Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Project Runway Redux

I've been thinking more about the PR finale, specifically the blogosphere/fans' response to Seth Aaron's win--and his inspiration. I'm pretty disturbed by the way people dismiss any problems with his stated inspiration--1940s German/Russian military. Its very clear that many viewers judge the clothing based on who they think is the nicest person on the show, and that many aren't really that interested in fashion. While that can be frustrating, it's neither surprising nor upsetting in the broader scheme of things.

The fact that this fandom/identification structures people's relationship to Seth Aaron's inspiration is more troubling. Most commenters and bloggers alike dismiss it, claiming (erroneously) that fashion has no relationship to politics, that it's perfectly OK to find Nazis stylish, that people who object are merely oversensitive. Arguing that Seth Aaron is a nice family man who isn't a Nazi but recognized their stylish attire misses the point and oversimplifies history. Now I know that history is generally misunderstood and ignored in a culture of the perpetual present, where books are considered dull and text messaging cool, but I am disturbed that so many people have such a limited knowledge of the Third Reich, particularly given its warnings to all of us about the confluence of modernity, style and bigotry. Style was a central part of the Third Reich, not an inadvertent supplement, an expression of National Socialist ideology and part of its seductive power. While more a journalist that an academic, Susan Sontag recognized this synthesis of style and ideology in "Fascinating Fascism," and this phenomenon has been long accepted as one of Nazism's fundamental structures. The cultural ambivalence surrounding Nazi texts like Leni Reifenstahl's Triumph of the Will testifies to the problems of approaching Nazi "style" on purely aesthetic grounds. Style here is not just an attractive distraction but something infinitely more problematic. New German Cinema's exploration of the nation's problematic past, the taint of Nazism and the willingness of so many to follow or accept the Third Reich also considers the problem of this regime's use of style, glamour and aesthetics, so it's hardly something associated with an arcane academic cult--or "oversensitive" PR viewers.

The escalation of the society of the spectacle and the fragmentation of the media into small niche markets both exacerbate the tendency to love the surface and claim it expresses and hides nothing. Obviously, this is not the case--I'm as easily distracted by a bright trinket as anybody, maybe more so, but I'm aware images have power. Obviously I don't think Seth Aaron is a Nazi--I doubt anybody thinks that. I think it's more a problem that he could select such a style as an inspiration and not recognize its clear ideological implications (he actually seemed quite pleased when he mentioned it). This lack of knowledge and what it says about our culture disturbs me--along with the insults hurled at people who dare mention genocide, and those who claim that most Germans weren't really Nazis but had no option other than going along with the flow. That both comments could be made so frequently, that the public has such a poor understanding of important recent history--and that nobody seems to be aware of the parallels between this way of thinking and a mindset that allowed Hitler to be elected Chancellor is shocking. I'm not saying we're all like those Germans who joined the party, of course, but I think we need to understand that some styles *are* political (Soviet Socialist Realism is another) and others may just be fun. But the mass ornament of fascism weds style and ideology at such a fundamental level it can never be just an inspiration without some of those political connotations.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ebay Guilt

So today I won an auction on a Jeffrey Monteiro black dress that I've wanted for a while--the only ones in the sample sale were in 2-4. I also bought a pair of tan Mayle wedges from SS 06--the ones I have in black and ivory and am afraid I'll wear to death--there was a BIN and I didn't want to lose them. Both are items I like and will wear, but along with the Zac Posen dress, Liberty nightie and a cheap Urban Outfitters t-shirt, I've spent a lot more this weekend than I should. Granted, ebay is hit or miss--the nature of the beast is that nothing will come up for months. I had not bought anything there for six months, then I get a ring, then suddenly its five items in a week, although one was tights. But, still, I'm feeling bad. I keep meaning to really cut back on spending--but it can be tough when items come up for auction that you know you may not see again in your size.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Zac Posen for Target

I'm pleased I went to the Target pop up shop a couple of weeks ago even though it was so heavily picked over. Looking at what was left allowed me to get some sense of sizing (very small with the exception of the brocade dress which seemed to run a little big) and the quality of the items. Having felt the polyester used for the tape skirt which I thought was a brushed cotton/washed silk blend), I was also prepared to get the dress this morning.

Last night, I went to and reloaded the page after midnight. Evidently they don't make the stock available until deep in the night/early in the morning as nothing was listed by the time I went to bed sometime after 1 am. I got up reasonably early this morning to go to a baby shower, checked and discovered much of the stock had already sold out! I have never ordered anything from Target online before but even Liberty seemed to be available for longer than this line. Fortunately I got the tape dress, but only in an XL as that was all that was left. I'm sure it will be too big--I am probably a L--but it's better than finding only S and XS in stock. The other dress I was interested in--the tiger print sailor dress had sold out too, and my other possibility--the pink polka dot print dress was available in a full run. I pondered getting the latter, but decided to be cautious. It's a good job I'm not regretting it, because that one has gone too. I did order the reissue of the cotton nightie I wanted from the Liberty collaboration (free shipping with the snap tab dress) but neither will ship until mid June. Hopefully I'll be billed later (I ordered through my amazon account).

There is a Target near me but it's always horribly picked over--indeed, all the NYC Targets have empty shelves and spotty merchandise. One friend returned two of the Liberty pillows her mother had bought for her in Michigan (where the stock was abundant) to the Queens Center store and was quickly accosted by two women in the parking lot who wanted to buy them from her for at least twice the price. I don't know why Target's inventory is distributed so bizarrely. I'm sure the tab dress, tiger print dress and others are widely available in many Targets where demand is lower, but maybe this is all deliberate, to create a sense of scarcity.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Project Runway Finale

I just watched last night's Project Runway finale (while recording it to DVD to send to my friend Jane in Germany). I was sorely underwhelmed by all three finalists--Mila should never have been there (arguaby never belonged on the show with her Talbots-does-Maria Cornejo aesthetic), Seth Aaron's designs looked straight out of a bad taste 80s retro, over-influenced by whoever actually designs Gwen Stefani's Lamb line (snore) and Emilio's looked like Michael Kors. All were boring, dated and derivative. Emilio was the biggest disappointment as he had shown some originality, made some pretty dresses and had a way with prints which he jettisoned completely. I'd seen this season as between him and Jay (who had the best collection, albeit with flaws), but producers clearly wanted Seth Aaron and Mila there for reasons that mystify me. It's no secret that there are many more talented designers out there than the market can withstand. I'd like to see them showcase more design, more sewing--as well as sharpen the casting. Judging by the responses in the blogosphere, I sense PR won't last much longer unless they return to their roots.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Writing lectures about the Cold War/HUAC/Blacklisting is pretty tiring. There's so much in the way of dates, names, publications and I want to deliver the conceptual frameworks and political debates, not bore my grad students. Three of the students are working on final papers on this very area so I'm obviously not able to skim the material, but too much detail makes for much boredom and the inability to set up parameters for critical inquiry.

So, I thought I'd add another blog post, complete with pictures of the lovely Peeps Furrvis, one of the sweetest girls I know, despite her moments of tortitude.

I'm even including a particularly unflattering picture Evan took of me holding Peeps, something she doesn't like despite her love for cuddles. I suppose it's undignified to pick her up--from her perspective of course. As you can see, she's a big cat.


I picked up my Bibi dress from the Post Office after class today. At first, I was a little worried--as I pulled it out of the bag, I thought it may just be too small. This dress is one I never tried on in the store, although I liked it from afar. I had liked the pale pink but I knew I'd ruin it with just one drop of coffee and while I liked the black, I didn't realize how much until it was way too late and the dress was long gone from the racks.

Fortunately, the dress fit. It is a little shorter than I had thought it would be but I love it nonetheless. Here are some none-too-great pictures of me wearing it this afternoon. I have to work out how to use the timer on my new camera rather than taking photos in an old mirror.

And here are a couple of bonus close ups of my fabulous Surface to Air flats, which are unbelievably comfortable.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Too much work

As the semester winds to its end, I'm shorter on time than I'd like. One casualty of the grading, conferences, etc. has clearly been this blog. My research has also taken a hit, but hopefully both will come back better and brighter in the next few weeks.

I had a couple of ebay score--I won a Bibi dress (which is curently at the post office). I'll pick it up tomorrow and I hope it fits. I also got an old Mayle black corduroy skirt ridiculously cheap. If it fits, it will be a useful addition to my fall and spring wardrobe. I'll update tomorrow, hopeully with pictures.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Sometimes the internet turns up sites that are so wonderful and involve such effort that they become totally sublime. The best are those that take a small topic (like lol cats and their language) and turn them into their own encyclopedias. While I should be writing a lecture, I found this:

It's a Karl Pilkington encyclopedia! If you watch the wondrous Ricky Gervais show, you'll enjoy this (I also believe it has some audio files attached).

Now, will I ever finish the 300 pages of reading I have to complete before my grad class tomorrow afternoon?


I just finished my taxes. I get a refund--not that large, but it is an improvement on paying in over $2,000 last year. It was, perhaps, not the ideal way to spend today--a beautiful, sunny and warm (high 60s-low 70s) spring day. But I had my usual Wednesday lunch with my friend Nelson, which is always so much fun. Last week, in the 90 degree day, we played hooky and went to the mall in Long Island. Today, we settled for yummy Thai food and good conversation. I so rarely have lunch with anybody, and it is so nice and civilized to take a break, eat and breathe.

I have to write my lecture for tomorrow tonight, but I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders, even though I have a lot of work to complete before the semester is over, now that I have the taxes filed.

My J. Crew sparkly sequin sweatshirt shipped today. I also have a Rachel Comey cardigan coming in the mail from Kick Pleat in Austin. It's a chunky sale item with cables and interesting holes (the Pyramid cardi). Evan is bound to laugh and tease me mercilessly for getting yet another cardigan--he'll ask me which number it is. I think he finds my cardigan fetish more amusing than my love of dresses, even though I wear all my cardigans to death.

Photos, I promise soon. I have to get back to work now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I have pretty large fingers with pretty small nails--not the most elegant features. When I first met Evan, I noticed what beautiful hands he has--perfect oval nails, long, graceful fingers. I've inherited my stocky paws from my mother (my father also has nice hands). Not wanting to draw more attention to them, I generally don't wear any rings (and I can't get many over my large knuckles).

Cindy introduced me to the joys of artisan and costume jewelry (I used to just wear earrings--when I remembered). As my interest grew, I started to rethink the ring dilemma. If I picked more proportional pieces, maybe I could pull it off? So, over the past few weeks, I've started building a very small collection of rings, dipping into the ebay vintage options as well as J. Crew's sale. Here, then, are my three rings, in order of purchase:

This beauty is from J.Crew's sale table--it's even cheaper now (I paid $29.99). I debuted it at the SCMS conference to several compliments. I wanted the earring version but they were just a tad too heavy for my ears.

I found this one on ebay. It's 10K gold and supposedly the pink sapphire is real (although I imagine it is man made). Nonetheless, it is pretty and maybe even a mite too big:

I got this one yesterday in J.Crew. I wanted the larger Duchess stone but it was way too large on. Like Goldilock's porridge, this one was just right. At $19.99, the price was perfect too.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Naughty Girl

While writing a lecture (in an increasingly hot apartment), I turned to see what was on sale at J. Crew. They currently have a 20% off promo on all t-shirts with free shipping. Even in NYC, much of their stock is not in stores (I suspect they distribute regionally). Try as I might, I could not resist the following sweatshirt--I've looked at it for a while and finally snapped. It may be dry clean only but I need some more sequins in my life--in a wearable form. I now hope there will be some decent spell of 60s weather so I can get some wear out of it. It doesn't ship until 4/22 so this heatwave will at least be over by then.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's 90 degrees

I just got in from school--and a rare extended lunch with a friend and have to shower. It's a beautiful day and the sun is really strong out there--although our preview of summer is but a blimp before we return to the 60s on Friday. I wore Katia to teach (with the ivory SS 06 wedges) but need to find a more summery dress to wear out to meet another friend tonight for coffee. As in the summer, I'm wondering what would be appropriate--it needs to be thin, not silk, drapy and with short sleeves--yes, I'm actually worried about getting burned.

I have to find an organic sunscreen--any tips would be welcomed. I can get away without it for a few more weeks but this weather reminds me that soon it will be a necessity.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My New Shoes

After I received my Surface to Air flats, I really, really wanted to get a pair of their almost iconic wedges. I'm a size 40 (occasionally 41) and most sites had already sold out of larger sizes. The bronze leather pair that would hae been my first choice appears to have been a fall special; the ivory suede wasn't available anywhere in any size above 39 so I opted for the black suede (the black leather, which Lambs Ear had in stock, was another $100+). was the only site to have them in my size so I registered, put them into my shopping cart and decided to sleep on it. As luck/fate would have it, I received a $50 coupon code from them the next day, and promptly took it as a good sign.

Buying shoes online--shoes I've not seen in a store and thus can't try on--is obviously somewhat risky. Tobi has free shipping so the return shipping would have been the only cost to swallow. But everything worked out well--the shoes fit, are nicely padded in the bottom and the arch is pitched perfectly. In sum, they are amazing shoes and will update my summer wardrobe perfectly.

Here they are: my own photos will follow--once I have the time to take some!

Today was hot enough to wear Bianca, a brown Inhabit cashmere cardi and Belda with a pair of tan Devotte flats. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the mid-80s before returning to a seasonable 59 (and rain) by the end of the week, so I have to think about what to wear while I still have a chance to pretend it's summer. It won't help the students concentrate, that's for sure. I have to praise my students for being so good today--they even stayed late as the film (Oldboy) ran over class time. But it is such a great film--and a favorite of so many of my students--that they stayed inside rather than leaving before the end. That's one of many reasons I like them so much.

Crazy, Crazy

So, in addition to all the work I've had recently, as well as the grading and my efforts to finish the book, I have been busy because I agreed to teach my dept. chair's grad theory class today. He's been so good to nme that I couldn't say no. So I've been working, not blogging, of late. But I want that book to be done and mailed within a week--if the grading doesn't intervene and spoil everything. I also have to file my FSA or lose the money and that has to be done this week as well. So much to do.

But I did get a few new fun things--in fact, I've been pretty bad. I got the Surface to Air wedge buckle sandals that have become something of a modern classic. While I haven't worn them out yet, they are comfortable and so pretty. I just don't know if they are up to a full day of teaching yet.

The weather was glorious today--I wore black and white Jemeen, lavender tights, lavender Club Monaco cashmere cardi and the ivory wedges from SS 06 with my Fall 2009 trench. The a/c in the building makes it chilly at times, hence the tights and cardi. Photos to follow--I promise.