Styleaholica

Hells to the Yeah.

Posted in fashion and society by bluewellesleyblue on November 5, 2008

So I woke up to find out the good news. Finally, a presidential election outcome that sits well with me, that’s all I have to say.

California election results on Prop 8 (gay marriage ban) and Prop 4 (parental notification for abortion) have not been called yet. It looks like Prop 8 is leading, which is not good. Prop 4 looks like it’ll be defeated, but it seems too close to call right now.

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TV Season Premieres are Starting, Nouveau Riche in India, etc.

Posted in fashion and society by bluewellesleyblue on September 2, 2008

Gossip Girl’s new season debuted yesterday, and Fox series are premiering this week as well. Everyone else who’s even vaguely more interested in Gossip Girl has probably already seen it. I haven’t, but I’ll probably catch it online soon. I’ll be watching the Bones season premiere tonight. It became one of my favorite shows over the summer. The title character and most of her co-workers are just so geeky, which is fun, and it’s this quirky blend of comedy and forensics/murder mystery show.

This New York Times article is not so much about Vogue India and a possibly miscalculated editorial as it is about how the incredibly rapid economic growth there has led to a similarly immense rich-poor gap. While the author considers it a misstep, and the response of Vogue India’s editor in chief: “lighten up… you can’t take [fashion] that seriously… we weren’t trying to make a political statement” suggests it might be, I feel like it isn’t. The fact is juxtaposing luxury goods, which some people there can enjoy and are flowing in through luxury malls, with the fact that many of the people there are still very impoverished could be a very potent bit of social commentary.

I was in Taiwan about three or four years ago to visit family, and while it is a very different animal – growing quickly yes, but richer on average than mainland China or India by far as a result of a longer and slower history of growth – I feel like some things are similar about most economically robust parts of Asia. There’s a sort of obsession with luxury among the wealthy in China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea among others. It’s not necessarily about being stylish, it’s about monograms and the brand name. At one point my dad commented on how practically every person in Japan even approaching the middle class had some Louis Vuitton piece or another, based on his business trips there.

I wonder if it’s something that will eventually be true in India as well, if it has anything to do with pride in a growing economy (for the movers and shakers contributing to that growth) and the appearance and assertion of new wealth. Anyway, I don’t know this for sure – I’m not a sociologist and I’m not even that familiar with Taiwan – but it’s something to think about.

Edit: Oh, and Jezebel scooped this story less than an hour ago. They absolutely hate it and think it’s indefensible. I say that, to a limited extent, that the point of effective journalism is to make people think? In that light if it were done with better intentions, this might have been a somewhat defensible editorial decisions. As it is, the editor’s comments cement the idea that this editorial was a bad move, what with the well poor people can look good with these things too stance she took. Right, because they can afford it on little more than a dollar a day?

Luxe Goes More Luxe.

Posted in fashion and society by bluewellesleyblue on August 26, 2008

There was an article in today’s Financial Times about the ever-increasing heights to which designers will go, especially in the Fall/Winter fashion season, to ensure that their pieces are impossible to imitate by the likes of Forever 21, H & M, and anywhere lower down the price hierarchy. When it comes to the intricate pieces backed by very costly, luxurious, and unique fabrics or detailing, there’s just no way to replicate the look without bringing up the price to a similar three or four digit range. The lace pieces from Prada’s Fall/Winter 2008 line, for example, might be vaguely imitated by other high-profile and high-priced designers, but it’s hardly going to trickle down much further than that.

It boggles my mind to imagine that there are people who can follow the soaring prices that accompany special touches like Fendi’s gold-tipped fur or Balmain’s chain mail. Department stores probably don’t stock many individual units of pieces like that, but there are still “long waiting lists” for exorbitantly expensive, very distinctive, but also quickly dated pieces. Luxury like that is probably timeless, but with fashion moving as quickly as it does, buying a piece like that is putting quite a bit of stock in a trend.

Of course, having disposable income like that is something very few people – and fairly few fashion bloggers – can really imagine. I do hope to eventually become the type of woman who can afford to have a Chanel 2.55 in her hard-earned collection. (I’d say the Birkin because it suggests an even higher level of career success, but at this point, I still don’t get all the fuss made about that bag. This is probably blasphemy.) Whether as an attorney or a tenured professor, if I work hard I might be able to hope for that. However, it’s one thing to be able to invest in one two or three thousand dollar bag after years of self-made career success. It’s another thing entirely to be able to buy a 24 karat gold-dipped fur knowing it’ll easily fall out of style with the turning of the season. More power to the people who can afford that level of ostentation. No doubt it’s people and budgets like that which ultimately drive much of the glamor and weight behind the fashion industry, but it’s something that has little to do with mere mortals like you and I.

Pictures from Style.com. Article linked in The Cut.

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The “Downside” of Fast Fashion?

Posted in fashion and society by bluewellesleyblue on August 21, 2008

There is a discussion on Jezebel (one of my favorite general blogs, by the way!) about the downside of “fast fashion” retailers like my dearly beloved Forever 21 and H&M. By now, the preponderance of posts on my blog end up touching on one or the other. The idea of “fast fashion,” because of the cheap more than the fast, obviously holds considerable appeal for me as a shopper. Many of the comments are very insightful, and it seems clear that this is a sort of ambiguous issue.

The consensus on Jezebel is that the Daily Mail, source of the article that set off this discussion, is a kind of crappy newspaper. Indeed, the “con” perspective on “fast fashion” contains some rather amusingly badly argued places. My favorite is the analogy comparing such purchases to “cheap, factory-farmed chicken and salmon” and arguing that they apparently devalue the “special” things in our lives until we’re all unhappy automatons who only ever want more. It’s a god-awful analogy, but let’s run with it. It begs the question: if someone cannot afford the “real thing” in terms of organic, free-range chicken or freshly caught wild salmon (it’s no small thing to buy that for a family of four), does that obligate us to eat potatoes and bread?

Of course, the discount-discount retailers Liz Jones of the Daily Mail mentions, Primark and Asda of the 3 GBP (6 dollars!) pieces, don’t exist in the U.S. context. Some of the issues there do apply to the “fast fashion” options we do have, however.

I do have some qualms about Forever 21 especially, for the occasional very exact knockoff, the fact that it is a big company that will necessarily have the power to edge out community interests when it wants to, and also for the sweatshop labor that contributes to the cheap prices. That being said, on the moderately rare occasion when I find a top or dress there that I really like, I do not treat it as “disposable” at all. Fine, the materials are cheap and I will be lucky if it survives five washes with its integrity intact, much less ten or twenty. However, until the day it falls apart, I will cherish it and incorporate it into many an outfit. Like many people who shop a bit too much, I do have enough clothes that ten or twenty washes worth of wear-times could take a while to get to. My clothes will not be finding their way to a landfill anytime soon. I, and many of the sorts who write fashion blogs or read them, do not really consider any purchase lightly. “Fast fashion” then is not so much an indication of unfortunate cultural trends.

As for the still-thorny issue of sweatshop labor? My opinion on this is probably a bit too cynical, by the way. Still, even if many a would-be fashionista of modest means is contributing to the market for this sort of cheaply manufactured by people without a living wage thing, people like that are hardly the powers that be behind a free market economy or capitalist culture that makes the people behind the big companies think it’s ever alright to pay their workers less than a living wage. Young consumers are products of this sort of culture and world economy, not the cause. Additionally, a lot of more upmarket stuff that is not anything close to “fast fashion” is also being manufactured in more or less the same sweatshops.

Fashion Blogging is so the New Black.

Posted in fashion and society by bluewellesleyblue on August 19, 2008

Via the New York Times: an article from their magazine dedicated to the youngest segment of the fashion blogging set. The bloggers mentioned are 12, 15, and 16. This after an article published earlier in the week connecting privacy risks on the internet with young fashion bloggers, which was linked by both Miss Couturable and Moohoop of The Fashion Void That is DC (who linked to a slightly different version here). Both the articles in question are focused largely on the blogger behind Style Rookie, who just so happens to be a rising seventh grader. It’s hard not to be impressed by her, by the way. Even though that particular blog is not written in the same style as the ones I usually follow, the enthusiasm and spirit behind everything she posts makes me smile.

I’m just surprised that fashion blogging is so popular amongst teenagers, mostly girls, and enough so that it’s practically mainstream. As late as sophomore year of high school, all I was doing online was writing in a Xanga and using bad grammar and smiley-faces! In truth, it makes me feel a little old, but it’s very interesting to see the way blogs, twitter, etc. are becoming such a significant force.

I agree with Miss Couturable that it is fallacious to connect issues of youth internet safety with fashion blogging per se. Though style is a pretty personal thing it’s also very loosely connected with one’s personal life and every fashion blog I’ve encountered is authored by a pretty internet-savvy person who is hardly going to be victimized by an online predator. Fashion blogs and any well thought-out blog in general =/= Myspace. Sometimes there is anonymous nastiness directed at fashion bloggers, often on their own turf, but also posted publicly elsewhere – as detailed in the second version of that article on internet safety – but no more or less than in any online venture. I find all online misbehavior – especially when the sniping is done from behind the shield of anonymity – highly distasteful, but ultimately, it’s best to ignore it, I suppose.

Every blog I’ve linked in this entry is excellent, by the way. Also, I feel like such a dinosaur! Oh my.

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Not Saying It’s a Better Magazine, But…

Posted in fashion and society by bluewellesleyblue on August 18, 2008

… It was refreshing to see that Cosmo Girl’s fashion pages, editorials, and the like drew primarily from brands and price ranges that would actually be affordable to your average high school age girl. I do prefer Teen Vogue when it comes to fashion magazines geared towards the younger set – I don’t buy these, but I do read them when I have some time to kill at a book store – but plenty of the things featured in Teen Vogue are not exactly priced with anyone resembling average in the pocketbook in mind. Expensive things are not inherently bad or unaccessible, even when one is a college student of fairly modest means, but one does have to regulate their spending habits a bit to afford them.

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Research Assistant by Day, Fashion Blogger by Night.

Posted in fashion and society by bluewellesleyblue on July 29, 2008

So, it has been about a month since I launched Styleaholica. Fashion blogging was something I had wanted to do for a while, and I had a couple of abortive attempts – two tries on Livejournal, and an earlier version of my current more personal life-centric blog was half a fashion blog and half a blog about everything else, which just didn’t work out – before this one. So far, at least, I’ve done an alright job keeping on top of it, though I think I still have to figure out what sort of things to focus on when I blog here. This summer has been a bit more hectic than I thought it would be and my posting as of late has, admittedly, been a bit half-hearted.

When I finally started Styleaholica, I was having a bit of a moment. I’ve never been absolutely certain about what I want to do immediately post-graduation or even a bit further into the future. I know for a fact that I’m going to school again. Whether I’m going to law school first or if I’m prepared to take the plunge and commit to studying for a Ph.D in History or Political Science, I don’t actually know. This lack of uncertainty has been debilitating. I interviewed badly for a program at my school that would have placed me in a paid position with a think tank in Hong Kong – still close to my dream summer job – and while I made alternate as a sophomore, I can’t help but think that if I’d been more confident in knowing my goals, I would be in Hong Kong right now. I am very, very thankful for my research position with a History professor at my school. It has inspired me to commit myself right now to picking up Chinese again, with the hope of becoming fully literate (I’m currently fluent in colloquial Chinese). I love my work, but at the same time, I worry about my employability after college if this is all I’ve done. Earlier this summer, I wasn’t feeling quite so confident, and realizing that the high-flash, high-power lifestyle associated with New York City finance (or fashion, perhaps) had some appeal to me, I wondered if I might want to try for an internship at a fashion magazine next year.

Yes, it doesn’t seem like a particularly logical leap on paper, but fashion is something that has held a certain allure to me since my freshman year. I can’t quite explain why it holds my attention so – throughout high school and even now, I’m a bit of a pseudo-intellectual snob and fashion is not the first thing most people like that look towards – but it’s about self-expression and even art as much as it is a bit about consumerism and acquisition. Anyway, Styleaholica was mostly intended for personal enjoyment, but there was a bit of an ulterior motive under it as well.

Now, though, I think I’ve recommitted myself to going for the gold in my original field. No, I still haven’t decided for sure between law school or graduate school as the closest eventuality, but I know that those things are both strong enough possibilities to exclude all others. Fashion is still something I’m going to love, sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less, for the foreseeable future, but it is probably not where my future lies. I’ll still blog on it, of course, but even trying to post about something at least half-interesting every day or too is harder than I thought it’d be! I don’t know that I have the energy to devote myself whole-heartedly to fashion as a workday sort of thing.

So this has been a bit of a confused and muddled post, but it’s all things that have been on my mind lately.