Saturday, 26 June 2010
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Sunday, 20 June 2010
As the article explains, there are several reasons to why the retailers haven't supplied their customers with the clothes they want. Bigger sizes are more expensive to make as they require wider bolts of fabric, which increases production costs. They are more expensive to stock, and more difficult to design. It is hard to tell how a plus-sized person's weight is distributed, which makes the issue of fit difficult to calculate, or in other words, one size doesn't fit all. For these reasons, many pieces of clothing in the plus-sized market never find a home. All of these explanations sound reasonable enough, but the plus-sized customer is out there now, wanting to spend money on clothes. What worries me is that the clothing retailers might rely on the assumption that plus-sized women want to be tricked into the same mass-production trap as the rest of the women in the Western world: that more availability is automatically a good thing for the customer, and that mass-market production offers viable options to individuals in the first place. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the world of "normal"-sized clothing market, more is often less: less quality, less fit, less design. In the case of the plus-sized market though, there doesn't seem to be all that much fit or design to even start with, which indicates a special bargaining position for the plus-sized clientele. They ought to demand more than what is being offered to their "normal"-sized counterparts.
For a few years now, as mass-market clothing retailers have gained more and more of a foothold in women's minds and wallets, the trends that these retailers have offered have ranged anywhere from A-shaped tunics, boyfriend jeans, oversized blazers and shirts to harem pants and jersey sack dresses. What I am getting at here is the utter shapelessness of the world of clothing today, the lack of fit and the lack of proper tailoring. We are learning to associate fit with discomfort, and anything shapeless with functionality. I believe we are being fooled into thinking that women with or without shape will buy in terms of availability, not on the basis of need followed by demands of quality. The connotations of the NYT article suggest that the plus-sized market is still out there to be exploited in the same manner as the "normal"-sized market, even when women with extreme figures (be it over- or underweight, petite, tall or what have you) are in desperate need for properly fitting clothes.
At the end of the day, however, women everywhere, regarless of their size and shape, need to be able to purchase clothes - preferably, clothes that fit. I sincerely hope that the boost in the plus-sized market means that the so-called difficulties in designing plus-sized clothes means that more effort will be put into the design and production of the garments in question. This might eventually lead to levels of decent quality. But how many shapeless items are produced and wasted before the retailers might wake up? Looking at the "normal"-sized market, that wake-up call there is long overdue. The more customers settle for mediocre products, the less variety there really is for them to choose from. Here's to hoping that the plus-sized customer knows what she wants, and isn't afraid to demand it. If not, the clothing retailers will simply tap into a new bottomless well of shopping-mania, fostered by women whose size makes them the perfect target for the clothing industry today.
Shapeless sack dress: Selected Femme
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
I have been a little absent-minded recently. The World Cup (or any international football event) does this to me every time: I spend all my time watching football (I refuse to use to word 'soccer').
In addition there is the gardening project, which has taken an ugly turn. I have found myself in the midst of Snail Wars of the Worst Kind. Not only did my spinach and lettuce bolt in the heat a few weeks back, but whatever was left was devoured by the slimy suckers, regardless of the presence of multiple beer traps. As I ripped my bolted, ravaged greens off the ground today, I discovered anywhere from 30 to 40 slugs under the leaves that were still there, plus a dozen or so in the beer traps. It was not a pretty sight. Even beans and peas are under attack, which to me sounds odd. It seems that the only survivors are the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the onions and the zucchinis, for now anyway. I might also be able to salvage some of the broccolis and beans, but that remains to be seen. I was hoping to go all organic with whatever pest-fighting issues might arise, but the beer traps are simply not doing enough. I might get some copper wire tomorrow, to see if that might work. I really don't want to start using industrial pesticides just yet.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
That anecdote aside, my previous post on identity and clothes has attracted many insightful comments. It turns out that some of you are just as annoyed as I am about the assumed power of clothes in relation to our identities, and some reminded me that whether we like it or not, our appearances do matter in the way others see us. I guess it comes down to asking what we mean by identity - is it "I" as the subject, or "I" as the object, or are those two inseparable to begin with? Clearly we can't choose the way others see us, but can we choose the way we see ourselves? Or in other words, how much does the perception of others shape the way we portray (and see) ourselves? Do we have a say in the matter?
What does this mean? I guess it could mean that our identities do shape the way we dress, and if our identities are strong, they shine through our clothes. The way others see our style can help us be more at ease with what we like and wear. In some cases, the clothes don't really matter all that much. Confident style icons like Kate Moss or Charlotte Gainsbourg could wear a garbage bag, and they'd still ooze effortless cool. But put shy and awkward Kristen Stewart in a Proenza Schouler look straight off the runway, and she looks completely out of place and costume-y. And then you have someone like Debrahlee Lorenzana, who wore well-tailored suits and turtlenecks to work and got fired for distracting her male co-workers. Her 32DD curves made it practically impossible for her to control the way others saw her, and she lost her job. So what matters in the end? Our personalities? Our choices? Our sense of self-esteem? Our figures? The eyes of others? Or my personal favourite, all of the above?
I still think it is essential to wear what one loves. The type of style identity that shines through is the one that revolves around what we like and cherish. Trying too hard shows. Being comfortable in our own bodies matters an awful lot, too. Even if my clothing gave my nationality away yesterday, I still hesitate to say that people can tell who I am on the basis of my clothes. Add my accent, the way I carry myself, and the strange book purchase, and perhaps then we might be getting somewhere.
Monday, 7 June 2010
Aneri of Cat's Meow writes a lot about minimalism and the meaninglessness of "stuff", and her recent post on why we buy is as thought-provoking as anything I have read on the topic of shopping. She argues that "[w]e think we have to express our personality through our purchases. We buy bohemian, intellectual, smart, sexy, adventurous, sporty, and so on. If you think about how many aspects there are to each individual personality, it naturally follows that we will have closets bursting with clothes and book shelves ready to topple over under the weight."
Aneri's words echoed in my head as I read The NYT Book Review yesterday. It acquainted me with two new books about shopping. One, The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, The Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant links shopping and clothes with identity, and the other, Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella looks at the ugly side of the same issue and how compulsive shopping can become a hindrance to one's identity and self.
If our lives revolve around experimenting with our identities with the help of clothes, how do we keep track of what makes us "us"? Life, then, becomes a role play of sorts, as Avis Cardella's experiences suggest: "How can a woman with a closet so full feel so empty inside?" Our whole existence can turn into the-chicken-or-the-egg type of debate: which comes first, our identity, or our clothes that shape and conrol it? If we use clothes to discover new identities, our "various selves", what does that say about us and our inner worlds? To me, it says a whole lotta nothing. The more I think about the concept of linking identity with the clothes I wear, the more I dislike the connection. I am not interested in "developing my identity through my clothes", because to be honest, there is no reason why a couple of pieces of fabric would have the power to say anything about me to myself. The outside world can interpret what I wear in any way they like, but you know what, I just like clothes, and that's why I wear them. I think my clothes are pretty, and I don't need this nonsense about identity to justify what I like.
Friday, 4 June 2010
In case I haven't mentioned (at least twice) how much I hate wearing shoes in the summertime, let me be clear: I hate wearing shoes in the summertime. I don't know what it is, but the shoes that fit perfectly and are usually comfortable, become a major nuisance in warm weather. My feet are prone to blisters from shoes that couldn't fit any better. If I could, I'd go barefoot all summer long. It turns out though that other people don't like people who don't wear shoes.
P.S. In case you are in Ithaca tomorrow, come say hello to Lynn and me! We are selling Lynn's handmade jewellery at the craft show. Look for JBL Designs, and there we'll be!
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
One of the small-but-oh-so-interesting details that has emerged from my research on mental asylums has been my discovery of asylum postcards and the people who collect them. Back in the golden age of asylums, the general public viewed mental asylums as manifestations of magnificient architecture. Institutionalization was common and visible. Towns took pride in the asylums their outskirts hosted, and postcards were printed by the hundreds.
The postcard pictures above are from Christopher Payne's wonderful book, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals. The ones below are the start of my own collection of these unique postcards. Chris found these two at a local antique store. They were sent to Mrs K. D. Barnes from her daughter in 1917.
I haven't even attempted to write fiction since, apart from this current project, which I am probably just too scared of to continue. I have grown to appreciate and enjoy non-fiction writing, but the process of doing reserch is more appealing to me than the actual process of writing. I wonder if I can ever love writing again, the way I did when I was a child. Who knows. I guess it would be an awful shame to let one old teacher dictate what I can or cannot write today.
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
This is what Life Magazine had us covet in 1952 (and after having seen this photo a few days ago, I desperately want a ponytail):