Midday Coffee Break

Fashion was noted for its “emotionally vacant choir effect,” as well as references to a “goon squad” coming to town. Many interpreted that to “fascism,” but the Thin White Duke downplayed this interpretation in an interview saying that what he was trying to do was “move on a little from that Ray Davies concept of fashion, to suggest more of a gritted teeth determination and an unsuredness about why one’s doing it.”


Monday Morning Open Thread

Good morning, MTs. How was your weekend?

Fashion is on my mind today. I am fascinated by the semiotics of fashion, not that you could actually tell by looking at me, as I’m by and large loathe to put my fascination to the retail test. I love the art and business of making fashion, and I love people’s reactions to fashion, and how we still use our clothing as armor, even if it’s only to put up a psychological, if not actual chain mail barrier.

In that vein, I was interested to see that model/Project Runway host Heidi Klum has launched a new fashion line aimed at new mothers. Klum says that she designed the line – HKNB – with New Balance to help moms avoid being “schlumpy”:

Being who she is, with the career she has had, Klum says she cannot ever be “schlumpy”, even when she is not on official duty.

“I asked myself, ‘How do I start my day?’, and then I worked in chronological order. These are the go-to pieces that are stylish and comfortable for running errands. …The collection will build out to other things; maybe someday there’ll be something for a sexy dinner with your husband.”

Erm, ok. Anyway, I like some of the line (which is for sale exclusively on Amazon– mostly, I like the tailored jackets. They seem comfortable but with a nice bit of edge to them. But I don’t generally wear leggings and sweatpants, so the rest is lost on me. What do you think? Would you buy something like this, putting aside the price tag? Does it seem realistic for your lifestyle (absent price).

A second fashion feature caught my eye this weekend as well – the so-called “Lolita” fashion look, in which grown women dress in outfits reminiscent of Victorian china dolls. The article is pretty shonky – the plural of three isn’t trend, journalisticly speaking – but I “m intrigued by the idea. Why would grown women dress as girls, dolls, even, and not only dolls, but dolls from an era where women’s status was drastically more curtailed than today?

Lolita Caitlin Maskell, 23, said some people had difficulty finding beauty in a fashion movement that was not designed to promote sexiness.

“Unlike many people, I don’t think that if you’re female, the only way to go about looking good involves showing skin, as though it’s some sort of obligation,” she said.

“Lolita has its own standards of being pretty, cute, or elegant that can involve being covered from elbow to ankle, if that’s what you want.

“I was drawn to Japanese gothic fashion by its twists on Western goth. It’s a bonus that it has a lot of beautiful clothes that don’t involve being revealing.”

However, some Lolitas, like 22-year-old Kylie Martin of Indooroopilly, have complained of verbal and physical abuse because of the way they chose to express their femininity.

I’m even more intrigued by the hostility towards this fashion idea. Is it merely picking on someone perceived to be different and perhaps weaker? Being a Lolita isn’t my cup of tea, but I’m not hostile to the idea. Why would somebody be threatened by this idea of feminine beauty?

As always, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind?


Late-Night Liberty: Fashion Edition

The other day, the Momologie newsletter sent around a list of what was fashionable this season. Check it out:

Dark Jeans

Dark denim skinny or boot cut jeans are a must-have any day, and completely acceptable for the holidays when worn with heels and the right accessories.

Tuxedo Shirt….

Plum Cardigan

Cardigans and shades of purple (for everything) are hot trends this season, and this sweater adds a pop of color to your outfit.  

Studded Belt

A studded belt is one of our favorite accessories this season, and we love wearing it over a cardi.

Hoop Earrings

Hoops are fun, flirty, and complete the look of this outfit for Thanksgiving or every day.

Can I just say hoops never go out of style for me? I have all sizes and colors from my gynormous, thick silver ones that cover the whole side of my head to thin-medium silver ones to small and mid-sized crinkled gold ones. About that Momologie list…

No Sweat-er Outfit

Sweater dresses are big right now and make a cozy, yet dressy option for the holiday.  Pair with boots, a feathered belt and jewelry to make this simple dress look like you just walked off the runway.

Our annual holiday family photo was scheduled for today in our backyard. It is a bit nippy out so I am deciding between a sweater and suit jacket like last year. Hmm…choices, choices, choices. What will you be sporting for the holiday parties?

This is an open thread so feel free to discuss what you’d like!


High Heels for Children

I came across this posting on Eonline of Suri Cruise, 3 year old daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, wearing what appears to be high heels.

There seemed to be an uproar in the blogosphere about it, which was featured in some way or another as inappropriate.

What do you think? Innocent or innappropriate?

Of course, this is an open thread and you are free to discuss whatever you wish. What else is going on?


Monday Morning Open Thread

Happy Monday morning, y’all. Today, for the first time since March, I’m on deadline for an article. It’s nice being back in the paid-vocation world!

Some sad news to start with – writer Frank McCourt  has died. I know we talked about him when news of his last illness became public last week, but I wanted to post his obit again. I enjoyed Angela’s Ashes and other of McCourt’s works. I admired his ability to write about his truly grim childhood with honesty but also with gentleness and humor. He must have been a wonderful teacher.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this article in The Daily Beast – The Perils of Teen Travel. There are some hair-raising stories of traumatic events experienced by teenagers who go overseas for volunteer/study-abroad programs. On the one hand, there are stories awful enough to want to tether your teenager to you until they’re far too old for this kind of thing .  On the other hand, if you’re sending your teenager to a program far away from home to a country you nor they are familiar with, wouldn’t you research the hell out of the decision and only go with a program that came highly recommended by people you know and respect?

Aalberts advises a litmus test of common sense whenever heading overseas. “Overseas study is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child,“ he says. “But you have to remember that there is an added risk.“ That added risk makes it even more important to check out a tour operator’s safety record and financial solvency, to buy necessary insurance, and to judge a destination country’s political climate. In 2006, for instance, American students had to be evacuated from Beirut after a violent conflict erupted between Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants and Israel.

Sometimes this risk comes from the very adults who are meant to be supervising. When high-school senior Alice Tollman went on a tour of China last year with her Washington, D.C. school, her mother received almost daily emails asking for money transfers into her bank account. Mom decided to investigate.

“It turned out that the college student chaperone with them was charging $20 a day to get on the prepaid bus,“ says Molly Tollman. “He was using the extra cash to buy beer. This was the person I trusted with my kid for three weeks.“

Finally, on the frivolous side, a question: are your kids better dressed than you are? I don’t mean from a brand/labels perspective, but rather, are they turned out better and have more thought put into their wardrobe choices than yours? I know I’m not the only one who can answer yes here, according to this essay on Babble.com

For starters, it seems we’ve come a long way since Osh Kosh. The children’s apparel industry has exploded in the last twenty years, offering more choices and styles than ever before. But more significantly, it has matured — at least when it comes to girl clothes. Dressing like mummy used to require either a Little House on the Prairie aesthetic (Laura Ashley), or a country club membership (Polo Ralph Lauren). But these days, you can find True Religion jeans, Marc Jacobs dresses and Uggs in itty-bitty toddler sizes, to say nothing of seventies rock band-themed T-shirts, matchstick cords or string bikinis. So dressing like mum has never been more possible. Or rather, like mum would dress — if she wasn’t wearing tracksuit pants.

Speaking of tracksuit pants: while kids’ fashion has matured, adult styles have regressed, as schlubby adult clothing has moved out of our closets and into the realm of socially acceptable streetwear. Blue jeans and T-shirts have become allowable in all but the most conservative of workplaces. Thongs and sneakers have migrated over from functional accessories to fashionable ones. And when was the last time you (or anyone you know) wore a pair of pantyhose?

Now, Jess sure as hell doesn’t well “label“ clothing – in fact, I sew a certain percentage of her wardrobe and she has a trove of hand-knitted sweaters thanks to her grandmother and aunt. But I find that by the time we get through the dressing process, with Jess’s endless debates and sudden clothing shifts, I am so sick of the whole thing I just want to drag on a pair of jeans, some sort of shirt and either my casual sneakers or my boots. Not surprisingly, I sure don’t feel special in my “uniform“, although I’m trying to take a bit more notice since I got my hair cut last week for the first time since my third trimester!

So, what’s up with you?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I will be in Oakland this morning to express my support for legislation that would classify the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) a reproductive toxicant under Proposition 65. All products with BPAs would have to be labeled. If you can spare a moment please do come by. The public hearing is at the Auditorium of the Elihu Harris State Building on 1515 Clay Street at 10 a.m..

Speaking of meetings, some of us MTers plan to meet for lunch this Friday at Sadiedey’s Cafe in Oakland. Erin, KarenM, Round Peg, possibly Mamacita, me and the kiddos will be there at noon. Please join the fun if you can!

Lisa in Austin, this is for you: The Texas Freedom Network was quoted in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times for (rightfully) knocking on State Board of Education members who are there not for their qualifications but strong religious opinions. You HAVE to fill us in on where this all ends. :)

Laurie over at Expecting Words wrote a thoughtful post about being sensitive around couples trying to get pregnant.

The Associated Press ran a fun back-to-school story — already? — about fashion trends like peace signs and neon. Also in AP: Some students are completing their college degrees in three years to save money on tuition.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: The Mami Fashion Edition

Stefania aka “CityMama” recently wrote about all the 40-something celebrities posing in bikinis in her new blog 40 Whatever. The most recent celeb to show off her fabulous 48-year-old body is Kathy Griffin.

In a similarly-themed post, Stefania wondered whether there were unspoken fashion rules for 40-year-old women.

I am not there yet, but sometimes I wonder the same thing regarding my 32-year-old mami body. All my life I have been a skinny girl and wore bikinis and size 0 tight pants accordingly. After my kids, I do find myself covering up but largely due to the practicality of the “mom uniform” (jeans, t-shirts and sneakers). Also, whenever I pass by my old digs at the mall like the juniors department at Macy’s I feel kind of “old” to wear that stuff especially when the items are revealing.

Did your wardrobe change when you became a parent? How so?


Kids These Days…

Good diary, Erin! I like the angle of how teens are just not that shocking. -Elisa

It had been troubling me for some time.  Teenagers with piercings, weird hair, and, worst of all, sagging pants.  Sagging pants in particular were a pet peeve, which was only aggravated when I came across this letter written to advice columnist Harriet Cole, written by a dad who was irritated by his son’s sagging pants.

You may rightly wonder why this is a problem for me.  Well, I’ll tell you why–boys were sagging their pants when I was in middle school twenty years ago.    Why couldn’t these kids come up with something original?  

I cannot think of a single shocking trend that teenagers have begun to follow during my adult life.  Perhaps, at 32 with and with young (rather than teenaged) children, I’m jumping the gun a bit by expecting to be horrified just yet.  But, while there have been fashion trends that haven’t spoken to me, such as the resurfacing of the 80’s (while I was present for the 80’s, I consider myself primarily a product of the 90’s and therefore hate the 80’s).  However, I wasn’t shocked, only frustrated at having a difficult time avoiding said trend myself.  Where are the advances?  Tiny light bulbs braided into their hair or maybe somehow embedded under their skin?  Barbed wire halos (it’s been done, but not done to death)?  Something truly new and different?  Heck, would it kill American kids to adopt the Japanese style of loli-goth, at least some of which looks new and different?  Worst of all, could it be that we truly are a generation of cynics, who are honestly as immune to being shocked by the behavior of the young as we think we are?

A week or so ago I visited my old high school, which I had learned was being relocated.  A good friend now teaches there.  We sat in the hall and reflected on how times hadn’t changed–these teenagers looked exactly the same as we had.  (On a side note, one especially lovely young man approached me and asked if I was a new student.  I was flattered, but the compliment was beaten into the ground a several days later, when, while buying shoes for my children as “We Are Family” played in the background, the salesman asked if that song had been popular when I was young).

I puzzled over the lack of fashion creativity in today’s youth for longer than you’d care to know, but eventually arrived at a startling and disturbing realization.  Teenagers–even the most creative and independent thinkers among them–almost never design their own clothes.  This is done by adults aging from their early 20’s to their late 60’s.  Trends are sent into the world by adults, first show their faces on the street on people in their early 20’s, and are only adopted by teenagers after the fact.  In other words, I have no one but myself to blame for the dullness I had observed.  As is so often the case, my disdain had been nothing but cleverly disguised self-hatred.


Monday Open Thread

Happy Monday, MTs. The inauguration is less than two weeks away, Malia and Sasha are in school, the Obamas have decided to hold on to the current White House chef, so there’s really only one more question to be answered: what is Michelle wearing on the big day/night?!. I happily admit that I am quite excited to have this question answered. Yes, yes, yes, Michelle is an intelligent, accomplished woman who I think is a good woman and yadda, yadda, yadda trivial concerns about fashion. A pox on that. I want my fashion.

As has often been mentioned, Michelle is a trendsetter (for a First Lady) in that she has great style without being wedded to a particular definition of fashion. I loved the fact that she always looked so beautifully pulled together on the campaign trail, whether it was in J Crew, Narciso Rodriguez or the off-the-rack dresses from Chicago boutiques (and I do love the Election Night Dress, no matter what Germaine Greer says. A woman who dresses herself in head to toe drab and wears Birkenstocks with socks has absolutely no place commenting with authority on fashion, anyway. I don’t judge, but I don’t think Germane can, either.). We’ve all heard it before, that since particularly Jackie Kennedy, the First Lady inherits a mantle of setting style.

The potential effect Mrs. Obama’s physical and intellectual confidence can have on fashion, the designer Diane Von Furstenberg, president of the council of fashion designers, said in an e-mail message from London, is to promote “individuality“ at a time when fashion is casting about for ways to replace the designer cultism it so recently enshrined. It does not seem insignificant, either, that Mrs. Obama expresses her pleasure in following fashion without worrying that to do so automatically compromises her seriousness.

“The way Michelle Obama dresses is not her stimulus package to the fashion industry,“ said Mr. Kolb of the designers’ council. “It’s how she is. I think about my sister who lives in New Jersey and is a teacher, and about the women she works with, and how they can look at Michelle Obama and not have to pretend to be that woman, that working mother with kids who knows the big designer names but also shops at J. Crew and the Gap. She’s who they are.“

That aside, what will she wear?! The divine Robin Givhan (one of three fashion writers that I adore) took on the brief at the Washington Post a few weeks ago and asked a few designers to contribute sketches.

It’s no exaggeration to say that any American designer would be thrilled to create an inaugural gown for Michelle Obama. The dress she wears to the official balls will be enshrined in history. If tradition holds, it will be donated to the First Ladies Collection at the National Museum of American History to hang alongside gowns worn by Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton.


The Gospel of Oprah

Here’s an idea I wish I’d had: Spend a year blogging about how I only do things that Oprah Winfrey told me to do either on her TV show, magazine, or website. I discovered in the New York Times on Sunday that a Chicago performance artist Robyn Okrant is doing just this (and yes, she already has an agent, although no book contract until her year is up).

Living Oprah is an experiment to see if Okrant can in fact live her “best life” as Oprah exhorts and also an exploration of what the costs (economic and otherwise) will be.

Full disclosure here: I’m a recovering addict. I can’t get within ten feet of a fashion magazine without getting sweaty palms and a crazy desire to read every last motherloving word of its contents. It started innocently enough with Seventeen when I was twelve. But that proved only to be my gateway mag – soon I was on to Teen, YM, Mademoiselle, Glamour, and eventually as an adult Marie Claire, Mirabella (remember that one)? Martha Stewart, Vogue, Real Simple, and the worst of all, In Style. At one point I think I had something like fifteen magazine subscriptions. And this was when I was in graduate school and couldn’t afford to buy anything.

I decided at some point late in my twenties that I would be a happier and more emotionally healthy person if I gave up magazines altogether. They incited a kind of continual want and feeling of inadequacy (especially about my clothes) that I just found it hard to shake. And so now, except for an occasional impulse purchase of Better Homes and Gardens at the grocery store, my house is free of these seductive pages full of expensive ways that I can better myself, inside and out.

But in typical fashion, I’m already addicted to Living Oprah and will probably continue to follow it. Okrant has a great voice – she is honest and funny and is genuinely invested in this project. This is from the NYT article:

For the most part, Ms. Okrant is deadpan about her experiences following Ms. Winfrey’s advice to the letter. She does not mock her guru’s vast audience, but occasionally reflects on her blog about what they might really be seeking — beyond a tip about summer reading.

“I think they want her personal help, because they think she has the secret,“ she said about Ms. Winfrey. “She has a private plane and she came from nothing. If she’s lifted herself up from the horrible background she came from, she’s got the key. When she gives advice it’s sort of like doling out some of that.“

But there is also a negative side to this power. “Oprah’s like the popular girl in high school who knows how to emotionally blackmail us,“ Ms. Okrant said. “The way she’ll deliver advice is, ‘This will make you happy, unless you don’t have enough self-esteem to do it.’ “

I was definitely that girl who could be blackmailed and I still find message like Oprah’s really tempting (“Be good to everyone else – but be good to yourself first!” “Find your passion – but make sure you’re wearing pants that make your butt look small when you do it!” “You’re perfect just the way you are – here’s how to lose ten pounds eating smoked salmon and cereal three times a day!” Paraphrases mine.)

So I put this to you good citizens of Mothertalkerland: do you read magazines for pleasure including O? Does it have any impact on you positive, negative, or otherwise? I’m looking forward to continuing to read Okrant’s blog to see how it affects her.