordinator and filmmaker Arwen Curry, but rest assured these are awesome. My Lux black jeans are an Urban Outfitters buy from 2004; about a month after I bought these in Ann Arbor during my postdoctoral stint (the UO was across the street from my office!), I slipped on some ice walking to campus from my house and ripped a big hole from seam to seam. You can sort of see my carabiner, which carries my keys, stuffed into my right pocket.
I bought this black leather two-row studded belt in 1993, I think, after a year of trying to resist this punk rock staple of “the uniform.” This means that my belt is almost as old as my undergraduate students! There’s also a peek of a gray ribbed tank top I bought at a Gap outlet in Tuscola during an outing with friends to tiny Arcola’s El Taco Tako (also home to the recently closed Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum), that also included a visit to a giant barn dubbed Amishland and in which we found that all the other visitors –all three of them– were also Asian. And, that apparently you can buy a cozy for any appliance you can name (like a microwave)! The sweatshirt I bought last year from Urban Outfitters during one of those periods of depressive online shopping, which happens to me quite a lot here in the cornfields. It’s super-soft and the sleeves extra-long, which is nice for keeping my hands warm while typing or blotting my eyes when I’m so allergic that tears are streaming down my face. The scarf is one I’d had since high school, let’s say 1991, junior year.
I had my girlfriend cut my hair, which had been for several years long, long, and long, with a thick fringe of bangs. I’ve done hair this short before, and always I like to think that I look like a teen-aged skater from the 1980s classics Thrashin’ or Gleaming the Cube (which even has a post-Vietnam War storyline, with refugee intrigue!). I was gratified last week when I stepped into the office of a friend-colleague, the stylish and smart J.R., who greeted me with, “You have my hair from 1987! Where’s your skateboard?”
Hair is of course a hugely significant metaphor and medium for “reading” race, nation (the premise that you can tell someone is “fresh off the boat” by the cut of their hair), gender, and sexuality, and in the past I’ve written about my hair in particular quite a lot. I’m not going to do that now, except to note that yes, I do realize that I am now wearing one of a handful of the most recognizable contemporary forms of “dyke hair,” and yes, it is something of a relief to not have to wash my old head of hair or feel the echo of a ponytail on my scalp. Instead, I’ll just point to the zine Dykes and Their Hair, by Teresa Chun-Wen Cheng and available for download from The Queer Zine Archive Project, which offers some succinct but smart commentary on how so many forms of “dyke hair” are racialized (these depend on not having super-curly hair, for instance) and a good chuckle (or more).
As Cheng observes, “The following ‘exhibit’ showcases normalized dyke hair styles that sometimes act as very public hints into reading someone’s sexuality (do so at your own risk. heh.). […] Thing is, only certain hair styles have had the privilege of making it into the dyke category. Because these particular hair styles have been normalized and become signs, the dykes and the queers who cannot and/or choose not to wear the styles become invisible even within their own communities.”
I’m slammed this week, and though I do have some real posts around here somewhere, I’m going with this amazing eBay auction for an original copy (smilingly well aware of all the tensions holding those two terms together) of Madonna’s amazing jacket from 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan, still her best performance on film to date. Liz from No Good For Me had been shaking her digital fist at the fates that robbed her of the opportunity to purchase this replica –the limited-time offer discovered while “flipping” through back issues of Spin, for just $54.95! — when a reader offered to sell it to her for five million, and then put it on eBay instead.
Tragically, it’s a size L, which is too big for me. But this does make think that perhaps if I want it enough, the Internetz will offer up to me another sartorial miracle. In the meanwhile, those of you who’ve been desperately searching for this jacket, the bidding war is on!
The Fake Sartorialist put Minh-Ha and I into his Magic Box and voila — we are Fake Sartorialized, complete with a small story about our time-traveling research forays! Minh-Ha of course wrote about the dust-up between the Sartorialist and the Fake Sartorialist some weeks ago (as she brilliantly points out, “the ‘fake’ in the Fake Sartorialist stands for ‘the little guy’ against the cultural and social giants that the Sartorialist aligns himself with and represents. Fakeness sets right and secures the democratic socioeconomic relations the Internet is supposed to foment”). Having enjoyed his work, I jumped at the chance to be rendered otherwise when I noticed that he’s inviting submissions. (You can send a photograph to get transformed too!)
I’m sure Minh-Ha will have smart things to say about the “democraticization of fashion” here (gushing on the phone about the story’s setting –hanging out with Alexander Graham Bell– Minh-Ha says, “It’s great that we’re hanging out with someone who invented a communication technology!”), but I’m still at the “Yippeee!” phase (in real life I would totally wear that outfit, with the brocade and the tweed and the mushroom-turned-inside-out hat all at once). Thank you, Eduardo!