Becoming A Lady In the World

Becoming A Lady In the World

On Three Generations of Quinceañera Dresses

A conversation with three generations of quinceañera

The young quinceañera is seemingly always in a ball gown. She is in pink, green, blue or other pastel colour, festooned and bejewelled, and with a large skirt that sways in a way that affirms the hooped crinoline underneath. She is beautiful and brimming with excitement for her impending journey into womanhood. Her mother typically accompanies her, helping her with her dress and fixing her hair just so as the photographer captures the moment in front of a city’s landmarks.

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A Conversation with Murray Hill

A Conversation with Murray Hill

Drag King and Comedian

Growing up, I had no consciousness of gender but at a certain point in school we were separated by it, at gym class, at lunch, at home ed. I was always getting put back, like, ‘No you have to go with them.’ Clothes went with that, and so did hair. I always rejected those conventions and it culminated into… It was a whopper. It was homecoming – I didn’t want to go with a boy, but I felt all this peer pressure. It was a blow-up situation. I literally had a panic attack in the changing room, putting on dresses – my first panic attack. Everything but my conscious mind was saying no, no, no. I did get a dress – velvet, with lace at the bottom – but I got completely loaded to deal with it all and I ended up getting suspended. I still have a hard time standing in the women’s section in a store with my friends or girlfriend or whatever. I still carry that ‘I’m in the wrong place’ feeling. Like, I shouldn’t be here.

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Joan Crawford’s Mouth

Joan Crawford’s Mouth

To age in public for a woman is, despite all woke societal efforts to the contrary, still hell; to age in public as a star is worse. A roll-call of the sex symbols of my youth in the noughties – Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, Christina Aguilera – is notable for the fact that many of them dared to suffer what the tabloids saw as lapses in their promised hotness: weight gain, insanity, shaved heads and bad haircuts, cheap fake tans, bad plastic surgery, each mark against them more or less a problem auto-generated by the fact of being female, famous, femme and fuckable during a wave of (dubious, commercial) feminism that mistook the marketing of slogan thongs for self-empowerment.

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The Stain or La Dame qui s’est Trompée d’Époque

The Stain or La Dame qui s’est Trompée d’Époque

On the Disfiguring Marks of History

It’s February 18 1960. Jean Cocteau has just released his film The Testament Of Orpheus. Mme Francine Weisweiller is in it, just a small part, but important nevertheless. Mme is not an actress but the aging poet’s best friend and she plays ‘la dame qui s’est trompée d’époque’ or, in translation, and I fear less smoothly, the woman who found herself in the wrong decade. Janine Janet, the creator of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s surreal window displays, is the costume designer, but Mme wears a trailing white dress by Balenciaga himself, which she paid for. Instructed by Cocteau to take his inspiration from Claude Monet and Sarah Bernhardt, Balenciaga produces exactly what suits Mme best and into the bargain doesn’t sully his reputation. Cocteau describes Mme’s appearance as a ‘live phantom of flesh and bone’.

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Thoughts on Proximity, Progression and Proportion in Street Choreographics

Thoughts on Proximity, Progression and Proportion in Street Choreographics

Despite the state rhetoric of ‘locking down’ our physical movements haven’t been suspended, they have adapted: adapted to demonstrate our participation in a new, collective, movement practice called social distancing. I’ve seen people jogging with their arms extended like wings and others lurch off the pavement onto the road, risking ensuing traffic to evade human contact. There seems to be either the tactic of retreat – ducking, dodging and swerving – or the unwavering confidence that the other will and must move. These gestures all ask of the other ‘please don’t touch me,’ or the more assertive ‘don’t you dare touch me.’

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THE TYGER IN THE CHANGING ROOM

THE TYGER IN THE CHANGING ROOM

‘THE ACCURSED SHARE’ REVISITED IN TIMES OF THE DIRECT–TO–CONSUMER FASHION ECONOMY

The surplus of time and money of the Upper East Side clientele is mirrored in the quiet and calm behaviour of the store personnel: it is a Veblen-esque type of conspicuous consumption which shows off the privilege of the leisure class: a dressing down of your high economic status, and squandering time just because you can. These leggings and sports bras in muted colours are markers of status and wealth, an opulent lifestyle expressed not through golden logos but mesh fabrics. The group habitus of these women shapes the bodies and local economics of the area, which is densely populated with plastic surgeons and athleisure stores, mirroring each other in the quest for physical perfection.

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Wilderness

Wilderness

On this second day our mood was still cheery, and we continued to wear our best behaviour like freshly pressed clothes. The next day’s stuck-in-the-mud situation got a bit dirtier. The cheeriness had already faded over breakfast as the kitchen staff repeatedly delivered the wrong order. Frustration and annoyance followed us into the car. Mr Honey Badger directed his anger at me and I looked for relief in the trees and the bush outside the window. Our mutual frustration and anger grew and swelled in the heat as the day progressed. We got stuck in the mud again. It engulfed the car like smooth porridge and nearly did the same with our feet. A few nearby construction workers came to our rescue and helpfully pulled us out with their car. We continued along the rocky, uneven road. Eventually we reached a river, only to realise there was no way to cross. We opened the windows to let in fresh air, but annoyance, frustration, and anger clung to our clothes like the red Tsavo dust.

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