B-Style, or black lifestyle, derives from American Hip Hop culture and has become increasingly popular in Japan. The Japanese show their appreciation for black style by making themselves as black as possible by tanning and they use popular hip hop videos as references to develop their style of dress. As mentioned in the video, they whole point of B-Style is to “not look Japanese”. While their admiration for black people is remarkable and appreciated (because I’m black  so I respect the love) I’m also curious as to how they’ve developed their interpretation of what black style is.  This has sparked my curiosity and I think it fits in well with many of the themes we’ve discussed in class.

What do you guys think of the Japanese interpretation of black style and Hip Hop culture? How do you feel about the perception of what is considered beautiful by those who engage in B-Style? Could it be rebellious to the Japanese standard of beauty? Are they trying to make a bigger statement with B-Style? Do you know of any other examples of this in other cultures/countries?

Lil Kim

Hey Guys! We hope that finals week goes well for everyone. It was mentioned in class on Wednesday that Marc Jacobs once gave Lil Kim a makeover. In fact, he dressed her for court in 2005 case. Apparently, Lil Kim and Marc Jacobs have a friendship that continued throughout her time spend behind bars. It is interesting to see that changes in the pictures that we found when we googled “Lil Kim” and when we googled “Lil Kim Marc Jacobs”. More interesting is the change of her dress. In all of Lil Kim’s pictures with Marc Jacobs, she is stylishly dressed. She still stays true to her brand of sex and sex appeal, but in what some would argue is a more tasteful manner. Moving away from the labels of “slutty” or “whorish”. She seems to show less skin but still manages to sell sex. One columnist for Elle magazine, used this sentence to notate Lil Kim’s transformation:”when she’s wearing her ladylike Marc Jacobs outfits.” When researching this matter, we found that there is no in between opinion for Lil Kim’s fashion, either you love it, hate it, or respect it! We found a blog in which the writer was no only disgusted by Lil Kim’s style but also overtaken by her relationship with Marc Jacobs. (http://thefashionistpost.blogspot.com/2007/03/marc-jacobs-is-dead-at-least-to-me.html) What we found more interesting than the blogger’s opinion was the opinion of one of her commenters: “I believe the reason marc jacobs has lil’ kim as his muse is because not the slutty thing she wears but her fearlessness to style and the risk she takes. Also he likes her music.” The commenter’s post raised a question among us: Could Lil Kim’s true brand be “risk-taker”? Sure she overuses sex, but even overall, her lyrics, her persona, does it all equal up to risk-taker? We are very interested on your thoughts on the matter. We would go as far as saying that Lil Kim’s change of her traditional dress when interacting with her friend, Marc Jacobs is another risk that she has taken. No one expects Lil Kim to every be fully clothed, especially not in a classy and chic dress, like the one pictured above. She does a wonderful job of encompassing the fashion, that is Marc Jacobs, and her personality, personal style, and brand (rather it is Sex or Risk-taking).

 

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Digital Models

Hey everyone,

Here is an article describing exactly what we discussed in class about using digital bodies. The comparison pictures are very interesting!

 

 

The Politics of the Veil

The word hijab comes from the Arabic language meaning “veil” and is used to describe the headscarves that cover parts of the faces of Muslim women. These scarves come in a variety of styles and colors and symbolize both religion and womanhood.

In the 2001 documentary, Beneath the Veil, a British journalist traveled across Afghanistan and highlighted many private salons in which women would beautify themselves by curling their hair or applying make-up. Woman would leave these homes with eyeliner and lipstick on beneath their covering. Even beauty magazines and mirrors had to be hidden or buried in fear that they would be caught. Should this be seen as oppressive? In the readings “The Discourse of the Veil” and “The Veil in Their Minds and On Our Heads” the authors explain how Western society isn’t accepting of the veil and finds it oppressive to women simply because its different from our culture. They also say racism and ignorance play a large role. Would a good example of this be Western civilization’s complete indifference to nuns, who are primarily white, dressing modestly?

Thinking further into this topic of veiling among women in Muslim societies, one can begin to think about other contexts in which veiling of women are prevalent. Veiling is really everywhere such as its use on brides, nuns, during church or praying, among Latin American cultures during funerals and other religious events, and many other contexts. Why is veiling then so harshly stigmatized with regards to Muslim women? We already went through some examples in class, but perhaps the real issue is the segregation of men and women. In all of the previous examples, women are not necessarily being oppressed, but they are donning different attire than the men. Do you think the veil would be such a big deal if say both men and women had to wear it? It’s important to keep in mind that regardless of the type of clothing worn, men will oppress women if they want to. Women are much more free to wear what they wish in America, for example, but face ongoing discrimination and violence because of their gender. For women who choose to wear the veil in the U.S., could the veil really be a form of resistance against Western cultural norms then?

If beauty is a quality of the highest aesthetic and moral feeling and for some entail “aliveness” as the Ngyuen reading of last week suggested, then what ideas about beauty does the Burqa entail and how important is a school focused on beauty in Afghanistan? We discussed these questions in class as well but to further expatiate on these ideas, it is important to view the Burqa not solely as an item of clothing that is independently fashioned for religious purposes but in addition, an item that bears a political charge . The authors of these readings collectively argue that the Burqa represents deprivation, deindividuation, and deficiency, yet numerous women have voiced a clear disagreement with this interpretation. In this piece that is centered on beauty, we see that the women have established themselves as full participants in society even with their Burqa and express their “aliveness” by putting efforts into the production of their beauty. Various examples are given in the article of this situation, which makes one wonder how important beauty is in geopolitics and what political statements does it infer in a society that limits the participation and self expression of females. Is it humane to limit such expression of beauty? And how is beauty translated in this transnational context?

If interested, click here to watch the Beneath the Veil Documentary: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=beneath+the+veil+documentary&oq=Beneath+the+Veil&aq=2&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_sm=c&gs_upl=393415l396763l0l397975l16l15l0l8l8l0l242l1222l0.3.3l6l0

Globel Economics of Fashion- Alethea and Chelsey

Global Economies of Fashion

The value and emphasis placed on fashion vary from culture to culture and these weeks readings on the global economies of fashion reiterate that very phenomenon. Wilson, Ko and Gondola all provided incredible insight in regards to fashion and the impact a garment, brand or style of dress has on a community. It’s necessary to consider in learning about the politics of fashion that what may be seen one way in one particular culture may not be seen the same as it is in a different culture and that ambiguity plays a huge role in the politics of fashion.

The author Verity Wilson discusses the Chinese textiles from 1850 to the present.  She stresses how the dragon robe is an ambiguous garment. The garment is ambiguous because of the multiple meanings it has acquired throughout history. In the eighteenth century it was worn solely by men and was a way to identify a man of power who was not to be trusted. The robe was also worn be bridegrooms before their wedding. The Catholic missionaries wore the robe as a formal garment. It was not a required article of clothing so it transitioned into elaborate wear.  Wilson also investigates how the production method of the robe played a major influence on its value and worth. The customer seemed to be more pleased if they knew the garment had been hand made.  In the present dragon robes are souvenirs. This garment is a way for non-native individuals to take a piece of what they feel represents the Chinese culture home.

What are some other garments/items that have multiple meanings?

 

Dorothy Ko examines how high heels, platforms and lotus shoes function in society. She begins with an example from the classic Chinese film Wild Rose from 1932. A young girl has to impress a bourgeois family to gain permission to stay in their mansion. She does a complete makeover and is wearing heels. She is so frustrated with the clothing, shoes and almost falling on her face that she lifts her skirt up in a room full of graceful guests. The young girl is thrown out of the house for her actions and the camera zooms in on the high heels she discards on the floor.  This film is mentioned to show “the class division in the China’s foreign and domestic relations” (Ko, 141). High heels present both a positive and negative relationship between modern femininity and historical time.    

What role does shoes play in your daily dress? Are they extremely important or are they the least significant part of your outfit? What do high heels represent?

 

The final reading titled Dream and Drama: The Search for Elegance among Congolese Youth by Ch. Didier Gondola gave incredible insight on the lifestyles of the mikilistes or Sapeurs of Congo. The La SAPE represents a way of life; La SAPE stands for “La Societe des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes”(society of atmosphere setters and elegant people) and through sape, fashion presides over everything. They are Congolese males who usually have humble occupations as carpenters, drivers, servants, and some are unemployed. Sapeurs also live troublesome lives as thieves, squatters, and other illegal occupations. However, despite their environment and circumstances, the Sapeurs aspire to live the “European dream” that is unattainable in Africa. Their ultimate goal is to reach a Europe because it consummates their entrance into adulthood. The European city represents a utopia to the Congolese.

“The mikiliste is an individual who first experiences Europe, his Europe, in Africa” (Didier, 28).

The clothing these men of the Congo wear provides an escape from their social circumstances and their image and they way they are perceived is extremely important to them. The Sapeurs (mikilistes) use their bodies as a “social metaphor” in which they portray themselves how they want to be seen by others, which is as grand and, essentially, more than what they are. According to Gondola, the mikiliste possess a psychological attachment to clothing because they will acquire griffe (labels) at any cost in order to fulfill his aspiration to live the “European dream”; if it means skipping a rent payment or if they have to sell drugs to afford the designer suit, they will do it. They are fueled by their desires to obtain expensive European labels because the aesthetic is more desirable and they want to be admired. While they can never fully escape who they are through sape, they are determined to provide an illusion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rnV791AAWw&feature=related

What do you all make of the mentality held by the Sapeurs of the Congo? Is it superficial? Misleading? Or should it not matter what/why they choose to spend the money they do on their clothing? What’s your opinion of their obsession of European labels? Could it be seen as their abandonment of their heritage or do you see it as their culture? Is this type of consumption problematic (generally speaking)? Do you know of any other cultures, groups, etc., that possess a superficial mentality? What role does colonization have in all of this? Do you see that impact as negative or positive? What is your opinion on Gondola’s synopsis of the Sapeurs?

Clothing as Symbolic Allegiance

People manipulate objects such as clothes in defining themselves.” – Emma Tarlo

       In the readings, Tarlo discussed Gandhi’s desire to unite India via a national uniform, consisting of khadi fabric and (as they later became known) Gandhi caps. Clothing can be a powerful symbol of difference or assimilation, and history is full of examples of clothing being used in a political context.

Though the wearing of this fabric was intended to be equalizing, it soon became a very subtle status symbol. Rather than denoting status via the type of fabric or style of clothing being worn, very subtle differences in fabric quality began to indicate wealth and social standing. Additionally, the very poor struggled to afford khadi of any quality, further stratifying people. Some even began making khadi into Western style clothes. The “problem of what to wear” became a national concern, and the social requirement to wear this fabric undermined its original message. It was no longer a representation of a united belief in Indian independence, but rather the uniform of nationalism.

This idea that a particular clothing style or manner of dress can somehow be a symbol of morality has come up repeatedly in American history. During World War Two, when fabric was rationed to the public to help the war effort, women’s fashion began to favor slimmer silhouettes and shorter hemlines (not too short – it was still the 1940s). Girdles were also less common for a time, as the materials had to be used to make war equipment, and so clothes for women had structured waists to compensate. Due to women working in factories, pants were worn openly for the first time due to their functionality. Most scandalously, the bikini’s owes its invention in part to these fabric rations, given that the previous style was full coverage with a little skirt around the hips. Because of all these years of rationing, which continued for a few years after the war as the economy recovered, Dior’s “New Look” was met with shocked criticism by some, who saw it as an affront to national values. However, women were drawn to the new style, and it eventually won out.

       During the Cold War years, when everyone who stood out was at risk of being accused of being a Communist, modesty and conformity were the name of the game. There were clear codes of behavior, as spelled out in the video below, and others like it. Modern media depictions of this era emphasize conformity and traditional family roles, and correcting the behavior of others seems to be a recurring theme.

Ten years later, we have one of the better examples of Americans rebelling via their clothing. The 1960s were fraught with political protests and a national push toward social change. The wardrobe of the hippie movement both highlighted their difference of opinion and alienated them from those who stuck to mainstream values and wore more modest clothing. Jackie Kennedy’s conservative suits and prim hats are a strong example of this style which aligned itself with tradition.

Clothing is repeatedly employed to reflect the wearer’s social values, and differentiate the wearer from others who do not share in their beliefs. The use of khandi fabric separated those who stood for Indian independence from those who still seemed to outwardly side with the British. Wearing too much excess fabric as a woman during World War Two could be taken as one not supporting the war effort, and, by extension, the nation. Swaying too much from prescribed values, via clothing or otherwise, during the height of the Cold War could get a person branded a communist. Do any modern examples exist of people showing loyalty (or disloyalty) through clothing, in the United States or elsewhere?

Our trip to Mario Tricoci Spa and Salon, Pre-party, and Fashion Show

About one month ago, I received an email from Mario Tricoci Spa and Salon, asking people to enter their Glam Contest. All hopefuls were asked to submit their best glammed up, night on the town photo. The winner would receive four certificates for her and friends to get their makeup done, hair washed blow dried and styled, and VIP entrance to a pre-fashion show party and fashion show. I figured I should give it a shot, so I entered and won!
Two weeks ago today, October 19th, my friends and I made the trip to Chicago to get glammed up at Mario Tricoci. I have to admit I was a little nervous that something could go wrong after driving two hours to get to the spa. But the woman who I’d been in contact with ensured me that the only thing I needed to worry about was what to wear. And she was right because everything went so smoothly. My mom also met us at the spa to get her hair and makeup done and we all had a really fun time.
After the spa came the pre-party and fashion show. My friends and I changed from our casual attire into blouses, jeans, and heels. And once we made it into the pre-party we blended right in. Photographers took pictures of us and asked what agencies we worked for. It was pretty funny. And right before we were seated for the fashion show we took a picture with Mario Tricoci himself.
To our pleasant surprise while we were trying to find seats toward the back we stumbled upon our names taped to chairs in the front row. From the perfect seats, we watched five Chicago designers display their latest fashion. Since I’d never been to a fashion show before, and surely never sat in the front row, it was such a cool experience.

Hipster or Homo?

Gawker recently posted an article on “how to tell the difference between a hipster and a gay.” The article was written apparently in response to one reader’s inquiry regarding the latter question, claiming “”hipsterdom has permanently destroyed my gaydar” [revealing very clearly that the reader’s gaydar was not very strong in the first place]. Gawker initially posed the question to a large audience, and then created the article by compiling the ‘best’ answers. Here is what they said:

1. “Usually I go by the old standard: if he makes out with boys, he’s gay. Sadly, the hipsters have ruined THAT theorum as well.” –Colonel Mustard

            2. “Gays generally stick to the clears when drinking such as vodka and gin. Straights prefer bourbon and whiskey. Single malt scotch though is the for both groups.”        –Regimentkhaki 

          3. “I’d go with the muscle tone thing. The pretty young gay-boys may want to look like waifs on the outside, but there’s 30 hours a week at David Barton underneath those skinny jeans.” –Lionel Mandrake

          4. “Facial hair: mountain-man beard=straight, Olivier Theyskens face-pubes=gay. –beefer

          5. “Hairstyle Asymmetricality: over 25%=gay.” –beefer

         6. “Eyebrows: Jello Biafra dramatic=straight, Liza Minnelli arches=gay.” –beefer

        7. “If they ride fixed gear than it is more than 90% likely that they are straight.” –Frannyincognito 

Notice that most of what was said involved arbitrary distinctions of aesthetics and fashion, although I do give credit to answers 1 and 2 for discussing cultural/habitual distinctions, rather than style. Clearly people’s fashions choices indicate their moral lifestyles; their aesthetic choices are used as “social hieroglyphics” for others.  Two other aspects of this article stick out to me: firstly, and most saliently, is the complete dominance of men. Why, when speaking about either hipsters or gays, weren’t women included in either group? It boggles the mind. The exclusion of women from both groups demonstrates the sexism that pervades LGBTQ  discussions so often. Even the word ‘gay’ is synonymous with both homosexual men and homosexual men and women together, but ‘lesbian’ is never, ever used to refer to men or groups other than women.

The second aspect of this article that mismatched along similar lines to the first, is why ostensible ‘hipsters’ and gays are mutually exclusive categories. The entire article bases its premise off trying to find divisions between two groups that are very often one and the same. (Note to the reader: There is no real definition of a ‘hipster,’ but since the article is based on the term I’m going to use it. Here I am using ‘hipster’ to refer to the crowd that otherwise has no positively identifying name – the ‘Modern Hippie,’ if you will. For the purpose of this discussion I am not using ‘hipster’ in its derogatory sense, since no one likes to actually call themselves a hipster. I’m confident you all know the group I’m talking about, even though it’s very hard to articulate in words that go beyond fashion choice.) Why can’t a hipster be gay? Or vice versa? That no one called attention to this logical fallacy, or at least none that Gawker posted about, highlights the very real fact that the LGBTQ community are still wholly considered “The Other,” and therefore not at all integrated into social groups. Gays’ most salient identity is, obviously, their sexuality, and many people seem to think that the idea of someone LGBTQ-identified would ever include themselves in any other group, or look like “Us” (the non-Other), is preposterous. Furthermore, since the lines are supposedly now being blurred, Gawker felt it necessary to provide a place for people to redefine those lines, and put those gays back in their Other group. This article says a lot about where our culture is in the fight against sexism, fashion policing, and identity acceptance.

Response to G’s to Gents

I feel the reality show from G’s to Gents is an example of how those in society try to police the clothing of others that are viewed as a threat.  The men on this show were trying to better themselves.  The show stresses that inorder to become a complete package the clothing of these men must also change.  The clothing changes to what we know as business attire and their speech changed as well.  The men in their normal clothing are seen as dangerous and not suitable for society.  In order to pass and be accepted in society the men had to discard their chains, and baggy clothing.  The baggy clothing they wore is often associated with a lower economic and education status.  This is interesting to consider when we see individuals who wear clothing that isoutside of the norm.  Certain clothing is safe while others are viewed as dangerous.

On Tarlo

I find it so fascinating how our Tarlo reading from last week puts a different context into how anthropologists understand fashion and clothing. Rather than something that is easily dismissed as frivolous and feminine – unworthy of academic consideration – Tarlo believes that we should analyze clothes based on the wearer and why they chose to wear those things.

Take Mad Men, for example, one of my favorite shows on television. January Jones (who plays Betty Draper) talked about how these girdles and corsets that she slipped on for the show clipped her strides, fixed her posture and gave a certain waddle to her steps. It’s a further example of Zane’s quote: “power both inscribes and prescribes the body as it is inflected by the histories and dynamics of power relations, to reflect the positioning strategies of who sets the norm.”

Take, for example, a conflict between Sterling Cooper’s secretary, Joan, and Peggy, also a secretary but transitioning into a role as a copywriter for the ad agency. The clothes they wear (or choose not to) is a clear indicative of how they want to navigate themselves through the world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWn1TFFgsxE

Or take for example, Betty Draper, the show’s tragic housewife. Throughout the 3rd season, she’s been trying to find a way out of her marriage and confront her husband’s infidelity. But during a last-minute vacation to Rome, she turns to role-playing to fix – even if only temporarily – her relationship with her husband.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXnoPasZdkA

When they return home, Betty is back to cleaning the house and taking care of the kids. But for the first couple of days she flitters around her home in a beautiful print dress she picked up in Italy – trying to remind herself of how happy she was with her husband. But it all goes back to the way things were – she’s stuck at the house, and Don is out doing whatever and whoever he wants, and Betty – in her European dress – sits on her sofa,  full of regret.

What I want to ask to our class is something very basic – how do we in this post-feminist, post-modernist, post-etc. world choose what we wear and why do we wear it? Is it all that different from the 1960s? Or do some things just stay the same?

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